All posts by Elena Linville

I am a Russian-Swiss-American citizen of the world. I have traveled all over the globe then hopped over the big Atlantic pond and moved to North Carolina, USA, where I lived for eight years. But staying in one place for too long is not in my nature, so when the wanderlust called again, I packed my meager belongings and my cat continued my great migration all the say from NC to Texas. So here I am not in DFW area with my cat who strongly believes she is a dog and the Queen and Ruler of the house. I have an 8 to 5 job as an field force training specialist and the rest of the time I write stories “for fun and pleasure,” though most of the time it feels like pulling teeth or bleeding on the page. I have two novels, Of Broken Things and The Choices We Make, which are both in the fully finished first draft stage. I’m currently editing Of Broken Things and letting Choices sit in a desk drawer for a few months. I’m also editing my novella Mists of the Crosswords which is almost ready for beta readers. Looking for a few betas btw who are not afraid to give honest feedback. I have an idea for a serial of short stories called the Eye of the Norns Cicle. The first short story had been published in an anthology, the second story is written down but needs editing, and I’m outlining the next three stories. I think I have enough ideas for 2 seasons of 6 stories each. I also love reading sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia, urban fantasy and post -apocalyptic books. I have been known to pick up a romance or two from time to time, but NEVER in the contemporary or historical genres. I don’t read YA, children books or nonfiction.

The cyclical nature of the creative process.

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A couple weeks ago Chuck Wendig wrote an excellent post about the emotional milestones of writing the first draft of a novel. It describes my own experience perfectly with all the highs and lows, so I would definitely say it’s recommended reading.

That post also made me think about the creative process in general and the various stages I go through between the new idea in my head and the finished product. And I realized that that process also has its highs and lows, but that in the end, it’s cyclical. I thought it would be fun to share my observations with my readers and see if anyone’s experience is similar to mine.

1. Shiny new idea aka rabid plot bunny.

That’s the beginning of every new story, isn’t it? A fluffy plot bunny comes hopping  into your brain and kicks every other idea out until its the only thing you can think of. It’s so fresh and new and exciting, and you can’t wait to start writing this story down, because you know without a doubt that it has all the makings of a true masterpiece.

There is only one slight problem. The plot bunny is never a whole story. It might be a scene, or an idea, or a group of characters, or even just a “what if this happened?” moment. No, the true story is still playing hard to get. You need to do some archaeological digging to get to it. That’s where stage two starts for me.

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2. The rough outline.

Now this stage might differ from writer to writer, depending on whether you are a “pantser” or a  “plotter”.  Some writers might even skip this stage altogether. I’m not saying that one method is better than the other. I’m just saying that I’m very much a plotter. I can’t write a story without knowing where it’s going and having an approximation map of how to get there, so I tend to write rather extensive outlines.

That’s the stage where I grab that plot bunny by its fluffy ears and shake it until the details of the story start tumbling out.  By the time I’m done with my outline, I know exactly how the story will start and how it will end, but most of the stuff in between reads like “stuff happens to get the protagonist from point A to point B,” or “I have no idea how she ends up here, but I’ll think of something.”

But it’s a good enough road map to follow and I’m usually so sick with the whole outlining process by that time that I’d rather start on the first draft now, before I get too tired of the story, and work out the kinks later.

3. The First Draft.

Chuck gave a very accurate description of the emotional roller coaster a writer goes through during the first draft. Needless to say that after the three months it usually takes me to finish the first draft of a normal length novel, I am an emotional mess, and the only thing I want to do is throw that draft in a drawer and forget about it.

And I DEFINITELY don’t want to tackle another first draft. Sometimes, depending on how difficult the story had been for me, I feel like I never want to write another new story ever again… So by this time I have reached the next stage of my creative process.

4. The editing adventure.

Since I don’t feel like chasing another plot bunny right at the moment and going through the highs and lows of a first draft again, I go digging into the Dropbox folder where I keep all my stories and unearth a story I had put aside when that plot bunny had gotten me distracted 3-4 months ago. I print out the story, get my faithful blue pen out and dive into editing.

