Tuesday 18 September 2012

Guest Post- Alex Hughes- Getting into the Mind of a Killer-

Firstly, huge apologies for not being around. I'm moving tomorrow, so things are a bit hectic. If you've sent me emails, they'll be replied to by the weekend. Thanks for being patient and huge thanks to the awesome people who have sent me things for The Month Before Halloween!

Second, and why I'm remembering to post today (though not really, since someone else wrote this), we have Alex Hughes talking about how she got into the mind of a killer. It's a great post, so no more waiting :)

Someone recently asked me, “how do you get into the mind of a killer?” The question made me think about my process for building a story villain, and here’s what I came up with.

Big idea: A killer is a regular person… who you drive off a cliff.

  1. We’re All Killers
Let’s be honest. We’ve all fantasized about getting rid of someone who’s been cruel to us. We’ve all hated or feared someone enough that our hands shook. We’re all equally capable of murder under the right circumstances. The killer has just found his or her circumstances right now.

  1. A Killer Wants Something
Just like the rest of us, a killer wants something. Usually several somethings. The difference is, they don’t necessarily care about other people along the way. They want what they want, and they intend to get it.

  1. Killers are Active
Unlike a lot of story heroes, killers don’t feel the need to sit around and ponder the deeper moral meaning of their actions. No, they’re motivated creatures, are killers. They see what they want and they go after it hard. Not that the plan for world domination might not have several steps, or that their personal internal clock might say there’s been enough killing for this particular moment, but they’re active. They get things done.

  1. Killers Lack “Stops”
Civilized society depends on us saying “no,” at certain points. No, I will not hit my sister. No, I won’t curse out my boss. No, I won’t torture small animals. Some of the “stops” are more important than others – but when it comes right down to it, according to experts in the field, the big difference between most regular people and killers is that the killers are missing some of these stops. It’s what makes a screamed insult turn into a fistfight and a fistfight turn into a fatal stabbing – somewhere along the way, when you and I would have said “no, enough” a killer doesn’t stop. They take the same motivation and the same experience and take it all the way to the ultimate conclusion.

So when I try to get into the head of a killer or a story villain, I try to take a strong feeling or motivation past its usual stops and past any consideration of consequences or other people, all the way to its ultimate conclusion. I try to take the character I already know (smart or dumb, quick or slow, calm or angry, powerful or weak) and see what would happen without any stops.

It’s an unsettling way of thinking.

You can see how this has affected Alex if you read her novel, Clean, published by Roc on the 4th of September. You can buy Clean from Amazon US, UK, or The Book Depository, and you can find it on Goodreads

Saturday 15 September 2012

Blog Tour- Skyship Academy- Crimson Rising by Nick James

You may remember some time ago, we had Nick and a post on the first book in the Skyship Academy series, The Pearl Wars. Book Two, Crimson Rising, was published on the 8th September.
Nick's back, this time with an interview and this and that.

1. What's your favourite thing about the world of Skyship?
I love that it has so many facets to it. In the Skyship world, there are basically three different factions to explore. It’s not strictly sci-fi or fantasy or steampunk, but it mixes elements of all three. I love being able to incorporate all of my favorite things into one story. Without bending to the confines of one particular genre, I have the freedom to do anything.
Plus, I find skyships very, very cool.

2. What steampunk/other things influenced the creation of this world?
I’m not sure if it’s considered hardcore steampunk, but the anime series Trigun was a huge inspiration for these books. Much of the action in the Skyship series takes place in old-west type desert towns, but with futuristic technology and weapons. I also took a lot of inspiration from comic books of all sorts, which I grew up reading. I aimed for writing that was fast-paced, cinematic and filled with dialogue.
For Crimson Rising specifically, I took some cues from my favorite sci-fi movie, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. I feel like the story James Cameron was able to tell was just relentless in its sense of forward movement and high stakes.

