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Cover Reveal: The Phoenix Variant (The Fifth Column, #3) by Nathan M. Farrugia

Posted August 1, 2014 by

Sophia: former black operative, current enemy of the state.

Moments before a catastrophic hurricane hits New York City, a terrorist attack vaporizes a museum and a large chunk of the Upper West Side. Almost caught in the explosion, Sophia gives chase to a suspicious figure running from the blast zone.

Amid the chaos, Sophia recovers a rare meteorite from a black operative and is quickly ensnared in a hunt between clashing factions of a labyrinthine covert government known as the Fifth Column.

The meteorite contains traces of the ancient Phoenix virus. The effects of the virus are unknown to Sophia, but she soon discovers it is more powerful than she dared imagine – and that the Fifth Column will stop at nothing to get it.

Unarmed and outnumbered, Sophia and her allies hurtle towards a confrontation that will determine not only their fate but that of all humanity.

The PHOENIX VARIANT goes on sale August 14th where all good ebooks are sold. You can also preorder!

Cover Reveal: The Foundation by Steve P.Vincent

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He who holds the pen holds the power.

9781760081911_Foundation_cover

When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation’s deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack’s boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation’s plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack’s the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it’s too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.

The Foundation goes on sale on the 11th of September 2014 where all good ebooks are sold. Or you can preorder it now!

Why The Hobbit films deserve more credit

Posted July 31, 2014 by

In among all the announcements, releases, rumours and tidbits of hearsay from Comic-Con was this quote from Peter Jackson, about the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies:

I’ve always wanted to make [these movies] work as a six-film set. The goal at the beginning was to have the Hobbit go tonally [into] Fellowship, and then [progresses] into Return of the King.

This is important. It’s important because not only is the upcoming film the last in The Hobbit trilogy, it will also undoubtedly be the last time anything of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth stories is adapted for the screen – at least in our lifetime. But this doesn’t seem to inspire the excitement and enthusiasm the series once did, especially since The Lord of the Rings was seen as a vital boost to not just fantasy cinema, but epic cinema, and genre storytelling told with depth and seriousness on screen.

So why the puzzling, middling ambivalence about The Battle of Five Armies? Why is Peter Jackson increasingly viewed as a green-screen obsessed oddity instead of the benign film geek he was after he collected Best Director at the Academy Awards? Why are we not that fussed that this series is reaching its end, even if we still go to see it in the droves?

(At last look, both Hobbit films made about $1 billion each, surpassing both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.)

1. The length

This is an easy target.

It’s not an issue of length. Most were okay with the LotR films being three hours-plus, whereas the Hobbit films are shorter than that. It’s just an issue of length in comparison with the source material.

Taking The Lord of the Rings books at around 1500 pages adapted into three films of just over 180 minutes each, suggests that the two released Hobbit films at around 160 minutes each is a bit extravagant, especially considering The Hobbit is just one book not three, and is only around 350 pages long.

Basic maths: The Lord of the Rings adapts one page every 36 seconds, whereas The Hobbit films are averaging about a page per 97 seconds.

To people this appears as if Jackson is taking his time (an extra minute of screen time per page) in adapting this second trilogy, which was never a trilogy in the first place.

And clearly there is some inflation going on in this adaptation, I’m not going to try and argue otherwise. But come on. Adaptation is not basic maths, nor is it long equals long and short equals short. We should instead be marvelling at how he managed to reduce 1500 pages into only 600 minutes of screen time.

Jackson (and Del Toro before him, when he was at the helm) had always flagged The Hobbit to be more than one film, given the slightness of the original book and the richness of surrounding material, like the Appendices. While LotR is ostensibly Frodo’s story, it jumps around in perspective and gives you the view of many characters at many places in Middle Earth. The Hobbit is Bilbo’s story, but remains so.

For any person adapting this story to the screen, especially coming off the bankroll of a successful trilogy, limiting one’s scope and vision (and box office) to a slimline two-hour bit of triviality is pointless. This was never going to happen. The only way this film would work is if the stakes in The Hobbit were as meaningful as those raised in LotR. And that can only happen by increasing the magnitude of the story.

2. The direction

Peter Jackson’s style has developed rapidly since Fellowship was first released, to the point where even Viggo Mortensen (who really owes a hell of a lot of Jackson) came out and criticised the director for his reliance on green screens and computer-generated effects.

And this may be true, in terms of content. Certainly the use of Weta Digital’s effects has ballooned since the first film, with King Kong and The Lovely Bones sandwiched in the middle of the Tolkien adaptations. But so too has Jackson’s ability.

Go back and watch Fellowship’s CGI. Look at the poorly rendered depths of Moria and the mattes of Isengard and Rivendell that don’t quite sit in the filmed footage. The seams are noticeable. And while there were some indulgences of effects in the first Hobbit film – the goblins, mainly – they are largely brief and comical, something the source material requires. In the second Hobbit film, there’s a leap in quality again, particularly in the barrel riding sequence, which I don’t think has quite gained the recognition it deserves for what the camera and the effects manage to achieve.

On top of this is Gollum. With one hand we praise Jackson’s CGI-use, and the other slay him. We can’t have one without the other. Compare Gollum in The Hobbit to Jar Jar Binks. Okay. That’s all.

3. The tone

These films were always going to battle against triviality and redundancy. So is the nature of prequels that arrive after we’ve digested the main story.  When LotR dealt with absolute evil to ruin everything, and its eventual vanquishing, The Hobbit is only going to be less in comparison.

Additionally, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for his very young children. He wrote LotR for them once they were grown. There are noticeable leaps in tone and style between the two (to the point where Tolkien himself changed future edits to more seamlessly match the two), particularly in intended audience. Were we seriously going to allow the films to be targeted to audiences 10 and under?

Changes had to be made, a seriousness and gravity needed to be included. And that isn’t really contained in some of the main narrative, particularly early, so that brings in the need for Gandalf’s story, Galadriel and Saruman’s inclusion, the ramping up of the stakes with Dol Guldur, Azog, even the bloody elves.

Getting back to Jackson’s comment above about making the six films work together, to flow organically so that the tone gradually shifts rather than suddenly (something the Star Wars franchise needs to take lessons on), the meandering pace of the first Hobbit film, combined with the increased side-plots in the second, show that there is a grand plan of tying them all together to make one narrative here, the likes of which we haven’t seen before.

When the first Hobbit film was released, I was reluctant to speculate too much on some of the changes, since they might appear entirely logical and necessary when seen in the context of the full trilogy. Many elements of these films need that consideration, given the enormous scope Jackson is offering.

All the inclusions and additions of the Hobbit films are important when seen in light of the LotR films. Without them, The Hobbit story is one that only has one connecting element to LotR – the ring – and that’s dispensed with very early on. Everything else is tangential, unless connections are drawn. And it takes inventive adapting to do that.