I know a lot of people dread that process, and it can be tedious and heart-breaking to take the jumbled mess of a first draft and make the words better. But after the trials of the draft when you give birth to the story, having a stack of pages to edit feels really good. So I dive into my edits, I hack and slash and rewrite about 80% of the draft until I’m more or less satisfied with the end result. And by the end of that process, I’m so burned out on editing that I start actually looking forward to writing a new story again, even if I had swore in stage 3 that I would never do that again.

So I send my edited story to some brave beta readers and eagerly open my mind to the next plot bunny willing to hop in and take me for a ride. And the cycle begins again…

It’s funny to discover that I start each stage of the process full of excitement and energy, and that I’m usually burned out and eager to move to the next stage by the end.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced this cycle as well? Is your creative process different? Drop me a few lines in the comments, because I would really like to hear from you!

The Locksmith by Susan Kaye Quinn.

Stars: 5 out of 5.

The Locksmith is a short novella is is set in the Mindjack world (I have reviewed the first book of the series Open Minds if you are interested), and I must admit that it felt good revising it.

This story had all the ingredients I loved about the original books – the complex world, engaging characters and often serious problems they face. I also love that the author doesn’t pull any punches when exploring the social problems that arise when the normal mindreading society discovers the existence of mindjackers…

But I digress, so let’s concentrate on this story. We are following Zeph, who is a mindjacker with a unique ability even for his kind: he can not only jack into other people’s brains, but also modify them (lock or unlock as he puts it). He tried very hard to stay hidden, to pass for normal, even though he is forced to work for the local mindjacker clan. He doesn’t like what he is forced to do for Clan Marshall, but he understands that the jacker would come after his family if he disobeys. Yes, his life is difficult as it is, but at least he manages to pass for more or less normal, even if he has to lie to everybody around him, even his family.

So when Kira drops the bombshell and reveals the existence of mindjackers to the world, I understood perfectly well why Zeph was mad about it. She had just destroyed all hopes for him to live a normal life. Of is she didn’t annihilate them entirely, she made it so much more difficult.

It’s interesting to see the repercussions of Kira’s decisions and the events of the original 3 books of the Mindjacker series on other mindjackers, to see the reaction of another other jacker kid to the fact that hiding his ability had just become 100% harder.

I liked Zeph. He is a completely different character than Kira and he is very far away from the hormone-driven teenager stereotype we encounter so often in YA fiction. He is aware of his powers and slightly afraid of them, because he doesn’t understand what he does or how he does it and he is scared to hurt people. He is also a very responsible young man. Unlike some other mindjackers we encountered in this world, he doesn’t think mind controlling someone to like him is right. When other jackers bask in attention and jack everyone to like them, Zeph skirts the crowds, staying in the shadows and doing just enough to get barely noticed and immediately discounted as insignificant.

His attempts at a normal conversation with Tessa were really rather cute and heartbreaking because he realizes that he can’t have a normal relationship with her without having to lie to her constantly.

I also loved the fact that when Zeph was presented with a very difficult choice, he had the courage to do what’s right, even if it was difficult and dangerous and presented him with potentially dire consequences… And I will not say anything else about the plot of The Locksmith because I don’t want to spoil the story for you!

All I will add is that this is a fast paced story that keeps you on the edge of your sit until the end. It’s only five chapters long, so if you are looking for a quick, but still good and entertaining read this weekend, definitely buy this book. It’s a wonderful new installment in the Mindjacker universe.

Another milestone – this is my 100th post.

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I have reached yet another milestone it seems. This is my 100th post on this blog, and I wouldn’t even have noticed if WordPress hadn’t reminded me.

Wow… Who would have thought that I would have enough things to say for even 50 posts, yet alone 100? When I started this blog back in October 2013, I hadn’t even imagined that I would reach this number only a little over a year later.

