Remember, remember, the 5th of November: Weltanschauung turns 1!

On the 5th of November, Weltanschauung will turn 1. To celebrate, I’m giving away 3 signed copies of my short story collection.

41mh26eZQyL._UY250_The harbinger, the oddball, the remaining twin… Weltanschauung seeks to open your eyes to different stories, set in different worlds and at different times, but with the same theme in mind: to make you question your worldview.

This collection of short stories traverses genres, introduces a variety of characters, and shines a light on some of our deepest fears.

Challenge your perceptions.

You can enter to win a signed copy on Goodreads. Don’t forget to join me on Facebook, and let me know what you think!

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Jessica Bayliss jumps on The Bandwagon to talk about improving your writing

bayliss-new-3-5_1Jessica Bayliss is a fiction author with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology who loves all things reading and writing. Her work crosses genres including romance, urban fantasy, and horror. Although it’s typically advisable to focus on one audience, Jessica just can’t seem to settle down; she writes Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult and (eh hem) regular adult fiction. She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Because one cannot live on writing alone, Jessica also spends a great deal of time with friends and family. She is a lover of all animals especially one very special Havanese and one extremely ornery cockatiel. She also loves to cook, eat, and exercise (it’s all about balance, right?) and is a firm believer that coffee makes the world a better place.

Jessica is available for Skype Visits, Workshops, and talks about her books, writing, and related to her PsychWRITE workshops and webinars.

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Today I want to talk about the fluidity of books and stories. This notion has been on my mind a lot for a few different reasons. Number one, I’ve been working on revisions of my own books, and I’m a Pitch Wars mentor, so revision is on my mind in general. But I’ve also been doing reading for critique partners, and it’s not uncommon to find little inconsistencies in books that are undergoing revision, which are often holdovers from previous drafts. So, a CP may say something like, “Oh, in the last draft, the character named Bessie was actually the MC’s best friend, but my editor said I needed a little more tension so we turned Bessie into a robot shark.” Okay, maybe I’ve never heard that exact line, but you get the point.

When I think about some of my books, and some I’ve read for friends, and then think about the way these books used to be, I’m often blown away by how different the finished product is from the original.

We can also flip this around. Next time you start a new book, try asking yourself: What was this book like in its first draft? And think about all the things that might have been different. Unless the book was written by a friend (or unless the author discloses details of their revision process), we will never know. But one thing I am certain of is that every book we purchase—whether from our local indie bookstore or downloaded to our e-reader—was very different in its earliest iteration.

I use that word deliberately: iteration. Because plotting and character development are iterative processes. I think about my own revisions on my debut novel, TEN AFTER CLOSING, or the one I just sent off to my editor—a book that I revised quite a bit on my own, then re-revised for my agent. If my editor decides she wants it, I’m sure I’ll do even more revision. Both of these books have had huge changes; it’s actually hard to wrap my brain around that, especially because I (naturally) thought they were both perfect before the changes (LOL!).

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, particularly my It’s a Writer Thing blog series, you know that I believe practice is the single most important thing we can do to be successful.

So, for me, practicing that process of major revisions, literally re-imagining big chunks of my books, has been an incredible learning experience. It’s taught me to be flexible. It’s taught me that new versions of my manuscript can feel just as right—more right even—than the original version. I’ve learned things about myself too: I know that changing something I love won’t kill me. I know I can get through and come out the other end feeling even better than ever about the MS. And I know it’s like this for other writers because they’re telling me about their own revision whirlwinds all the time.

Until the day the book goes to print, it’s a fluid entity, a shapeshifter without a true face. It can be anything.

So, here’s one weird tip. Take a book you’ve written (or a short story, or even a scene), and now rewrite it in an entirely different way. I know, that sounds crazy. You worked hard on that book and you probably love it; I know I loved mine. But try it. You don’t have to keep the new version. Just try rewriting it and pretending you’re going for an entirely different feel or different genre or just a different emotional dynamic in a particular scene. Put your all into it—pretend it’s for realz—and then see how you feel about the new version.

Perhaps you’ll still love your original more. Even if you do, you might find yourself getting totally wrapped up in this new imagining of your tale. You might discover all sorts of new ideas, exciting ones. Maybe you’ll never use them (or maybe a couple will find their way in the book in the end). Regardless of which draft you prefer, you will definitely see the stories in a new light. Gone will be the false belief that books and stories are static, that there is one way to tell this tale. And, hopefully, one day when you get revisions from your agent or your editor, you’ll know that you can make any changes they ask for and love them. Because you practiced it already.

