NaNoWriMo Word Count Update, Days 10 &11

So my word count is a dismal 15,869 words. No, I haven’t given up. I have just been struggling to settle into writing is all.

Writing tends to be ritualistic I find and for me, I have to potter around, do this, do that, flick through news websites, check my e-mail, etc. then I can settle to write. I have had plans change unexpectedly then just suddenly felt a bit out of it and a tad useless because I am unable to apply for jobs due to various reasons (including my knee). This has all prevented me from writing even though I do want to write. The side effect of this has been that my word count has suffered. (There could be an element of plotting mingled in with this also).

Hopefully I will get more done but before I do that, I am going to post this blog post by Ben Aaronovitch. It is funny anyway even if you don’t read his books but if you have read them, it makes it even funnier in my opinion: http://temporarilysignificant.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/they-got-to-pay-there-way-like.html

 

Are witches becoming popular again?

Cover of "The Worst Witch (Young Puffin S...

Cover via Amazon

Okay, this is probably going to be at odds with other articles you will see around the web but a couple of days ago, I came across a Guardian article talking about witchcraft and witches returning to popular culture in the wake of the Vampires and Werewolves trend. You can read it for yourself here.

The article mentions that various US television networks are starting to show different shows with witch protagonists, suggesting that this is the place that the trend is showing the strongest.

The only thing I took from it originally (it was late at night when I first read it) was the fact that Jill Murphy had published a new Worst Witch book. Not really surprising since she has released new books in the series recently however I did not recognise any of the other books or authors mentioned.

Today, I went to my local Waterstones and as I was browsing and picking up a book (or four!), I found myself unconsciously looking for books about witches. The result? I saw nothing to vindicate The Guardian’s article. I realise it is probably a trend that is just starting to find its feet but if there is a rising interest in books and other media about witches, why can’t I seem to see or find media about witches? Even in HMV, when looking, I couldn’t find anything about witches, not even on the shelves they had set aside for Halloween.

This evening, I returned to the article in question and re-read it. The result was the same. I decided to do some digging and had a look at the Waterstones and WH Smith websites in their best sellers generic listings and the best sellers for fantasy. Nothing.

The only patterns I could find was that vampire books are still popular and other authors, who had always been popular, like Terry Pratchett and Ben Aaronovitch, were still up there in the best sellers lists. A look on Orbit UK, Puffin and Gollancz future publishing schedules show none of this supposed trend. All I found was the tail end of the vampires craze and new books from established authors and series. (This is generalised I hasten to stress!)

So it has got me thinking about whether witches are becoming popular again or if, actually, witches (and wizards) had always been popular in their own way and had never really gone away?

I feel it is a valid question to ask.

A very brief survey of some of my friends from NaNoWriMo (just over 24 hours away!)  revealed that they thought that has been a small rise in popularity but it could easily be an offshoot to the vampires craze. Also, confirming what I suspected, was the fact that paranormal creatures and beings had never really gone out of style. It’s just that the focus of attention shifts.

Cover of "Harry Potter and the Philosophe...

Cover of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone

The article mentions Charmed from the late 1990’s and that got me thinking about the fact that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released in 1997, during the same time period. The Harry Potter series has gone from strength to strength and continued being popular long after the end of witches popularity. The series has been so popular it has spawned spin-off books, a film series, a theme park and many other types of merchandise and not least of all, the recent news of JK Rowling wanting to return to the world of Potter and start writing a new spin-off series.

In the adults market, Ben Aaronovitch has gained success with his Peter Grant novels, featuring a London police officer and the country’s only remaining wizard. As well as them, there has also been Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus novels. These are just two series that I read that feature wizards and witches (though in Jacka’s books, they are known as mages).

Then there are the popular Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher, the only wizard in the phone book. These books are on my to read list and Butcher has recently released a new book in the series.

So books about witches and wizards have always been popular, bubbling away beneath the hubbub of the vampire’s (and werewolves) craze. They sell and create series. Jacka has talked about this in his most recent blog post. He is talking about urban fantasy books in general but his comments are correct: “For every Sookie Stackhouse or Dresden Files, there are twenty or thirty urban fantasy series that fizzle out” (Jacka, Benedict. (2013). Alex Verus: The Future (Continued). [Online]. Available at http://benedictjacka.co.uk/2013/10/25/alex-verus-the-future-continued/).

