Monday 31 October 2011


You may say they are a writer’s essential tool. Many authors throughout history have relied on the typewriter for their trade, some no doubt still do, unswayed by the lure of modern solutions. The typewriter never fails to conjure up an image of Murder, She Wrote in my mind.

I am not one of those that hail the nostalgia of a typewriter though. I admire them for their contribution to writing and would never seek to belittle the device. But for personal preference I prefer to work on the modern machine – the lighter touch, the in-built spell check, the backlit keyboard, the softer tap.

There is something completely unmistakable about the sound of a typewriter. It has the power to silence a room within seconds. This happened in my office recently. I was overjoyed to see a typewriter released from the confines of its cupboard and set to work, the clack clack vroom totally at odds with the rest of the office.

Then a couple of weeks later there was the obligatory PAT testing. The anticipation was almost too much to bear. Would the old faithful pass or would it be condemned to live out the rest of its existence in some private hole? My excitement was almost un-containable when… it passed!

So the typewriter is not yet obsolete. It thrives for the few remaining believers and proudly clack clack vrooms away. How much longer will the typewriter last? I think I will be sorry to see it go when the dream ends.

Elloise Hopkins

Saturday 29 October 2011


In continuing celebration of my favourite words, today’s is peculiar. I use this word fairly often in daily life (mainly in celebrating the strange and wonderful people I have the fortune to encounter living in the city).

When I started writing this blog, I typed the word peculiar and then had a mini-crisis about how to spell it. Doesn’t it look peculiar! I thought. That spelling can’t be right: it looks peculiar. The dictionary (today’s choice the Cambridge Dictionaries Online) states the meaning as “unusual and strange, sometimes in an unpleasant way”. How wonderful for a word to look as odd as the meaning it portrays.

Indeed I do employ it mostly in an unpleasant way, usually to describe sinister characters or unusual flavours of sandwich perhaps. And when I say unusual, the most recent encountered was a golden syrup sandwich – too sweet for my taste I’m afraid. Definitely peculiar!

So for the day I am enjoying the wonderful weirdness of the word peculiar. Join me and share an unusual and strange sentence using this word.

Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Fantasy Faction…

Well, it is official, I am on the Fantasy Faction staff list and my second review has been posted. I’m equal parts of excitement and fright at the moment as I deal with the joy of being able to contribute weighed up to the trepidation at whether I’ll be able to live up to what has already been accomplished by the site.

I’m what you could class as a newly emerged fantasy writer and began following the site earlier in the year in conjunction with setting up my own online profile. My aim was to become more familiar with the industry and I have thus far found Fantasy Faction to be a great place to get information about authors, books, the industry, writing tips, genre specific information and the all important encouragement. The 500 club has so far been a great tool in getting my first novel drafted.

Now I find myself on the staff list I will be supplying book reviews to the site on a regular basis. My focus will be on new fantasy releases and the odd classic from time to time. I have old favourites that get regular reading cycles and I also love to discover new voices in the fantasy landscape.

All that remains to be said is I’m looking on this opportunity with enthusiasm and am thrilled to be part of it. In its relatively short lifespan the site has already achieved so much and there are more exciting developments planned. Visit and join in today.

Elloise Hopkins.

Friday 21 October 2011

How to survive…

Office cooing sessions. I’m sure at some point we’ve all experienced an awkward ‘cooing’ moment. By cooing moment I mean those social occasions during which one is obliged to express interest/pleasure/admiration or other about someone else’s excitements. A new baby, their holiday photos, or the autograph they got when they met a celebrity you have either never heard of or have no interest in yourself.

I had one today in fact when a colleague brought their baby into the office for the obligatory ‘show off the baby’ session. I am not overly child-friendly myself – children make me very nervous. To me the harmless, adorable baby signifies a loss of independence. Couple that with the possibility of sticky fingers, shrill sounds and poor dining etiquette and it becomes evident that I’m not exactly prime ‘cooing over the baby’ material.

I do understand that everyone has their own opinions and that the majority of people love babies. But to me I see life being drained away by the stresses and exertions of parenting.

I try to make the right nods of my head and the right sounds of admiration. But I do this from a safe distance and no matter how hard I try, I can’t help a little fear manifesting itself in a half grimace that pulls one corner of my mouth just a little higher than the other. I am exercising my right to be afraid of children and I’m not afraid to admit it. Where are Punch and Judy when you need them?

Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Language in fiction…

Language in fiction!*!*…

This blog discusses strong language but I will try to refrain from swearing during it. I must confess I live in the modern world. It is a world where my acquaintances use swear words frequently. The opening scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral springs to mind. Yes, sometimes my life is like that. Sometimes I even do it myself. I am not averse to swearing, in its place, and believe it is a legitimate form of expression. Feel free to argue against me if you wish – it is all opinion.

Anyway, the point of the blog is that recently I’ve read some genre novels that employ strong (and when I say strong I mean very strong – what some would see as highly objectionable) language throughout to increase tension, expression, aid visual description and generally drive an impact. It works. It is effective. It makes these characters feel real, increases empathy, but more than that it gives them human flaws. And flaws are a large part of the human makeup. It seems the more flawed the character, the more engaging they are to the reader.

My novel is in first draft stage and so far in the writing I have not employed any overly strong language, but having seen the positive impact it can have from recent reads, such as George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Sam Sykes et al, I certainly won’t be ruling out the possibility, and when I know my characters a little better I may just need the odd spewing of language to really put the message across. To be decided.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 15 October 2011

New gadgets…

For me, there are few things that beat the arrival of a new gadget. It is the adult version of the ‘kid at Christmas’ feeling. Boxed, clean and shiny they arrive glinting at future promise.

I particularly enjoy peeling the clear plastic from the screen and untwining the charger, half-heartedly flicking through the instructions and then abandoning them to admire the finger-print and scratch-free casing of my new toy.