I have a confession to make. I have never been very good at creating this kind (or any kind) of content with any kind of consistency. I never even managed to keep a diary for longer than a month or two. I would try it from time to time, and the first few weeks I would write every day, then once every few days, then once a  week maybe, until the diary got put in a drawer to be forgotten. Then I would unearth it two or three years later, dist it off and try keeping it again. And the whole circle would repeat itself.

So I am the most surprised that one year later I am still here and I am still blogging, and that I manage to write two post a week as well. And not only that, but that I actually LIKE doing this! I discovered that I really enjoy blogging. I enjoy sharing my ideas, my opinions and my stories with my readers.

Nobody likes to created in a vacuum. It’s like talking to yourself in an empty room. It might echo, but all you hear back is your own voice. When I started posting on this blog, a lot of times it felt exactly like that. I think the very first comment on one of my posts was from a spam bot and I had wanted to hug it then because hey, somebody had noticed me!

But then something wonderful had happened – I got a follower, then another one, then two more. And suddenly I wasn’t talking to myself anymore. People were actually listening and responding to me. I started having a steady influx of traffic on my blog, and not only on days when I published something new…

Of course, my blog is a small fish in the ocean. I only have 150 followers right now and my site gets only  a few dozens views per day, so for many of you it would be considered small potatoes. But for me, it’s everything. A writer craves feedback, whether on the novel she is working on, or the blog post she just published. Being able to get that feedback is what motivates us to soldier on even on the days when the ideas refuse to come and the words bleed into the page.

So this post is mostly to say a big THANK YOU to all my readers. I probably wouldn’t still be here it wasn’t for you.

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Thank you for visiting my blog every week and taking precious time out of your day to read my ramblings about my writing ups and downs, as well as my book reviews. Thank you for liking my posts and commenting on them. Thank you for sharing them on social media. I truly feel blessed to have you!

And now, onward towards the next milestone!

Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig.

Stars: 5 out of 5.

Lizzy Borden had an axe and Atlanta Burns has a shotgun. I couldn’t help myself, sorry! But I can assure you that Atlanta Burns isn’t at all like this notorious murderer from the 19th century. Oh, and as you can see by the 5 stars on top of this review, I absolutely loved the book.

Fair warning though, this is a difficult book to read. It’s not your typical young adult book about life in high school where the earth-shattering problem is that the guy the protagonist likes chose to go to the prom with someone else. It covers some pretty harsh and gruesome themes like racism, bullying, teenage suicide, drug use and outright cruelty towards both humans and animals. So don’t pick up this book thinking that it would be an easy read. In fact, it should come with several trigger warnings.

But if you are looking for a serious story that challenges you and makes you think about our society and your own behavior; a book that leaves you a slightly better person after you close it, then definitely pick up Atlanta Burns. Chuck Wendig delivered a rare gem: a young adult book that strives not only to entertain the young readers, but also to teach them something. Too few books do that nowadays, unfortunately.

Alright, vague eulogies aside, what gripped me in this book, you might ask? I won’t go into details because I’m not sure I can avoid big spoilers, and I really don’t want to ruin the story for you.

I will say one thing though, Atlanta is not a typical teenage girl, or rather, she used to be a typical teenage girl until something horrible happened that left her rather broken and disillusioned. Some girls would wallow in their own misery and self-pity, but not Atlanta. I loved the fact that she took the matters into her own hands. If her mother was not going to defend her against the monster she had invited into their house, Atlanta would take care of it herself… with a shotgun.

I loved how Atlanta is portrayed. She doesn’t regret what she had to do. He mother’s boyfriend was molesting her and she blew his balls off. But the whole experience left her broken, disillusioned and isolated, because the people she used to be friends with in school don’t seem to notice her anymore, as if she was a blank space or something too dangerous and unpredictable to interact with. And I can understand her anger and resentment towards her mother – she was supposed to protect her from this, but failed miserably, and that loss of innocence and trust hurts more than the horrible act itself.

In some respect, I think Atlanta and Whitey are very similar – both will get back up and fight no matter how many times they are kicked down, and both are fiercely loyal and protective of those who they consider their friends.

