Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

midnight-crossroads

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris is the first in the Midnight, Texas trilogy – a paranormal fantasy series first published in 2014.

I read the entire book in one afternoon and though the plot gets rather dark at times the story overall was pretty gripping.

Honestly, having already watched the TV series Midnight, Texas on Syfy I did find that I was a little bit distracted from the book when I came across plot points that they’d used on screen – in a ‘oh, so that’s where that came from’ sort of way – but, I wasn’t so distracted by the parallels or lack of in terms of the characters and their descriptions which was good in my opinion.

There is a real variation in the characters and the way that they’re introduced is lovely and steady, it’s almost like being introduced to people at a party one at a time but you’re among a group and you pick out the most memorable thing about them first. I love the idea that they all have some sort of secret that’s kept from the reader because the unknown is so interesting and adds a sense of depth. Also, the secrets that are revealed are usually seen by Manfred Bernado, the new stranger who has moved to Midnight, so it feels like you’re learning things about the world at the same time as him. In this case, it made me feel a bit more connected to the story to know that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sure about what was going on.

As for the other characters, there is plenty of variation from the people to the animals. I didn’t think that there was a ‘main’ character as much as there was ‘important’ characters, which increased the sense of a small town community who revolve around each other.

I liked Manfred who was a character that doesn’t give away too many big details about his own life in the first book, as the plot focuses and brings secrets about more established characters in the town to light but, the small pieces that he shares hints at a character who does and could fit in well with the community of Midnight. The last page of the book is possibly the biggest indicator of the possibilities of Manfred’s role in the town. Mr Snuggly is also one of my favourite characters because of the way that he’s unexpectedly important, plus he has a rather distinct ‘voice’ that is just delightful because it sounds so right.

I loved the writing itself, because it almost felt like you were wandering among the discoveries and the next thing was always another reveal that made the story richer, even as it grew darker.

I have read some of Charlaine Harris’ work before as I read the Harper Connelly series a few years ago so, I did catch the subtle reference on Page 12 to Harper which I loved to see. It was the series of films, however, that made me catch the reference on Page 289 and remember that she also wrote the Aurora Teagarden series, currently there are 10 novels to date. I love how she was able to integrate these details almost as if they’re extra treats for her readers who she does dedicate the book to, at the front of the book, ‘As always, this is for my readers. I hope you like this new world and its people.’ which I think is just lovely.

My favourite lines in the book definitely came from page 57, after a conversation between Fiji and Manfred, because they made me laugh:

But he stored a new fact in his mental file about women.
They liked it if you told them you were sorry.

 

@RealCharlaine

http://charlaineharris.com/

 

Advertisements

1st Anniversary

I’m so excited to be able to say that it has been one year since my first blog post. It’s been an entire year of writing one post every week and I’m so pleased that I’ve reached this milestone.

I originally started this blog last November because I missed talking about writing and reading on a regular basis which is what I had while I was at university. I also wanted a place where I would be sure that I was writing regularly and I could share my creative writing, as well as what I’d learned about writing itself in my own experience.

I really think that I’ve had all of that this year but I’ve found that it’s been a lot of fun for me as well.

From my personal challenge to write 28 poems, one for every day, in February to Inktober last month and NaNoWriMo this month (I’m at 7,644 words at the moment, a little bit behind but, I’m doing ok 🙂 ) I’ve tried to keep writing and being creative and it’s been some of the most enjoyable parts of the past year for me so it’s been great to share my work.

 

Looking towards the next year I’ve decided that I’m going to add a few new things to the blog to make it more interesting.

I posted recently that I had entered the Celestial Bodies poetry competition at Platypus Press and although I wasn’t shortlisted (again, congratulations to everyone who was) I am excited to be able to share some of my poems here on my website. You can find it under the ‘Poetry’ heading on the menu above where I’ve added a selection of mine and my friend’s favourites from my collection with the title ‘A Sky Full of Stories’.

I’ve also decided that I like the title of the collection so much (which is slightly surprising because it took a me until the last minute before I thought of it for my collection) that I’m going to use it as the main title at the top of my blog instead of it simply being ‘Writing’ as it has been for the last year.

As for my main, weekly posts, I’ve decided (and been encouraged in my decision) that every two weeks, my blog post will be about a book I haven’t read before. So, that means that my first book review will be posted next week.

A part of me is hoping that this will help me to get through my to-read pile but I would also love to hear from anybody who has a book to recommend, even if they’re only recommending it because they don’t have time to read it themselves. If you do want to suggest a book then please feel free to comment below on this post or you can find me on twitter @TeganMStevenson

Not all of the books I’m reviewing will belong to the same genre because I love a mix but, the first story does belong to one of the genres that I read a lot when I was a teenager (alright, so I still go back the genre now and again obviously) and that is paranormal fantasy.