3. How have your characters developed since the start of the series?
They’re slowly moving from their extremes (Jesse started out very apathetic, whereas Cassius began as obedient and unquestioning). It’s a process that really runs through all three books. At the beginning of Crimson Rising, both boys find themselves in really tough places, basically held captive in different ways. The first half of the book is really about finding out how to break free and continue the fight they were destined to be a part of. But there’s definitely a strong internal journey that both characters are on. They’re really learning how and where they fit into the world.

4. If you could make any one of your characters real and be best friends with them, who would it be and why?
I don’t think I’d pick either of my main characters, actually--mostly because both have a fair share of my own personality in them. I think I’d choose Avery, who’s one of Jesse’s best friends. For those who have read the first book, you’ll know that she’s spontaneous, fun-loving, smart and very, very sarcastic.

5. What's been the hardest thing to write about?
I think I’ve had the hardest time with the third book, which I’m just finishing up now. It’s the final entry in the series, meaning everything is wrapped up. Endings are always a struggle for me, particularly when it comes to ending an entire series. I’m really excited about it, though.
6. If you could go anywhere in the world of Skyship, where would you?
I’d love to explore the skyships. In the world of the book, there are all sorts of ships floating above the country. I’d love to visit some of the more entertainment-based ships, which contain things like amusement parks and casinos. They’re basically like floating cities in the sky.
7. Have any personal experiences you want to share made their way into the Skyship novels?
I wouldn’t say I’ve actually done anything in real life that happens in the book, but I definitely drew influence from places I’ve lived and people I’ve met. In fact, two of my good friends’ names appear briefly in the second book. It’s fun to sneak things like that in!
8. What's your ideal steampunk/skypunk adventure?
Something with a daredevil-type hero or heroine, someone who’s free and just doesn’t give a crap. It would have awesome technology, lots of secrets and incredibly high stakes. It’s less about the world and more about the story and characters, for me. I have lots of steampunk-inspired ideas floating around in my head. The key is finding the story that fits around those ideas.

This or that-simply what do you prefer.
Handwrite or type first drafts?
Type. Type. Type.
Tea or coffee?
Tea. I don’t drink coffee (I know that’s weird).
Day or night?
Day, though I’m not a morning person.
Cake or biscuits?
Cake, but not every night. Too much of a good thing = not a good thing anymore.
Twitter or Facebook?
Facebook. I find it hard to fit things into 140 characters.
The stars or the moon?
The stars. I feel like the moon has been explored to death, but the stars are still so mysterious. I could stare at them for a long time.
The USA or the UK?
Argh. I love both. When I was living in the UK, I missed the USA. When I’m here, I miss the UK. I wish I could combine them into one, glorious country.
Loud places or quiet ones?
It depends on my mood.
Covers: The Pearl Wars or Crimson Rising?
Love them both, but especially love The Pearl Wars.
Writing at home or somewhere else like a cafe?
Somewhere else, just because I get so much more done. Plus, treats are always good motivation!

Big thanks to Nick for that! Nick's website is here, Crimson Rising is on Goodreads, and you can buy it from Amazon.

The rest of the tour is below.

9/10 This or That @ The Busy Bibliophelic 
9/11 Review @ The Readinista
9/12 Guest Blog @ Kelsey Sutton
9/13 Interview @ The Book CellarX
9/14 This or That @ Kindle & Me
9/15 Interview & ToT @ Death, Books & Tea
9/18 Giveaway @ The Mod Podge Bookshelf
9/20 ToT & Giveaway @ Coffee, Books & Me
9/22 Interview & Giveaway @ Fire & Ice
9/23 Shelf Envy @ Joyous Books
9/26 Review @ A Little Bit Of R&R
9/27 Guest Blog @ The Book Smugglers
9/28 Guest Blog & Giveaway @ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer

Monday 10 September 2012

Book Review- Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Title: Struck
 Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Series:  Struck #1
Published:  26 April 2012 by Doubleday
Length: 373 pages
Source: Netgalley. Once again, sorry for the wait.
Summary : Mia Price is a lightning addict. She's survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her. Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come. Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn't who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything

Review: Mia is a human pylon. And she loves it. and then she has a dream in which a boy is standing there with a knife ready to kill her. A few days later, an earthquake hits Los Angeles, and people are calling it the end of the world. Mia wants to take care of her family, but then she gets caught up between two cults. Those who follow Rance Ridley, prophet who performs miracles, and the Seekers, who want her for something. Mia only really cares about her mother and brother, but after being pulled in between these two groups, they’re the least of her worries.
A lightning addict! Wow! From the blurb I was highly excited about this one.  And it didn’t disappoint. Mia’s narration is gripping, and her actions to try and keep her family safe even more so. It’s nice that Mia will do what she can to protect them, and her business with the Dealer shows how loyal and caring she is. On other counts, she's not amazing. 
The cults were the most intriguing things about this for me. The devotion to the causes was both spectacular and a bit scary, and people in both of them are completely unpredictable. The Seekers want Mia to stop the apocalypse and keep dragging her in to their ceremonies and so on. The Followers believe it’s time to repent for sins and so on. both of them have good and bad sides that we see along with Mia, and are thought provoking in their own ways.
Instalove alert. Kind of. I found Jeremy kind of boring and slightly annoying. The relationship then develops  at a better pace, but fact that Mia falls in love with a guy she first sees with a knife is a kind of WTH moment.
There’s also a few things that seems a bit drawn out and predictable. It took a long time to get to some important things, and with so many things happening, there were a couple of bits that I thought didn’t need to be there.
But not the world building. Wow. I could easily imagine the disaster-struck LA, full of hungry people desperate for medicine, food, supplies and so on. most things can be obtained if you have enough cash. It’s a kind of typical post-apocalyptic world-but it’s a good typical post-apocalyptic world.

Overall:  Strength  4 tea to a different post-apocalyptic novel with a lot of awesomeness.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Book Review- Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Title: Carnival of Souls
 Author: Melissa Marr
Series:  N/A
Published:  4 September 2012 by Harpercollins
Length: 306 pages
Warnings:  violence, kissing, prostitution
Source: Publishers
Other info: Melissa has also written the Wicked Lovely series, as well as Graveminder.
Summary : In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures--if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.
 All Mallory knows of The City is that her father--and every other witch there--fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it's only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable. While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.

Review: We begin with a daimon bargaining with a  (male) witch for the safekeeping of her child. Nearly seventeen years later, this girl, Mallory, has grown up knowing the dangers of daimons, and training with her adoptive father so she will be able to fight them should they attack. Meanwhile, the majority of daimons live in the City, the only place that the witches left them with.  Here, the Carnival of Souls is  running, where assassins, prostitutes and others sell their services and goods. There is also a completion in which young daimons fight to the death in order to rule the City. Kaleb is a demon who is in the later stages of the tournament. He also  crosses over to the human world looking for Mallory.  When he finds her, she starts learning who she really is.
I’ve never read any of Melissa’s stuff before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of writing quality and such. However, the premises of this was great-how could I not love a carnival full of demons?
When we first enter, I wasn’t disappointed. The description is vivid, full of action and Melissa has created a world that I’ve always thought about and loved the idea of. The Carnival is the latest on my list of fictional places I really really want to go to.  So much is going on, and it brings to my mind a fantastical gothic Renaissance fair.
The modern world seems quite boring in contrast, with not too much going on there at the start. Things soon pick up for Mallory though. I found her a bit annoying, constantly worrying even though she had good reason to, and I felt that she didn’t really do much apart from worry about if the guy she liked would be able to find her after she moved. When he does, and he tells her how he feels, she takes it in a realistic  and funny way which made me like her a little more.
I really liked Aya. She’s strong, determined and goes against the norm by not wanting to breed (here, daimons need to breed to keep the bloodlines going), instead aiming to rule. Her willingness to kill her childhood friend and ex-betrothed made me like her a bit more. Kaleb is the main male character, and his sense of family and duty offsets the fact that he fights a lot, and fights viciously. Adam is Mallory’s father, who is ridiculously overprotective and he reminds me a little of Nathan from Repo. Zevi is my favourite character of the lot. Fiercely devoted to  Kaleb, taking care of him, they have a great relationship between them. The way he reacts when Kaleb goes off and gets himself torn up or signed up for death if something doesn’t happen is both cute and provides a little comic relief.
The whole way the daimon competition for ruling is set out is really different but intriguing. I really enjoy this world that’s been developed.
Plotwise...the Mallory and Kaleb thing is good, but not my kind of thing. The tournament is more my kind of thing as is  Aya’s manipulations of various people to try and get what she wants. It was instalove on Kaleb’s part, which I really didn’t like.   I’d like to see Mallory become more integrated with the City in the next book as she tries to learn more about her family.

 Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a novel with a rich setting and a lot of promise.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Book Review- The Glimpse by Claire Merle

Title: The Glimpse
 Author: Claire Merle
Series:  The Glimpse #1
Published:  7 June 2012 by Faber
Length: 432 pages
Warnings: violence, rape, abuse
Source: Publisher (Really sorry it’s ridiculously late)
Other info: This is Claire’s debut novel.
Summary : London, in the near future: society is divided according to  a DNA  test that determines a person's predisposition to mental illness.  When Ana finds out there was a mistake with her Pure test, her whole world crumbles. Now, Joining with Pure-boy Jasper is her only hope of salvation. Until Jasper disappears.  Ana sets off on his trail, determined to solve the mystery of his abduction. In doing so she journeys into the darkest corners of society, and uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she’s ever believed.
Review: In this world,  your fate is decided by  a DNA test which sees if you have or if you’re predisposed to developing mental illness. Pures are separated from Crazies, who live in the City, away from the safety of the Community. Ana’s test is wrong. She’s not pure. From there, she has to learn more about her past, her family and so on. as well as this, her betrothed Jasper goes missing. Ana ends up going across London finding Jasper, her family, and an unexpected love interest.
Mental illness isn’t talked about that much in society, so it’s nice to have it addressed in YA fiction. As the set up behind a dystopian state-hmm, maybe not. And to some, the fact that those with/dispositioned to mental illness are labelled as being “crazy” and then being feared/cast out by the rest of society might also upset you. However, if you’re not easily offended or immature about these things, you should be able to enjoy this story.  
Ana’s voluntary stay in the mental hospital is pretty horrifying. Thankfully, I’ve not had any experiences with the mental health system, but a family friend has and her treatment was nothing like this. I know this was probably exaggerated for effect, but the girls’ treatment brings to mind the conditions of Victorian lunatic asylums, full of experiments that probably make you crazier than you went in.
Aside from the UK’s treatment of those who may or may not be mentally ill, which is extreme in the way that dystopias are, there’s some other elements of this future Britain that kind of make sense. Petrol shortages, economic downturns, media control and so on are all kind of visible in today’s world-they get turned up nicely in this world.
London based! Yay! I love London-visiting it, the sights, the little back bits. Books set in London always make me happy even if the rest of them are terrible-and the fact that a bit of the beginning is set in Camden was just—yes.  Having been round Camden many many times, it’s nice being able to accurately imagine settings.
Ana was both nice and stupid. I understood where she was coming from but some of her decisions annoyed me. Her relationship to her father especially, but also to the rest of the cast in general, were believable and made me like her a bit more. The love triangle didn’t really overshadow the main plot, which was good. it took me a bit of time to like Nate, but everyone else was likable and understandable.
The plot was good and it got off to a quick start. Things moved at a pace that kept me really interested, but  some things I didn’t really get without re-reading, especially at the start. The ending was a bit open ended, and I’d definitely like to see what happens next.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a thought provoking book with a great dystopian premise, but not something for everyone.