Sunday, 3 April 2016

Series Update April 2016…

It’s becoming an increasingly slow slog getting this series finished. I raced through my re-write of book two towards the end, then started book three and got stuck after the prologue (which was very clear in my mind) because I got myself in a tangle about which character was where, what they were doing and why. What had always been a very clear path to the end suddenly seemed flawed, although I could not put my finger on the whys or wherefores.

I took another break from the story to give myself some thinking time and (fortunately/unfortunately) began to be very plagued by a character who wants to be written – but she is not from this series so has to stay where she is for now despite how loud and formed she is in my mind. She will play a major part in an upcoming project which I think is actually going to be a series of books aimed at children. Who expected that one?

Back to the Aethera and I remained in a muddle and feeling somewhat despondent after so many years of watching them interact so coherently in my thoughts and in the many hundreds of pages already written. I began to feel very depressed by the lack of progress until the very thought of opening the files and my big ideas sketchpad had become a monumental task in my by now very messed up head.

Time heals all, they say, and a little more time away from it all – anxiety and hopelessness in tow – started to work some wonders. I began to focus on the good things that I have already written, particularly on those little plot mysteries that solved themselves in the writing and the answers that had come to earlier questions that I had no idea I was asking at the time.

Where there have been those solutions, I had to believe there will be more and suddenly I realised that the only way forward was to go back over what has gone before (again) and find the words to continue the story.

I revisit book two with a more positive view this time. I think I know where it gets a little muddy, and I think the explanation for that already exists on the pages written and the thoughts as yet unwritten. I may not yet have an agent to help me through the tougher times, but I have three solid main characters, an ever forming world and a sidekick who is worthy of his own story. I have the ingredients I just have to get the mixture right, and I will.

Book two the re-visit is underway. Time to spring clean my words ready for the next ones.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Accents in Stories…

Or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I may have blogged about accents and successfully delivering language in literature before. I’m not sure, but having watched Trapped last night (which is a fantastic tv programme that makes wonderful use of the Icelandic landscape and language along with English and Danish) and having recently read Mark Twain’s aforementioned book, accents are circling my mind today.
First off I should caveat this blog by saying that my experience of Finn’s adventure was probably hindered by reading from a yellowed hardback that was gifted to me in 1989 and has spent the years since aging, forgotten in a cupboard amongst other childhood trinkets. It was also hindered by the fact that I was reading – trying to read – this ancient copy, which by the way has tiny text, on a very busy, noisy bus on my commutes to and from the dreaded day job.

I wonder also whether my experience was hindered by the fact that I have never read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which by all accounts appears to come before Huckleberry Finn’s adventure. I didn’t realise that together they form a series. Should I have read about Tom Sawyer first?

You are sensing by now, I am sure, that I struggled a bit with this book. Being an avid reader and, of course, a book reviewer, this struggling was somewhat of a shock to the system, but struggle I did.

The author’s explanatory note advises the reader that a number of dialects are used in the book: “the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods South-Western dialect; the ordinary ‘Pike-County’ dialect; and four modified varieties of this last”.

Unfortunately I am not really sure what any of those should sound like, and so this book has sounded in my head like a terribly bad day where Deliverance met Smokey Robinson and every bandit from anywhere west. The consequence is that much of Finn’s wile and charm was lost on me because of my inability to communicate with him on any real level.

The story has fantastic moments of cunning, humour and downright cheek, and I feel as though I have missed out on a great experience. I will have to put it on my list for a re-read and make sure I read in a place that allows me full, uninterrupted concentration on these adventures, and I will read them in order lest spending time with Tom first makes for a more beneficial experience.

Accents in books are always going to be a tricky thing and having read this book I see why – if your reader doesn’t know in the first place what you intend your accent to sound like then they make their own interpretation, and a poor or distracting interpretation can have a detrimental effect on their enjoyment and understanding of your work.