The first book I’ll be reviewing is Midnight Crossroads by Charlaine Harris.

midnight-crossroads

I was partway through watching the TV series Midnight, Texas, based on the books, when I saw them in the bookshop and I decided to buy them on impulse. There’s three books in the series: Midnight Crossroads, Day Shift and Night Shift and I did buy them all (there was a really good deal) so I think that now’s a good time to start reading them (before they get pushed to the back of the bookshelf and forget all about them. I promise, I am trying to get better).

 

I’ve really enjoyed blogging for this past year and I’m looking forward to the next year as well. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading any posts so far and I hope that you continue to like any future posts. 🙂

 

First Day of NaNoWriMo 2017

NaNo-2017-Participant-Facebook-Cover

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo and I’m glad to say that I’ve actually started to write my story today. So far, I have 1,842 words and according to the NaNo website writing 1,667 words per day will allow you to finish on time so I’m very happy with my good start.

Last week I said that I was either going to write five separate stories or a story in five parts. Now, it turns out that I’ve decided on something inbetween those two options. I’ve decided that I’m writing five 10,000 approx. word stories and each story will have one small connection to the other whether that’s through a character or a place. I’m hopeful that this is going to work.

In preparation for the event I did make a vague plan via a bubble map. I initially tried writing my plan down as a list but, sometimes I just need to be able to throw my thoughts across the page and see what sticks. Plus, I got to use my new brush pens from Paperchase and they are so lovely.

IMG_20171101_195638

My plan may be a bit vague, with room for me to fill in some gaps on the page as I go and I’ve already scribbled a couple of things out but, it did give me a good start and it went a long way to confirming that what I really wanted to write this November is a fun, adventure-fantasy story.

So, in that spirit, I’d like to share the opening of my first story featuring my two original characters Hallie and Jane:

——————————

Five

Level 1

“Hallie, don’t touch the dead guy.”

“I don’t think he’s dead.”

“Even more reason for you not to touch him.”

“Jane.”

“Hallie.”

“We should do something.”

“So, we’ll tell the Guards when we reach the town.”

“Jane.”

“A mostly-dead body is not a potential pet Hallie. Just walk away.”

———————————

 

I am happy to say that in October I completed a drawing for every single day of Inktober and I had a lot of fun.

 

In other news, I unfortunately didn’t get shortlisted for the Celestial Bodies poetry competition but, there is a little bit of good news in that because it means I can pick out my favourites to post here on my blog.

I’m planning on uploading the poems in time for the 1st anniversary of my blog which is next week and I’m so pleased that this year has gone so well. Blogging every week for an entire year is something I can really be proud of. I’ve also been doing some planning for how I can spend the next year of blogging so I’ll be happily sharing those plans next week.

Looking Towards NaNoWriMo 2017

Next week on Wednesday it will be November 1st which, for some writers, also means that it will be the 1st day of National Novel Writing Month (often referred to as NaNoWriMo).

NaNoWriMo is one big non-profit event where any writer can join in if they like and the main goal is to write 50,000 words in one month. As it says on the website’s ‘About’ page:

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

I first signed up on the website in 2011 and to be perfectly honest, I have never managed to reach the final target in the past six years. It’s a big task and November just hasn’t seemed to be a big, productive month for me in the past as far as writing is concerned.

Will this year be different? I have no idea, but I do have a plan.

Instead of trying to write one piece of 50,000 words in 30 days (the thought alone makes me cringe a little bit) I’m going to break it down a little. For me this means that I will try and write in five parts. 10,000 words seems like a (slightly) less scary target. Right now, I’m not sure if this means that I will write 5 separate stories or a story in five parts but, I’ve got 6 days to scribble down a vague plan involving plot (and character and setting).

Not everyone starts from scratch and I’ve found it to be true that a little bit of planning goes a long way when you’re attempting to write a lot in a finite amount of time.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure a few days ago if I was even going to participate in the event this year but, if I reach one target of 10,000 words in one piece then I think that I’ll be pretty pleased. I’ve always found that there’s not a lot pressure, beyond my own wishes, involved in NaNoWriMo to reach the ultimate target but, there is a lot of encouragement from the organisers and the other writers who take part in the event which is nice.

 

As for this month’s personal goal of participating in Inktober I’m happy to say that I have still not missed a day and I’m still having fun sketching, colouring and inking. I’m not the only member of the local community art group who is participating and everyone is doing really well. Being part of the group has proved to be really positive for all of us this month and we’ve been doing a good job at keeping each other motivated.

Buying Philip Pullman Books

Most Wednesday’s I’m in the café of my local Waterstones bookshop for an art group and, of course, this means that I have to walk through the books to get there.

Tomorrow is the release date of La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman. I know that the next story expanding the world of his previous His Dark Materials series has been eagerly awaited by myself as well as thousands of other readers so it was no surprise to see the stand showing off previous Philip Pullman stories as we walked through the entrance to the bookshop.