Imagine being a young child able to watch the first Hobbit film, with its singing and juggling dwarves, and then follow the journey all the way through to Frodo sailing off to the West. It’s an enormous story, and difficult to judge on a film-by-film basis.Far be it from me to try and change your mind if you didn’t enjoy The Hobbit films already released. Hopefully, though, there’s some reason in here that might make you see the third – and then all six – in a different light.

Excerpt: DARK CHILD (COVENS RISING): EPISODE 5 by ADINA WEST

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“We are a proud people, from an ancient lineage. We may be lovers of peace, but we know when to fight for it!” Imara raised her fist. “You wondered if the people who hurt you will pay for it? Hear me now. They will pay.”

This title is the fifth novella-length episode of Dark Child (Covens Rising), which will conclude the series. Please visit momentumbooks.com.au for further information.

Chapter 46
Kat watched her grandmother’s car disappear down the long driveway and into the night. Imara’s visit and her shocking disclosures had left her with a few new problems and many unanswered questions. Undoubtedly, she’d find out more at this family gathering Imara was taking her to tomorrow.

She brought herself back to the here and now with a sigh, and realized Dominic had come to stand by her shoulder.

“You and Gianni. What was that about?” Kat asked, without turning to look at him.

“I would never intentionally keep anything from you that you needed to know, Kat. I hope you believe that. This just … wasn’t relevant until now.”

“And now that it’s become relevant … ” She trailed off, waiting for him to finish the sentence.

“Gianni’s my brother.”

“You have a brother who’s pushing sixty?”

“Actually, he’s my younger brother. Ten years younger.”

Kat nodded. “Of course. He’s human, and you’re not.”

“Yeah.”

“So, your human brother, who just happens to have a Tabérin brother and uncle, works for my grandmother, who I’ve just been told is the leading light in witch society?”

“Of course it’s not a coincidence. All the parties involved know about it, and always have. My uncle’s job required him to develop a vast network of contacts and allegiances, many of whom I doubt anyone at the Directorate ever knew of. Placing Gianni with your grandmother was one of his long-term plays. Gianni has been an extremely devoted servant to your grandmother for many years; his family connections have not impacted upon his loyalty to her. And, from what I hear, your grandmother has always liked the idea of having a direct connection to a Tabérin powerbroker at her fingertips. Of being able to control exactly what information was made available through Gianni. My uncle always knew of you and your brothers, but his interest in you sharpened only when he realized you had Tabérin blood. That was very recently.”

“Anything else I need to know?”

“That’s all.”

She remembered his earlier comment about relevance, and decided to rephrase her question. “Is there anything at all that you’re not telling me, Dominic? Anything that perhaps you think I don’t need to know?”

The look on his face told her he’d resolved on telling her the whole truth, no matter what, and her question made him honor bound to reveal something he’d have preferred to withhold. “I … I want you to feed from me like you have from the others. And I very much want to kiss you.” He glanced down at her. “You asked!”

“I meant anything else you had to tell me about your uncle, Ionescu. You know I did.”

He shrugged. “What I said was still the truth.” He gave a gusty sigh. “Don’t worry, you’ve never done anything to make me think I really had a chance. You’re friendly to everyone.”

Whoa, major déjà vu. Her brothers had said something very similar to her when she’d laughed at their assertion that she was popular with the guys. Maybe she made a habit of pushing people who wanted more from her firmly back into the friends zone. Was that what she was doing with Dominic? He’d told her more than once that he had feelings for her, and she’d been dismissive both times.

“We didn’t exactly start on the right footing, did we, Dominic?”

He winced. “No.”

“What you did in New York cast a cloud over our next meeting, but I want you to know that I do believe you’ve changed. Otherwise … ” she held up her left wrist to display his bracelet alongside the others, “ … I wouldn’t trust you. Right?”

Her words seemed to give him hope. He took her hand, and swung her around to face him. “Don’t overlook me then, Kat. When I consider the fact that you’ve turned to Jonathan over me to meet your most basic personal needs, and he’s not a quarter of the man I am, it makes me feel like the most self-deluded … ”

“Darn it, Jonathan! I knew I was forgetting something. Where is he?”

Dominic dropped her hand and flung his hands wide with a frustrated curse. “Case in point!”

“Dominic, no! I’m sorry I interrupted you, that wasn’t supposed to sound the way it … ”

“Your precious Jonathan,” Dominic said with venomous solicitude, “is off somewhere hunting with the big guy, Corrin. I saw him earlier in the kitchen. Della seems to have him convinced that he’ll be most useful to you, and to us all, if he learns some actual skills besides bartending.”

“Good. I just needed to know he was safe because I’m responsible for him, Dominic.” She only realized how much they’d raised their voices when Luc came strolling around the corner and across the lawn toward them. He stopped a few feet away, and gave Dominic an insolent look before turning to her.

“Everything okay, chérie?”

“Yes, thank you, Luc.” She spoke with quiet dignity, and gave him a calm smile for good measure. “I’m going inside now.” She took a few steps, and then turned back to glare at Dominic. “You coming?”

She led him to a deserted antechamber with nice, thick stone walls, and, for good measure, closed the solid timber door.

“Now, listen to me, Dominic. There is not, and never will be, anything of a romantic nature between Jonathan and me. One of the main reasons I fed from him was because he knew it wasn’t about anything other than that. I was weak with hunger, and he was available. I won’t be feeding from him again, because, as you so eloquently explained back in Paris, I was taking too much. Jonathan won’t tell me to stop when I need to stop. So that, I hope, is that subject dealt with.”

Dominic gave a tight nod.

“On to the subject of Kat and her romantic entanglements.” She let out a frustrated sigh. “Obviously, I’m giving off the world’s most potent pheromones, or something similar. I’m enough of a scientist to have worked that out. Because the number of men I’ve had throwing themselves at me lately, and promising me their eternal and undying devotion is, quite frankly, off-the-scale ridiculous.”

“Your modesty is what I find most enchanting,” Dominic said.

She held up her hand in a ‘stop’ motion.

“Sorry.” Dominic gave an urbane smile. “You were saying?”

“If I were a different sort of girl,” Kat said with dangerous calm, “I might just take you all up on what you’re offering, and become some promiscuous blood-drunk Tabérin witch-queen. I could play my favorites off against each other. Provoke fights. Add more conflict to a world already in turmoil. Does that paint an attractive picture?”

Dominic’s face fell. “Not really.”

“At least we agree on that,” Kat said. “My world is being rocked by new changes every day, Dominic. So much so, that sometimes I feel like my head is spinning, and it’s all I can do to stay sane. Though everything else in my life is being turned upside down, I know I can trust in my values – the ones I had before all this started. The ones that tell me to treat others with respect. To give voice and a hearing to those without. To free the suffering and oppressed. To be generous, and kind, and responsible. To do the thing that’s right, not necessarily the thing that’s easy. Or at least, I’ll try to. Am I making any sense here?”

