Writing about Writing about Writing (Part II)

(Part II of today’s lecture. I hope you’re taking notes!)

OM NOM NOM. NOM. Ahem, right, I’m back from lunch. (Mm, ostrich burgers…)

Today I’m going to be doing some work on the series of short prequels I’m doing for ‘Rooks’. These are four prequels of under 20, 000 words each, one of which is completed, one of which is over half done, one of which is 4, 000 words completed and one which is only 2, 000 words so far.

At the moment the most neglected is the 4, 000 words one, done in the POV of the younger sister of one of the main characters, focusing on an event in her brother’s past which was referred to many times in the first novel. The reason it’s been neglected is that I’ve gotten up to a point where my POV girl, Sophie, must sing a song.

And this means I’m going to have to write a song.

Did I mention I’m not a song writer?

Because if I did, it was a lie: I’ve written two short songs for my novel already, and as an avid world-builder I’ve done ceremonial chants and ritual recitals for this and other novels as well. But it’s just not as easy as just thinking of a scene and describing that in prose like my regular writing, no, because this is supposed to be a song that someone else has written, in a world that is not mine.

So think twice before putting songs and poetry and writing into your work, especially if it’s supposed to be your main character’s poetry, and your main character is supposed to be the best poet/writer in the world; because this is one of those times telling without showing is a cop-out, and then you find yourself having to write the best poetry in the world, or at least some good stuff.

Ah, what the hell, do it anyway—do whatever you like!

First, the direction I want the song to go in. The situation in the story is this: something terrible has just happened. Sophie is with a group of her classmates who are all worried and agitated. Knowing Sophie is a talented singer, her best friend asks if she will sing something for the class, but all that is coming to Sophie’s mind is a macabre old verse about the remnants of humanity being wiped out by a falling star.

Sophie is trying desperately to think of something that brings hope or solace, but I don’t want her to suddenly start singing the perfect song for the situation. It will probably be something she’s been practising recently with her choir, or with her singing partner, something that’s at least better than ‘the end of the world’.

But what do I want it to be about? It’s likely the song in question will either refer to Arthurian mythology, or to the history of the place Sophie knows as Camelot; formerly London. Suddenly the answer pops into my head, as answers often do—I’ve known for some time that on one of the soldiers’ excursions outside the forcefield around Camelot, they found a copy of Thomas Malory’s Complete Works, which had been inscribed in the London Underground during a period of mass book-burning by a figure known as the ‘Blessed Scribe’.

I’ve known for some time that the finding was not entirely by chance, and that the Round Table were not entirely forthcoming to the public about the tome’s circumstances, and I wanted this to form part of a conversation between two other characters much later on in the series. Why not introduce the concept here, with a song someone else came up with in which they tried to imagine what the person who discovered the Works might have been feeling at the time?

Problem one solved.

Fortunately, I don’t actually have to be a composer for this one. In order to get a tune across I’d probably have to include sheet music, so thankfully for now I am but a lyricist. If the book becomes popular enough, someone else may try to put the words to music, someone with an ounce of musical talent, unlike me.

And now to a blank page in my notebook, for the lyric writing extravaganza. After I write the title I think about how literal I want the song to be. In this case, not very, it’s meant to be a more recent song than those I decided had come earlier, which were indeed more literal, and this can be indicative of a trend. In which case, how will it go?

An idea emerges—the song will be the singer’s interpretation of a person they know nothing about: they imagine that this person, who found the book in question, may have been faced with doubts about the Scribe’s canon. This singer doesn’t want to go for obvious references, like the quest for the Holy Grail, they believe the Works were discovered by chance. Nor will they imply supernatural forces were responsible for the finding, this will focus on the mind of the person who found the Works.

First of all, a verse that describes their doubt. For a few minutes the first line has been flashing in my head like an annoying prat with a torch. Time to write the little shit down.

‘And Is there truth in the stone?’ she thinks,
And is there a truth in the word?

‘Is there truth in the stone’, is the first thing that comes to my head, the rest is added in to improve the rhythm. And almost immediately there’s a problem, because this is the same rhythm I used for the last song I wrote (the one about the falling star), and this time I will at least need a different rhyme scheme or it will look like all the song-writers of this world shared my limitations.

A few seconds later a rhyme scheme comes crashing in through the window, and yells ‘I’m your rhyme scheme, whether you like it or not!’ and I guess I have no choice. But this means the next lines have to end on an easy rhyme, because there will be three in a row.

So, why is our song-writer’s character questioning the word of the Scribe? ‘Word’ is one of the rhyming words, so I need to find a rhyme. The first thing that occurs is ‘heard’, which can probably be tied back to ‘word’ easily enough, but then ‘occurred’ suggests itself, along with a full line to go at the end of the verse.

‘What may not have even occurred’

Because, of course, there’s no evidence for what’s written except that it’s been written, and not much is known in Camelot about the Scribe except that she was a woman, and what her actual name might have been. Now for the three short lines in the middle, and I’ve decided the first two should describe the character some more, the third should lead into that last line.