How do you successfully write an accent into literature? That is a blog for another day but is certainly something that shall occupy my thoughts for a time. Brave is the author who wholeheartedly commits to this endeavour, says I.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Richard Castle…

Castle, Castle… You know I love the guy. You know I love my kindle. Put the two together and what do you get?

I read the Derrick Storm books recently. The three shorts that kicked it off didn’t overly impress me. Yes, I could hear Castle’s voice when I read them, and yes, they had nice little touches of the series in them, but essentially the story did not wow me. Neither did the quality of the writing – yes, ever the reviewer – but as you also know, I am not always the short story’s greatest fan so the odds were stacked against them.

Despite these initial impressions, I found myself moving onto the next books in the series – Storm Front and Wild Storm. Add longer length, more pleasing prose, character development and time to sit back and enjoy the fictional works of the fictional Richard Castle and you have success.

I can’t tell you exactly why I read through these so quickly and so determinedly. Perhaps because I love the show so much, I needed to love the spin off books too. Perhaps you don’t need a perfectly crafted, sophisticated narrative to make a book a success – is there a lesson to learn there?

I certainly loved the clever ways the books evoked the show’s presence, through references to the characters, particularly those similarities between Storm and Castle – apparently they both really are ruggedly handsome. Plus there was the odd genius reminder of the fictional nature of Castle the writer and of “writers whose identity the public will never know”.

Whether I will go on to read the Nikki Heat books at some point is yet to be seen, but there is more to ‘Richard Castle’ in these books than meets the eye and I am glad I was not quick enough to dispose of Derrick Storm and his world-saving before I had read them all.

Elloise Hopkins.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Never a finer prince shall there be…

Goodbye, my heart, my princely fellow,
You lover of sunshine and all exciting things.

Go crowned and sleek feline footed to your next adventure,
Where kings dwell beyond the gates of the Goblin City,
And the hunting is ripe with fairies.

Never a finer prince shall there be.
Never a finer prince than thee.

Nineteen years was forever. Not long at all.
Be always loved and never forgotten,
My heart, my striped friend, my Tigger.

Purr and preen and sing, my boy,
And wear your crown with pride.

For never a finer prince shall there be.
Never a finer prince than thee.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

NaNo No Chance…

It was an unlikely goal even before November came. 50,000 words in a month of starting a new job, Christmas shopping and worrying sick over a terribly ill cat. It was an unlikely goal, to say the least. At the end of October I was still editing book two, right up to the wire on Halloween. I reached the end, sure, goal achieved, but it was a total rush and I know that both the quality of the story and my involvement with the characters suffered as a result.

November came, but the story did not. Once I had written the prologue, which was clear in my mind, there was nothing else clear in my mind to write. I knew where the characters all were, and I knew where they were going, but I couldn’t quite see how and when to get them there. I still can’t.

It is not writer’s block. It is a thinking block. I have always done the key parts of my writing by thinking.

My life now has a commute where before it had a few minutes walk to and from work each day. My home now is a houseful of people where before it was nothing but the quiet hum of trains and the call of birds in the sky. My life had lie-ins where now it has a constant wake up call.

My life now has noise where before it had that special kind of quiet in which stories are made. My lifestyle has changed, and the things I love doing, and the stories I write, have suffered for it.

So writing 50,000 words in November did not happen. It was never really going to – psyching myself up to do it was my way of clinging to something normal, something that is familiar and something that has before been so natural and so easy. I did not write, and much as I tried to find the story, I did not. It has never worked that way for me; it has never been forced.

I definitely need a rest. My mind is exhausted from the lack of opportunity to put my thoughts and feelings in order and my body is exhausted from lack of good, peaceful sleep and from lugging around my disordered mind. I wish for calm, and quiet. I wish for time and space. I wish for that moment when I glance out of a window or up at the sky and find the perfect clarity that is the next part of the story.

So I tell myself, in those moments when I hate the lack of word count, that two books out of three is not at all bad, and the third will be all the better for the rest. Sometimes life gets in the way. That is just the way it is.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Book Review: Ripples In The Chalice...