So maybe witches are not becoming popular again as suggested in the Guardian article but instead the spotlight and attention is being shifted to a new type of character within the fantasy genre. Whilst talking with my friends about this, I had the thought that perhaps that maybe the reason I had not seen much in the way of different media having prominent witch characters is that perhaps we are just on the cusp of a new craze. I put this theory to them and they agreed that perhaps, that is the case.

I think that is my theory then. We are on the cusp of a new craze, a craze that is just starting to spread its wings. The interest in these types of books and stories have always been there but it’s now going to experience a new resurgence and people are just beginning to notice.

Or perhaps, it’s just something that is going to fizzle out to nothing.

 

Whispers Under Ground Google Map by Ben Aaronovitch

So just like he has done so with the previous two books, Aaronovitch has created a Google Map marking different locations from the third Peter Grant book, Whispers Under Ground. You can check it out here. He has also said on his blog that he will be creating a Google Map for Broken Homes locations when the book is finally released in the US.

Broken Homes is out now here in the UK and due out in the US in February 2014.

Book Review: Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Can I just say, I love the cover of this and the other books!

Yes, it has been a few weeks since I last did a review (not surprising since I have focused on Camp NaNoWriMo) but this is the “certain” book I have read. Yes, I know this book is not due out until next Thursday (25th July 2013) but I received my copy a couple of days ago due to having it on pre-order at Waterstones.

The Folly is working through its list of Little Crocodiles, on the trail of the Faceless Man when Peter Grant and his boss, Thomas Nightingale, is called to look into an RTC (Road Traffic Collision) turned Murder case in Crawley where a man by the name of Robert Weil is discovered to have a connection to a mutilated body in a forest. Without being able to step back for a breather, Peter is called to investigate a one-under on the Underground of a town planner and a stolen magic book.

Things get weird though when he hears of odd things happening in a housing estate block flats South of the River, which has been built by an eccentric and seems to have some sort of secret running through its core.

Peter’s got a full case load again and London just got weirder! (If that’s possible!)

This book follows on nicely from the previous book, with The Folly’s investigation into the Faceless Man and grabs attention from the start, featuring all the usual wit and laugh out loud writing readers have come to expect from Aaronovitch and his compelling character, Peter Grant. The opening does read like a summary and it did catch me off initially but it is easy to read and certainly, with hindsight, it is possibly how Peter would receive an update on the investigation.

A host of characters from previous books return, including the Gods and Goddesses of the River Thames, Peter’s dad and the Irregulars and The Quiet People discovered at the end of the last book. Admittedly, they do seem a little shoe horned in and I think Aaronovitch could have explained what language Peter’s mum speaks to him in and translated it. I struggled to understand what was being said, even after re-reading those bits.

I do like the way he combined all the seemingly unconnected threads together into one story line and certainly upped the tension with events at the end of the book, leading to a great (if slightly predictable) twist at the end.

As usual, you can tell Antonovich’s love for the city and how well he knows it. I know I have mentioned this before, but his ability to describe London and all the locations of the novel is fantastic and brilliantly done for a person, such as I, who has never been or has been down just once.

I have already stated a few negatives about this book but I feel it is also worth mentioning that the story seems to finish then restart again near the end. Whilst it is obvious as to why this happened and provides a good cliffhanger leading into the next book, I do feel as if the structure is slightly broken due to it but then again I don’t see really how it can be rejigged to prevent this issue. Maybe I should just put it down to the charm of Aaronovitch’s writing…

As well as the actual novel, if you get your copy from Waterstones, you will also get a short story exclusive to Waterstones, taking place in the Covent Garden branch of the chain, featuring a poltergeist activity and taking place possibly before this novel. It is amusing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Certainly it ends with a message we should all take to heart in this day and age of internet, TV and films.

