Thursday 29 March 2012

I’m not your pincushion...

I’m in the fortunate unfortunate position in life where I seem to be constantly the bearer of other people’s agitation. As the eldest child, the most independent friend and allegedly the best listener (goodness knows how when I spend half my life in my own little world) I spend an inordinate amount of my time listening to and trying to soothe other people’s woes.

Some may see that as a good thing and indeed I am glad that I can help people by letting them unburden their worries onto me. The old clich̩ seems true Рproblem halved and all that.

The issue for me is that I don’t have a deflector shield big enough to repel all of the negative energy that gets thrown my way and inevitably some of it sinks in and is left behind to fester, swell and plague me from inside. Sometimes I feel like a pincushion where each needlepoint is the remnant of such a conversation, leaving its mark subtly, but not completely without pain.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Book review: Protector by Vanna Smythe...

Anniversary of the Veil: Book One.
By Vanna Smythe.

Princess Issiyanna faces an arranged marriage that is less than pleasing. The priests have chosen her suitor, the king bowing to their wishes like always, but in Issa’s dreams she has another love. Her only hope is to plead with her father and see if he will defer to her own desires just this once.

Kiyarran has always dreamed of being a Protector of the Realm and now he is close to being invited to the Pledging Ceremony. Through his duties as Issa’s guard, he has become friends with the princess, but now as the culmination of his training draws near, Issa begin to withdraw from him. His friendship rebuffed, it is time for Kiyarran to establish whether it is his desire to become a Protector or his unwillingness to lose Issa that is stronger. 

Alet and her two Keepers emerge from the Forest of Dead Trees and into the world beyond the Veil: a barrier erected almost a thousand years before to separate the two worlds. They are on a mission to rescue Princess Issiyanna and take her back to their own world, for she is needed for a joining that will reinforce the Veil, and must be obtained at any cost.

Issa is hurt by Kiyarran’s desire to become a Protector. Protectors are cold and ruthless. He would no longer be her friend. As he becomes more distant from her, she seeks comfort elsewhere. The sound of a voice beckons her from outside the castle. Her mother’s voice. Her mother, returned after long years of absence, and Issa has hope of happiness once again.

This novel’s primary strength is in its worldbuilding and the crafting of this world beyond the Veil where priests rule the king and magic is employed in strong and evil ways. There was a lot of exposition here and a lot of detail to bring the world to life but it was handled successfully, planting the groundwork for far more to come in the next instalment of the series.

The characters are easy to relate to and Kiyarran in particular was an interesting lead, so unaware of his true potential and humble in his learnings, and portrayed well, without the superiority and arrogance that can be a danger to male protagonists on a ‘hero’s journey’ in many fantasy books.

The magic system Smythe employs feels unique; perhaps a little complex to understand at first, but once the abilities and constraints of the magic’s disciplines were clarified it became a visual addition to the story that solidified the world. Protector was an enjoyable debut and I will look forward to book two and finding out what waits on the other side of the Veil.

Elloise Hopkins.

Friday 23 March 2012

What colour am I today...

Yes in the grand tradition of using Crayola wax to analyse my mood, today I am feeling mostly Yellow Green, a rather putrid, nauseated colour, perhaps perfect in the right setting but on me it casts nothing but a sickly pallor that reflects the internal swaying of my body.

I hate being ill, I am a terrible patient. I have no time for being unwell; life does not stop for me to sleep and heal my way through sickness. Unfortunately winter brought with it a near-permanent cold/cough and regular bouts of fever that are still attempting to bring my various spinning plates clattering to the ground.

So today Yellow Green I am. All day I felt as though the office (which unfortunately is decorated in a rather similar shade of off green) is spinning around me. The keys on my keyboard were glaring too brightly. The letters on the screen are still dancing around in front of me, and all awash with a Yellow Green haze.

And yet still I write, because I must. Because it brings me pleasure and because it keeps me sane. Hopefully tomorrow will bring a less woeful hue.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Novel Update March 2012...

Well it’s been an exciting journey since I commenced the planning stages for my novel about a year ago. The first of a fantasy trilogy, it introduces the Sentinels: a magical race of winged beings tasked to protect the Landfolk that dwell on the earth below them.

I put pen to paper and began actually writing the novel in August 2011 and thanks to a NaNoWriMo boost in November, I had a finished first draft of book one by the end of January 2012. It was a long but rewarding process and with no real static periods and I thoroughly enjoyed getting the Sentinels story out of my head and onto paper. Well, the beginning of their story at least.

February I stepped back from the draft and gave myself a few weeks gap before I contemplated kicking off the editing stages. Now, mid March I am 20 chapters into my second draft following a hard copy re-read and copious amounts of note-making and scribbles on the original manuscript. That was both enlightening and depressing – to relish in the parts of the story that I felt had real merit and to chide myself about sloppy sentencing and continuity errors. Well, I suppose that is what a first draft is for so I can’t be too hard on myself.

The re-write is going well so far and despite dreading this stage of the project I am in fact really enjoying re-visiting my work and improving upon it. My next plan is to get the finished draft two out to test readers – a terrifying yet necessary prospect – and then onto another re-write once I have the all-telling feedback.

So that is where I am at the moment as well as letting the story brew in my mind for book two which I will start writing later this year – no rest for the writer in me it seems. With any luck I will be able to provide more information about the trilogy as it develops and I am definitely looking forward to getting a finished book under my belt and hopefully onto the shelves.

Elloise Hopkins.

Friday 16 March 2012

I told you so...

