Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Guess Post: Writing The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel

It's no secret that sometimes we think 'that's not my cup of tea, I'm probably not going to read that'. Then you think OK maybe this time I'll give it a go...and then you see Ben Aaronovitch endorses it, and you fall in love when you read it! It wasn't at all what I expected and those are the best reads. You can check out our review HERE and whilst we all wait for another adventure I am very pleased to welcome the author Andrew Cartmel to the blog to talk about about how the book came about and HOW you choose the right music (something I continuously wondered about when I was reading the book). DJ play that track (sorry!) 

Before I became a writer of crime novels I worked in television drama for a spell, most notably as script editor — or show runner — on three seasons of Doctor Who. This was the old school Doctor Who, where we didn’t have much of a budget, but what we had in ample supply was creativity. I had the privilege to hire, and work with, some of the best writers in the business. And while I’m sure they learned a lot from the experience, I know that I did, too. It was fascinating to discover the different techniques developed by different creative minds. One writer showed me that you didn’t need to write your script in sequential order. You could start with the ending if you liked, and write scenes from anywhere in the story, so long as you had a clear idea of the outline and linked everything up properly. Another one quoted the film director Luis Buñuel’s priceless adage that “the imagination is a muscle” — it improves from exercising it. So if you’ve had a great idea, don’t horde it and store it away — use it and then you’ll come up with more great ideas.

But one of the most fascinating techniques came from Ben Aaronovitch, now a bestselling crime novelist in his own right. The thing that Ben did was to play music while he was writing. Now, there was nothing new in this. I’d always done the same thing. But the clever thing about Ben’s approach was that he chose music to specifically match the mood of the scene he was writing. In retrospect, like the other gems I gleaned from other writers, this seems bleedin’ obvious. But the fact is that I’d never previously thought of it, and it was a revelation.

So what kind of music should you choose when you’re writing your own masterpiece? Well, of course it depends in part on what kind of music you like and what kind of book you’re writing. But there are some general ground rules which may be useful for everyone. I find that songs can be a bit dodgy. The words coming from the singers mouth tend to interfere with the words being born in the writer’s mind. There are exceptions to this, though — songs in a language which you don’t speak are just beautiful sounds. So feel free to play lots of Edith Piaf — unless of course you’re fluent in French. And then there’s the great jazz singers… Ella Fitzgerald’s voice is an amazing instrument, quite literally. It’s like a horn played by a virtuoso soloist, and the meaning of the words she sings are so secondary to the wonderful musical shapes she’s making with them, that I find Ella can be safely played while writing, as can the great Betty Carter and many others.

But, by and large, instrumental music is the way to go. If you’re a classical music authority you shouldn’t have any trouble choosing masterpieces to suit any mood you’re trying to conjure on the page (if not, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé can conjure an atmosphere of dreamy, drifting ecstasy, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring has a brutal driving urgency, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet delivers a towering, icy sense of menace… just to name a few). For the non-expert, though, I’d recommend film soundtracks. This is a fantastically rich field and you can find absolutely anything you need here.

When I had to write a fast-moving spy thriller, and write it fast, too, I was eternally grateful for the music to the Jason Bourne movies. The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum by John Powell were all worth their weight in platinum. When the
franchise changed its star, the composer changed, too. But James Newton Howard’s music for The Bourne Legacy was as breathlessly inspiring and helpful as its predecessors.

If it’s suspense or fear you aim to invoke, then there is no one better than Bernard Herrmann, the genius responsible for the unforgettable all-strings score for Psycho. To evoke the darkness and danger of a big city at night, nothing beats his Taxi Driver. If it’s a chase you’re after, then what you want is Herrmann’s North By Northwest.

For action (and much else), the master is Jerry Goldsmith. His music for Under Fire will have your pulse racing with excitement and exhilaration. Propulsive, dark-and-dirty action? Goldsmith’s Extreme Prejudice. Sweeping, exotic, romantic action? Jerry’s The Wind and the Lion. And if it’s satanic terror you want to conjure up, try his spine-chilling music for The Omen.

There are many other geniuses in the world of film soundtracks. Danny Elfman specialises in skittering, mad, warped comedy (Edward Scissorhands, The Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) and pounding action (Batman). Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther, Days of Wine and Roses, Hatari, Charade) is ideal for comedy, fun, good-natured adventure, love and romance — although the greatest love theme of all time might be the one Alex North wrote for Spartacus… especially when it’s played by the peerless jazz musician Yusef Lateef.