From what I described above, it might seem that Atlanta Burns is  a very grim book, but it’s not. Yes, it touches on pretty grim subjects, but the main message of the book is one that I endorse 110% – STAND UP TO BULLIES, don’t just take it, don’t walk past when you see someone being bullied and think that it’s not your problem, because it is everybody’s problem. One person might not make a whole lot of a difference, but a group of people might. And this message is true in every aspect of our lives, be it high school, work environment, or cyber-bullying on the internet.

So in case you are still wondering whether this book is worth buying, my answer is yes, absolutely. Go get it now!

PS. I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.

Raymond Reddington or a characters doesn’t need to be likable to be memorable.

Back before the whole NaNoWriMo madness started in October and I plunged headfirst into the first draft of Choices, I had started a series of posts about memorable characters and why I found them so. You can read the post about Sephiroth or the importance of a good antagonist, or A Shadow Hero – Severus Snape. Now that I’ve finished my first draft, I decided to continue this series.

Last week, we watched the first season of The Blacklist on Netflix, and yes, I know that I’m late to the party and that the show is almost through with season 2 already, but at least I got to bilge watch the whole first season at once.

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And I must admit that I fell in love with Raymond Reddington. I think he is the best example of a memorable character that is, at times, less than likable. Red is not a good person and, more importantly, he doesn’t pretend to be a good person. He is a criminal. He has done a lot of questionable and downright horrible things in his life, and some will argue that he is no better than the criminals he helps the FBI catch and neutralize…

Yet we can’t help but feel attracted to this character. Not physically attracted,  mind you, though some might be, but emotionally enraptured by his cheer force of personality. I don’t know if it’s the excellent acting by James Spader or all the work the script writers pored into this character, but Red commanders all the attention every time he enters the room. He doesn’t have to do anything for that, he can just sit there and give his handlers that look and we all know that he is already several steps ahead of them in the situation.

So yes, he is a perfect example of how the viewer, player, listener or readers (because this is true to any medium, be it a game, a movie, a radio show or a book), can become emotionally invested in a character, even if that character is not exactly a knight in shining armor. In case of Red, he is more of a shadow cardinal.  He is smart, he is charming, but more importantly, he always delivers on his promises, whether this promise is to help you or to make you pay for double crossing him.

Reddington Quote

 

And I get a bit irritated with Liz and the rest of the special task force for constantly throwing this “You’re a criminal. You’re no better than the people you help us put away” argument to Red’s face over and over again. I mean duh, he never pretended to be anything else. He never pretended that his motives were altruistic.

Yet, somehow I could care less about what happens to all the other members of the task force, especially not Liz, though Donald Ressler starts showing some potential. But I want to know what happened to Red’s family. I want to know what pushed him towards the path he chose or what his connection to Liz is… I care enough to watch episode after episode even if I could give a rat’s ass about the rest of the cast.

And this is the true magic of a well made character – whether he is good or bad, the readers (viewers, gamers, listeners) care enough about him to follow his story to the end.

Twiceborn by Marina Finlayson.


Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

I must admit that Twiceborn is a very entertaining book. It has everything I love about a good urban fantasy story: a strong (and fleshed out) protagonist, an interesting take on the subject of paranormals leaving among us and a well-paced story.

Kate O’Connor has lost everything when her son died in an accident six months ago. Now she just does some courier jobs for a friend, because he needs help and because frankly, it beats sitting at the house all day. She suspects that some of the packages she carries around might exactly be legal, but can’t muster enough strength to be bothered or even mildly curious about it. Like everything since the death of her son, it seems unimportant… Until one of the jobs goes south, and she finds herself with a gap in her memories and a werewolf in her kitchen bound and determined on killing her.