Every trace of levity and pique was gone from Dominic’s face. He appeared sober and even, perhaps, ashamed. “I’ve never had a code to live by,” he said quietly. “My uncle taught me to live by his code, but I didn’t share it. What you just said … it was spoken like a true leader.” He took a hesitant step toward her, and suddenly dropped to his knees. “I think I’ve found my code. My cause to live for.” He raised his face. “I don’t know how this is done, and I’m not sure that you’ll consider me worthy, but I want to pledge my allegiance. My fealty. I … I’ve heard the elders talk of it, but I don’t know the right words to say.”

That makes two of us. As usual, her helpful mind-dwelling presence was nowhere in evidence. It seemed Kat was on her own this time. “I accept your oath,” she said solemnly. It didn’t seem like enough, so she lightly touched his head with the palm of her hand.

Dominic looked up at her, surprised. “That’s it?”

“I might have been more … poetic the last time I did this.” She could see from his face that, on his knees or not, her moment of reprieve was over, and he was about to come out with some variety of smart comment. “Perhaps you should swear fealty to me again next week,” she added with a touch of acid. “I’ll have time to prepare a speech.”

Dominic lowered his head, looking slightly chastened, but she caught the hint of a smile too. “Witch or not, you will make a wonderful empress.” He rose to his feet. “I apologize for my earlier behavior. I was being selfish. I didn’t mean to add to your troubles.” He leaned close enough that his lips brushed her ear, and whispered. “I do still want to kiss you, though.” And then he slipped out of the room.

Kat stood alone for a moment. Her head was doing some kind of whirly-gig act. She was hungry, and she was tired. With a sigh, she went looking for Akilina.

She found her aunt in her bedchamber, and brought her up to date on the events concerning the other side of her family. The elder took the news that Kat’s grandmother was a powerful coven leader surprisingly calmly. Much more calmly than Kat had. The fact that she’d been born into a long line of witches, and the ramifications this might have, was still swirling around in her head.

“You are a powerful hybrid indeed, then, Katerina,” Akilina said. “Part Tabérin and part witch. Your strong family connection to the witch community is very fortunate. With tensions so high between our two peoples, you are in a unique position to keep the lines of communication open so that diplomacy can prevail. At least that would give us hope that there might be an opportunity to broker peace.” She shook her head sadly. “I fear our history with the Families of Power has not always been a peaceful one, so, despite centuries of truce, they mistrust us still. Small wonder that the covens are rising; though they may be misattributing his intent, the Vodas’s actions have left them little choice.”

Kat wasn’t sure she shared her aunt’s belief that she’d be able to bring the current conflict to a peaceful end single-handedly. Scary how alike the views expressed by both the powerful women in her life were, though. Both Imara and Akilina saw an opportunity for her to act as a go-between, but, given her own inexperience and the way the two groups seemed to feel about each other, the whole thing sounded like a recipe for disaster.

“I wonder.” Akilina paused, head cocked. “Could it be your mother’s bloodline that has contributed to your facility with channeling the energies? You’ve certainly mastered a surprising number of skills without proper instruction. Remember, though, that your first allegiance must be to your Tabérin people. If you choose to accompany your grandmother to this gathering she mentioned, you must be accompanied by your own security. Your grandmother needn’t know about that.”

Kat decided wisely that now wasn’t the time to argue that particular point, and went on to tell Akilina about her conversation with Char. “I think she might have been a little reluctant to talk to you directly about this, but I wondered if I could leave you with the task of welcoming them and providing the injured boy with whatever he needs? It’s been a long day – and eventful evening – for me, and I really need to sleep. If the boy needs healing, perhaps you and Anton could help him.”

“Certainly.” Akilina inclined her head. “Consider it done. Now, you must go and get some rest.”

Kat went straight back to her room, sending a mental call to Amarok on the way. I need you now. Are you free?

He reached her room moments after she did, and immediately crossed to where she sat on the bed. “Kat, you’re shaking.” He sat beside her. “From what I gather, you’ve been using powers that are very new to you somewhat indiscriminately. It has exhausted you. Just feed now. I’ll put you to bed afterwards.”

Kat slipped her shoes off. “Thank you,” she whispered, as her hands rose to his shoulders. Her eyes closed, and she let him guide her head gently into position, and fixed her lips to the flow. It was at once heady and comforting, this blood, this wondrous elixir that could replenish and soothe, invigorate and heal. It was food and medicine, and everything good, in perfect synergy.

As the tingling warmth spread through her, she let the day’s worries fall away, and sank into a blissful nothingness.

*

Kat woke briefly sometime before dawn, in her bed, with an unexpected weight on her back. She twisted her head to find not Amarok, but Alek lying beside her, breathing steadily, with one arm thrown over her. She lay her head back down, and closed her eyes. That was one thing she definitely liked about him, against her better judgment. Alek wasn’t timid. No waiting for permission – he just went right ahead and did whatever he felt like doing. It was up to her to tell him to go away – if she chose to.

This time, she didn’t choose to. She felt safer having him there. Strange that he still made her so nervous when they were together and she was awake. He was very restful to be around when either or both of them were asleep. She lay for a moment pondering that, and then quickly slid back into slumber.

Cover Reveal – Crowded House: Something So Strong

Posted July 30, 2014 by

‘It’s pretty stupid comparing us to the Beatles. There were four of them. There’s only three of us.’ — Paul Hester

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Crowded House promised to become the most successful band ever to have come out of Australasia. When ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ and ‘Something So Strong’ exploded in the US charts, worldwide success looked inevitable. Critics compared them musically to the Beatles and fans adored them for their warmth and humour on stage. Four brilliant albums later, their rollercoaster ride of achievements and disappointments came to an end on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, in front of one of the largest audiences in Australian history. The dream was over, the band had finally broken up, their enormous promise was only partially fulfilled.

In this definitive account, New Zealand journalist Chris Bourke has written the true story of Crowded House. With unparalleled access to all the band members, their families, friends, musical collaborators, managers, and record company personnel, he has captured their essence. It is a unique tale of musical chemistry, family bonds and the personal costs of pursuing an artistic vision.

From the manic energy of the recording studio to the machinations of the record industry, this riveting account is a book for every Crowded House fan. This latest edition of Crowded House: Something So Strong includes new material from the author.

Crowded House: Something So Strong is available for preorder now.

The path to publication II: The big issues

Posted July 29, 2014 by

Today we’re joined by Momentum author Steve P. Vincent, whose political thriller The Foundation will be published in September. You can find more of his articles on his website or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

So Moses parted the Red Sea, eh? Well, splitting that big puddle is nothing compared to the ocean of red I’ve dived into with nothing but a spear gun in my hand and a steely determination to slay bad stuff in my heart. Probably some pants, too.

So brings us to Path to Publication II: The big issues (click here for the first instalment). In short, I’m tracing the journey of publication for my book, The Foundation, from the pitch right through to release.

In this instalment (and the next), I’ll be dealing with the editing process.

