Sunday 25 November 2012


Something in life we all have to go through, like it or not, is change. Sometimes it is the smallest details – a bus stop moved to a different location on a street, a change of packaging on your favourite beauty products, a re-release of your favourite book with new cover art – but sometimes it is those life changing moments that take a long time to adjust to.

Some people abhor change, fearing every tiny adjustment in their lives. I’ve worked and lived with people who are unable to embrace even the slightest change. On the other end of the scale are people like me: people who need change on a regular basis, whether it be something as simple as rearranging the furniture or buying new bed covers or a new ornament. Perhaps we need to move homes frequently to avoid that sense of stagnating, of never moving forward. Perhaps we need to change jobs, social circles, hobbies or tastes.

They say two of the most stressful things to do in life are to move house and change jobs, yet in my life I have more than once found myself doing both of these at the same time. This time, thankfully, I just have the new job to adjust to so things are marginally calmer than they have been in the past. That is, unless my landlord suddenly decides to serve notice on me. Fingers crossed; that would not be a well-received change. But permanently worrying about things like that is a whole different blog topic.

So what does it say about me, and those like me, to constantly need change in our lives? Personally I see it as an unwillingness to ‘settle down’ and make permanent roots somewhere. I need to know that life may be more than this in future. I need that sense of being an individual, that sense of freedom that means if I suddenly decide I need to be somewhere else, experience something else, I will be able to go without protracted arrangements or complications.

So does that mean I am inherently unhappy? No. But it means I appreciate there is more to life than what is immediately in front of me and I am permanently plotting a way to get me there. I may be unsettled but it allows me, however temporary it may be, to settle somewhere, safe in the knowledge that none of this is permanent so I’m ok for now. 

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 17 November 2012

People Watching...

Definitely one of my favourite pastimes but this week I experienced a more nauseated reaction to people watching than usual. I was in a group environment with people that I had not met before and in my direct eye line was someone with a most unusual, I don’t even know what to call it, nervous twitch perhaps, or a thinking posture.

There is no easy way to describe it and I am saving my most vivid description to place onto a character in my writing (a villain I am sure, and not an endearing one I think) but I shall do my best. The man, for indeed it was a man, was... a finger-licker.

He had ink on his hands. All over his hands, as though an inkpot had upturned all over him. The finger licking could, I concede, have been a result of trying to remove the ink, although why he didn’t just go and wash his hands I will never know. The great-unanswered questions about humans!

But the licking wasn’t a subtle lick-and-scrub attempt to cleanse his hands unnoticed during the meeting. No. It was a full on sugar-on-your-hands-after-eating-doughnuts kind of licking. That’s right. Every finger, every square centimetre of skin on those hands got the treatment. The thorough treatment.  

And then they brought the lunch platters out and spread the uncovered finger food out on the table before us. Saliva journeyed. Nausea set in. I went hungry.

People watchers beware – there are things out there you may wish you hadn’t seen.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 10 November 2012

The Prologue in Fantasy Fiction…

The final essay for my MA is based on this exact topic and I am researching to try and ascertain why the prologue is used so often in the genre. What is gained by it? How is using a prologue to deliver this information more beneficial than just putting it in the main text?

Over the years there has been plenty of chatter about the use of the prologue. Some people love them, some hate them. When you look at the work of successful fantasy authors some use them all the time, some never use them, some use them sometimes.

Why? And more importantly, how can the novelist, particularly the debut writer, know whether or not a prologue is appropriate for their story?

So this is a bit of a shout out for comments, musings, and perhaps a bit of research to help my essay along.

What are your views on the prologue?
Love them?
Hate them?
Totally indifferent as long as they hook the reader?

Have you used one in your writing?
If so, why?
If you decided not to go with a prologue, why?

What does a prologue mean or say to you?

To prologue or not to prologue?
It seems a great number of fantasy writers must ask themselves this question when they are writing, so why do so many of them say yes?

Elloise Hopkins.

Thursday 8 November 2012


I have always loved Bond. The books are on my occasional reading rotation list and have pride of place on my bookshelf. The films are lovingly cared for in their shiny tin. Well, with the exception of the few that were made after the set came out.  They’re nearby, of course. The point is, the recent films have been preaching to the converted in my case, because it would take a great extreme for me not to enjoy a Bond film.

So the first time I saw Skyfall, unsurprisingly I enjoyed it. Thoroughly. I thought it was well thought out, the story was exciting and complex, Judi Dench and Daniel Craig were excellent as M and Bond as usual, the villain was creepy, the action was certainly not lacking and all in all it was exactly what I want from a Bond film.

I took the opportunity to watch it again. Yes, it was just as enjoyable and tension-filled the second time. Yes, I once again left the cinema impressed with what I had seen. More importantly, yes, there were additional details, little touches of genius and nostalgia, that I picked up the second time that I had not noticed or not made a connection with on first viewing.

I don’t want to give spoilers and if you, like me, are a Bond fan, then chances are you will feel the same way. It is perhaps the details that I was most struck by though. Foreshadowing, mirror imagery, echoes of the past, so many different elements are crammed into this film, and in the most successful manner too. But on top of all that you have an overall format that we have seen time and time again. Why does it work? The details. The details, the additional thought, the added layer all raise this from a good film to a great film. It works in writing too so I shall take this lesson forward to my own work.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Book Review: The Merchant of Dreams...

Night’s Masque Volume 2.
By Anne Lyle.

Mal Catlyn has been living in France since the political incidents that led him to accuse a powerful nobleman of treason against the crown and then seek refuge elsewhere. But part of the skrayling Erishen’s soul is still living inside him and his brother Sandy becomes more and more lost to him as time passes. Mal can’t put things off any longer; it is time to find Ambassador Kiiren and resolve things once and for all.

Coby has been accompanying Mal on his adventures, in her usual disguise of Jacob Hendricks. Acting the part of Mal’s valet in public and his friend, and perhaps more, in private, the pair are once again caught up in the mission to find a way to free Erishen’s soul. Unfortunately it seems this time her disguise is not working for them and revealing her true self may be the answer. Coby soon finds herself having to deal with the irony that after spending so long learning to live as a male, the prospect of being a female in public is daunting to say the least.

In this second book Coby’s character was developed more fully and I had much more of a sense of her desires and motives which helped in empathising with her to a greater degree. This time around she felt very much an equal to Mal and less a supporting character to his lead. The skraylings too became a clearer race to understand and some of the questions raised in book one relating to their abilities and motives were answered.

Whereas The Alchemist of Souls took much of its strength from the strong representation and grounding of its setting in London, The Merchant of Dreams plays out in more diverse settings, from the seedy streets of 16th century Venice to the decks of a pirate ship and the limitless world of the skraylings’ dreams. This differing landscape injects the story with more vibrancy. There is a faster pace and much more of a sense of tension and immediacy to this second instalment.

The Merchant of Dreams has a satisfying ending despite the pain and tragedy the characters suffer throughout the story, and as I read the last few pages I got the distinct feeling that there is an even bigger and tougher adventure yet to come in the concluding part. The exploration of gender, relationships (both political and personal) and sacrifice continue in a historical fantasy that is as light-hearted and entertaining as it is deep. Perhaps its most admirable quality is Lyle’s willingness to explore and represent the minority in a realistic and unashamed manner.

Elloise Hopkins.