I liked Kate. She is a very down to earth, no-nonsense kind of girl. And the depiction of her grief was well done and believable, and, more importantly, not overdone. Her reactions in the face of everything that happens to her are also realistic and logical, which is a great plus. And she is not a damsel in distress in constant need of saving, like some of the heroines in  urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Even when confronted by a werewolf in her own kitchen, Katie goes for the knife first and waits to have a hysterical fit after the werewolf is dealt with.  And she also shows her willingness to fight for her life and freedom (and for the safety of her friends) several more times during the book.

I won’t go into details about the plot, because I want this review to be as spoiler free as possible, but I will just say that Kate has to deal with some serious issues and is in danger of losing her own self, and she handles the situation admirably.

The book is also well written. I would never have guessed that it was the author’s debut novel at all, because the quality of the material and presentation is top notch.

So by now you must be wondering why I only gave this book 3.5 stars? Well, even though I liked it, I had several issues with it that bugged me enough to spoil the overall enjoyment.

The first and the biggest issue for me is Ben, or more precisely, the romance between him and Kate. It felt forced, and more importantly it added nothing to the story itself. It felt like the author added this romantic relationship almost as an afterthought after the book was already written.

I think the main reason why this relationship didn’t work for me is the character of Ben himself. He is not fleshed out or unique enough for me to care about. From the moment he first appears in the story until the last page, he is just a walking talking stereotype. He is immediately described as hot, gorgeous, nice and caring. The author might as well have put a big sign over his head saying “love interest” and moved on, because we never get to explore his character any deeper.

Also, for someone who is still grieving about the loss of her child, and who admits not being even slightly interested in any sort of romantic relationship, Kate jumps into bed with him way to easily. I understand doing it once because of the adrenaline rush, the narrow escape and the realization of having been so close to death. But nothing in their relationship prior to that point hints at anything deeper, and certainly not that passion that seems to come out of nowhere. In my opinion, this whole romantic relationship could have been cut out of the book without any damage to the story.

My second problem is some inconsistencies within the worldbuilding. We are told that the heralds are under the Dragon Queen’s protection and thus neutral and untouchable, yet everybody and their mother seems to be able to kidnap / harm / slap them around without any retribution. Seriously?

Also, if all heralds were a magical amulet that protects them from psychic influences, but also proves that they are genuine, shouldn’t it be easy to determine whether the amulet is authentic or fake? Yet we hear the argument that the heralds are not who they say they are and that they anyone could counterfeit that amulet several time in the book. That makes no sense. Either you have an order of heralds who are easily identifiable, neutral and protected, or you have a bunch of wannabes that pretend to be heralds, but then who would trust them?

And the last problem is directly tied to the previous one. If the amulet is supposed not only to identify, but also to protect the herald, shouldn’t it be difficult, even impossible to take off or tamper with? Yet Leandra does just that to Kate at the beginning of the book…

But even despite those gripes I have with the story, I think I will definitely pick up the next book in the series to see who this story evolves. After all, not all the villains have been dealt with, and there are plenty of loose ends left to explore.

My verdict – if you want a well-written and fast paced story with a strong heroine, definitely pick up Twiceborn. And the fact that it’s set in Sydney Australia instead of another city in the USA is an added bonus.

PS. I have been given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

January is almost over and I have some accomplishments to share!

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January has been a surprisingly busy month for me and resulted in a few interesting news that I am happy to share with my readers.

1. New site.

First of all, I finally took the plunge and moved the blog to my own site. I must admit that the endeavor had seemed daunting and almost impossible at first. After all,  I know virtually nothing about web hosting, or web design, or site building and maintenance. Plus I managed to build a small following for my blog on wordress.com, and I didn’t want to lose it. I wanted to keep my blog theme and migrate my posts and try to accomplish all that without pulling too many hairs and having a screaming match with the computer screen.

I googled several web hosting providers that had so many options with so many different price plans that I got instantly lost. Thankfully, the excellent people on #myWANA channel on Twitter pointed me in the direction of Jay Donovan from Tech Surgeons, who had been more than helpful. He walked me through the entire process, and moved the entirety of my blog, theme, posts, links AND followers to my new domain in the space of a single evening.

