Monthly Archives: June 2016

Poem: Shush, the morning whispers, pulsing

Shush, the morning whispers, pulsing.

Water on the window tracing.

Down through foliage rain hissing,

Earthy petrichor releasing.


To the ground the raindrops racing,

Stream abrimming with water coursing

Around the rock and branches, sluicing

Into hollows, swirling, massing.


Hush to hear the flowers dancing

And beside them, saplings waltzing.

Droplets pocking, leaping, glancing

On fat leaves, jumping, prancing.


All that’s past, the rain’s erasing –

Stuffy air, pollution, cleansing.

Its task complete, downpour ceasing –



now increasing.


Review: Touch of Iron by Timandra Whitecastle

Touch of Iron is the debut novel and first part in the Living Blade series by Timandra Whitecastle. It follows Nora Smith and her twin Owen as they flee superstition and rumour in their home town and find themselves caught up in a dangerous quest for a legendary weapon, mixing with an exiled prince, a mysterious half-wight, rough warriors and sinister magic-users.

I was given an ARC of this book.

touch of iron
That’s a pretty damn awesome cover.

Touch of Iron is also one of the books involved in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off 2016.

Okay, so, first I’ve got to say this: I love Nora. She is such an enjoyable protagonist to follow. She’s full of fire, she’s exciting, she’s relatable and she’s immense fun to read about. I found myself thinking “yeah, right” when she’s told not to do something and rolling my eyes when she did it anyway – then grinning stupidly as I read the antics she got herself into and how she got herself out of them.

And there are plenty of antics to be had. The world of The Living Blade is a magical and dangerous place, a beautifully crafted setting bringing in elements of real-world places and times as well as being inspired by the rich array of worlds fantasy has to offer. It truly is a fantasy world in the best traditions of the genre, melding human communities, dramatic landscapes, dangerous threats and unsettling beliefs into a remarkable setting that frames the story beautifully.

The story is fast paced and full of action as Nora and Owen criss cross the continent pursuing their dreams, fleeing their fears and chasing down the Living Blade with the exiled Prince Bashan, who seeks to wield it to reclaim a throne stolen from him. The witty, engaging narrative makes for enjoyable reading that drew me in and wouldn’t let go – not that I wanted it to.

Whitecastle has included numerous tributes to some of her favourite fiction too, but in subtle ways you wouldn’t notice unless you were a fan too. Including a few allusions to my favourite animated TV series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. They’re well done – enough to make me smile upon recognising them, without disrupting the flow.

I am thrilled to have been offered the opportunity to read Touch of Iron and enjoyed every moment of it. Once I started it was hard to put down, and in fact this may be the fastest I’ve read a book this year – under 36 hours from the first page to the last, and then I read the afterword because I didn’t want to put it down! It can hardly be surprising, therefore, that I rate it 10/10.

I hope Touch of Iron does well in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.

A quick note about my reviews

I am being spoiled at the moment with my reading material. Utterly utterly spoiled. Every book I read is an absolute gem, whether it is a fantasy epic by one of my favourite authors, an historical adventure romance by a debut author, or a non-fiction tale of the author’s love for Iceland (no ideas? Check out my Goodreads page.)

That makes me a little worried. If I keep telling my readers that the book I’ve just read was fantastic – 9 or 10 out of 10, 4 or 5 stars – will you stop believing me? Should I seek out books that other reviewers didn’t much care for so I can put in a 6/10 to balance things out? Should I divide my ratings into fractions and suggest a book is 9.5/10, 8.75/10, 9.3141592/10? Of course not. That would be silly and quickly cease to be useful. It would be all too easy to plunge into ever more decimal places as I weigh up whether this book, that I think is 9.5, is better or worse than that last book that I gave 9.5 to, and should it thus be a 9.3 or a 9.4? I want to spend my review time reviewing, not agonising over a number.

I will reiterate, though, that my reviews are all unpaid (though I do accept Advanced Reader/Review Copies where offered), that they all reflect my feelings as honestly as I can convey them, and that, as with all reviews, they are subjective. They are my own interpretations and impressions, from the point of view of an avid reader and a writer (I hate that phrase “aspiring author”; I write. Every single day. Those of you who follow my monthly updates to my One Million Words challenge know that.)

I try to consider different aspects of each story – the characters, the plot, the prose, the pacing, the worldbuilding. After I finish a book I intend to review I create space afterwards to let my thoughts settle. This is because, the moment I finish a book it is all aswirl in my mind, the mood of the final pages – the excitement, elation, victory, suspense or sadness – dominates my feelings. With some I wait a week or more, but usually it’s a day or two – long enough to sleep on it, to let it sink in, to give my mind time to catch up with the words my eyes might have raced over in my enjoyment.

In the end, though, it does come down a lot to taste. I don’t claim to have the most refined taste, but I am not inexperienced in reading fantasy. I do hope, though, to find that at least some people out there possess a similar taste to my own when it comes to fantasy books and the styles and voices of the authors in this genre, and find my reviews helpful for deciding whether or not to read something. Just as I have found where my tastes align with a blogger, a friend, or my sister, that I can therefore take recommendations on the reasonable expectation that I will agree.

Progress Report: One Million Words, May 2016

I just can’t break this rate I’ve been working at all year so far. My May total is 18,123 words, for an average of 584.6 words per day.

That puts my total at 212,341/1,000,000, or 21.2% towards my goal. In the middle of May I also passed the 300th consecutive day of writing.

The Story

I’m well into Horrible Monster at the moment, but I’m struggling. The story is nearly at 55,000 words now – though some of that has been struck through, discarded. What’s being kept (at least for now) is probably closer to 50,000 words. Still, that’s quite a sizable length. I’m on the cusp of the major setback now, so things are about to get very difficult for my protagonists. I think once I get past that turning point I’ll write a bit faster, because from there it’s got some more momentum, more action.

I think part of the reason I’m struggling at the moment is some of the themes I’ve been exploring, including anxiety and depression. I’m not sure if it works within the story, to be honest, but I’ve got to try it to find out. They do say write what you know, and there are some very personal elements going into this side of the story. Set in the context of fighting for justice, I’m not sure if it’s too much. But then I can’t help but feel that one of the storylines is too much in the fight for justice side of thing. I’ll have to see when it’s all done.

I do know that there will be a lot more work to be done on this after I finish. Cutting, adding, rewriting, slimming down, speeding up. But what I have so far I’m reasonably pleased with, as a starting point to build upon.