So my ultimate verdict on Broken Homes? An excellent addition to the series and I will definitely re-read this one, along with the others, whilst waiting feverishly for the next.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo Days 8 and 9

2013 Banner 1

Sorry. I know I haven’t posted but I’ve been hit by the second week slump. That, combined with other things in life, have left me struggling to write a bit and I am about 3,096 words behind. Quite a deficit but I think last night I’ve got past the part that has worsened the slump and have got into a more action sequence. Certainly, readers will see a character who hasn’t been the most active become much more so and maybe change a few perceptions that the character in question is the more independent and a much more capable thief than what he would at first  appear to be.

I also certainly know that I’ve hit something of a stride now and can get moving with the story. Mainly because my character decided to nap/ramble about how his life story, how he got mixed up with crime and first met my other character then how he ended up leaving his gang to form a partnership with her. He’s now doing what I should have written yesterday and I am planning to do at least a couple of paragraphs with the other character who is in the Detention Centre. I think that scene is going to mainly consist of her talking to a lawyer assigned to represent her and them talking but other than that… Well, at least it will be words and I might yet catch my deficit.

The next slump I expect will be the trial, mainly because my only real experience with courts has been during work experience when I did a week in the local law and coroner courts. Somehow, I don’t think the International Criminal Court will work the same way a UK court does, even though I am using some creative license with it. I do know it does not look like a UK court room and I expect, if I ever do go back and edit this novel, I will have to do some closer research into international law as I can only find books on UK law and I am going to work with the UK law when I do her trial. That’s a bit easier to find than how the court actually works, procedure and protocol!

I am hoping to catch up my deficit and at least cut it down some today to hopefully make it easier for me when I start writing on week 3 (which is easier). Somehow though, I don’t think I am going to hit 50,000 words before or on July 25th. I was hoping that I would be so I could get the next Ben Aaronovitch book, Broken Homes, as a reward so unless I wait until August 1st to pick it up, I can’t see that happening.

Well, I have started writing a section which is much easier to be getting on with so it should prove much more plainer sailing; I might yet get the next Aaronovitch book as reward to myself… Fingers crossed?

Day 8: 11,199 words

Day 9: 12,952 words

P.S.: Sorry, I’ve rambled a bit in here…

Google Map for Ben Aaronovitch’s Moon Over SoHo

YAY! I am so happy about this!

He’s already done a map for Rivers of London (if I have failed to link it before, here it is again: https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=200258044548208777222.0004d430a51327a17fc3f&hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=m&source=embed&ll=51.523911,-0.113983&spn=0.102533,0.219727&z=12) and I have just discovered on his blog that he has done one for his second book, Moon Over SoHo: https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=200258044548208777222.0004ddfd3439b284b1333&hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=51.483093,-0.111237&spn=0.410502,0.878906&z=10&source=embed.

Also, whilst reading his blog, I have discovered that Rivers of London COULD be coming to television! If it does come to TV, I cannot wait!

Sorry, I could not wait to post about this.

Camp NaNoWriMo

Since Camp starts a week today, I figured I would post about it, explain what it is for anyone not familiar with it and talk about my personal experiences with the events.

Camp NaNoWriMo, for the uninitiated, is the summer version of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. Consisting of two sessions every year since 2011, the aim is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Since it started, the sessions have moved often.

In 2011, the first ever Camp started. The sessions that year were July then August back to back. Some people, including myself, did both sessions. I decided to do the event because I had heard about it before whilst in high school and college (that’s UK college, 16-18) but had been too intimidated. After finishing my first year of my writing degree, I decided to give it a go, feeling more confident and wanting to test my skills and see how far I had come.

I finished July with 50,067. Not bad considering I missed a few days near the end of the month to attend a few local events, including the Great Yorkshire Show. However, I failed August due to various reasons. I felt a lack of planning as well as the turn around being a but too quick contributed greatly. I also had a voluntary job with my local libraries service and couldn’t quite juggle the demands of writing 50K words for the second month going on top of working.

OLL quickly decided that back to back events were probably not the right way to go about it, especially when people around the world in various time zones struggled with validating for July in some parts whilst a new session was starting in other areas of the world.