So I am now the proud owner of elenalinville.com and I don’t have to worry about my blog disappearing if anything happens to WordPress. As long as I pay for my web hosting, my blog isn’t going anywhere.

For everyone following me through WordPress, there is nothing you need to do. WordPress will automatically redirect you to my new site (another neat little feature I didn’t’ know about).  Those who subscribe to my blog should also still receive updates.

2. Of Broken Things on Wattpad.

Of Broken Things

I have heard about Wattpad before, but I have never looked at the site myself. Well, this year I decided to do a little experiment and created a profile. I decided to put the first major edit of my first novel, Of Broken Things, on Wattpad.

First of all, I wantto share it with a larger readership than just a couple beta readers, but I also want to see if there is an audience for this story. It’s my first novel, after all. I  know it still needs a lot of work and the version I’m posting is by no means final, but if you are interested to check it out. Here is the link for it.

I will be posting one scene at a time twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays until the whole novel is up there. You are more than welcome to read it and leave me some feedback. In fact, I would love feedback!

3. The Choices We Make is finished!

Finish what you start!
Finish what you start!

Today I have officially finished the first draft of my second novel The Choices We Make (and I have already celebrated with a glass of wine  or two, so pardon me if most of this post doesn’t make sense). So as of today, I’m not only a real writer who can finish her s@#t, but also a serial finisher! (or a repeat finisher? Not sure, confused now. As I said, much wine has been had)

I must admit that the feeling that you get once you finish something as big as a novel is absolutely exhilarating. I was on could nine when I was done with Of Broken Things, and I’m back there right now as well. Of course, I will be back into editing hell soon enough with both, but for now, I’m celebrating.

I have also realized something else while I was working on the first draft of Choices – this is by no means a stand alone book. This is the first book in a series, and I even already have the main idea for the next book.

A year ago, if you had asked me if I would ever write a series, I would have laughed at your face. I thought myself incapable of sticking with a story for longer than a single book (heck, before last year, I thought myself incapable of finishing a story at all).

Now I KNOW there will be at least one more book based in this world and telling the story of these characters, and maybe even a third one. The plan is to get to work on it for NaNoWriMo 2015.

4. I’m on The Indie View Reviewer List.

Last but not least, I have joined the Reviewer list on The Indie View, a site that helps indie authors find bloggers willing to read and review their books. I have joined this list because I know how important reviews are for book sales. Reviews (and word of mouth) sell books better than any expensive advertising campaign ever will. I always read a couple reviews on Amazon or Goodreads before I decide to purchase a book. I also know how difficult it can be to get those first few dozen reviews, especially for an indie author.

I have received a surprising amount of email since I joined the list. Some books weren’t really in the genres I am interested in, but a lot are books that I am very excited to read and review. So to all the authors who contacted me and whose books I agreed to review, I want to say, thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your book! I will post a review, I promise, I’m just a bit overwhelmed with the demand right now. I’m slowly working through my list though.

 

Well, that’s all the news for now, folks. All in all, it’s been an exciting January. Hopefully the rest of the year will be full of great and exciting things as well.

Written in Red by Anne Bishop.

Stars: 5 out of 5

I must admit that what attracted me to this book is the premise. In a genre with a gazillion books about werewolves, vampires and other shifters / supernatural beings, it’s really hard to find a books that stands out or offers something new. Well, Written in Red does exactly that.

What do we usually see in most books in this genre? A supernatural community that does its best to stay hidden from humans, that lives on the margins of society, hiding in the shadows. Or if they have already shown themselves to humans, they are usually marginalized and oppressed.

Well, not so with the Others. Imagine a world where the humans are not the dominant race. They were late to the party, in fact. By the time our ancestors climbed down that tree, the world was already inhabited by the Others, and they were not willing to share it… Millennia later, a shaky truce exists between the humans and the Others, and there are even some lands that humans can live in and cultivate, but they are not the owners of those resources; they are just lenders. And the Others make sure that the “monkeys” never forget that they can reclaim those lands any time they want, because for them, humans are just another kind of meat. Smart, useful in some ways, but still meat.

