Progress and evolution




If you happened to glance at my blog last week, you might have noticed a radical change in the design and presentation. This happened because I came to the realization that I had finally outgrown the original blog design.

When I first started blogging seven months ago, I didn’t have a clue as to what I would write about, how often, or what I wanted my blog to look like. So I chose the first theme with colors that I more or less liked and just stuck with it. The theme was Dusk to Dawn and I still love it.

Dusk to Dawn

And it had served me faithfully for seven months. But now that I have almost fifty posts worth of content, and it was growing more and more difficult to look through them all, I had to admit that I outgrew that theme.

This was actually a good realization, because it made me think long and hard about what I actually wanted my blog to look like and what kind of content I wanted to provide. And sadly, Dusk to Dawn simply wasn’t flexible enough for my growing needs.

First of all, it only had one sidebar and it was growing rather overcrowded. Secondly, it didn’t have a top or bottom menu at all. Yep, it was time for a change.

I spent a whole day last week going through the different themes available on WordPress and decided to go with Twenty Fourteen, though I customized the colors a bit to make it look more like what I had before.

Twenty Fourteen
Twenty Fourteen

I think it makes my blog easier to navigate and a lot more user-friendly. And as a bonus, I got to add my bio and Twitter feed to the sidebar! And as another added bonus, I finally took the time to go through all my categories and instill some semblance of order to the madness. Yay me!

Original by nord_modular on Flickr
Original by nord_modular on Flickr

And of course, being a writer, this change looked to me as a good metaphor for a writing career. You start small, not very sure of where you are going, how to get there, and what results (apart from hey, I want to publish a book!) you want to achieve. Then you start working on your book and you quickly realize that getting it finished and (hopefully) published is not a sprint, but a long hard journey with a lot of milestones along the way. If you are serious about writing (and blogging), you are in it for the long run, and things will change along the way. So I think that last week I reached my first blogging milestone. This calls for a small and belated six months anniversary celebration!

So here is my new and improved (and hopefully easier to navigate) blog. What do you guys think of the changes?

Rivers Of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Stars: 5 out of 5

There are some books which release you highly anticipate and can’t wait to read, and then there are books that you just kind of stumble upon almost by accident. For me, it was the case for The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (for some reason, the book is called Midnight Riot in the US). I was browsing the book section of Amazon, hunting for something new that sounded even marginally interesting to read, and I came upon this book. The blurb at the back sounded interesting enough, so I decided to give it a try. And boy am I glad I did! I absolutely, totally love this book (and the next three in the series as well, but I will review them at a later date)!

But first things first, here is a synopsis of the book. Peter Grant is just a probationary constable in the London police, and as such, he is saddled with the thankless task of guarding a crime scene overnight. The night is cold and Peter’s future is grim, because he seems to be destined for the Case Progression Unit – the unit of glorified paper pushers. But everything changes that night when Peter takes a statement from a ghost and makes the acquaintance of Inspector Nightingale, England’s last real wizard. So now Peter Grant is assigned to the Folly, the Unit that doesn’t officially exit but that most of the Force knows to call when any “weird” stuff starts happening.

One of the reviewers said that this book was what would have happened if Harry Potter grew up and lost his Chosen One complex (I’m paraphrasing here), but I think this book is better than that.

First of all, I loved Ben Aaronovitch subtle sense of humor which managed to lighten up even the really grim passages of the book. You can also feel that the author loves London and knows her very well. The city is not just a stage for the events in the book, but a participant. Its locations are intertwined with the plot.

And I absolutely fell in love with Peter Grant! He is such a vivid character. He is down to earth but willing to accept the existence of strange things when he sees them. He also doesn’t just take the existence of magic for granted, but wants to know how it works. He is not content to just repeat and replicate the formulae that Nightingale teaches him; he wants to know the rules; he wants to know the dangers and the possibilities. And that “scientific” approach to magic really appeals to me, maybe because I’m like Peter – I am not content to see that something works, I want to know how it works as well.

The supporting characters in this book are also very engaging, from Nightingale the mysterious, but slightly clueless in the modern world, wizard, to the smart and sometimes snarky Leslie, or Molly the creepy housekeeper / guard of the Folly. And don’t get me started on Toby, the dog who can sense magical residue! He is hilarious.

