NSA, by Benny Neylon, Reviewed.

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NSA cover

This is satirical, dystopian science fiction taking a brutal swipe at the media, politicians, conspiracy theorists, security experts and the military. All of it richly deserved.

The writing is good, characterisation is thorough, creating archetypes rather than indulging in stereotypes as is so often the case with books of this type. The humour is hard, bordering on the cruel. But, as such exposure and comment is necessary, it is certainly not out of place here.

For me, and this is a very personal issue, the many references to things exclusively American were a barrier. But I know this won’t be the case for the majority of readers, so I place it here simply to put my review in context.

Written in the style of a thriller, with fast action and multiple twists and turns, the convoluted story ranges over many incidents and touches on topics that most readers will appreciate. No one escapes here. All those who deserve our disapprobation are roundly condemned by their actions, distortions of truth, expedient manoeuvres and total disregard for reality. Vanity describes the leading politicians and, bearing in mind the current incumbent of the White House, this book is extraordinarily prescient.

There is a protagonist to carry readers through the melange of antagonists who carry most of the action, and she has a trusty side kick; both provide a hint of sanity in a world gone utterly insane.

I found the tale a touch lengthy and felt it could lose a quarter of the content and gain pace and holding power as a result.

But this is a well-written, brilliantly observed and cleverly depicted potential future for the world as it currently exists. Without substantial, even radical, change, we may well be doomed to experience the outcome described so potently in these pages.

Progress on the WIP: #SciFi in the Making.

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Picture courtesy of K Gill

Now that the first draft is finished, I’ve had a rest from it this week. Though, as other writers will appreciate, you never completely let go at this stage. I’ve been tinkering with the character sketches of the new players, adding some new research links, watching a bit of TV related to the subject, and reading some new research.

In the week, I’ve also penned and submitted a short story to a contest, edited another ready to submit to a different competition tomorrow, and written a poem for submission to yet another contest.

This particular weekly post on continued progress is a very short one. I hope it’s of some interest to readers.

If you’ve read the first in the series, Blood Red Dust, you’ll be ready for this second book when it appears, later this year, I hope!

My thanks to readers who’ve already penned reviews on the publisher’s site, Fantastic Books Publishing, Goodreads, and Amazon, recording their impressions to inform new readers. Such efforts really do increase interest and exposure for books in an overcrowded marketplace.

You can buy Blood Red Dust from the publisher by clicking here.

Or, you can get a copy through your usual retailer. You can buy through your local Amazon by clicking this link.

6th Blogiversary + Review Survey Results

A fascinating insight into the habits of readers. I know my blog visitors will be interested, so I’m reblogging this. Thank you.

Reading Romances

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This month Reading Romances turns 6! =D

Guess what?! It’s official! I’ve been blogging about my love of romance books for SIX YEARS (on and off, like most relationships)! And I almost forgot about it!

Since it’s such a special occasion, I thought that I would share my blogging journey with all of you! The good, the bad and the new beginning!

My Blogging Journey

On March 2011 I started Reading Romances. I really wanted a way to share my thoughts on romance books with other readers. My first few posts Since then, I have redone my layout so many times. The blog was going well, so in 2012 I bought the http://reading-romances.com domain and moved to the self hosted wordpress with the help of some blogging buddies.

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After some hard work  I started to get more comments and followers on Twitter and Facebook.  Later  I even started the get some…

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Looking for the Best Word? Tip #30

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Red Nose symbol courtesy of BBC

Something a little different this week. A small insight into the British psyche and an exploration of a two-word phrase instead of a single word.

There’s help here for writers trying to make their work more accessible, interesting, varied, accurate and effective by exploring similar and dissimilar words. The series also gives language learners insights into some peculiarities of the English language.

A good thesaurus provides alternatives for the idea of a word, but not all those are true synonyms. Context matters. Placing synonyms into a sentence to see if they make sense is one way of checking suitability. But it’s not foolproof, so a good dictionary is also essential.

My chosen dictionary is the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. And I use the 1987 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus for word selection. But I also have the WordWeb app installed for those occasions when the apposite word evades me and I’m in a hurry.

However, I’ve also now downloaded a Kindle book to my Mac so I can consult it whilst editing my fiction books. It’s a new work, ‘The Writer’s Lexicon’ by Kathy Steinemann. You’ll find my review of this great book if you click this link.

the writers lexicon

I generally try to dig the best word from my overloaded memory first, though: it’s good mental exercise. Other books of words, which I consult when an appropriate term eludes me, live on the reference shelves behind me.

So, to this week’s word: red nose.

The phrase, ‘red nose’ has a couple of uses. It can be a description of someone who has imbibed a little too much alcohol. But it can also be used for a clown. And, of course, it has the cold weather connotation in connection to ‘Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, a popular Christmas song. You need to be careful how you use it!

‘Syd loved his beer, as was often shown by the red nose he exhibited when leaving the pub.’

‘The much-loved comedian, Sir Lenny Henry, will be one of several hosting tonight’s extravaganza on BBC TV, ‘Red Nose Day’, also known as ‘Comic Relief’, a show that raises money for charitable causes.’

The red nose was chosen as a symbol of comedy as clowns have traditionally worn large red noses for their performances.

The Brits are a generous lot. This show, a bi-annual event, is performed by artists who give their time freely and help raise £millions for good causes. Last time, 2015, the show raised an incredible £99,418,831, which means that, over the 30 years the show has been running, it’s raised more than £1 billion!

You can find details of the broadcast by clicking this link.

For language learners, there’s a great group page on Facebook, which you can find through this link.