By Adam Copeland.

Sir Patrick Gawain is about to meet his end at the point of a sword. That is until his Apparition appears before him and reminds him that he cannot give up. Patrick is forced to revisit a choice he once made – a choice that led to everything he has experienced and everything he has suffered thus far. The peace of his trip home may be short-lived.

King Henry Salian has been tutored for this since childhood, focused always on his goal by his elders. But his father, the emperor, is responsible for terrible acts, and it is time for Henry to stand up for what he knows is right. The fight to unite Christianity under one pope and one emperor is on, and Patrick finds himself in the middle of events once again.

The opening of this book is a hugely impressive prologue which locates the reader straight into the heart of this story’s focus. It does not hold back on action or tone and demonstrates great confidence in storytelling. On the whole, this second Avalon tale exhibits tighter control in the writing than its predecessor and demonstrates the author’s growth.

While the elements of the first book are firmly visible and its favourite characters still in the forefront, there is a greater level of immediate menace in the story and a darker and more visibly violent feel overall, which sits well among modern fantasy. For the more traditional readers among us, don’t fear, there is a welcome ending after all the hardship. Another enjoyable read for those who want a story routed in historical fantasy with a little bit of real life, romance and myth in for good measure.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

A World of Tea…

A good cup of tea – definitely part of my daily routine. My morning usually starts with a coffee, quickly followed with several cups of tea. Green, white, fruit infusions, wacky flavours, flowering teas – I try all sorts. In fact, trying a new tea is an exciting thing for me. I tend not to stick to the same flavour throughout the day, delicate blends winning for the morning shift and heavier, more unusual combinations taking me through the afternoon.

This week I was sent some blue tea flowers from a start up company called Boho Chai. They’re on Facebook and Twitter so are easy to track down. This is the world’s first blue tea, is completely organic and is said to have many health benefits. Grown in Thailand, this Butterfly Pea flower is absolutely, undeniably blue. Wonderfully, unusually, weirdly blue.

I sampled the signature tea, Bluechai, hot first, with nothing added, to see what its raw taste was like. As the name would suggest there is something a little pea-like in there. It is a smooth tea. Drinkable. Definitely something exotic in its taste as well as in its rarity. I think it could take some people time to get used to drinking a tea this vivid and I do wonder if the taste isn’t an acquired one.

When adding lemon, the acid turns the colour to purple or even pink if you really lemon-it-up. I tried it hot and lemony then tested an iced version. A lovely tipple for a sunny afternoon and a great conversation starter. The colour change is really quite spectacular to see. I can honestly say I have never had a tea quite like it before.

I would certainly recommend giving it a try if you are like me and enjoy sampling things you have not come across before. I think the winner has to be a warm cup of Bluechai with honey and lemon added – the honey to cut across the tartness of the lemon, and the lemon to pep up the taste as well as effecting that beautiful hue shift.

Not a review, per se, but I did enjoy seeing something in action that I have never seen before, and that is certainly worth a blog. A tea to try!

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Colour Me Calm…

It seems that I can’t walk past a book shelf, newsagent, stationery store, train station, or anywhere, at the moment, than I encounter gleaming packets of brand new felt pens and colouring pencils accompanying stacks of adult colouring books.

Colour therapy. Colour for stress relief. This seems to be the latest in self-help and as ever I found myself dubious about whether this activity could actually have a calming effect. Its only initial appeal to me was a nostalgic longing for Crayola colours and crisp black lines on a fresh colouring book to stay between.

I was given Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom (clearly at this stage in life I am exhibiting an outwards appearance of anything but calm!) and immediately took to the Internet, taking great joy in ordering colouring pencils that included gold and silver – money well spent having now tested them.

So next time I had an idle moment (and by idle I mean those rare moments when I am neither working, reading nor writing and am sitting watching a film or tv) I got into colouring poise and carefully opened my colouring pencils in readiness.