On that stand I saw one of the most beautiful hardback copies of a Philip Pullman anthology titled Four Tales. The book includes his stories: The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, I Was A Rat! or The Scarlet Slippers, Clockwork or All Wound Up and The Scarecrow and His Servant. The book is illustrated beautifully by Peter Bailey and I already owned one copy of The Firework-Makers Daughter which I bought last year because I remembered liking the story when I was younger but, this book was so pretty (and there are three stories included that I haven’t read, after all) that I went ahead and bought it.

IMG_20171018_140248

I love Philip Pullman’s style of imaginative storytelling and I remember that I struggled to put down any of the His Dark Materials books without finishing them in one sitting every time I picked one up. He is an iconic fantasy writer and I love the way that I can get swept up in any of his stories.

However, it’s not just his creative writing that I love. Philip Pullman has written many articles and been interviewed about the writing process and he has some wonderful advice for any aspiring writer. I think that it’s a wonderful thing for a writer to be able to share his experiences in the hopes that it will help someone else to reach their goals. Plus, I think that his prologue in Four Tales where he talks briefly about putting the book together is funny and it was the first thing I looked for after cooing over the pretty silver-and-blue cover.

I’m really looking forward to reading all of Four Tales and when I get my hands on a copy of La Belle Sauvage I’m sure that I won’t be very good company to anyone until I’ve finished it.

 

It’s now the 18th October and I haven’t missed a prompt for this year’s inktober so far. I’m having a lot of fun and I haven’t posted today’s drawing in response to the prompt yet but, it’s almost finished and it’ll be on Twitter later today.

Fulfilling Goals

It’s just less than one week after my birthday and already I’m fulfilling goals from the list that I made last week: Turning 23

On Sunday night I entered the Celestial Bodies poetry contest that was being run by Platypus Press.

Sunday 8th October was the deadline and I consider myself very lucky that I was able to submit for the competition. Especially because, I only had about half of the poems I wanted by Saturday 7th October. Sometimes, no matter how much we want it or how hard we try, if the words aren’t there then we can’t scribble them down.

Yet, faint hearts never won fair maidens so I buckled down, put pen to paper (literally, I was using a nice notebook for initial drafts) and I wrote no less than 19 poems in two days.

Don’t get me wrong, it was difficult. I never write poetry without feeling emotionally drained afterwards and it took all of Monday and most of Tuesday before I felt steady again after that outpouring of words but, I am so pleased that I reached my goal. I’m also pretty proud of the work I sent in. 

Not only was it challenging to write enough poems to be viable for submission but, I don’t enter a lot of writing competitions (hence why I made the goal to enter at least one this year). Platypus Press was definitely offering one amazing opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Entering the competition meant that I knew I had to be brave because sending in anything that you know is going to be reviewed can be a little scary but after I clicked that send button I was so relieved that I’d taken the chance.

I knew about the publisher Platypus Press before I heard about the competition because I was introduced to the amazing poet Elisabeth Hewer a couple of years ago via a friend who loved her work and I have her book Wishing For Birds. She wrote so many great lines for that collection. I think that Love Letters From Helen Of Troy and Space Race are two of my favourites from her first book.

As I look back at my own work, I’m still really happy with all of my poems (not always the case with writing but, it’s really nice to feel this way about it) which made it a little bit harder to pick out a couple of my favourite lines to share but I eventually chose these from a poem called Reading The Sky:

such a long time ago and we still
navigate our way through the dark by
telling each other the same old stories.

 

 

I also wanted to say that I’m on day 11 of #inktober and I’m having a lot of fun as I try to come up with something new for the prompts every day.

 

Turning 23

Tomorrow is my birthday and, as the title says, I’m going to be 23.

For me, this means that it’s been over a year since I graduated from university with my undergraduate degree (first class honours 😉 ) and I’ve been trying to remember what was on the list I made when I turned 22.

What is the list?

A few years ago I read this post where the person made a big list about everything they’d accomplished in the previous year and then they wrote down all of the goals they wanted to achieve in the next year. They wrote this list on or around New Years Day but I’m never that eager to contemplate BIG IDEAS at the end of the year so I started doing it on my birthday just to see if it was an idea I could keep up with.

So far, I’ve kept writing these lists since I was about 20.

These lists are just for me and I usually don’t read these lists again (I’m lucky if I can find them by the time a year has passed) and I try to keep most of the goals realistic. It works to kind of clear my mind so that I can move forward.

Last year, the list of what I’d achieved was pretty impressive considering that I’d graduated from university, published/project managed an anthology of poems and I started learning how to ride a horse for the first time in my life.

This year, I will admit that it’s been one of those year’s where you look back and wonder, “Where did the time go?” but, I have managed to think of a few things that I am really proud of.

