Thursday 29 September 2011

Books that last…

Sometimes when I read a book I get this feeling, a warm fuzzy feeling, that this book is going to last. I just know, when this feeling spreads over me, that this is a book I will read again and when I do there will be something new, something greater than the initial read that will emerge on the second read and all subsequent ones. And there will be subsequent ones.

It is a feeling that crops up when writing is really good, when characters are fully rounded, when plotlines cunningly interweave themselves and when more reveals itself over time, cleverly concealed beneath the surface. It happens when the reader is completely pulled into the book for its entirety, when the end comes too soon and leaves a desire for more.

We all have favourite books that get revisited from time to time to seek out a heightened emotional experience. If I could write just one book that had even a shade of this potential I would be happy but until then I shall content myself with the search for greatness in others.

Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

The Alpha Female…

This is the name I am granting to a group of women that I sometimes have to deal with in my guise as a full time corporate.  These are the modern version of the 80s power female. These are the women who stride around on high heels, carry brand name bags in the crooks of their elbows and have a handshake grip to rival Hercules.

The Alpha Female is most easily identified by her appearance; a clash between masculine tailoring, over-sexualised make-up, necklines, and hem lengths more suited for a nightclub than an office. Eyes are smoky, hair stands up in a highly sprayed quiff, nails are gelled to manicure perfection and lips are permanently pouting. When shoulder pads are in fashion, they wear them.

Needless to say, I am not an Alpha Female. I am quite happy being shoulder-pad free. My handshake does not crush bones. My nails naturally show the wear of hours spent writing. My makeup does not take an hour to apply and high heels are definitely out: picture a cross between Bambi and the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

But does that make me any less valid in the business world? Why does my appearance eclipse my qualifications, experience and actions? I long to live in a world that harkens back to old values and not on one where we haven’t learned to overcome the old cliché of judging books by their covers.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 25 September 2011

The decline of the eyesight…

The last year has been a trial – the first vestiges of aging have been thrown at me as though to find my tolerance limit. Growing old is the one thing that scares me most in life. Scares, in fact, is not a strong enough word. It terrifies me to my very core.

The first sign was a loss of patience and a general tendency to ‘grouchy old woman’ syndrome. The second was those creeping grey hairs that seemingly appear overnight to muddle themselves amongst the blonde. The third, and what I thought would be the worst, was reaching that dreaded birthday. We do not speak of the numbers!

So having survived the third I lulled myself into a false sense of security. I lied to myself, convinced myself that getting old is completely natural, nothing to worry about, just accept it and get on with life. Fine.

Except a few months later I realised my eyes were blurry. I couldn’t read signs or distinguish people from a distance. Am I overtired? I asked myself. Working too hard. Too much staring at a computer. Nothing to worry about. Just keep blinking, get some rest, relax. Eventually I conceded and got my eyes tested. I am now the not-so-proud owner of eyeglasses. So far I’ve only forgotten to take them into meetings six times, sat on them three, forgotten I was wearing them and scared myself with reading in giant vision up-close every other day and stabbed myself in the eye with the arm only twice. What a chore it is to grow old.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 24 September 2011


I recently read Chris Wooding’s The Braided Path trilogy and his use of masks has inspired this blog. They hold such mystery and are often the conduits for evil in fantasy stories.

Masks are a key element in studies of symbolism spanning a multitude of times and cultures. In traditional African society, they were used as a device of communication, worship and learning; a way to transform the human body into more than its basic components and use it to convey information and belief.

In modern society there is still no escape from the symbolism of the mask and masquerade that goes with it. All you need to do is look at a bookshelf, a fancy dress shop, watch television or film. You will see masks cropping up far more than expected. I attribute this both to the arrogant power and the hidden reverence we humans have for life, and its cost. We need masks both to hide behind and to exhibit in. Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 17 September 2011

How did I live before apps?

I finally cracked recently and invested in a highly popular brand name I’m-more-than-a-tablet tablet. I could no longer resist the lure, plus airport duty free swung it for me. I was a little dubious about the purchase, cost for one thing, and I wondered whether I would actually use it in reality. Being a writer the main appeal, and the reason I wanted one, was to have a super-portable sketchbook/laptop/plus that I can take everywhere and work everywhere.