The process

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Editing. It’s a magical ride when someone you’ve met once takes hold of something you’ve worked on for years. You need to trust that they’ll be respectful of the story and they need to trust that you’ll not be a moron about sensible suggestions.

I’d never done this before, so to set the scene, I asked the editing boss at Momentum, Tara Goedjen, how the editing process works at Momentum:

“At Momentum we like to think of the editorial process as a conversation. We enjoy meeting with our authors and want them to know that an edit isn’t a slashfest with a red pen, it’s a dialogue between writer and editor on suggestions and ideas for improvement.

For each manuscript, the publisher and I discuss the global issues that need to be addressed and select a copyeditor who we think will be a good fit. Then, depending upon whether a heavy or light edit is required, we either comment directly on the manuscript or include our notes in the brief.

Once the edit’s ready, I send it to the author, who is encouraged to come to me with any editorial questions along the way… Or, of course, just to talk things through.”

The arrival

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About the time I finished reading The Road I got an email from Tara. The timing seemed ominous given The Road is about a man and boy wandering through a wasteland. I was hoping Tara and Kylie (my editor) didn’t feel the same reading my book.

Turns out they didn’t! They both loved it. But that didn’t mean I was spared because, along with lots of ego boosting praise, the email from Tara contained a few documents. The most important were a letter from Kylie and a marked up copy of the manuscript.

I thought about sharing the letter, but it is very detailed, and I decided I didn’t want the plot to be spoiled for anyone who is reading this series and might buy the book. I need that coffee, after all. Instead, the gist of the letter was basically Kylie saying:

  • I love the book.
  • It only needed a light edit.
  • I edited it in this way.
  • But there’s some stuff that needs fixing.

So with a trembling hand, I clicked the button that would unleash the editorial Deathstar upon The Foundation. But instead of a giant manuscript shattering laser, what I got was respectful, insightful and damn fine work.

The big issue(s)

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No, not a very worthwhile magazine sold on city streets, but the things that needed some fixing.

What I found interesting was the collegiate approach to finding and fixing these issues. Kylie had input, Tara had input and, much to my surprise, there were also some comments from Momentum’s publisher and Grand Poobah, Joel Naoum.

I’d assumed that he’d be too busy standing at his desk, drinking cocktails and crushing the dreams of interns beneath the Manuscript Monday pile to have time to input, but there it was. The issues they’d found, and the suggestions to fix them, were impressive.

Lesson 4: Your editor is not some monster hoping to rip up your manuscript, dampen your explosions or lessen the torture dealt out to your protagonist. They love your book. Listen to them. They’re smart, respectful and they work their arse off to make your book better. They can also see the massive, manuscript killing holes that you’ve missed until now and that make you feel a little bit silly.

There were three big issues:

  • The timing of the book was entirely implausible, all because I wanted one key scene to fit. That’s now fixed and the book is better and more believable for it. I lost my scene but gained plausibility. A fair trade.
  • My main antagonist, Michelle Dominique, is ace, but her motivations needed a tune-up. As a result she’s gone to a whole new level of conspiratorial nasty awesomeness and the stakes in the back end of the book are now a whole lot higher.
  • Some technobabble that I’d got wrong, which I now think is less wrong. I’m not entirely sure about this, so I wait in fear for the first review that says ‘YOU STUFFED UP THE TECHNOBABBLE. ZERO STARS.’

So, with input digested, I got to work on the marked up manuscript. None of these big issues were killers. I shifted some dates, cracked open an extra can of nasty for Michelle and rebabbled the technobabble. What? A lesson?

Lesson 5: This one isn’t exclusive to the path to publication, but I’m writing it anyway. DISTANCE, MAN. After not having looked at a word of The Foundation for four months, going back to it was eye opening. I still had the granular understanding of the characters, plot threads and the mana that holds the story together, but with the added benefit of actually being able to see the words. That helps when writing a book.

With the big tangles untangled, I turned my attention to the harder bit: A whole lot of bright red tracked changes.

Join me next time for a peek at my poor, naked manuscript with red splashed over it.

Cover Reveal – Dark Child (Covens Rising): Omnibus Edition

Posted July 28, 2014 by

We’ve shown you the covers of episodes 1-5, and now we’re revealing the cover of the Dark Child (Covens Rising): Omnibus Edition.

9781760081805_Dark Child Covens Rising Omnibus_cover

Kat Chanter isn’t your ordinary girl. And she isn’t your ordinary vampire, either. The ruthless Directorate would go to any lengths to have her power – including murder. And when that leads to a war between races, Kat’s fate becomes the ultimate prize …

Kat is done with being on the run, or so she hopes. A new pathology job in Paris is her big chance to start afresh, far from the Tabérin Directorate who want her dead. Sure, adjusting to life as a half-vampire, half-human hybrid poses its own challenges, but it’s nothing Kat can’t handle … until the past starts to catch up with her.

Teenage loner Ben is also hiding his hybrid bloodlines and a troubled history with the Directorate. His growing involvement with Yara, the most popular girl in the senior class at his school, exposes secrets that place them both in mortal danger.

Because the Vodas, the all-powerful leader of the Directorate, has made eradicating hybrids like Kat and Ben his obsession. And as his methods grow more extreme, it’s not just his own people, the vampiric Tabérin, who plot to overthrow him. Another ancient and arcane power stirs. One that could threaten them all …

The covens are rising.

Perfect for fans of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, Dark Child (Covens Rising) is the highly anticipated sequel to the best-selling urban fantasy novel Dark Child (The Awakening).

This title is the collected episodes of Dark Child (Covens Rising). Please visit momentumbooks.com.au for further information.

Dark Child (Covens Rising): Omnibus Edition will be available August 8th where all good ebooks are sold

 

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Go back to where it all began with Dark Child (Awakening): Episode 1 available now for FREE where all good ebooks are sold

Stephen King’s advice to writers

Posted July 25, 2014 by

Stephen King gives the best advice about writing. No kidding. Here you go:

On where ideas come from (1):

‘Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.’

On where ideas come from (2):

‘So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.’

On taking your work seriously:

‘You must not come lightly to the blank page. It’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business.’

On distractions:

‘If possible, there should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades, unless it looks at a blank wall. For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction. When you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you not? Of course you do. When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.’

The_Stand_cover

On drafting a story (1):

‘When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.’ John Gould, writer and editor of Lisbon’s weekly newsletter, who employed King when he was a teenager.

On drafting a story (2):

‘Gould said something else that was interesting on the day I turned in my first two pieces: write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right – as right as you can, anyway – it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticise it. If you’re lucky, more will want to do the former than the latter.’

On drafting a story (3):

‘In the spring of my senior year at Lisbon High I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%. Good luck.

On writing what you know:

‘Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work. Especially work. People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do. If you’re a plumber who enjoys science fiction, you might well consider a novel about a plumber aboard a starship or on an alien planet.’