And when the first line eventually comes with a suitable last word, the next two follow, and after some changes our first verse reads thus:

Is there even a truth in the stone, she thinks;
And is there a truth in the word?
For she is a knight of anonymous sort,
Who waits out the darkness unwillingly caught;
And she and her ghosts are invariably taught,
What may not have even occurred.

I’m not sure about the ‘unwillingly’ there, I think ‘caught’ might imply a lack of willingness by itself, I may come back to that one. The anonymity and the ‘caught’ refer to the fact that the soldiers of this Camelot, the ‘Rooks’ from the title, are chosen and then drafted and forced to give up their identities for the rest of their lives. But we can’t dwell on that for too long, we must move on to the second verse, where I want to get deeper into the way the writer has imagined this character.

For this verse, I think we can start by mimicking the first line of the first verse for ease of flow, hence—

Is there even an end in sight, she thinks;
And is there an end to this fight?

And already I don’t like the fact that ‘sight’ and ‘fight’ rhyme. Fight is eventually going to have to rhyme with something, and when I think of the word ‘flight’ I decide I actually want to change fight to flight. Because she’s a Rook. And Rooks are birds. And birds fly. So rather than sight, what can we do? *Fingersnap!* Refer back to the first verse and replace ‘in sight’ with ‘to the darkness’!

Or is that too much of a call back? Ah, I know! Instead of darkness, I’ll use ‘tunnel’ to call back to the underground tunnels. I am a genius!

Is there even an end to the tunnel, she thinks;
And is there an end to this flight?

Now I can use sight, light, fight or any other ‘ite’ word at the end of the verse. Might. Bite. I like that one, I wonder if I could use ‘bite’?

Will clamp down on her wing bones and bite.

Well, there is that. It also gives me the restraint of  having to lead into it with my three quick middle rhymes, maybe describing this character’s pain and doubt, perhaps bringing the problems the Rooks have with the rest of the citizenry into it.

While shadows and substance will scratch at her eyes.

Yes, I like that that one, it takes the need to use ‘will’ away from the next line, which I think will improve the pacing. It makes the mid-rhyme ‘ies’ though, let’s see what we can do for the two preceding lines with that in mind. ‘Dies’ is obvious. Cries, lies (which could mean two different things) tries, guise, wise, pies, (okay, not that one), size, ties, prize, skies.

It cuts her as if there is nothing she tries,
That could break up the shell of the old world skies.

Don’t like the first line at all. Scrapping both of them.

For her bloodied talons are pinned where she lies,
Wrong-sided, entangled, between the Knot’s skies,

Much better. The ‘Knot’, by the way, also referred to in the title, is the forcefield that surrounds Camelot, properly the ‘Endless Knot’, though that was not its original name. So:

Is there even an end to the tunnel, she thinks;
And is there an end to this flight?
For her bloodied talons are pinned where she lies,
Wrong-sided, entangled, between the Knot’s skies;
While shadows and substance will scratch at her eyes,
Clamp down on her wing-bones and bite.

So, not too cheery so far, huh? It’ll pick up in the next verse, but this is all we have time for tonight, because I met up with a friend I wasn’t expecting to see in town today, and we spent the day eating. OM NOM NOM.

Tomorrow I will continue by coming up with a chorus and some more verses, and then I think I’ll show anyone who really cares how it will fit into the story with the excerpt that actually uses this song.

Until then!

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Writing about Writing about Writing (Part I)

Writing about Writing.

Today I wanted to share some of my wisdom of the craft of writing.

1. Use adverbs liberally to spice up your prose!

2. Never use adverbs under any circumstances.

3. Readers get bored easily, so keep you writing simple and fast-paced.

4. God is in the details, so pour them on like gravy and your work will stand out! Also, don’t forget to keep your work slow-paced to build up tension!

5. Listen to the advice of other writers and writing experts; they walk the same path, so they know what they’re talking about.

6. Never listen to other writers, because you need to find your own voice and your own path in the literary world.

7. Show, don’t tell.

8. Sometimes, things need to be told to the reader to help worldbuilding.

Well, I hoped those simple rules helped you guys, I’m going off to have lunch, and when I come back I expect you all to have written the next bestseller!

… okay, it turns out I need to wait for my oven to warm up before I can eat, so while we wait I’ll put the srs bizness hat on and admit the truth; I know sod all about ‘the craft of writing’. I only know how I write, and what feedback I’ve had regarding my writing has been mostly positive, but then, none of this feedback was from professionals.

I read articles and books about writing and I’m always thinking, ‘huh, I don’t do that,’ and ‘don’t do that? But I love that!’ and ‘wow, this is vague’. I hear that writers are sensitive, lonely, tortured souls, and I think: well, I’m not. I hear writers are social creatures who thrive in community and among friends, and I think: well, I’m not. Readers don’t like this (I do). Readers like that (I don’t).

I don’t do drafts. I don’t plot ahead. I use adverbs whenever I feel like one. I like detail and slow-pacing that accelerates to major events every now and again. I think you have to do at least some telling, however much I harp about exposition dumps in my reviews—and I don’t see why I shouldn’t do reviews and write at the same time (well, maybe not exactly at the same time, that would make for some strange prose…) I am not sensitive. I am not lonely. Apart from grammar aid and other mechanical aspects, I don’t agree with half the advice given to aspiring writers, even though I know I’ve never published a thing.