The following year, 2012, the sessions were June and August. This worked out better and it provided a break for the staff at OLL to sort out the website whilst participants around the world could validate without issues due to time zones, set up their novels and prepare for the next session much easier with a months break.

Again, I did both sessions. I finished June with a respectable total of 50,003 words, having continued the novel I had started in July. Another years study (and planning over the year) seemed to have helped. Whereas I managed to do 3 years worth of story time in 50,067, I only managed 3 months in a similar amount. I took this as a sign that I had improved as writer and I had learned more. Also, trying to avoid the Olympics and having cut down my hours at the library did help and encouraged me to get writing done.

I spent July reading No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (Review here: https://sleepybookdragon.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/book-review-no-plot-no-problem-a-low-stress-high-velocity-guide-to-writing-a-novel-in-30-days-by-chris-baty/) and planning for August. I had been buoyed by my success in June and decided to go back to the story I had attempted for August the previous year and failed. Planning was essential as the story took place in Winchester, Virginia so, as a Brit who had never gone to the States, I had to talk to some of my friends who lived in Virginia to help me figure out various issues, including immigration.

The planning proved a little too thorough as I had to find 5,000 more words to hit 50,000 words before midnight on August 31st. Still, it was an enjoyable experience and gave me an insight into how I could do the various little bits of research required whilst still writing. I would say it was a learning experience which would help in the next academic year.

This year, 2013, OLL changed the sessions again to April and July. This was probably done to account for the fact that they had wound up Script Frenzy due to declining participation numbers. This is supported by the fact that this year, OLL have created a genre for scripts this year of all kind. short story collections as well as being able to officially rebel (working or editing a pre-existing project) and allows participants to create their own word count goals.

I was not initially going to do April since I was working on my dissertation for university which was due in a couple of days prior to the session starting and preparing and researching for the last two essays I needed to do which had high word counts to match the high level of research required. However, I felt I needed a little something else to do as just a private creative venture as a de-stress. So I set myself a 10,000 word target using the new word count feature, figuring that if I failed to hit it, I failed. I wasn’t exactly trying.

As luck would have it, I did manage, somehow, to do the 10K and get my university work done. It was fun and a nice little distraction for me, especially as I wasn’t trying.

The next session, starting on Monday, 1st July 2013, at 00:00:01 will be the sixth since it’s inception and only the second to include the new content. Whilst the changes are great fun and I can understand why there was a session in April, I feel there was too much of a gap between April and July and it has made some participants, like myself, a bit restless and fed up of waiting for a new session. This is possibly the only thing I would recommend to OLL to change for next year.

So there you have it. The history of both the Camp NaNoWriMo event and my own history.

I am looking forward to this next session, hoping to edit and double the size of my dissertation (which was a novella) and I am aiming to finish on July 25th, when Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch comes out. This also means that I may neglect this blog a little, unless I put my word counts up everyday as a way of motivating me. We’ll see but for now, I need to finish writing my new outline… I’ve been meaning to do it since end of May!

Book Review: Fated by Benedict Jacka

Fated is the first book in a series following chance mage, Alex Verus, as he runs a store in Camden Town, London, whilst trying to run from his past and avoid dealing with the magical Council as much as possible. Unfortunately, his skills leave him in high demand and leads to him being offered jobs that appear simple on the surface but is not what it seems.

Recommended to me off the back of having just order Broken Homes, the fourth Ben Aaronovitch book, this book is very much in the same vein of Aaronovitch’s series, set in London and written from the first person point of view.  The comedy is in a similar vein to to the Peter Grant novels so it is likely they both have similar or the same audiences.

What’s different though are the styles of magic used in each series. Aaronovitch’s wizards are able to use all types of magic and skills (providing they have learned how to use it!) but Jacka‘s mages are able to use only one type of magic. The main character Alex Verus is a chance mage or seer if you will, able to use divination magic to see the future and it often saves his life.  This does not mean the fight scenes are no less thrilling than Aaronovitch’s. I actually believe his scenes are better due to the fact that Verus is not a battle mage so often has to use his cunning rather than his magic to save him when he is in a tight spot. This is not to say that Verus is unable to use magic in battles but rather that Jacka is more inventive due to the limitation he places on Verus so has to give him other means to fight, such as the use of magical items and of elemental spirits.