On reading:

‘There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words–the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.’

On self-awareness:

‘I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.’

On perseverance:

‘Running a close second [as a writing lesson] was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.’

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On thesaurus abuse:

‘One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.’

On passive and active sentences:

‘The timid fellow writes The meeting will be held at seven o’clock because that someone says to him ‘Put it this way and people will believe you really know.’ Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulder, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write The meeting’s at seven. There, by God! Don’t you feel better?’

On adverbs:

‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.’

On Swifties:

‘Don’t do these things. Please oh please.’

On dialogue:

‘While to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine.’

On sending your work out:

‘Submitting stories without first reading the market is like playing darts in a dark room – you might hit the target every now and then, but you don’t deserve to.’

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And possibly my favourite bit of advice about writing ever:

On why we write:

‘Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.

Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.

Drink and be filled up.’

Excerpt: DARK CHILD (COVENS RISING): EPISODE 4 by Adina West

Posted July 24, 2014 by
Kat brought her eyes back to Amber. “Am I still in danger?” she blurted. 
      “Of course you are.”
An unexpected visit from Kat’s grandmother adds a shocking twist to the unfolding mystery of her hybrid heritage. Add to this a romantic tangle of epic proportions and Kat’s visit to Akilina’s chateau in the idyllic Loire Valley is shaping up to be anything but relaxing. 
Kat’s powers are growing, and with war between the races looming new alliances are being forged. And everyone, it seems, wants Kat on their side …
This title is the fourth novella-length episode of Dark Child (Covens Rising), which will conclude with Episode 5. Please visit momentumbooks.com.au for further information.

Chapter 35

Kat woke to birdsong. The morning light streamed through a tall open window; a tasseled cord held back brocade curtains. Though Alek’s sable rug lay tumbled across the foot of the bed, the sheets and coverlet were crisp and unfamiliar, the room surrounding her equally so. She had a vague – very vague – memory of being carried downstairs from Sabine’s apartment by Alek, and being transported out of Paris by car. So this must be Akilina’s château. Her aunt hadn’t refused her entry, despite their disagreement last night – which, now she came to think of it, had probably been caused mostly by her being in a rotten mood because she was hungry and overtired. Right now, none of it seemed important enough to fight about. Akilina had one set of beliefs and Kat had another. Maybe they didn’t mesh, but it was hardly the end of the world. She stretched, yawned, and looked around.

There, on the other side of her bed, lying full length on top of the covers, was a familiar giant cougar. He regarded her sleepily through half-closed eyes, and when he saw her looking at him, started to make a rough, throaty rumbling noise. He was … he was actually purring.

She reached out to smooth her hand over the thick fur on his head, and he closed his eyes again, and nestled his head into the spare pillow. So Alek had found a way to stay past dawn, exactly as he’d promised. Funny to think how, only a short time ago, she’d found him terrifying in his cougar form. Now that she knew he wasn’t a wild animal and she was in no danger of being eaten alive, she was almost more comfortable with him when he was like this.

Kat pushed back the covers, and slid her legs out of the bed. Her bare legs. Her t-shirt, bra and panties were all there but her jeans definitely weren’t. She glanced back at Alek, but his eyes were closed, and the golden brown fur on his back rose and fell with his regular breaths. Any bet, it was Alek who’d stripped off her jeans before putting her to bed. Luckily, that was all he’d taken off. She’d been seriously out of it last night. She didn’t even remember arriving here. Being so dependent on others, so vulnerable, was frustrating as hell. She’d no doubt be rediscovering the joys of claustrophobic restrictions on her movements now the attacks on hybrids that Ionescu had predicted had begun in North America. Her protectors would be back on alert again.

Kat found her clothes, including her neatly folded jeans, in an armoire against the wall, and she changed her underwear and dressed quickly with a wary eye on Alek. At least she was feeling good this morning. More than good. Alek’s blood obviously packed more of a punch than Jonathan’s, which probably made sense. He was older and, from everything she’d seen, definitely more powerful.

When fully dressed, she went to stand by the bed. Alek opened one eye a crack to survey her. Not asleep then.

“I thought I’d go exploring,” she said. “I’ll be fine on my own, given it’s daytime and all.”

She expected a protest but he just rolled his head to the side and gazed at her sleepily. A pretty clear body-language signal that he didn’t mind what she did. “You don’t seem worried about me going wandering by myself.” She paused to eye him speculatively. Only last night he’d been the one telling Akilina she had to be moved out of Paris without delay. So why wasn’t he protesting against her leaving his sight? Kat rubbed her wrist absent-mindedly, moving her bracelets up and down. She frowned, then looked down at the one Luc had given her last night. On impulse, she covered it with her hand, pressing it into her skin. And then she could sense them out there, like pinpricks of light in her consciousness. Most of the Paris unalil were spaced evenly to form a distant perimeter around the house. The rest were in a group somewhere outside.

Kat rolled her eyes. “Let me take a wild guess. This entire place is ringed by unalil on guard duty, isn’t it?”

Alek answered with an expression that was probably a cougar’s version of a grin.

Kat shook her head with annoyed resignation, before heading for the door.

As she walked down the wide stone hallway, a memory returned to tickle her mind. Alek had said something to Akilina last night. Something about the others coming back. So, hopefully, that meant Alek’s unalil family were all here somewhere, even Amarok. Yesterday, for a brief moment on the train, she was sure their minds had touched. Was it really possible she had contacted Amarok somehow, even though he’d been hundreds of miles away? A sudden pang of homesickness rushed through her, a need for something familiar. Kat closed her eyes with that thought running strongly through her mind, and immediately sensed another, brighter spark.

She had no idea whether she was doing this mind-connection thing right, but sent a thought toward that familiar energy source. Amarok?

Waiting for you to wake up.

The reply came so immediately that she couldn’t doubt it was really him. And he was close. By concentrating, she found she could trace a path toward him, through the quiet building. The place was huge. Already she’d climbed a staircase and passed dozens of closed doors, and the scale of the hallways and foyers she’d gone through gave her an image of how big the rooms inside must be.

She rounded a final corner, and found Amarok, in wolf form, lying across the doorway of a room. He jumped to his feet when he saw her.

“Hey!” She bent down to put her arms around him, and he nuzzled the curve of her neck. Kat gestured at the partially open door. “Is this Amber’s room?”

Amarok nudged her behind the knees, and she pushed the door open a little more and stepped into the darkness. She paused a moment so her eyes could adjust, then crossed to the bed she saw against the far wall. Amber was nestled beneath the blankets, sleeping. Her expression was peaceful, her features porcelain smooth. There was nothing pinched or gaunt about her anymore, and she’d been both when they’d first rescued her. Kat stood silently by the bed for a while, but Amber didn’t move. Her chest rose and fell, in unhurried rhythm, as she slept.

Kat left the room quietly, then turned to Amarok, who was still waiting outside. “She looks so much better!”

She wants to speak with you, tonight.