And yet, every day I sit in front of my computer and bang my hands against my keyboard like an angry monkey and somehow words and plots and characters appear on the screen before me and some large part of my over-inflated ego tells me that there are other people in the world who would be entertained by these ramblings, and I must inflict them on the world at large.

So at the end of the day, or at least at the end of the time it will take for my chips to be done, I think we all need to be individuals.

Yes, we are all individuals.

And we must all think for ourselves.

Yes, we must all think for ourselves. Tell us more, Messiah!

… oh, very well.

(Tune in later this afternoon/evening for some actual writing about writing about writing!)

Hush, Hush Commentary; Revenge of the Basketball Coach (B)

PART TWO

Chapter Fifteen

And the book is half-way done. Somehow things seem to be moving slower now…

Nora’s detective skills really shine here, in the form of hunches about Eliot that have almost entirely no basis. Patch helps by delivering more tired innuendo. The psychologist tells Nora to stay away from him some more, and seems to have been doing some stalking.

Wasn’t this book supposed to be about angels?

Chapter Sixteen

Research into Eliot is turning up zip, so the plot shoves Marcie back in to make really poor fat jokes about Vee so it can pretend things are actually happening.

Unfortunately despite this valiant effort I think it’s realised that in order to really make it seem like things are happening… things have to happen. So Patch shows up again! Yay! I just can’t get enough of his never saying anything of any substance! Nora asks him what the hell’s going on again, but again nothing that can be considered an answer is forthcoming, so we’ll have to hold off on that point.

Chapter Seventeen

The cops return to accuse Nora of getting Patch to beat up Marcie, and I think I’m beginning to understand the supernatural curse on this place. It has nothing to do with angels, no—that was a red herring. There is a logic hole somewhere in this town—my guess is the Mexican Restaurant—and its presence prevents the people of the town from thinking in a logical manner. I’m guessing this is why Nora’s father’s killer was never caught too, the cops are as utterly incapable of thinking logically as Nora is.

Or maybe they’re just really terrible at their job.

Anyway, the rest of the chapter is spent with Patch teaching Nora how to play pool, not at knife-point this time so I suppose she’s learned her lesson, until Patch’s Irish boxing coach Rixon shows up and they have a ‘play’ fight, which rips Patch’s shirt off and reveals two strange gashes down his back. And I think we all know what that means…

Patch gets his clothes from the same store as James T. Kirk! He must be magical!

Chapter Eighteen

Nora finds a torch covered in blood whilst rifling through Patch’s glove compartment. In this case her leap that Patch was the one who beat up Marcie isn’t quite as far-fetched as her ridiculous insistence that Eliot murdered suicide-girl, and becomes actually understandable. What’s this? A sincere compliment? Well, not so much that but a sincere not-insult. Let’s see what happens when Nora confronts him…

He tells her it’s paint. She believes him without checking—or was too stupid to tell the difference between paint and blood. Never mind.

Anyway they drive home, but uh-oh! Nora’s mum is there waiting for them! She gives Patch the third degree—well, second degree at best really, bordering on first—and then Patch leaves. What a great chapter!

Chapter Nineteen

In conversation with Vee, Nora realises that Patch’s scars are exactly the same as those of the angel in the picture in the fairground ride. And there I was worried that that plot point wouldn’t have  any payoff!

But the logic hole wreaks its terrible powers again, as Nora immediately considers the possibility (thanks to some stilted dialogue from Vee) that Patch might be an actual angel. Of course! It all makes so much sense now!

Google comes to her aid, with a terribly written article on the Nephilim which she believes since it came from such a trustworthy source.

Chapter Twenty

Eliot shows up at Nora’s house and he’s drunk or possibly being possessed by Patch since he’s acting as douchey as him and Google told us that angels can possess people. He wants a foursome with Nora, Vee, and Jules so he can cheer Jules up (okay, he said he wanted the four of them to ‘go camping’, but I think we all know what that means!), but Nora says no, now convinced that he’s a murderer.

He shoves her against the wall but gets scared off by Nora’s mum. Then Vee calls to tell Nora she should get over that because camping, yay! And the two of them try to prove to the other which is worse, Patch or Eliot, when in reality they’re both complete dickheads.

So Nora goes to the restaurant where the dead girl used to work to annoy the waitress with really un-subtle questions. As Nora is the worst sleuth ever, the waitress almost instantly susses her out, and subsequently answers her questions with more ease than before. It’s almost as if Nora’s needless theatrics are working against her. But then she did have to do that essay on Othello, and she read Hamlet earlier so maybe theatre is supposed to be a theme in this book.

The waitress tells her all sorts of irrelevant crap about how Eliot and Jules used to come in and talk about tests, and how Eliot bought suicide-girl her apartment.

Chapter Twenty-One

Nora goes to meet up with Vee who’s out partying with Eliot and Jules, and apparently in America you can tell a bus driver to stop anywhere and he’ll just come to a halt. Nora is too dumb to make sure she knows where she’s going and ends up bargaining with an old homeless woman for directions.

She also leaves her phone in her coat pocket when she gives it to the old woman, which is perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve heard yet. No, wait, there’s still the basketball coach’s biology lesson. That was the stupidest thing I’ve heard yet.