I flicked through the beautiful pages of the book and agonised over where to start, a lack of confidence in myself to do the pictures justice holding me back. Then the rational part of my took over (how much damage could I do, really???) and I dove straight into a full page of an elephant. In pastels and golds I coloured him and it was all going swimmingly until my hand wavered and I strayed over the line ruining the symmetry of the image that had been.

Yes, that terrible perfectionist within me struggles even now with those traces of human behaviour that make me less than perfect. I stare at the pages for an age trying to work out where the best place for this and that colour to go, and where to add colour and where to let the crisp white and black of the printed page dominate. I berate myself when I stray over the lines and frown when I realise that one shade lighter would have worked better for that feather.

I can see the appeal of this craze, and yes, overall, I would have to say I have enjoyed the few colouring therapy sessions I have undertaken. But there is a constant struggle within myself between colour me calm and colour me perfect. I hope that as time goes on I learn to let go the need to make every image ‘right’ and manage to just enjoy losing myself for a time in this simple art.

Elloise Hopkins.

Friday, 7 August 2015


This afternoon, at the dreaded day job, we were told to leave early, which ordinarily on a Friday would be a bonus in bold. Unfortunately, being told to leave early today came from the office manager following a medical/ unknown situation which had left us all in uneasy and unproductive silence.

The truth is, as I write this, I still don’t know what actually happened. There was an awful noise, like someone struggling to get their breath, but so loud that it sounded across the whole office and brought a busy and noisy environment to a halt. The first aiders gathered, but no ambulance was called. Give them space, was the instruction. Then, a minute or so later, go home.

Whatever did happen, be it a tragic event, a scare, an illness, someone receiving the worst news, or indeed nothing so dramatic – the old mountain-in-a-molehill office effect – one thing is certain: those of us in close and not so close proximity were left with those cold chills that are so evident and so important in our descriptive fiction.

We have probably all experienced it before, that feeling where your stomach drops through the floor and your whole body, beginning with the back of the neck and ending with your forehead and the soles of your feet, goes cold and rigid, but it is a sensation and a feeling that we can never easily shed afterwards; I know I shall not sleep easily tonight.

When we write them, they feel powerful. When we read them, they convey many feelings and have an impact. But when we feel them, there is no way to properly describe what happens to the body and mind. The chills are cold, for certain, and powerful. They have impact and convey a feeling, if not many. But they are something else. They are suspense, and unease, and something else entirely.

Tonight my thoughts will be with those involved. On Monday I will hear the end of the story, whatever it may be, and process it as best I can.

Be safe, and be well. Be whatever you wish to be and make the most of it.

Carpe diem.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Radio Silence…

It’s been another one of those crazy busy weeks that you realise has actually been longer than a week and you’ve totally lost touch with life and the greater world again.

You will have to forgive my bouts of invisibility – I’ve been doing the family thing and the general, dull admin parts of life as well as that most important ‘thinking’ thing in which I made several decisions, none of which are ready for discussion as yet. There has also been last minute holiday shopping because – can you believe it? – the autumn clothes are already in the shops. Mind you, looking out at the cloudy sky this morning perhaps I can believe it.

The start of this week I was out of action, away for a couple of days and witnessing some very dear friends speak their vows to each other in a beautiful, intimate and very emotional wedding. After eight years they remain as affectionate towards one another as they did when I first met them back at university and I am thrilled for them and feel extremely privileged to have been there.

Anyway, post-wedding it was an extremely busy week. My inbox is out of control, I have photos to download and share, under-the-bed adventures are needed to retrieve a suitcase and stash some books away – let’s just say my ‘to do’ list is looking more than a little frightening, plus, and more excitingly, I’ve got material for the British Fantasy Awards Independent Press category here ready for scrutiny as I once again sit on the jury panel.

Someone once said ‘so much to do, so little time’ and that is very much the way I am feeling and the way my life is going at the moment, but better that than boredom, I would suggest, and so I shall press on. One thing at a time, my dear. One thing at a time

Elloise Hopkins.