Kat nodded, and pulled the door back to its previous position, slightly ajar.

“Can we … is there somewhere we can talk?” she said.

Amarok nodded his shaggy head.

“Good.” She stretched out her hand, and he touched it with his nose. “I have to do something first, though.”

Kat led the way downstairs, to where she could feel the Parisian unalil grouped near the house.

“Do you mind waiting here?” she asked Amarok, and then opened the final door leading out to a walled courtyard abutting the château. It was paved in weathered stone, with beds of rosemary and other herbs in a formal pattern. On the many paths crisscrossing it, half a dozen giant dogs were sprawled, soaking up the sun and resting.

Kat stepped outside, and the nearest, a huge, shaggy Leonberger, jumped to his feet. This one she recognized; even though she’d only seen him out of the corner of her eye for a moment, flying through the air yesterday morning, he’d kind of stuck in her memory.

“Luc,” she said, with a nod of greeting. “Thank you all for coming here and protecting me. I’m sorry I don’t know everyone’s names. I guess I’ll get to know you all with time.” Kat frowned as a sudden thought came to her. “Unless … ” She covered their bracelet with her right hand, and pressed it into her skin. She felt it get warm as she pulled energy from the sunlight around them. As she focused on each stone in turn, she realized they each contained their own unique energy, and she could feel those sparks, like a signature attached to the being they were linked to. It made sense; from what Akilina had told her last night, each stone contained an individual drop of blood. She could sense each of them and call to them in her mind, individually or – for their energies were interlinked with each other, as they were with hers – as a pack.

Can you all hear me? Asking the question felt a bit silly, like saying “Testing, one two three … ” into the microphone in front of a half-filled auditorium.

A chorus of acknowledgments met her; French, and Karpat, and muted canine growls. It didn’t seem to matter. The eyes of each of the huge dogs in the courtyard were focused brightly on her, and she could sense the others out there were also listening, beneath their shady trees and sprawled on top of stone walls.

I know you now. I know you all. She touched the mind of each in turn, and their names came to her. There was Emeka, the big barrel-chested russet mastiff over beside the fountain. The chocolate-coated pointer lying alongside a bed of sage and thyme was Thierry, and, with his floppy ears, he certainly looked less fierce than some of the others. Like Guy, the black Rottweiler, and Jaouad, the black and fawn Doberman beside him, both watching her alertly, ears pricked. Each was solidly muscled and looked bred for attack. And then there was Stéphane, a Carpathian sheepdog, who rose to his feet and shook himself before trotting over to stand beside Luc. He looked immense, though maybe that was just because of his abundance of shaggy gray and black fur.

Far away on the property perimeter were Julien and Rémy, one a speckled black and white setter and the other a chestnut-colored Irish setter. There was Kwasi, a light brown ridgeback, and, finally, Marcel, a lanky gray wolfhound. From each, she could sense both gratitude and devotion.

I’m getting to know you unalil males. Kat let her humor shine through their connection. You tend to be the type to protect first, ask questions later. But you need to know what sort of threat we’re facing.

Then she let the images flow from her mind to theirs: the memories she had all but repressed, of her battle back in the White Mountains with the enhanced monsters from the laboratories beneath the Hema Castus, of their subsequent trip to Hema Castus, and of the emaciated trapped seers, and, finally, the building collapsing in on itself, in ruins.

You must all have heard about the attacks on Tabérin hybrids in America. We don’t know if or when the Directorate threat will find us here. But from something Luc said, I gather you all have your own history with them, and I’m asking you to remember that we are few, and you’re all valuable to me. Dont take unnecessary risks with your own safety to protect mine. We talk before we fight, and, as Ive shown you, when I need to, I can protect myself. Okay?

Again, a chorus of acknowledgments, tinged with respect this time. They’d heard rumors, heard part of the story, but most of what she’d shown them had been unknown to them.

As she finished, Luc separated himself from the rest. The big dog came right up to her, and bowed his shaggy head, butting his black nose gently against her leg. She could feel his approval of what she’d just shared. She hadn’t liked reliving some of those moments, but these males – however new to their roles – were now her inner circle. In a funny way, she felt, they were her ‘pack’. They wouldn’t respect her leadership without knowing what she was capable of, and given the critical nature of the threat they were facing, it was imperative that they work as a team.

As Luc raised his eyes to meet hers, she smiled, and ran her hand through the fur on his neck. There’s someone I’d like you all to meet.

“Amarok?” she called.

 

 

 

What makes a good bookshop?

Posted July 23, 2014 by

It’s a fair question, given the rate that bookshops both large and small seem to be either closing or suffering from the changing dynamics of book buying and reading.

And given that the large-scale bookshop behemoth model seems to have reached its natural conclusion and collapsed, we can deduce that enormity isn’t really what works. A bookshop doesn’t need to be the size of a small moon, complete with planet-destroying superweapons and tea-towels in the shape of Marcel Proust’s head. It just needs to sell books, and sell them well.

In a recent article, several architect firms were asked to design a bookshop, according to the brief, ‘to save bookshops’. This is a bit silly in one instance, in that it implies bookshops are dying out. Which isn’t true, they’re just changing. But the odd thing was, the proposed designs seemed a bit, well, dull. And trivial. Like when films set in the future come up with concepts that they think are brilliant but ultimately irrelevant and obsolete, like robot bartenders and fridges that talk to you.

The firms designed bookshops that had features like a glass screen façade with QR codes for downloads, vending machines of books, display screens for upcoming events and something called a ‘Harry Potter wonderwall of discovery’, which just sounds like the soundtrack to some weird JK Rowling fanfic. There’s also a design that includes a tree (because trees=paper=books? I don’t know), floating robots, and a stage where authors are literally treated like rock stars.

One of the designers even admits it’s all a bit pointless, as he declares there’s no point trying to save books when they’ll only become digitised, and treats his bookshop proposal as a kind of shrine to the soon-to-be obsolete paper book. A curiosity shop, then.

Hidden in these designs are a few more practical bits of advice: books that face outward so that the cover, rather than the spine, sells the book. They suggest books on long flat tables, rotating displays of featured genres, and the understanding that a bookshop should not just sell books, but become the focal point for events and happenings that surround the book industry.

But is that all? There’s nothing new there, nothing drastically innovative or earth-shattering to how good bookshops run these days.

In one of my highly scientific studies where I canvas the opinion of lovely people, most seemed to suggest the following for a bookshop:

  • Good and diverse books
  • Approachable and knowledgeable staff

Which does seem kind of obvious as well. But it goes to show just how much simple things translate to good business sense, at least in the customer’s eyes. While some people liked the idea of speciality bookshops, that catered to specific genres or readers, most seemed to agree that it was more difficult financially, and better to offer a diverse range across a range of styles and genres.