Luckily the old woman is murdered by ski-mask guy, so Nora gets her phone back and calls Patch to come pick her up. Patch misses out on winning a condo in a game of pool—apparently it’s easy to make a living like that—but since the car he won in pool breaks down maybe it was a near miss.

Chapter Twenty-One

Wait… didn’t I just read chapter twenty-one? Either the logic hole is affecting numbers now, or there’s a slight error in this edition

Anywho, the lines are down because of a snowstorm so Patch and Nora are going to stay in a motel, and I sense huddling together for warmth in the near future! Or maybe not, since Patch apparently finds Nora really sexy when she’s drenched and half-frozen. Must be her vulnerability,

Nora momentarily remembers that her best friend is out with someone she’s sure is a crazy murderer, but is then too distracted by Patch’s sexiness to care.

And then she gets sucked into his scars. Well, I can think of worse ways to go, but I’m glad the book was wrapped up quickly! Now, on to—

Chapter Twenty-Three

Damn.

Nora hasn’t died, she’s just astral projected back in time to Patch’s favourite bar, and immediately wonders why none of the men in the room are looking at her, even though she’s in her underwear, rather than, oh, how she suddenly gained the ability to teleport!?

But the calendar shows it’s now months and months ago, so I’m guessing it’s exposition time! The Therapist shows up to speak with Patch, sucking a lollypop so we know she’s evil. They have a Kriptik Konversayshun, which isn’t all that cryptic and, given the stilted dialogue, is barely a conversation.

So Patch is a fallen angel, banished to earth for some terrible crime, and the therapist is a regular angel, and she gives him a chance to become un-fallen and get his wings back but Patch is too cool for that and they kiss, yada yada…

Oh, apparently the therapist is lying. Patch is actually planning to do something super-dangerous involving the Book of Enoch and she’s there to stop him. Then she says someone is out to kill Nora Grey and Patch must save her, except then she reveals it’s Patch who’s trying to kill Nora! Dun dun dun!

And then Nora’s back in the motel room.

Patch flips his shit and pins her to the bed, and they have a conversation about how much he wants to kill her, and Nora is more upset about their stupid relationship than she is amazed at the fact that ANGELS EXIST!

Then we get this…

“I get that you’re angry—,” said Patch.

“I am ripped apart!” I shouted.

YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, PATCH! /Wiseau.

So Patch has been trying to kill her all this time, for… some reason. But for now he decides not to, and lets Nora touch his magic exposition scars again.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Well, now that the plot’s started… over three quarters of the way through the book… we get another flashback moment, as Patch’s scars act as a Pensieve and Nora sees him talking to Rixon in a cemetery about all the thinking he’s doing. My suspension of disbelief is straining—not because of the flashback, but at the idea that Patch thinks.

Anyway, Rixon’s a fallen angel too, and he tells Patch they have to go see some guys, but Patch is too cool for that. He wants to be human, like it says in the Book of Enoch (apparently). Rixon, like me, thinks that’s a daft idea, and also impossible. But Patch says all he has to do is kill some guy called ‘Chauncey’, his Nephil vassal, and he’ll become human.

Back in the real world, Nora proves she still excels at walking into tired innuendo and Patch reveals that he’s made of glass, or has a glass sheet covering his body, I don’t know it was a bad metaphor about him being unable to feel physical sensations. But he can feel emotions, emotions like desire, which makes no sense. In fact most of his tired innuendos make no sense now, if he can’t be physically attracted to Nora, and really, an angel finding someone physically attractive is… well, I guess there’s the Nephilim, so yeah…

When asked why he fell, Patch explains he wants to become human. Why? He was in love with a girl. Bo-ring.

Then Nora reveals that the therapist is still on earth and Patch decides to go through her files to see what she’s planning. And now Nora immediately suspects the therapist of being ski-mask guy, based, as usual, on nothing but vague speculation.

Chapter Twenty-Five

The therapist, Dabria, shows up looking for Patch and so she can reveal, Bond Villain-style, how she was behind the attack on Vee because she wants Nora to stay away from him so he can go back to angel-land. None of this seems particularly angelic…

Come to think of it, what does constitute ‘angelic’ in this book? Say what you will about Meyer, at least she came up with some ideas about how vampires worked. They were stupid ideas, oh boy, were they ever stupid, but so far we’ve learned next to nothing about the fallen angels and Nephilim, and nothing at all about actual angels. And we’re 82% through the book!

But at least Nora’s place in all this is revealed, she’s apparently a descendant of Chauncey (I’m going to have to go back to the front of the book and see if Chauncey was that duke at the beginning, aren’t I? And… yep, he is. Anyway, I’m calling it that either Eliot or Jules is Chauncey) and that’s why Patch is trying to kill her.

Dabria’s plan to avoid this is to kill her first, while ranting like a lunatic. What a well-realised villain! Though I’ll admit she was better at her job than the basketball coach. During this extended Dabria-tries-to-kill-Nora-scene, Dabria yells ‘I’ll burn this house down room by room of that’s what it takes to find you!’

So why don’t you just burn the whole house down at once and be done with it?