I think the use it’s had since purchase has paid for it already, but what struck me the most about its usability is the ease at which one can obtain apps and the sheer volume of topics and helping hands available. How did I ever survive without being able to check the weather at the slide of a finger, being able to type in comfort without a constant power supply and table to hand, or find the meaning to obscure facts of life on the move?

Of course there are limits to its wonder. I can’t do all of my work on it but it will certainly make life easier when it comes to travel and lunch breaks in the park. I can carry a wealth of books, music and movies wherever I go without having to invest in a Mary Poppins style handbag. Plus it is really shiny. Oh, did I say that out loud?

Elloise Hopkins.

Monday 12 September 2011

Favourite Artist of the Moment…

Whether it is the impending descent of the winter months and the associated sadness, or just a melancholy air, I am finding the work of H.R. Giger to be extremely inspirational at the moment.

Much of it is dark and gruesome at first glance but then this feels fitting given that I mainly read genre fiction that has its themes dotted with dark and gruesome acts. On closer inspection, the work is teeming with intricacies and beautiful details that seem to defy logic and traditional art.

Some people see only outrage when they look at Giger’s work. They see crudity for the sake of being crude and nothing more. I count myself lucky to be someone who can look beyond the initial gloss of a piece of artwork and search for the true skill behind it.

Giger’s work is in fact intelligent in message and execution and this week I will remember the discoveries I found when flicking through a book of his work and will strive to take some strength based on that into my own work.

Elloise Hopkins.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Cartoons as necessity…

As a child of the 80s, the so-named ‘retro cartoon’ is well and truly embedded in my everyday culture. My home is adorned with various cartoon-related memorabilia, ranging from the more recent Final Fantasy figurines to the original He-Man and Star Wars characters and the cheeky Thundercats.

This morning I wrapped up a present for someone in Spiderman wrapping paper whilst using a Count Duckula pencil to mark out the paper and a Danger Mouse DVD case to hold it still. I wore Supergirl pyjamas last night and had a conversation about Dungeons and Dragons.

All of these activities and items have such a natural place in my life that it is only on rare occasions that I wonder why these old cartoons have such a relevant place in my life decades on and why I still value them so highly.

It is said that young children take influence from and learn behaviour, mannerisms and values from cartoons. I can only assume that cartoons in the 1980s were so seeped in moral tales and full of educational values that they have lived within the subconscious of my mind ever since. I am certainly not ready to let go yet.

Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Mouse Pointer…

I’ll say it now outright, as my colleagues well know, I am not a fan of a certain possibly-world-dominating operating system. The words ‘not responding’ frequently send me into a rant about wasted time. Seriously, could I not just get through one day at work without having to scream at the computer?

On the plus side, it does make me love my own computer (different and far more stable operating system) a great deal more. But it has forced me to try to look on the bright side when I’m at work and find ways to overcome the rage. Today’s solution: the mouse pointer.

I removed that dratted, lying, teasing, tormenting egg timer, so that when the computer is taking an age to perform the simplest of tasks or when it is contemplating the two dreaded words, I can now gleefully watch a horse galloping across the screen. With a simple flick of the mouse I can line him up and play a commentary in my head, race against invisible foes, and sketch out a Wild West scene to my heart’s content. Ok so it’s not the best solution but it does calm me slightly. Any other solutions?

Elloise Hopkins.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Writing Update…

Well it is an exciting time for my author self. My first novel is underway and the draft of the first few chapters is done. The story has been brewing for several months, characters taking shape and acting out scenes for me, locations colourising and a complex range of events and emotions etching themselves out over time.

The writing has been smooth so far, my protagonist driving events very nicely with little direction or interference from my conscious mind. This is the first in a trilogy about powerful creatures that dwell in the Cloudlands and watch over the human races of the earth below. Their unique magic is under threat, the very fate of the world is trembling and the balance of it all will depend on the strength of few. I have multiple character threads to weave amongst one another and the main challenge will be keeping track of each character’s journey.

Overall I’m really pleased with progress so far but my one struggle at the moment is establishing exactly who my target audience is. It has been suggested that the book may have a crossover into the young adult market, but I’m hesitant. It may be that the story takes a darker turn and isolates itself into adult high fantasy. I have a female protagonist that faces a hard path and I’m not quite sure exactly what will get in her way. Only time will tell, and the writing is continuing daily. More updates as they’re available.

Elloise Hopkins.