But by this point, some seemed to say certain bookshops have merely token nods towards genres. There are shelves that get short shrift, and have only the most obvious or clichéd titles on offer, which naturally drives those readers to alternative methods of procuring their books. It’s almost as if some shops will provide depth and quality in their own interest, but neglect others while pretending to include them. It’s that type of thing that doesn’t work. Better to specialise, or admit only certain readers are catered for, or do it all well.

Most liked the idea of having a good online catalogue, if not for ordering at least for browsing. If staff aren’t available, sometimes it’s easier to find the availability of a book by using the phone in your hand. Particularly if it’s a crowded shop.

Places to sit and read were certainly recommended, which can sometimes be difficult to come by. Especially if larger bookshops are being squeezed out, physical space becomes difficult as shops increasingly pack more in to less. But still, bookshops sell reading, and should – where possible – aim to encourage it.

Probably the most obvious thing from people’s suggestions is how much everyone approved of a more classic model for a bookshop. And yet in the architect designs above they all seemed to go out of their way to pretend that their bookshops weren’t bookshops. As if that would turn people off.

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And I don’t want to turn this into a nostalgic lamentation for the loss of an unsustainable model, but a bookshop should be a bookshop, right? If you walk in and don’t see books, you lose your faith in the business. Bookshops should have shelves of books, they should have a range that you can actually sink in to and find not just what you’re looking for, but also discover what you weren’t looking for.

The alternative methods of buying books that have taken hold in the last few years work not because they’re pretending to sell some kind of book-ish experience to buyers that pretends not to sell books (we just buy them by accident!), it’s because they have range and convenience. A bookshop should work the same – and the best ones do.

I was reminded recently of a moment in Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! where the nature of a bookshop is discussed – the kind of bookshop that draws you in and keeps you there, letting you find what you want (and what you don’t want), and while Pratchett’s idea of a bookshop isn’t a new one, it’s still the model that – to me – works, because it’s about a bookshop that has books.

‘The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned secondhand bookshop, one that looks as though it was designed by M.C. Escher on a bad day and has more stairways than storeys and those rows of shelves which end in little doors that are surely too small for a full-sized human to enter. The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.’

Sounds like a good bookshop to me, whether it happens to be online or down the road.

 

We need to move on from Star Wars

Posted July 18, 2014 by

We need to unlearn what we have learned

Star Wars changed everything. It’s become that singular defining moment of cinema history, the film that changed everything, pivoting cinema from the innovative and critically acclaimed new wave of the 70s, into the barnstorming blockbuster era of the 80s and 90s, and franchised, serialised, merchandised juggernauts of the 21st century.

From Star Wars, sound design, special effects, visual effects, and soundtracks all changed dramatically, entire industries and companies spontaneously thrust to the forefront of filmmaking. Spin-offs, TV shows, video games, books and comics all extended the reality and the life of Star Wars beyond the two hours of screen time. And, most importantly, a whole generation of filmmakers rose up in George Lucas’ wake, benefiting from the investments in technological advancements that Lucas orchestrated, as well as the influence Star Wars had on their own cinematic visions and storytelling.

And the influence was immediate.

Ridley Scott went out and began work on what was to become Alien, and then later Bladerunner. Jim Henson made The Dark Crystal and then Labyrinth. James Cameron started with Terminator, took over on Aliens, and then made The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgement Day with ILM, which Lucas founded, and which subsequently spawned the beginnings of Pixar. Christopher Nolan, Jon Favreau, Kevin Smith, Peter Jackson, Edgar Wright, J.J. Abrams, Lana and Andy Wachowski, Rian Johnson, Diablo Cody and Eli Roth all identify Star Wars as the ignition for their desire to make films.

Lucas’ use of Joseph Campbell and foreign films as guiding influences on his story design has been endlessly copied to the point of canonising Star Wars as its own archetype. The structure, tone and characterisation of the trilogy are effectively the blueprints for every modern franchise. And this is where we start to run into some problems.

The Star Wars franchise ran awry. Lucas’ storytelling limitations and obsessions over technological advancement drove the prequels into frustrating, hollow territory. The ever-inflating Star Wars universe left the narrative riddled with inconsistencies and irrelevancies that brought about Disney’s takeover and inevitable reset on the Star Wars universe. So much so, that J.J. Abrams, in making the upcoming Episode VII, has gone to great pains to reassure audiences that the film is returning them back to where they started.

Now we are the masters

In Star Wars’ legacy, we not only have a legion of talented filmmakers, we also have the model for how blockbuster films are failing.

Star Wars was released in 1977. Thirty-seven years ago. Given cinema’s fairly young history, the day George Lucas changed filmmaking is closer to the midpoint rather than acting as some kind of recent influence. The generation of influenced filmmakers are getting old. Ridley Scott seems stuck on adaptation-remake autopilot. Cameron is more concerned with technology than story. Jackson and Abrams are almost parodies of themselves lately, while Smith, Wright and Roth seem to abandon more projects than start them. And then the Wachowskis managed to cram Lucas’ disastrous prequel trilogy tailspin into their original trilogy, ruining everything The Matrix established with the swift crash and burn of the sequels.

And yet we still seem to be in an endless cycle of monomyths and trilogies, where we can recite the character beats and plot points in our sleep. We watch for the spectacle, but forget the story (were there any classic lines in Avatar?) We all remember that opening shot where the fleeing Rebel ship is dwarfed by the enormity of the Imperial Stardestroyer. And we remember the first sighting of the Death Star. And the lightsaber. And Darth Vader. Star Wars was spectacle, but it’s remembered because of the strength of the story underneath it.

What worked with Star Wars’ story is that it provided something that had been severely lacking in cinema for decades. It did something new and innovative with story that underpinned all its technological advancements. It worked because of so many different facets. Lucas provided a hopeful, triumphant, classic tale at a time when audiences were fearful of further destabilisation. The continuation of the Vietnam War, the paranoia of the Cold War, and the disenfranchisement of an entire population due to increasingly malicious governments left everyone unsure of what was right and what was wrong. Star Wars changed that entirely.

Of the current directors, only Nolan seems to understand this. He rightfully channelled contemporary concerns about politics, media and justice into The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, aware of how that magical symbiosis between story and reality is crucial to a lasting impact. One can only hope that his coming Interstellar brings the same respect for the audience.

These aren’t the films we’re looking for

We have exhausted the lessons from Star Wars. We need to start telling our own stories.

In the way that Lucas drew on everything he loved to create his own original story, we too need to do the same. We need to free sequels and trilogies and heroes from the repetitive and hollow confines of Campbell. As successful as Abrams is, being a modern remix of Lucas and Spielberg isn’t necessarily creating a lasting impression, especially when his lasting trait seems to be lens flares. For a time, it appeared The Lord of the Rings was going to be this generation’s Star Wars, but its impact seems to have been more along the lines of fuelling more classic book adaptations and exhausting our capacity for box-sets and blue-screens.