Instead, Patch shows up to save her, and thank goodness for that! I’m just so relieved!

Chapter Twenty-Six

Nora remembers that whole super-special-best-friend bond she has with Vee and how she’s off with another psycho so decides to go and rescue her. She does this by going to watch a movie. The same movie they went to see before.

Patch shows up to annoy the movie-goers by making them think Nora’s talking to herself, then tells Nora in a really boring way about how he fell and stuff. And now he’s in love with her, for, you know, reasons. In true Hush, Hush tradition clichéd, nonsensical dialogue ensues. And kissing.

Oh, and Patch ripped Dabria’s wings off, but I guess that’s not really important.

More kissing… and then Eliot rings up to threaten to kill Vee if Nora doesn’t go to the school. Cliffhanger!

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Nora and Patch go off to the school to rescue Vee,

Wow, that was a short chapter. I mean, I guess I could talk about the car trouble they had, but I don’t think I’m that desperate!

Chapter Twenty-Eight

They arrive at the school and Nora goes inside at Eliot’s taunting. She trips over Jules’ dead body and then Eliot is dead too. Bummer for him, I guess, but Nora is attacked by ski-mask guy! Oh noes!

And ski-mask guy is…

Jules! He wasn’t really dead at all, hooray! I mean, oh noes!

He takes her to the coach’s biology room (that will never stop sounding weird) makes a bullshit speech about horses, and reveals the most shocking of revelations… he’s Chauncey! And he got Eliot to murder suicide-girl for money, because Eliot was on a scholarship and that meant he really wanted money!

Anyway, apparently the whole Nephilim thing means Patch takes possession of Jules’ body for two weeks of the year, so you can kind of understand why Jules is a bit pissed off about that. He talks about how easy it was for him to influence her mind (Nora has a mind?) and he’s going to kill her so he can hurt Patch, who’s in love with her and stuff.

Fighting and a chase-scene ensues.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Nora searches for Vee (remember her?) and they decide to split up to get help. Jules finds Nora and explains that he attacked Marcie because he was upset that someone else was tormenting Nora (great motivations!) which we needed to know so Nora could distract Jules in time for Patch to show up.

Patch possesses Nora in order to fight Jules off, and more fighting/chase scenes ensue, and Nora decides to sacrifice herself so Patch will become human and Chauncey will die. To be honest if it had been me I would have tried to team up with Chauncey in order to get rid of Patch since he’s such a fucking douchebag and his torturing Chauncey for centuries just so he could ‘experience human feelings’ is what’s lead to this, but to each their own.

Chapter Thirty

Patch rejects Nora’s sacrifice so she comes back to life. Chauncey dies though, so that loose end is wrapped up, and Patch becomes Nora’s guardian angel. You know, mostly everyone else who hated this book hated it because of Patch’s treatment of Nora, but I have to admit all my sympathy is going to Chauncey here.

I mean, sure, he assaults and murders a whole bunch of people, but centuries of having Patch inhabit my body to do who knows what (and I wouldn’t put anything past Patch) would certainly have driven me off the deep end.

Anywho, Vee rings up to apologise for things that aren’t her fault, and the same cops as before show up. Apparently Dabria is still out there, so, sequel fodder. Yay.

And then it just ends…

Final thoughts?

I doubt there’s much I can say that hasn’t already been said. As others have pointed out this book is horrendously offensive—I haven’t seen such a disgusting excuse for the portrayal of a science class in many, many years.

Curse you, basketball coach-guy! May you rot in hell!

Hush, Hush Commentary; Revenge of the Basketball Coach (A)

PART ONE

This was the first long commentary I did, and I was going to start putting the reviews up in the order I liked best until I realised a lot of them referred to earlier reviews, so I’m going to post them every week in the order I read them.

You can find my condensed review of Hush, Hush on Goodreads here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/517372686

So we’ll start with the main character, Bruce Wayne, who—following the intervention of Selina Kyle aka Catwoman during a kidnapping by Killer Croc—is seriously injured and subsequently reunited with his childhood friend, Dr. Thomas Elliot—

Oh wait, no… that was just ‘Hush’, as in ‘what someone should have told me before I made that lame joke’.

‘Hush, Hush’s main character is a girl named Nora, who we meet as she engages in nonsensical dialogue with her best friend Vee Sky.

But we really begin with a prologue, set in 16th century France, wherein a French Duke is told by a self-professed minion of Satan with mind-control powers that he is a Nephil, a half-angel, and he has to do a job for him. The encounter comes off strangely like one of a telemarketer and his victim—one expects the Satanist to ask Duke half-angel if he’s paying too much for his car insurance.

Chapter One

Back in the land of Stephen King’s favourite playground, Vee and Nora are being taught ‘Science’ by their basketball coach. I don’t know if that’s how things work across the pond, but here in Blighty we were taught science by… science teachers. Today’s assignment is to ask stupid banal questions of the person sitting next to you, which I guess is what happens when you get the basketball coach to teach Sex Ed.

During this, Nora kindly informs us in block-paragraph format what she and Vee look like, and how they have a shiny unbreakable friendship bond. But unfortunately, Nora is partnered up with the Mysterious Transfer Student tm., who has been given the children’s plush-toy name of ‘Patch’.