Rivers of London is a wonderful book that can be read as a standalone, but is also a very strong beginning of a series. I am very glad I picked it up and got hooked on Peter Grant’s world.

Of Broken Things – a #luckyseven snippet.

Lucky Seven.
Lucky Seven.

My friend Isabella Norse tagged me to play ‪#‎luckyseven‬, a bit of fun for writers.

The rules of the challenge are simple:

  • Go to either page 7 or 77 (or 777 if it’s that long) of your manuscript.
  • Go to line 7.
  • Post 7 sentences / lines.
  • Tag 7 other people to do the same.

My current WIP is a murder mystery set in a science-fiction world. It’s called Of Broken Things and here is a brief synopsis:

When Aiden accepts to investigate the murder of a college professor, little does he know that he will stumble into a cover-up operation involving a secret research lab, people with special abilities, and one soldier bound on revenge.

And here is a small snippet from page 7, line 7 of the current version of the novel:


“Alright, Marjory will see us at 2 pm, which leaves us a little bit over two hours to kill. Fancy eating something a bit more filling than coffee?”

Aiden nodded enthusiastically. When Ricky mentioned lunch, he became aware of just how hungry he was. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had had a decent meal.

“Excellent!” Ricky said. “Then let’s go to Illiano’s for old times’ sake.”


Pfew, here we go. First ever snippet from my work posted on this blog, or anywhere else for that matter, if you don’t count A Small Detour, the short story I was lucky to get accepted into this anthology.

Alright, now that I have done that. Here are 7 more writers I want to tag: Jayme, So I pondered, Peter, Dimyanti, Jenny, Denise, and Cat. You guys feel like playing along?

Edge of Tomorrow – movie review

Stars: 5 out of 5

I must admit that I was rather skeptical when I went to see this movie. For one, I am not a huge fan of Tom Cruise, because I feel like he has been playing the same character in almost all of his last movies. Also, as far as science fiction movies go, Hollywood hadn’t had a particularly good track record in the past ten years or so. I mean, seriously, name at least one really good sci-fi movie from the past decade that is not a remake? I can’t.

Life. Die. Repeat.
Life. Die. Repeat.

Anyway, I went to the movies not really expecting much from the Edge of Tomorrow. The kids wanted to see it, so I was just resigned to spend a couple hours enjoying the popcorn and the special effects and banging my head on the front sit at all the plot holes and inconsistencies. Boy, was I wrong. I absolutely LOVED that movie. It had me hooked and at the edge of my sit from the very start.

William Cage (Tom Cruise) is sent into battle, quite against his will, as part of a major military operation against a race of aliens called Mimics. His regiment lands on a beach in Normandy only to discover that the Mimics are waiting for them. The soldiers are desperately outnumbered and outmatched, and are getting slaughtered. Cage manages to kill a Mimic by blowing it up with a pack of explosives, but he dies in the process as well… only to wake up again at the beginning of the same day. From now on and during the whole length of the movie, Cage will be caught in this time loop when he is forced to relive the day of the assault over and over again, returning to the beginning every time he dies. He remembers every single time he dies as well, but nobody else does. Live. Die. Repeat, as the movie poster says.

To my own surprise, I really liked Tom Cruise as William Cage. He does a very good job showing his character’s growth from this spineless coward tossed into battle against his will to a war-weary veteran willing to sacrifice himself in order to secure the victory humanity so desperately needs. The transformation is progressive and believable. You can see how the fact that Cage is forced to relive the same day over and over forces him to change.

I also loved Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski. Rita is a strong woman and a true soldier, and she understands exactly what Cage is going through because she had been caught in a time loop of her own as well at a previous battle in Verdun. Only she lost that ability after that battle, so now she can’t reset the day anymore and doesn’t remember when it repeats.

The Angel of Verdun
The Angel of Verdun

It’s nice to see how their relationship grows from reset to reset, how Cage come to progressively care about Rita. And I loved the fact that Tom Cruise manages to convey that attachment with minimal pathos. There is an episode where they are in a car and Cage asks Rita about a name she told him during their previous reset. Rita doesn’t want to talk about it, but when pressed, says that he was a friend, even more than a friend, and that she had to watch him die 360 times. And she remembers every single one of them. She also says that Cage wouldn’t understand. Cage doesn’t say a word, but the look he gives her at that moment is so full of different emotions – love, fear, grief, loss, tenderness. Big kudos to Tom Cruise for managing to convey all that with just one look.