Introducing: The Triangle by Nakisanze Segawa

Contributing author of Crossroads, Nakisanze Segawa is a Ugandan writer and performance poet. She is also a contributor to Global Press Journal, and to the Daily Monitor newspaper in Kampala. The Triangle is her first novel.

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It is a time of upheaval in the African nation of Buganda. Missionaries are rapidly converting people to Christianity, undermining the authority of their king and sewing discord among his people. Three characters – Nagawa, a young but unhappy bride to the king; Kalinda, a servant in the royal courts; and Reverend Clement, a Scottish priest – are swept up in forces that will change their lives and reshape the future of their nation.

While African history often has been told by Westerners rather than Africans themselves, Ugandan writer Nakisanze Segawa offers an African perspective. Her meticulously researched novel examines a critical moment in Ugandan history, and offers a surprising and fresh perspective on Africa in the days just before colonialism.

For more information, or for bloggers to request a review copy, email nagawakalinda@gmail.com.

The Triangle is available to buy in paperback and as an ebook on Smashwords.

Autumn is coming

Yesterday, I noticed the leaves were starting to fall from the trees outside our house. It might still be August, but the scent of autumn is starting to filter through on the breeze.

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Autumn is my favourite season. Cosy throws, fluffy slippers, hot chocolate. Crunchy leaves, Halloween, darkening evenings. And, of course, curling up with a good book. Autumn is the best time for getting stuck into stories, being frightened by a ghost story or thrilled by a thriller.

Each year, I try to come up with a list of books to read during autumn. A couple of years ago, I got stuck into Stephen King. The year before that, I discovered his son, Joe Hill. This year, I’m lining up a bunch of thrillers. Here are my recommendations for autumn 2017.

Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas

Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown

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The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

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Slade House by David Mitchell

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

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What’s on your autumn reading list? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

I review Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon.

Twin sisters Robin and Sarah haven’t spoken in years.

Robin can’t leave her house. A complete shut-in, she spends her days spying on her neighbors, subtly meddling in their lives. But she can’t keep her demons out forever. Someone from her past has returned, and is desperate to get inside.

Sarah can’t go home. Her husband has kicked her out, forcibly denying her access to their toddler. Sarah will do anything to get her daughter back, but she’s unraveling under the mounting pressure of concealing the dark secrets of her past. And her lies are catching up to her.

The novel takes readers back in time to witness the complex family dynamics that formed Robin and Sarah into the emotionally damaged, estranged young women they’ve become. As the gripping and intricate layers of their shared past are slowly peeled away, the shocks and twists will keep readers breathless long after the final page.

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I read Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon when it came out, so I knew I’d want to grab a copy of Don’t Close Your Eyes. Seddon writes classic thrillers as if it’s as easy as breathing – and perhaps it is, for her. She’s that rare talent who deserves all the credit she gets, and more.

Delving into dark subjects such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide, Seddon doesn’t pull any punches. Every character is fully formed, fleshed out into life, and every incident is thrilling, engaging. Robin in particular is so real, it’s hard not to relate to her.

I love books about dysfunctional families – coming from one myself, I know just how twisted it can get. When Robin and Sarah’s mum has an affair with Callum’s dad, everything disintegrates, and their families merge into one big mess. Robin and Callum stay with her dad and his mum, and Sarah moves out to Atlanta with her mum and Callum’s dad. The distance between the sisters grows, in emotional as well as literal terms. The tangles web of their mingled families gets tighter and tighter, until something has to give.

I loved the way Seddon wrote this, engaging the reader by giving snippets of the past, interspersed with chapters from today. This style of writing, although not unique, is always enticing, and Seddon does it well. Overall, I’d say Don’t Close Your Eyes is another winning thriller.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, & NetGalley for providing me with a free review copy.

Goodreads

The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

I review The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick.

Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent.

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The Growing Season is a book that looks at motherhood from every feminist perspective. With the advent of the pouch, a way of growing babies outside of a female body, heterosexual couples can share the load of pregnancy, reaching for true equality. Gay couples and infertile women can also experience pregnancy in a way they never could have before. With your male partner sharing the pregnancy, women are no longer seen as a burden, a risk.