The first power on is arguably the greatest moment of all. The blink blink flash of a new welcome screen, logo and intro on display and the heady rush of trying to look at every menu, every application, every function at once.

But all too soon that new gadget feeling wears off, the shine dulls, the wear and tear emerges and the guilty mind cannot help but plan what the next new gadget will be.

Elloise Hopkins.

Monday 10 October 2011

FantasyCon blog 3…

The other panel that I found of particular interest at FantasyCon was ‘trends in fantasy fiction’. Panellists were Joe Abercrombie, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tom Lloyd and the discussion was moderated by Juliet E. McKenna.

Being a fantasy writer it has always been a bone of contention to me that there can be one (or indeed several) excellent books released that have a particular style/theme or focus on a particular legend, and then they are followed by a flurry of releases that do nothing more than clone the originals. You know what I mean. It was a relief for the panel to mention the saturation of the young adult market with paranormal (particularly vampire) romance which is something I frequently find myself ranting about. Have we not moved on yet? Surely there is a new idea out there ready to give that trend a break for another decade?

Aside from that, the panel did of course discuss trends in fantasy fiction. They predicted a rise of historical fantasy to come and a focus on the ordinary hero rather than the nobles, wizards and more important characters that always seem to be getting the starring roles.

They discussed the movement of fantasy into a darker – grittier if you like – style, where we are no longer so much concerned with great magics and epic worldbuilding, but with conflict, small details and intricate characterisation. Readers and writers of fantasy are no longer content with a straightforward good vs. evil plot. We need the complexity of the books to mirror the complexity of life, and as Joe Abercrombie questioned, why would you want to isolate your experiences from your writing?

It was interesting to hear about the reading habits of the panellists while they are in the throes of writing fantasy. The general consensus was that reading fantasy while writing gives a danger of being influenced by someone else’s style and that reading non-fiction was a way around this.

In general, none of the panellists were overly concerned about trends and certainly didn’t tailor or focus their writing to account for this. Lead in times for publishing would pretty much prevent that anyway. The speakers felt that real life issues will always affect writers and that writing will always be a way to make sense of those issues, so whilst we will always have trends through marketing campaigns –what’s hot, etc. – and pockets of market influxes, we should not allow this to affect what we write.

Certainly all very good advice that I am taking into my own work.

So that is the end of my FantasyCon re-cap. It was a fantastic weekend, very rewarding and rich in inspiration and information. Great thanks must go to the organisers and I hope to return in 2012.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 8 October 2011

FantasyCon blog 2…

As promised, here is the first summary of one of the panels I attended at FantasyCon 2011. There is one more to come in a later blog because there were two panels that were particularly useful to me, being a genre writer and a student.

The first was ‘maintaining your online presence’ moderated by Adele Wearing. Other speakers were Lee Harris, Scott K. Andrews, Stephen Hunt and Adam Christopher. This was a fascinating panel for me. Having launched my online presence earlier this year, it has become a constant learning curve and work in progress.

The advice was far too much to capture in one blog but the essence of the panel was that the necessities of an online presence, particularly for authors, are to make it work for you and to be yourself – or as much of yourself as you can be in a public form. There was an interesting discussion about what to do if you say something in public that you shouldn’t have said. General consensus was to apologise, then walk away. Cyber arguments and responding to negative reviews was a definite no.

The panellists recommended that authors should have at the least two online platforms – a website/blog and twitter or facebook for example, and then use cross feeds to reach a wider audience. But they are not there to do a hard sell. By all means promote yourself and your work, but not in every update and not constantly. It is ok to talk about other things. In fact it is ok to have a blog that isn’t about writing. Writers and readers don’t always want to be discussing technique and industry – yes it is hard to believe but true!

At one point the merits of social networking were discussed. It was established that it is well worth doing. It may not have a direct link to success, and many followers does not necessarily equal many books sales, however, it does reward fans, promote writers and many people do read books based on an online recommendation.

So the general advice: have an online presence, use it to your advantage and make it accessible to fans, potential fans and the industry.

Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

FantasyCon blog 1…

Like many fiction fans, I spent a long weekend in Brighton for FantasyCon 2011 and now I’m back home wondering which of the many books I acquired to read first and reflecting on the entertainments offered during the weekend.

Being a FantasyCon newbie I wasn’t sure what to expect from the weekend and went with an open mind. I’d heard mixed reports but in reality I found the crowd welcoming, the panels enlightening and the whole weekend very inspirational. Lack of sleep was a small price to pay.

Later in the week I will be blogging about some of the panels I attended and sharing my views on how rewarding the event was. I think the main plus was meeting so many likeminded people and so many aspiring genre writers, and let’s face it they have provided both encouragement and competition so it was worth the trip in every way.

For now, here’s my highs and lows from the weekend:

Amongst the highs are definitely: the intelligent and animated panel discussions; discovering Joe Abercrombie is as entertaining in person as he is on paper and gracious enough to sign my book after I stalked him halfway across the hotel; mass signings; the sheer collection of talent in one location; finding a female that swears more than I do; the Jacuzzi bath (wow bring back the British seafront heyday); the incredible weather (ok not strictly con-related but worth a mention!); and the amount of books on offer (and some free which was an unexpected bonus).

The lows: my inability to recall every intelligent comment made by the panellists; some rather questionable conversation starters, and killers, that will stick in my mind forever; a randomly acquired bruise on my shin (not sure if that was con-antics or pebbly-beach-antics); dropping a book into the Jacuzzi bath (thankfully it wasn’t a signed copy and it survived thanks to the fantastic weather); and bruised shoulders from carrying all the books home (but at least I know where those bruises came from).

Verdict: the highs win.

Elloise Hopkins.