Patch immediately endears himself to the reader by making random assumptions about Nora that turn out to be true, telling her everything that’s wrong with her, asking her if she’s suicidal and refusing to tell her anything in return. We learn from this that Nora’s father was murdered last year, in an entirely non-clunky bit of exposition.

Sadly this first meeting between Romeo and Juliet is cut short by the class only being about ten minutes long, but at least Patch gives Nora his phone number, written in blood (well, the book just says ‘red’ but I think we all know what was meant).

Chapter Two

Our heroine makes the brilliant observation that something about the guy who somehow knew all her character traits and is going for gold in the ‘dicking around’ championship ‘isn’t normal’. I’m betting he just downloaded her personality profile from a dating website, he certainly makes enough terrible innuendos.

Also, Nora is unduly creeped out by birthmarks.

Chapter Three

I was considering building a trans-dimensional space-warping machine in order to enter the physical universe of the book and sign Vee’s petition to have the coach fired, and maybe get Vee interested in something else other than Nora’s love life.

Unfortunately upon attempting this, I accidentally crashed my ship into the massive barrage of foreshadowing via a movie and got diverted into a William Burroughs novel. Man, that was a weird experience.

Enter the cheerleader character! She’s blonde, wears an incredibly short skirt and insults Vee for being fat. What a refreshing portrayal!

And some guy in a ski mask attacks Nora as she’s driving home. Action! And we’re only… wait, fifteen percent through already? How long is this book, 100 pages?

Chapter Four

More characters are introduced in the form of Eliot and his friend Jules, who is described as being incredibly bored and irritated. Is he me? Was a part of myself left behind when I encountered that foreshadowing, manifesting in the book itself as an actual character?

Oh, and Patch is still a douche.

Chapter Five

Seems like that mystical friendship bond is dissolving. Then again, Nora feels it is her right as Patch’s Biology partner to illegally access his private information, and Vee is so obsessed she casually prank calls the school with A BOMB THREAT to provide a distraction for Nora to do so, so I kind of wonder why either of them would want to be friends with the other! I guess because they’re the best!

(Hopefully they’ll also frame the basketball coach for the bomb and finally get him fired)

Anyway, school’s out due to fictional bombs, so they go to a restaurant where Patch just happens to work for page after page of witty banter, ending with the epitome of all wit when Nora (who can’t stop herself saying random things and thus apparently has some form of Tourettes) tells him she illegally accessed his private information for no reason.

All this is interspersed with arbitrary snippets of how attractive Nora finds Patch’s total lack of attractive qualities. And he starts to call her ‘Angel’. I had to duck to avoid the foreshadowing.

Chapter Six

Suddenly some guy called Elliot shows up—and I must be suffering from early onset dementia, because I’d already forgotten who he was. He picks Nora first for softball teams, and Nora approves of his not being impressed with Marcie, cheerleader o’ Doom. Apparently the other boys at the school really enjoy listening to Marcie go on about how awesome she is.

Disaster strikes when Nora is distracted from softball by suddenly gaining the ability to hear Patch’s thoughts, but at least that ho Marcie gets knocked on her ass! Woo!

Well, that was a pointless chapter.

Hang on, wasn’t there another book where there was a chapter where they played something like this?

Chapter Seven

In which Nora has bestowed upon her the divine wisdom of the German maid, wisdom such as…

Not having a boyfriend is bad. But having a bad boyfriend is even worse. Deep stuff.

But it gets better—because Nora goes out with Vee to meet up with Elliot and Jules, and you know what this means? That’s right—makeovers!

So they go to the fair and seem to be having a gay ole’ time, but uh-oh—guess who also turns up at the fair as well?

That’s right—Patch! There’s even a long description of exactly what he’s wearing so we know it’s him.

In order to make sure he doesn’t bother them… they go bother him first! Great idea! And hilarity ensues, when he psychically challenges Nora to a stupid game with even stupider stakes, then tells her to meet him at the new ride… Archangel!

Do you think something’s being foreshadowed there? I still have concussion from being bashed over the head by something, so I’m not entirely sure.

Chapter Eight

After Patch pesters Nora into riding the Archangel with him, we see that the fairground workers have kindly been applying more foreshadowing to their rides with paintings inside the cars of angels and demons and all that cheerful stuff.

Too bad they apparently spent more time on that than on the ride’s safety, because Nora falls out of the ride! Oh noes!

Fortunately it was either a hallucination or Nora or Patch warped reality, because she ends up back in the ride perfectly fine and it never really happened. There was no monster/ Monster A-go-go.

Unfortunately the reality-warping seems to have had the side-effect of warping the syntax, giving us sentences like ‘The higher up, the harder the fall’. Perhaps the subject from that sentence died in Nora’s place?

Chapter Nine

On finding her super-special best friend Vee has abandoned her, Nora gets a ride home with Patch, who then forces her at knife-point to have a taco-making lesson.

Although he also says cooking isn’t taught. Which it is. Because he’s teaching her.

But it results in true love’s first kiss, over the washing up as all true romances are founded. Clichéd purple prose ensues, accompanied with clichéd purple dialogue, and all too soon they’re interrupted by the clichéd phone call from Nora’s mother.