I liked the fact that this movie had the right mixture of action, drama and humor and almost no pathos at all. And without those long-felt monologues and patriotic speeches, the impact of what’s happening on the screen is even more visceral. Even the ending is exactly like it should be – no words, no “they kissed and rode into the sunset together.” It ends with a smile and endless possibilities.

So to sum it up, this is one of the best science fiction movies I have seen in a long time. If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it now!

I also discovered that it’s based on All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, so now I’m definitely going to read the book as well.

Why I love reading fanfiction and why I can’t write it.

I must admit that I absolutely love reading fanfiction. I think it’s because sometimes I like the characters or the world so much, that I feel sad leaving them behind once the book is finished. I think most of us feel the same way, as the sheer amount of fanfiction written everyday can attest.

Fanfiction gives the readers a chance to explore the world the author created a bit further, or to shine the light on secondary characters that had been mostly on the margins of the original story. Sometimes it even lets the readers reimagine the story itself if, for some reason, they didn’t like the ending the author gave them. I know that I love reading fanfics that I will never forgive Rowling for pairing Hermione with Ron, or for killing Severus Snape off (and in such a lame way). So I particularly enjoy reading fanfics that explore other paths Hermione could have taken after Hogwards, or those where Snape survived and finally got a chance a normal life.


I think it’s normal to want to read and write fanfiction, and I know that many writers started their writing careers by writing fanfics for books that really touched them. It’s also an excellent form of exercise, because it lets your imagination run free, but at the same time give you a set of rules consistent with the world of the original (unless you are trying to write something totally AU). It’s also an easily accessible (and free) way of staying a little bit longer with the characters you like.

The downside of this is that there is a lot of drivel out there. Stories that are poorly written, with characters that are so OOC they are unrecognizable, and a plot that is pure wish fulfilment on the part of author. I have noticed a lot of that last one when the authors try to introduce an original character into the story and she / he end up being a better (in their mind) version of the author him / herself (that’s where all the Mary Sue and Gary Stu come from). So, sifting through the muck can be a painful and mind-numbing process, but sometimes you find absolute gems – fanfics so well written, that they keep you hooked just as much (if not more sometimes) than the original book (movie, series, graphic novel) did.

By the way, if you are a fan of Harry Potter fiction, the wonderful Loten has some beautiful (and very well plotted) stories. WARNING – there is explicit content and most of the stories are about Hermione Granger and Severus Snape. I would especially recommend her Post Tenebras Lux.

But I got sidetracked. Moving on. I think I pretty much covered the reason of my love for fanfiction, so now I have a confession to make. I absolutely, totally suck at writing it. I CAN’T write fanfiction to save my life. Every time I get psyched up about a show or a book and want to write a story about it, I end up thinking about it for so long that by the time I sit down to write, I have created my own world and the characters populating it have nothing in common with their prototypes.

For example, my first novel Of Broken Things started out as a fanfiction idea when I watched Star Trek Into Darkness. I had been so impressed by the portrayal of Khan by the wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch, that I remember thinking, “What would someone like that do if he fell in love? And then lost the woman he loved? Oh, but it must have been an exceptional woman to catch the eye of someone like that.” And I started thinking about plot and character backgrounds, world building and politics, and ended up with a story that has nothing to do with Star Trek. Yes, one of the protagonists in it is a genetically modified soldier, but that’s the only think GMS798 has in common with Khan. I started with a fanfiction idea and ended up with an original book.

The idea for my next book also came as a result of watching a popular TV series. I was so impressed with one of the characters that I wanted to play with him myself. Only he didn’t want to talk to me. He kept pushing other characters into the light instead, none of which were present in the original show. By the time he finally decided to step into the light and tell his story, the only thing he had left from that character in the show was the face. And I’m thankful, because he brought me a wonderful story that I can’t wait to tell.

I think the reason why I can’t write fanfiction is because I don’t feel comfortable playing in somebody else’s sandbox. I can’t help but start changing the rules, modifying the backstory and starting to build my own castles. So I might was well go to my own sandbox and do it there, at least then I can have some fun without feeling guilty about it, and even discover wonderful stories in the process.

So what do you guys think? Do you read fanfiction? Do you write it? Do you think fanfiction is important? And question for published authors out there, do you read fanfiction about your stories?