The current audience is one that, too, grew up with the impact of Star Wars. It is a far more cinematically knowledgeable audience, one well-versed in everything that Lucas brought about. Like anything once revolutionary, Star Wars has become the norm, the standard, the complacent mainstream.

We need a film to come along and have the wherewithal to challenge convention and do something entirely new. And from that, the next generation of films and filmmakers will spring forth.

 

 

Excerpt: DARK CHILD (COVENS RISING): EPISODE 3 by Adina West

Posted July 17, 2014 by
The hunger was worse every day, and now there was only a whisper-thin line holding her back from a dark red sea. 
      “You would feed me?” Her voice came out so husky and low that it was a wonder he heard her.
In Paris, Kat hears of horrifying events back in the States. The leader of the Directorate is openly attacking those with mixed Tabérin and human blood. Hybrids like her. And chances are he’ll be turning his attention to Europe next. 
Kat knows she needs to go into hiding again. But then her Tabérin aunt, Akilina, reveals something about Kat’s heritage that changes everything. If Akilina is right, the Directorate will stop at nothing until they have eradicated Kat and the threat she represents. No matter how many they have to kill to get to her …
As the threat from the Directorate intensifies, Ben and Yara barely escape the US with their lives. But being trapped together on a boat bound for Europe could prove much more dangerous than anticipated. Because one of them is in transition, and needs to feed …
This title is the third novella-length episode of Dark Child (Covens Rising), which will conclude on July 31 with Episode 5. Please visit momentumbooks.com.au for further information.

Chapter 24

Amarok stood staring out into the darkness. Forest smells drifted in on the early evening breeze, and the stone balustrade was cold beneath his forearms. The snow-capped peaks of Slovenia’s highest mountain range rose behind him and continued on toward the border with Austria and Italy in the north-west, while Lake Bled lay far to the east, three thousand feet below. Despite the troubling circumstances that had brought them there, he liked this remote castle of Aron’s. It was too long since the family had spent time here.

Amarok, where are you? I need you.

Kat’s words reverberated through his head, and, for a brief instant, he was aware of her surroundings in far-off Paris: a railway carriage, and her feelings of uncertainty and fear.

Kat? He felt her register his shock at the sudden contact, and in the next instant, she was gone, the brief connection between them sundered. Amarok hesitated only a second before hurrying to see his sister.

“I was just coming to look for you,” Della said when he entered the room. “Things have taken a bad turn.”

“She’s worse?” He went to the bedside to see for himself.

Amber’s eyes were open, but she was staring up sightlessly, mumbling to herself.

“No.” Della shook her head. “She’s fine – I think. But she’s in a vision state of some kind. Something bad is happening elsewhere.”

“Does this have something to do with Kat?” Amarok asked. “I was coming to see if Amber was awake, and ask her what she sees for Kat, because I’ve just received a cry for help.”

“What do you mean, received?”

Amarok tapped his head.

Della’s eyes widened. “Kat contacted you? It was more than a decade before I could establish a reliable psychic connection even with Corrin, who I was so intimate with. With you all, as you would be aware, it took much longer.”

“It was only for an instant.” Amarok frowned. “As if she didn’t quite know how to do it properly. But I’m sure it was real. I saw her on a train.”

Della nodded, her eyes troubled,  and then looked down at Amber’s face. “Perhaps you could try to talk to her. She may respond to you.”

“She’s crying!” Amarok said in wonder. And it was true. Silent tears were streaming down Amber’s cheeks, dampening the pillow beneath her.

He laid his hand against one cheek and leaned down to kiss her on the forehead.

Amber blinked, and looked up at him with recognition. “Brother, I see so much death.”

Amarok gripped the pillow beside her head. “Kat. Not Kat?” he demanded.

Amber shook her head from side to side. “No, this happens far away, across the ocean. Whole families slaughtered.”

Della directed a shocked glance at him. “Who?” she asked. “Is there anything we can do?”

Amarok smoothed back Amber’s hair with a gentle hand. “Who is doing this? And who are the targets of this violence?”

“Our distant kin. Our Tabérin blood. Too many to help. Too many to save.” Amber blinked away tears. “But we must be ready to receive the survivors.”

Amarok exhaled, and shared a look with Della across his sister’s bed. He touched Amber’s cheek gently. “Amber, is Kat in any danger? She … communicated with me tonight. She was afraid.”

Amber stared off into the distance, and shook her head at last. “No physical danger. But she will need us. We shall go to her tonight.” She frowned, and looked up at him, her expression troubled. “Alek is already in Paris. He can get to her faster. Why have you not sent him to her, silly Amarok?”

“Sometimes, you see too much,” Amarok said grimly. He bent and kissed her again. “I’ll contact him now.”

“Amarok?” Amber called as he turned to leave. “The covens will rise. All this death will bring the witches out of hiding. There are dark days ahead, and Katerina will need our faith now more than ever.”

Amarok was troubled as he returned to the quiet balcony he’d been on when disturbed by Kat’s call for help. He wasn’t yet sure of the link between the deaths Amber had seen in her vision and the witches. But, given the violent history between the Tabérin and the Families of Power, any mention of them wasn’t good.

*

Establishing a connection with Alek was ridiculously easy, though Alek growled at the intrusion.

What do you want?

Nice to see you still excel at the small talk, brother. Amber’s been getting visions. Something very bad is happening back in America. Find out what you can. But be careful – she also warned of retaliation by the witches.

Amarok wished the next part of his message was as easy to raise with Alek, though he knew Amber was right. If Kat needed protectors, Alek was closest. Maybe his reluctance had something to do with the fact that Alek had received a phone call last night that had sent him hightailing it back to Paris, only he’d refused to tell anyone what was going on.

Spit it out. What is it you’re so reluctant to ask me?

Amarok could hear the amusement coming from Alek. It was impossible to hide feelings from each other when engaged in this sort of connection, and clearly, his own conflicting motivations were coming across loud and clear. Kat had called to him, not Alek. It frustrated him no end to be sending Alek to do a task he’d have infinitely preferred to reserve for himself. But, with Amber still in a fragile state, Amarok’s loyalties were divided. Alek’s were not.

Kat needs backup. You’re closest.

Got it. And then Alek cut their connection.

It could have been worse. He’d expected to feel gloating triumph radiating from Alek at gaining the upper hand in their ongoing tussle, and he’d been spared that. Mostly he was annoyed at himself. For years, he’d been selfless in his protection of Kat. But lately, especially where Alek was concerned, he had trouble putting his own needs last. Perhaps Alek’s innate competitiveness had awoken his own, and realizing what he had to lose had shown him how much it was worth fighting for.

Amarok sighed, and turned to go back inside. Amber had made her pronouncement, so they would travel tonight.

 

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Dark Child (Covens Rising): Episode 3 is available now where all good ebooks are sold

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Dark Child (Covens Rising): Episode 1 is available FREE where all good ebooks are sold

 

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Go back to where it all began with Dark Child (Awakening): Episode 1 available now for FREE where all good ebooks are sold