But there’s a darker side to this equality. With the pregnancy occurring outside of the woman’s body, what do they need women for? Eva – and before her, her mother, Avigail – campaigned against the pouch for this very reason. Arguing for choice, for the respect of motherhood not to be taken away from women, Eva and Avigail fight for what they believe to be a woman’s right. They fail to acknowledge, at least for the most part, how the pouch helps those who cannot have children naturally, until later on, when Eva manages to adopt a wider view.

The Growing Season takes multiple viewpoints into account. Women are also encouraged to transfer their unwanted foetuses to the pouch, rather than opt for abortion. This would satisfy the pro-life groups (or anti-woman, as I prefer to call them), but the issue of funding these unwanted children rears its ugly head. Many pro-life groups dedicate so much time to telling women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, they fail to address just how the children will be looked after throughout their lives – and who will be responsible.

This is a complicated story, not least because of the subject material. We are getting closer to developing a way for a baby to be grown outside of the female body. While this is a positive step for some groups, it might not be seen as such by others. There will always be clashing perspectives when it comes to something like this, and no one of them is more right – more righteous – than the other.

Sedgwick has taken a common, relevant theme, and turned it into an engaging, dystopian fiction. It’s real enough to be relatable, understandable, but still with that reassuring distance, almost like we’re holding the future at arms length. Read it.

Goodreads

An Empire in Runes by Jeffrey L.Kohanek

James McStravick reviews An Empire in Runes by Jeffrey L.Kohanek.

A Long Forgotten Magic That Might Save the World…Or Destroy It

Led by a boy named Brock, a small team of teens urgently assembles a force to confront an army of monsters, one that ravages and destroys anyone or anything in its path.

In a race against time, Brock attempts to train a group of recruits to wield the powerful magic known as Chaos, a magic that he himself is still learning to master. All the while, they must remain vigilant against a secret organization within the Ministry that will do anything to prevent the return of Chaos.

As foretold by an ancient prophecy, the human army must face and defeat their ancient enemy on the Tantarri Plains. For if they fail, all will be lost.

An Empire In Runes

“An Empire in Runes” is the final book in Jeffrey L. Kohanek’s The Runes of Issalia trilogy and what a great trilogy it has been.

When I previously read and reviewed the first and second books in the trilogy, The Buried Symbol (here) and The Emblem Throne (here) I spoke highly of them, this book is no exception to that and possibly the best of the lot.

An Empire in Runes takes place shortly after the climactic finish to The Emblem Throne and we quickly get to see not only how the primary characters but the secondary characters are dealing what has happened up to this current point. For the characters in this trilogy what they have been wanting to accomplish has been a long road and I thoroughly enjoyed reading how each character is dealing with the current situation and the lead up to what has happened.

One aspect I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the most is the planning that occurs in the run up to the final battle and how each character has an important role to play in the run up to it so they can ensure they win it. With this aspect in particular we see numerous groups 2 or more characters being sent off in multiple directions and this allows the book to further build the relationship between them in more detail since they have been travelling as a group for quite a while. Two characters in particular I thoroughly enjoyed reading about were Benny and Ashland, as the role they played in the lead up to the epic conclusion gives you a brief glimpse back into where it all started.

But once all the planning has come to a head and the final battle begins we get a battle of epic portions as we see it divided into different areas of the army that has amassed to fight off what has been tearing the country apart. When I read the battle scenes in the previous books I thoroughly enjoyed them and I thought they were done extremely well but this final battle was something like I had never read before in this trilogy as not only was it so well crafted but it showed the consequences of war and what effects it has on places and people.

I think Jeffrey L. Kohanek definitely wraps this series up very nicely as we get to visit some people and places we haven’t seen since the first book and we see a lot of the story threads being either answered or closed off. So as far as I am concerned there no questions left unanswered when I came to finishing the final book in the trilogy.

With all of the above in mind I really enjoyed reading An Empire in Runes as it caused me to lose quite a lot of time on a number of occasion’s due to how deeply I found myself getting absorbed into the world. If you enjoyed The Buried Symbol and The Emblem Throne then I would highly recommend reading this book because not only is it the best book in the trilogy but it is great conclusion to the trilogy as a whole.

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