When it comes down to it, you might bite your tongue and desperately attempt to keep all your comments to yourself in the spirit of not hurting others, inwardly knowing that at some point you are going to desperately want to say ‘I told you so’ to someone you care about.

But there is no joy in that phrase when the inevitable actually happens. I’m in that position at the moment. Something that I knew was not right from the start has come to a somewhat bitter end, but now when the opportunity has presented itself, I feel no desire to say those awful words.

Knowing it would end was an irritating burden that, now the end has come, feels like more of a punishment than anything else. Is that the duty of friendship, to carry and conceal the bad parts of life until they naturally reveal themselves, and then offer a somewhat censored support at the end? I can’t think of another phrase that would have quite the sting than if I were to turn to my friend now and offer only the selfish comfort of ‘I told you so.’

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Book review: Prince of Bryanae...

By Jeffrey Getzin.

Discipline. That is the word Elven princess turned soldier Willow lives by. Discipline keeps her strong. Discipline keeps her alive. Discipline keeps her past in the past. Willow is far from the classic Elven beauty of fantasy. She is strong, determined and unconcerned with her looks or the opinions of others. She does her duty and she does it well. Until now.

Bryanae is under threat and for some reason Willow cannot act. She wants to, but some familiarity of current events to her past has paralysed her. Whispers and accusations add to her shame. Captain Eric Snyde of Company A openly mocks her and she can do nothing about it. Shielding herself in even more mental armour she shakes off the affections of the one person who truly declares his love for her, the Illuminati Tamlevar.

When barbarians storm the city and kidnap the Prince of Bryanae, once again Willow is struck dumb by her memories and watches helplessly as the prince is snatched away right under her nose. Tamlevar is gravely injured, Willow faces punishment for her ineptitude and the great Warlord is rising. Willow’s only hope now lies in trusting the mage Suel’s sinister blood magic and facing the repressed memories of her past in order to rescue the prince and restore order to her life.

This book came with a warning about the dark nature of some of the events in the story and rightly so, although there was nothing here – no themes, graphic descriptions or heinous acts – that I haven’t come to expect from modern fantasy. This is certainly not your classic fantasy with an elf protagonist type story and for that I was grateful. Rather this is an unusual book in that the main focus is certainly on the growth of the lead character Willow and the story is richly supplemented by the decisions and dangers she is forced to confront.

From the first page I found myself drawn into this world and it was an easy digestible and enjoyable read. In taking Willow on a journey into her repressed memories, Getzin covers serious topics but manages to do so with a narrative tone that is enlightening and, if you could possibly describe it this way, bordering on light hearted. Willow faces some awful truths, there is no getting away from that, but she is a strong character and has an envious ability to rise up after each blow and look for something positive at each step along the way, which works in the author’s favour in terms of the writing and readability.

It was refreshing to read a story about elves that did not conform to the standard conventions and plot points of so many fantasy novels and I would not hesitate to suggest this to anyone who is interested in a more contemporary and realistic character approach to the genre. There is much to recommend it but to describe it in a handful of phrases I would say: character driven, action filled, hero’s journey, well structured, swords and sorcery with a fist full of modern grit to make it stand out.

Elloise Hopkins.

Thursday 8 March 2012


This blog is a response to an article from the Evening Standard, Friday 2nd March: Self-publishing makes us think we can write by Sebastian Shakespeare. The general gist of the article, and seemingly the opinion of the journalist, is summed up in this quote from the piece: “Perhaps the Government should consider giving carbon credits to those who desist from publishing their life story.”

As a writer currently working on my first novel, the different publishing options for my book are very much on my radar. Once I have finished the writing, self-publishing is one of those options. The article did get me thinking about self-publishing and the potential changes it will bring to the industry, as self-publishing and particularly epublishing continue to become an increasingly viable option to first-time writers.

I regularly review self-published books on this blog and will continue to do so. I know how important reviews and word of mouth, so to speak, can be in promoting a book. But I do wonder whether the ease of self-publishing options and the increasing competitiveness between self-publishing platforms will bring about a decline in standards, as the article suggests.

It does beg the question of where we draw the line in terms of what qualities and standards of work should be considered acceptable for a published book. Will the change to the industry bring about an influx of books that are grammatically unpolished, poorly structured or lacking in sense, style and finesse? And will that have a positive effect on books that are not self-published? I wonder whether the rise of easy epublishing will make the printed books of mainstream publishing houses more revered and possibly even more admired as superior or elite? 

Elloise Hopkins.

Friday 2 March 2012

The Crucible…

Last night I went to see the production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre. I remember (vaguely) studying this at GSCE a scary number of years ago and going to see the production with school, but my memories of it were hazy.

The Crucible tells the story of the conspiracy and mass-hysteria of the Salem witch trials of the 1690s. If you aren’t familiar with the story then please go and read or watch it immediately – it is as relevant socially now as it ever was, and will be, I’m sure. I had forgotten quite the scale of events, as one small act by two people spiralled into something far darker and shocking than you would ever expect.

The Crescent’s production was powerfully delivered. A strong cast, a simple non-distracting set, excellent use of lighting and visuals and an eerie vocal soundtrack were the perfect ingredients to bring Miller’s chilling tale to life. A theatre full of very loud, very chatty year 11’s went silent when the action began and stayed that way throughout – surely a testament to how gripping the play was.

I doubt I will forget the copycat girls repeating poor Mary Warren’s desperation as she supposedly sends her spirit out to attack them for a while. Nor will I forget the closing image of the play, which was a noose, simply framed, centre stage and lit with a spotlight. A well-delivered production, a great portrayal of Miller’s work, and highly recommended.

Elloise Hopkins.