Sigh, it was just so beautiful! *bursts into tears*

Chapter Ten

Well, I’m now a third of the way through the book—two or so hours of my life I’ll never get back, and then there’s that concussion to deal with… but Vee had it worse, what with trying to find Nora for hours, though she gets over it soon enough when she’s able to tell, from Nora’s voice, that she kissed some fruit.

Or Patch, I got confused at that point. Fruit is a running gag in this book, the kind that runs you down, conks you over the head and screams ‘LAUGH, DAMN YOU!’ Anyway, maybe Vee is psychic too?

So Nora compares kissing Patch with licking a shard of glass—just what I like to imagine all twu wuv kisses end up like, and then she joins Vee for an important discussion about their boobs. Slightly more important, but not much, is the fact that Nora feels there’s another stalker in her life. Also Vee doesn’t know how shopping works—and neither, apparently, does Nora, as she considers telling Vee that the sales clerk will scan the bar codes of the bras to be ‘a lie’.

But Vee gets her comeuppance for trying to steal when the stalker attacks and robs her! Oh noes!

Chapter Eleven

Well, Vee’s arm is broken and Nora has a new psychologist, but if I learned anything from ‘Batman Beyond’ it’s that all therapists are evil, so I’m betting she’s the new stalker (who we know is female, and probably not Marcie)

She gets her own long, descriptive paragraph so we know she’s a main character, and at no more than five years older than Nora, is either the youngest working psychologist ever, an angel-y type person in disguise, or a crazy person who wandered in off the street. Well, this is the school that thinks the basketball coach should teach biology!

This teacher wants her to stay away from Patch though, so my bet’s on the… uh…middler.

Nora goes to visit Vee in the hospital, trying to stimulate her ‘muse’ to write an essay on Othello while she waits. I should go look up which one of the nine muses specialised in essay-writing…

But instead of doing that, Nora decides to Google Patch, and finds he’s not on Facebook! That means he doesn’t exist! She does discover a newspaper article related to Eliot though, who was apparently questioned regarding the death of a girl from his old school. From his school paper. You’d think the horrible death of a teenage girl would get some recognition outside of the school paper.

Apparently Eliot operates under the laws of taboo mythology, because saying his name summons him up and he appears right next to Nora and asks her out.

Chapter Twelve

Vee’s doctor is a ‘lard-arse’ which I guess means Vee is from my side of the pond, or something. Also, Nora’s mother looks like she might actually make an appearance in the novel.

Nora and Vee discuss Vee’s attacker, who was wearing a ski mask! Dun dun dun! And has charcoal eyes, but Patch’s eyes are black, not charcoal, so it couldn’t have been him… or could it? (Yes. Yes it could. Because charcoal is black.)

Nora leaves her dear friend to drug induced hysteria (maybe the basketball coach moonlights as a doctor too?) finally meeting up with her mother, who smells like Love, by Ralph Lauren. I’m sure it’s important that we know that. For some reason.

Chapter Thirteen

It takes a while for anything to start happening in this chapter (as much as anything can be said to happen at all in this book so far) but it was well worth the wait, because Nora, Vee and Eliot have teamed up to stalk Patch.

But Nora distrusts Eliot now—in fact, she seems to hate him more than Patch, all because he was questioned regarding the death of a girl which was later ruled as suicide as he’d been seen walking home with her the night before. He must be evil! Just walking with him makes you want to commit suicide!

But Nora cleverly pokes holes in his story regarding Jules’ parents working with diamonds in Africa and Australia—in fact, she’s ‘pretty sure Australia had no diamonds. Period’. Yes, it’s well known that Australia has banned all import and export in diamonds as part of their campaign to cut girls off from their best friends. These days you can be executed on the spot for a hint of sparkle. Or maybe they just really hate Twilight down under?

Anyway, hijinks ensue. Painful, painful hijinks. Cringeworthy.

Chapter Fourteen

Nora and her mum have a boring conversation about her dead dad, and Nora doesn’t tell her about any of the crap that hasn’t been happening, because she’s worried her Mum will sell the house if she does. *Coughcontrivancecough*

And Nora has another hallucination of the guy in the ski mask and the cops don’t believe her. Oh, Nora—you so crazy!

Continued in Part Two

The Rachelloon Review Show

… coming to a theatre near you, on Friday, the nineteenth of never!

Well, the drawing post was quite well-liked, so I believe I’ll make it a regular-ish thing, and soon the world will be mine! Anyway, I think I mentioned in another post that I also do bad book reviews, and you may be wondering: who is she–to say what is bad and what isn’t?

No one, that’s who, but I’m going to do it anyway because I enjoy it! Some people may think me of a mean spirit, but the truth is I do genuinely enjoy many of the books I review; they are the ‘Troll 2’s, the ‘Birdemic’s and the ‘The Room’s of literature. Well, of YA paranormal romance and dystopia anyway.