The concept of Elsewhere is also intriguing, allowing Jacka’s characters to talk even when apart but I do question as to whether Elsewhere could possibly be used to better effect for other purposes.

Jacka’s Fated has a darker edge to it from the outset, unlike Aaronovitch’s, and this actually provides a more intriguing and adult feel to it. This could be down to the fact that Verus is a mercenary of sorts who tries to keep a low profile and is very willing to kill or seriously injure as he has very little of the principles and rules and regulations that curb Grant and Nightingale. The organisation of Jacka’s magical word would indicate that there would be more regulation and limitations to what Verus can do but in actual fact, because all the mages in Jacka’s series (especially the dark mages) seem to be driven by greed and a lust for power,  it makes the world more dangerous so leaves more room for different adventures and scrapes for Verus to get involved with.

In general, this novel is a great novel and is highly recommended if you are a Ben Aaronovitch fan or even a Derek Landy (Skulduggery Pleasant) fan as all share very similar themes, comedy and, arguably, character types so would appeal.

Book Review: Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

The third book in the series and PC Peter Grant is neck-deep in death, murder and magic again.

This time though, he finds himself exploring the world beneath London, the Tube and Underground Railway system. Oh, and the minor thorny issue of the victim being the son of a high-ranking USA diplomat so having to deal with a FBI agent on his tail, the trade in pottery and counterfeits and discovering that the residents of London, magical and otherwise, are not the only ones who live in the city.

I know I have spoken about research before with Aaronovitch and in this, it was his exploration of London’s Camden Market and the pottery trade, the art colleges and art gallery installations (I don’t go to art galleries do this was of fascination to me), the London Underground, it’s tunnels and the procedures of investigating crime on the Underground and, further still, the sewer system. There is also the revelations at the end and the technology mentioned as being used.  (I won’t go into it too much as I do not wish to end up giving away spoilers for anyone who has not read this book yet).

For a non-Londoner like me (I’ve only been down once in my whole life), this book (along with the others in series) provide a fascinating insight into London life and it’s transport system and the world beneath it’s streets. I hope Aaronovitch continues on with the high level of research and writing, including the wit and humour PC Grant uses time and again and makes me laugh out loud time and again.

 

Book Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

This book was recommended to me by my university tutor as part of my dissertation work and I thought I would at least give it a go. I am so glad I did.

Rivers of London follows PC Peter Grant who, after interviewing a witness to a very violent murder who also so happens to be a ghost, discovers the magical world hidden behind the everyday life of modern London, guided by Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale who is not all that he appears to be…

This book is a great adventure through London, going behind the tape at crime scenes and the inner workings of London Metropolitan Police force. It is written from a first person POV and the whole adventure is seen through the eyes of PC Peter Grant, who seems to rather enjoy having an ironic and sometimes sarcastic take on his world.

Aaronovitch’s novel is great fun, taking the reader through London’s theatre district and weaving in the original story of Punch and Judy.

Now, in regards to that, I want to briefly discuss the level of research involved in this novel. I admire his level of research and attention to detail around the London Metropolitan Police service and the training and the different ranks, the equipment that the Police use and the organisation of the service. It is also his research into the legends and myths of the Thames Valley area (that PC Grant does himself) and the original story of Punch and JudyPulcinella, and how he has applied this knowledge to his work and created characters and stories from it. There is also the medical terminology and research he would have had to research too for the scenes with Dr Walid. Whilst it could be viewed as rather mundane as all writers have to do some form of research usually for their work, I particularly found it interesting and fascinating in this novel.

The version of the book that I own, pictured, also features a short story written and taking place during the 2012 London Olympics.

With Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale away on business, PC Grant is called to a coffee shop to investigate an odd disturbance. He arrives and find himself sharing a coffee with a French wizard who claims he wants to hand himself in for a murder that took place many years before!

This added bonus I particularly enjoyed, especially as it does not focus directly on the Olympics (which I got particularly sick of hearing about!) and provided a new level of information to the world as well as making it bigger.

Overall, this book is great fun and I would highly recommend it.