I loved this take on the whole humans versus supernatural beings confrontation. And Anne Bishop managed to create a very interesting and complex world around this idea. I could see how much thought and research went into it – the world felt REAL and logical. So just for that, I would already have loved the book, but there is so much more about it to love!

Meg became one of my favorite protagonists. She is a casandra sangine, a human whose blood holds prophecies. Any cut that draws blood brings them forward. As such, she spent all her life in a secure institution, where she was the property of the Controller, who made her bleed and prophesies for his wealthy clients, along with over 1000 other girls. She didn’t even have a name, just a number.

What I like about Meg is that despite her utter lack of experience with the outside world, she has an unbendable force of will. She saw a way out during one of the prophecies and she wasn’t afraid to take it. She can come across as naïve and even “simple” sometimes, but that’s because everything she knows about the world comes from training videos and pictures that often just gave her names of things without context. The controller just needed her   to be able to recognize the things she was seeing in her prophecies and be able to name them, not know what they meant or how they worked.

So there are moments when Meg is lost and baffled by the new world she finds herself in, like when she is confronted by the training image #457 Coffee Machine. She knows it’s supposed to make training image #97678 Coffee, but she has no idea how it works. But Meg doesn’t just give up and wallow in self-pity when she doesn’t understand something. She researches, she looks for a book, or a manual, or asks people. And then she LISTENS and she LEARNS. I think, that’s what I like about her the most. No matter what life throws her way, she never gives up and she always learns.

The depiction of the Others is also excellently handled. They are not just human people that can turn into wolves, crows and bears, or drink blood and disperse into black mist. They are other, some of them utterly alien in their way of thinking and behaving. They have their own rules of interaction between themselves and with the humans that they allow to live on their land.

I also liked the fact that there is no romantic undertone in this book. At all. Yes, the Others come to care about Meg by the end of it, but it’s the beginning of a solid friendship based on mutual trust, respect and caring. There is nothing romantic about it.

Pfew, so what is the take away from this long and rambling review? If you want a complex new world and engaging characters – go buy the book! A must read.

I’m a gamer and proud of it!

I have a confession to make – I’m a gamer. I have been a gamer since I was about 15, got my very first computer and a floppy with King’s Quest. I know that I’m supposed to feel ashamed about this, like it’s some kind of disease or addiction, and I’ve also heard that playing games was somehow beneath the “true” writers…

Well, let me tell you that this is a lot of bull. And I’m not ashamed. I love playing games, and I don’t see how that is bad. In fact, I think that games help develop our creativity and imagination.

In our day and age, there are numerous ways to share a story with the audience, and the novel is only one of them. In fact, I must admit that I have encountered some of the best-told stories not in books, but on TV or in computer games.

In fact, I think that those stories stay with you longer than those in books, probably because in a book, you are reading about a character living that story, but in a game, you are that character, so you are living that story yourself. This is especially true for the MMORPGs where you start by creating your own unique character that grows and discovers the world, and eventually becomes important enough to influence it as well.

That’s why I wanted to talk about a few of the games that I consider truly memorable, at least for me.

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I have played Baldur’s Gate (in all its incarnations) and Neverwinter Nights, but the game that remember the most is Planescape: Torment. I loved the story in that game and the grim, a bit depressing atmosphere. Imagine waking up in a morgue, with no memory of who you are and just a talking skull for a companion? Stumbling through this strange and alien world, trying to piece together your memories, meeting people who knew you before, and whose lives you changed, for better or for worse, and not being able to remember them? Yes, that’s Planescape: Torment.

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Another game that still remains a favorite of mine is Final Fantasy VII. I have played all of the Final Fantasies, but the 7th one will always have a special place in my heart. It has a lot to do with the complex world and the engaging characters, but also with the best villain I’ve ever seen in games, TV or books. You can read my blog post about him, if you are interested. And I think that all the fans of Final Fantasy VII also need to play Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, which is kind of a prequel, telling the story of Zack, Aerith, Sephiroth and what really happened in Nibelhelm.