  • I worked as an arts administration intern at the beginning of 2017 and it was so interesting (everyone I worked with were really nice as well).
  • I have been blogging since November 16th 2016 and I have not missed a week in posting something new.
  • I wrote a poem every day during February which was so consistent that I was pretty impressed.
  • I helped to organise and I attended a lecture/book event in Sunderland for the graphic novel ‘The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia’ by Mary and Bryan Talbot (I blogged about it at the time: Learning About Revolutionary Women).
  • I was in a video blog for the first time ever which can, as always, be seen here: Pottercast: What The Films Did Better Than The Books. Thank you Cara for that experience.
  • I joined a local art group which has been a lot of fun.

 

In all honesty, I’ve struggled a little bit to come up with a list of personal goals for next year but I eventually decided on a few.

  • Enter a writing competition.
  • Develop my blogging skills: think about doing book reviews, discussions, ect. (using Twitter more is also included in this goal)
  • Go to see a play (I love the theatre but, it’s rare that I get the opportunity to actually go and see a live performance).
  • Go to a book themed event such as a signing/fair/other.
  • Improve my photography skills.

 

This October I’m also taking part in #inktober for the first time and I’ve posted something every day so far on Twitter @TeganMStevenson (I know, it’s only been 4 days at this point but I’m still counting it as an accomplishment).

 

Time And Time Again

Time is going to sneak it’s way into your story whether it’s intentional or not.

It’s one of those concepts that we perceive as fact, so we use it. From the time of day to the day of the week, all of these details can help a reader keep track of the character’s journey. Whether it’s early morning sunshine spilling into the room or a cotton candy pink sunset, time is one of the main ways that we relate to the world around us.

Every writer has to learn the art of condensing a moment that could have over a thousand tiny details into a paragraph or two so that you don’t bore the reader before you get to the point. The time of day can be a part of building a scene but, a day in the life of a character is never described in its entirety. You might as well save the paper and focus on the good parts because the goal is to keep a reader’s attention.

The sense of time in a story can be very tied into the pace and genre of a story. For example, a suspense story laden with tension will contain drawn-out, detailed scenes. This may imply that it feels like a long time has passed within one short scene, whereas an action adventure scene with roughly the same amount of pages may employ short bursts of dialogue and a lot of movement to imply that time is moving more rapidly. For a writer to convince a reader that their story is moving at the right pace they should find a balance between reality and importance. The amount of time that passes for the character from beginning to end should be realistic – an epic quest is unlikely to be completed in a day – but they shouldn’t forget to share the good parts of the journey.

As for an overall sense of time in a piece of writing there is a difference between short stories and novels.

When it comes to short stories I was once given the advice: Don’t include more than one or two days of your character’s life at the most. This advice has served me pretty well. Limiting yourself to keeping the events of the story between a short period of time can help keep the focus on the important parts of the story instead of risking getting sidetracked by subplots.

Obviously a novel, or sometimes a novella, doesn’t follow the same rule as a short story. A novel will (usually) take place over more than a couple of days so that a reader will see much more of the character’s life than you would in any short story. Also, in a novel you’re much more likely to see significant ‘skips’ in time. This is a transition between chapters or paragraphs where your character moves from one scene to another and any irrelevant details (for example, it doesn’t always matter every time if they travelled by car or if they walked unless it’s a plot point) are removed so that the reader doesn’t lose interest in the action. A skip can be anything from a few minutes to months (or years) and making this jump seem natural, like most great writers, comes with practise.

Last Year

On Friday the Spectral Visions Press Tarot Collection will have been available to buy for an entire year.

tarot-cover-image

This book is the culmination of a project I worked on during my third year at university. As the first complete collection combining art with poetry from Spectral Visions Press the team and I are still very proud of the work we put in to the project.

In response to the news of it being a year since the book became available for purchase my co-editor Danielle Shaw simply said, “Wow.” Her poem Demeter’s Daughter which was written for the fifth piece of artwork in the collection, The Hierophant, delves into the history of the illustration and the poem has some of my favourite imagery in the collection.

Another author and member of the team, Jack Gray said, “It’s always a good opener when you tell people that you have something published in a real book. I’m very proud of it actually. One of the best poems I’ve ever written.” Jack’s poem The Sun was written for the nineteenth image and it’s a wonderful example of free verse.

The collection is unique to the publisher with 21 different poets and one illustrator inspired by the tradition of the major arcana of tarot. The foreword by Dr Ruth Heholt delves further into the history of the tarot tradition and we were delighted that she agreed to write such an opening for our book.

I’ve written a little bit about the process we went through during the project before. My very first blog post One Year Ago… was written last November and marked a year since I and Danielle Shaw were asked to take charge of the project. I also wrote a guest blog for the Spectral Visions Press blog: Introducing The Spectral Visions Press Tarot Collection

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