Which is where I come in. That’s one of my favourite pieces of music of all time… and you’re likely to find me listening to it when I’m writing about the Vinyl Detective. And since it’s also absolutely his kind of music, it’s likely to be what he’s listening to, when I’m writing about him.

Happy writing — and happy listening.

The Vinyl Detectives written in dead wax is out NOW go get your musical fix and let us know what you think!
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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Malice by Peter Newman blog tour + Giveaway!

Today I am really excited to be jumping on The Malice blog tour, and epic high fantasy sequel to the fantastic The Vagrant that stormed onto our shelves last year. We've also got three copies of the book to give away :D :D:D so check out the competition below 

Title: The Malice
Author: Peter Newman
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: 19th May 2016
Synopsis: In the south, the Breach stirs.
Gamma’s sword, the Malice, wakes, calling to be taken to battle once more.
But the Vagrant has found a home now, made a life and so he turns his back, ignoring its call.
The sword cries out, frustrated, until another answers.
Her name is Vesper. 


First off let's start this with some cover love...because well look at it! Its beautiful! And not only for this but for The Vagrant as well. Both have these evocative covers, so striking they jump out at you from the page...the bookshelf, from wherever and make you want to read them. Everyone always said don't judge a book by its cover, but if we didn't we'd probably not read half the books we do. And boy am I glad I've found this series.

The writing here is so rich, giving you so much without having to physically give it to you underlaid with those moments of humour that just added a lift without even needing it. Mainly from the Goat, who has character for days! I fell into the story, one which packs so much in (through multipl timelines because you gotta get that brain working). From characters to setting, ideas and ideologies that blend together effortlessly to create these amazing worlds in such high fantasy. There are all these elements that I feel are draw from across the genre (even adding elements from other genres) but making them their own. Normally I can find blending elements like sci-fi and magic together but here it made sense, it wasn't extremes of one or the other but they worked in harmony.

Vesper was a great protagonist. We saw her toward the end of the Vagrant but this really is her story. She completely changes the tone from the vagrant which is just what the doctor ordered. She started off as this fiesty girl wanting to push the lines, who then jumped into a situation that was bigger than she could ever expect. Standard genre, but she lead well. you got to journey with her, she was vulnerable, she wasn't perfect and had to grow into who she becomes through those around her. Balanced against this you had Duet, and their love hate balance helped drive the pace forward. Duet was a strange character for me, because of her dual and then singular nature and she really had to grow on me. And the infernals! everyone likes a monster in fantasy and there was such a variety from the down and dirty ugly to the modern and sophisticated. That was the ability of this world!

This is a fantastic read...grips you, pulls you in and doesn't let go! Bring on more from this series!

And now you can read it toooooooooo because we're giving away three copies! The competition is open from NOW until Midnight Sunday...So get on it , get reading and let us know what you think!

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Monday, 9 May 2016

There Once Were Stars by Melanie McFarlane

Title: There Once Were Stars
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Ebook 
Release Date: April 26th 2016
Rating: 3/5 stars 

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone? 

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

When the novel first started, I was quickly intrigued with where this plot was going. I knew there were going to be many questions along the way to learning about this world. I've never read a book set in a Dome before, and I found it quite interesting. As the story went on, and little by little things started to unfold, the excitement dwelled down. The Order was not intimidating at all, and the big reveal was predictable in my opinion. I wanted it to be a real page turner, with some kick ass action! There was so much potential for that, especially since the writing was well done.
Your main character, Natalia was very headstrong. She wanted the answers to what The Order was hiding, and she would have done anything to do so. Despite not getting much support around her, besides Evan – the Outsider of Dome 1618, who she slowly falls in love with. Natalia never gives up on what she believes in, and that's what makes for a fantastic female protagonist. She was fearless, and I am super sad that I will not be getting to read more of her. There was so much more room for her as a character to grow. This book was just the cusp of who she is, and I would love to see who she will become in the future. SEQUEL PLEASE?!
Like most young adult books, there's always a little romance. Therefore, I didn't care too much about this one. It wasn't exciting and fresh! Evan was no different from your typical love interest. Again, I think there was more room for his character. He was very one noted, most of the time, and was constantly sending “swoon worthy” smirks to Natalia, which did nothing for me. I didn't connect to him, or them as a growing couple what's so ever.

Melanie Mcfarlens debut novel is a unique mix of dystopian and sci-fi. While I wasn't blown away by the story, I do believe many young adult readers might enjoy this very much. 

Xo, Nicole

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