Okay, that’s a little unfair, the books I review aren’t quite that much of a trainwreck. Still, they entertain me with their badness, which is why they are judged on the Rachelloon scale of Things that Entertained me with their Badness (formerly the Karataratakus scale of the same name, as that’s my handle on Goodreads where I post the condensed reviews)

This blog gives me the opportunity to post… what aren’t really reviews so much as text commentary, chapter by chapter looks at various tales which usually amount to about four thousand words–Book Deconstruction Lite, if you will?–which I’ll start posting tomorrow with Becca Fitzpatrick’s ‘Hush, Hush’; a more light-hearted jaunt, perhaps, into that terrain, than many of the vitriol-filled rants I’ve seen before.

And who knows? It may be that some young aspiring writer will one day pick a book of mine up on Kindle, for 99p or however much my genius will go for, and they will say to themselves ‘This is a crock of shit! I’m going to write a four thousand word blog post explaining why, chapter by chapter!’

To be such an inspiration to others would truly bring tears of joy to my eyes!

Some “Amazing” Visuals

I’ve been thinking about the kinds of things I could put on this blog (it was a stroke of genius to wait until after I started it, I know) and I realised I don’t just write my novels down–I have supplementary material in notebooks; including drawings! Pictures are always fun, right?

Anyway, I’m not the best artist in the world, but I’ve decided to post some of my illustrations as well as the text excerpts to act as teasers–these are some of the aliens I designed for my sci-fi novel ‘518’… if I can figure out how to upload an image:

518 Drawings A

Ah, that seems to have done it! Anyway, these are two of the species who appear as main characters in a novel where Earth has been taken over by a massive alien empire. These are some of the junior members of the empire, Fredeks and Saraketeisians (the spelling on the drawing is wrong, unfortunately). Fredeks are described in the novel as having skin roughly the colour and texture of a Galapagos iguana, while Saraketeisians are a rose pink or lilac colour with multi-coloured patterns like butterfly wings on their frills.

I might also upload maps and family trees I’ve done for other novels, I usually have the most fun on those. I do also do human character designs, but I don’t think those are even as good as my above drawings.

… I may still inflict them on unsuspecting blog-watchers though!

On Reviewing, and the Goodreads Upheaval O’ Doom

So I’ve been following the Badly Behaving Author/GR Bully conflict for a while now, and as well as chronicling my writing I’d wanted to share my thoughts about this latest development and the conflict in general, as someone who considers themselves both a writer and a reviewer. (I know, I know, sounds like SRS BIZNESS all of a sudden–don’t worry, this will be an atypical post. Or do worry, if you prefer this type of post!) I’ll talk about my own reviewing ethos at another time, for now i just wanted to discuss the shelf-deleting debacle.

To start off, do I agree with it? In a word, no.

Will I be leaving Goodreads over it? Again, no. The shelves deleted by the staff are a kind of shelves I would never use, so I’m not really affected by the new policy. As for standing on principle for freedom of speech… well, that’s a more complicated matter.

Over the last few months I’ve come to realise that there was a lot of behaviour and beliefs on both sides of the conflict that I personally disagreed with, but at the same time recognised the right of others to hold those beliefs and engage in such behaviour. I’m not talking about the criminal actions (which I believe were undertaken by outliers on both side, though to what degree is difficult to tell with the evidence I’ve come across). I don’t think the ‘BBA’ shelves were appropriate, but I do think think those who made the shelves should retain the right to have them. Thus I don’t think it is necessary for Goodreads to delete such shelves, but I do recognise that they have a right to make whatever rules they want for their site, and those who have left in protest are probably the kind of users that the staff feel they no longer want on the site anyway.

What I would have liked to see from Goodreads is some effort to stop reviewers fraudulently rating (whether well or poorly) and reviewing books they have not read, especially since I’ve seen some evidence that these reviews may go beyond personal conflict retribution and into the much more damaging realm of bots. Because here’s how I see the conflict (as if my opinion makes any difference, but here goes…)

Reviewers should have the right to say whatever they want about books they have read, or read part of. While I would not bring the author into a book review, I understand that for some the character of the author is important, so reviewers should be allowed to say what they will about them, up to the point of libellous or slanderous accusations (I am aware the legal definition of these terms can be hazy, there’s not much I can do about that). I believe authors should be allowed to complain to their fans about bad or misinformed reviews. I don’t think they should engage with the reviewer without invitation or approval, and definitely shouldn’t get their fans to round up the torches and pitchforks, but that’s for individual websites to regulate–whatever they want the balance of free speech and drama on their sites to be. I’d err on the side of free speech. Others would not.

I don’t think authors should be blamed for fans who attack bad reviews, nor should reviewers round up their own angry mobs for 1-starring campaigns which could hurt the author’s livelihoods out of spite. If you have not read the book, don’t rate or review it. Conversely, authors should not be spamming or asking for good reviews, or worst of all–paying for good reviews, or doing anything to fraudulently improve their ratings.

There’s three things for the individual author or reviewer to consider here; behaviour you have to make your own choices about, behaviour that is regulated (to whatever degree or effectiveness) by individual websites–which has to be respected if you want to use the website, and behaviour which is blatantly criminal such as doxxing and threats of physical harm. I don’t think what’s happened recently on Goodreads can be deemed ‘censorship’ so much as tone-policing, but at the same time, it’s not something I agree with.

But then, sometimes there’s something to be said for agreeing to disagree.