I welcome observations and suggestions here. Please use the comments section below for your ideas and thoughts.

The Writer’s Lexicon, by Kathy Steinemann, Reviewed.

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Are you a lover of words? Do you write? Is language use an issue of interest? If so, you’ll find Kathy Steinemann’s ‘The Writer’s Lexicon’ a veritable cornucopia of expressive words.

A thesaurus provides alternatives for the idea of a word. A dictionary gives definitions and, sometimes, origins for those construction blocks we use daily to build our speech and writing. But Kathy’s book achieves so much more than those simple reference works.

Sections include enticing headings: Common Pitfalls; listing words writers should use with care to avoid repetition or banality. Single word usage from ‘Beautiful’ to ‘Went’; defining some overused terms and suggesting alternatives by giving textual examples and providing different ways to structure sentences. Punctuation; covering exclamations, ellipses, em dashes, and the correct formatting of text to prevent ugly presentation. Taboos; including absolutes, and cursing, and giving advice for the YA and Christian genres. Redundancies; listing those words we sometimes manage to embellish unnecessarily. Common gestures that are clichés in writing. Sensory words including onomatopoeia, colour, scent, taste, and touch. In most cases, she provides alphabetical lists of substitute words. And she even delivers some writing prompts for those in search of inspiration.

If I have a criticism, it’s actually a warning: beware when using this as an aid; the danger is you’ll become so absorbed in the offerings that you might forget why you’re there!

The purpose of this entertaining and truly inspiring book is the improvement of writing by authors in particular, but it’s a manual many others will also find instructive in self-expression. It will now form a reference source for my own work, to be used when editing. And I expect to find my fiction enriched and rendered more accessible and entertaining as a result.

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The book is initially available at a reduced price of $0.99 or £0.99 until 15th April and can be easily bought from anywhere if you visit Kathy’s website by clicking this link.

I’ve been able to review this book here, on my website, and on Goodreads, but I’m prevented from doing so on Amazon, as I provided the Foreword to the book.

Progress on the WIP: #SciFi in the Making.

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Pic of Mars via NASA

Whoopee! Hurrah! Gadzooks! And, yeah! The first draft of book 2 of the Generation Mars series is finished. It now stands at 112,061 words, 8,740 more than last week’s total. I actually finished this stage on Monday, but thought I’d wait till today to let you know, since Wednesdays have been my usual days for news on progress.

Does that mean the work is done? Certainly not. My first draft is very much just that. And no one has ever published a first draft as a finished book (or, if they have, they almost certainly shouldn’t have!). My book will sit in the Scrivener file on my Mac until it’s had time to mature and I’ve had time to concentrate on other things.

In the meantime, I’ll be padding out the character files of the 15 new players who muscled in on the story as I was writing it. I’ll also be following the 87 links I’ve accrued to posts on various websites giving details of current research and developments in the areas of space, mars, and technology. That way, I can incorporate any changes in knowledge about the subjects when I start the rewrite.

I compiled a 43 point bullet list of items that came to mind during the writing. All these need to be involved in some way with the first edit. Some are trivial, but many involve restructuring and rewriting. It’s all part of the way I approach my writing to create a story as good as I can make it.

So, there’ll be weekly posts on continued progress here. Some very short. Some detailed. But all, I hope, of interest to readers.

Naturally, you’ll have read the first in the series, Blood Red Dust, so you’ll be ready for this second book when it appears, later this year, I hope!

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Thanks to those readers who’ve already penned reviews on the publisher’s site, Fantastic Books Publishing, Goodreads, and Amazon, recording their impressions to help new readers. Such efforts really do increase interest and exposure for books in an overcrowded market.

You can buy Blood Red Dust direct from the publisher by clicking here.

Or, you can obtain a copy through your usual retailer. You can also access it through your local Amazon by clicking this link.

The House on Sagamore Road, by Cary Grossman, Reviewed.

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The second in a projected trilogy, this deeply complex fantasy follows on from Chopin’s Ghost, taking the reader through the next twisting, convoluted maze that constitutes the story. If you haven’t read the first book, I advise you do so. However, the author includes enough detail from that first novel to allow readers new to the story to pick up very well.

This, like the first, is a book that’s difficult to classify. It is fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, historical fiction, romance, crime and erotic all in one package. Melding the pre-Inca myths of Veracocha with the early Egyptian accounts of gods and goddesses, the background to this story involves much imaginative speculation and a great deal of a fairly specific type of witchcraft.

Deeply researched, there are odd occasions when the author’s enthusiasm for the theories, myths, legends and results of recent archaeological findings spill over into the story. Those with an interest in history, religion, the role of legend and myth will find much to enjoy here.

But the story is, at heart, both a romance and a depiction of familial relationships. It is this humanity that carries all the fantasy elements and allows the reader to suspend disbelief so that the tale can be enjoyed.

There is a lot going on in this book and its 428 pages are crammed pretty full. But I do question the need to present the same events from several points of view in quite such detail. That’s nit-picking and probably the observation of a reader who’s also a writer. There is a good deal of sexual activity in this volume, but it is all relevant to the story rather than gratuitous. The book also contains some pretty gruesome violence, so be aware.

The characters, complex, individual, flawed and brilliant, are drawn with such care that the reader gets to know them well. They carry the story, and, as character-led fiction is so much more sustaining than the plot-driven variety, this is a book that holds the reader’s attention and provides a very satisfying read.

Several quasi-denouements precede the actual closing episode, but they build the tension along the way. And the actual climax is full of action, emotion and event.

To read my review of Chopin’s Ghost click this link.