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I am not a big fan of survival or horror games. I’ve never played Resident Evil or any of its clones, but there is one game that shook me to the very core and it’s Silent Hill 2. Maybe because the story behind it is not the usual “shoot them up” horror, and the town of Silent Hill, although full of monsters, is haunted by the character’s own feeling of guilt and regret. After all, you play this game as a man who received a letter from his long-dead wife and comes to Silent Hill to find her… And the soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka is the best I’ve heard in a video game before or since.

Another one of my favorites is Final Fantasy X. It’s a wonderful story of courage and determination, where the characters have to often make hard choices in order to save those they care about… I admit that it’s the last game in the Final Fantasy franchise that I liked. The rest of them were… not very memorable.

But all those games thought me something about how to tell a good story, or about how to create tridimensional and memorable characters, or that having a complex villain is essential for a good story. I am a better writer because of them, so no, I’m not ashamed that I am a gamer. I’m glad.

So, are any of you gamers as well? What games influenced you? Made you laugh, or cry, or pause and think about the meaning of life? Or just gave you a few hours of good time when you were so absorbed in the story, that the real world ceased to exist for bit?

The Deep by Nick Cutter.

Stars: 3 out of 5.

 

I am hard-pressed to grade this book, because I loved it… until I didn’t. And that “didn’t” came in the last 1/3 of the book, including the ending.

 

The premise of The Deep is very promising. There is an incurable disease called the GETS that slowly kills people. First you start forgetting little things like where you put your keys or the name of your boyfriend in high school, then you forget more essential things like how to feed yourself, until you forget how to breath or your heart forgets to beat. It’s always lethal and nobody knows what causes it. But there might be hope for humanity. A substance has been discovered deep in the Mariana Trench that might be able to cure the GETS. A group of scientists had been lowered down to study it in a high tech habitat called the Trieste. Only the base station above has lost contact with Trieste several days ago, and then a horribly broken body of one of the scientists surfaced in the bathyscaphe that had been attached to the habitat. Two people are sent down to investigate what happened. They will face more than just crazy scientists and the crushing pressure of the depths.

 

As I said, I started really liking what I was reading. Loved the main characters and the world Nick Cutter built. Can’t say anything bad about the language either. I read the first 2/3 of the book in two days. It took me a whole week to finally bring myself to finish it. But I need to mention that I don’t think it’s because the last third of the book is bad. I think it’s just that I really didn’t agree with the choices the author made and what he made his characters do.

 

Without going into details, because that would be a huge spoiler, but I don’t think anyone would make the choice the protagonist makes in the end, no matter how crazy they become. There is no mistaking that evil thing for his son. Sorry that’s just not plausible.

 

I have two other gripes with this book.

 

The first one is also deeply personal and might not put off other readers. But for me, there were way too many flashbacks in this book. I understand that they are necessary and an important part of the story, and that the reader wouldn’t understand what’s going on without at least some of them. But they are just too long! And they break the narrative, killing the suspense. I mean one chapter we are on board of the positively creepy Trieste and the tension can be cut with a knife… and then we have a whole chapter about the day the protagonist’s son disappeared. Once we come back to the Trieste, the tension is gone, flushed down the drain.

 

My second gripe is how the characters behave. I mean they are both smart people, they both come to the realization that weird s%&t is happening on board of that station, and that they are more susceptible to it when they are alone. So why oh why do they think that separating and wandering off on their own is a good idea? And why did the author use that tired old trope from every bad slasher / horror movie ever? Especially if bad stuff repeatedly happens when they do it, surely after the third time they would have worked out that staying together might be wiser?

 

*Deep breath*

 

So to summarize, it’s a well-written book with an interesting story. Some of the things in it didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work for other readers. So I would say, if you like horror, you should give The Deep a try.

PS. This review is for an advanced copy I got from NetGalley.