Friday, 10 May 2013


Wool. That’s a hell of a title for a dystopia novel. If you haven’t read it yet I won’t spoil the titles’ meaning… You’ll get it quick enough and if you are like me, it will make you want to read more. Before I continue, I wrote this post for Cacotopian, a new blog about dystopian futures, writing and science fiction. Check it out here: Cacotopian

Depending on how you read Wool, it will be as several short stories downloaded as ebooks/stories, or as a full novel (omnibus edition) bought from a traditional bookseller. I’m glad I bought the full omnibus, as after each ‘story segment’ finishes, I REALLY wanted to find out more. Howey does a damn good job of 1. Making you care about the characters, and 2. offering cliffhangers that simultaneously answer questions and create yet more questions. That is a talent.

The world of Wool is a multilayered dystopian future where humans live underground in massive self-containing ’silos’. (Note… Don’t really know what I’m meaning fully by the term: “multilayered dystopian future”, but it sounds cool, so I’m keeping it in). Not everyone is playing fair, of course, and our protagonists find themselves finding out the horrible truth of their existence during each story and through every subtle twist of the plot.

There is a bundle of great characters in Wool. Jules is our main protagonist, a mechanic from the lower levels that gets elevated above her (supposed) station in the silo with disastrous consequences… And I was going to start telling you the plot, but that would be spoiling things. I suggest going and finding it for yourself! You can buy Wool on Amazon here.

If you want to know more about the author, and discover all about his rise to fame from self-published-indie-author to world-wide-known author, check out his rather honest blog here. Oh, and look out for a film of Wool in the future – Ridley Scott has bought up the rights for the story I hear…

Wool has all the great hallmarks of good dystopian future stories and has a twist on every level… All the way down to mechanical, and all the way back up to the outside world and to, ultimately, death.

What do you think about this kind of futuristic/dystopian story? If you have read it already do you think it will make a good film?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Are prequels shit?

I hate Prequels. Films, books, stories... Whatever form they take, I dislike them. I'm not just a pissed of Star Wars fan that woke up from a Lucas-induced coma after a decade in the dark (honest). No, I'm just a guy that realised today that he just does not enjoy them as much he likes other stories where the questions posed are not already answered somewhere else.

I mean, I get we all enjoy delving deeper into our favourite characters and worlds, but with prequels you can usually figure out what the end is, because you know what the future is. Okay, I'm generalising lots here, but it's the underlying feeling I have when I read or watch a prequel related story. It loses a little of the drama of not knowing what will happen.

What do you think?

- Posted using BlogPress from Allan's iPad

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Recent Reading - May 2012

There's a growing number of stories out there that I’m wanting to read right now, and that’s on top of the already large ’Reading Pile’, nay, let's call it the ’Reading Library’- as this is what it's becoming. Last year I blogged about my reading affliction (basically I tend to read lots of stories at once, a few chapters at a time, buy books/ebooks every week and then jump between stories, leaving novels unfinished or unread), and I have to say it’s still here. But now it's not just hiding in my browser’s History folder like a dodgy website, it's out all over the page, infecting everything.

Worry not, however, as there is hope. I have finished reading some stories! Our plucky reading-hero has managed to untangle himself from the piles of unread books and figure out how to turn the pages on his Kindle (the forward/back mix-up a thing of the past).

So here's a little look at what I've been reading this month and what I've thought...

Stephen King's ON WRITING.

I've finally managed to read this, and I have to admit I really enjoyed it. Written in a semi-autobiographical and engaging way, it made me laugh, smile and get ever-so-slightly teary, and I discovered how to highlight and make notes on my kindle app on the iPad!! (I know, am-a-zing!). A thought-provoking book on the life of a writer, with some fantastic writing tips.

5 out of 5 stars of writing.

THE EMPERORS GIFT by Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

ADB has really captured the character of a Space Marine in this Grey Knights 40k novel. Again, vivid descriptions and characters, with great set pieces. This is a character driven novel, which in doing so seems to enrich the 40k background - very like Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn in that respect - rather than just pay lip service to it. Well worth a look for SF fans everywhere!

Four out of five silver-armoured heroes.

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins.

Yep, I went there. This kind of dystopian future story has been done before, but I did like the POV and the structure of the story does get you reading more. Thought the writer thinned out the last act (thought it was a bit wishy-washy). There is a plucky heroine, and shes deadly with a bow. ’nough said.

Two out of five dystopian love stories.


Another full-on-action-packed-explosive-thrill-ride! With lots of exclamation marks! Exciting! Fun! Guns! Little robots! Was a great holiday read, great set pieces and escapes (reality was strrreeeechhhed ever-so-slightly), and a decent baddie this time too. But those exclamation marks! Grr!

Three out of five action-adventure-exclaimation-marks!

Next month I have stories lined up to read from Chuck Wendig, Graham McNeill, William King and David Mitchell. Severally doubt I'll read them all as I'm sure I'll find other shiny new things to capture my reading time. Let's see if I can even get one of them into June read list!

I'm always looking for a good read, so drop a comment on what you think is worth a read. See, looking for other Shinies already...

- Posted using BlogPress, while stuck at a train station waiting for a train, from my iPad. In a bar.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Breaking the Block, Idea two.

You're staring miserably at a blank screen, wishing you could scrunch up the page in frustration and throw it in the bin. However, these days most of us don't use paper to write on, so throwing your computer/laptop/iPad in the bin is costly, and you'd probably be throwing out all the good work you have completed which is saved on the hard drive...

Here's a few thoughts that have helped me in the past to overcome the blank screen, and may save you chucking your computer around the room!

Over the years I've discovered that I communicate and learn best visually. So I remember, and enjoy, stories better if I see it or if I can vividly visualise the story I am reading. When I'm talking to someone about a story, or even telling them about my day, I use visual words and phrases such as ’I saw’ or ’it looked like this’.

Now, here’s something to consider to help open those writerly-mind-canals. How do you take things in? And how do you best communicate? I've read a few books and saw some websites on how we can communicate and learn (from NLP books to management courses). Here's the supposed three main ways: Visually, auditory and kinaesthetically.

Visually is seeing and reading, auditory is listening and speaking, and kinaesthetically is touching and doing. Ok, I'm being very basic here trying to get my point across, but you can easily find articles and books on this if you want to find out more. Here’s a link to a website that goes into more detail, and has some form of test which may or may not help you discover your dominante way to communicate: Buisnessballs

So, when I'm getting frustrated with myself over writing, or while trying to plot a story or overcome a block, I do something that inspires me or opens doors in my mind. However, I keep in mind that my preferred way to communicate is visually. I read a story, look at art or watch a film I love. Also I listen to music that conjures up images from my favourite films or stories (soundtrack music is great for this) and relax my mind, opening it to those inspiring scenes, thus energising my ideas.

I do this while holding my notebook (crazy, I know, using this ’paper’ thingy!!! But I can rip it...), and start jotting down notes when the thought-river flows. Or I have my laptop or iPad near me and start writing when inspiration strikes.

Either you'll have an idea of your preferred way to take things in, or with some research you can find out. Use this information to help create ideas for your writing or inspire you to write. It's almost a form of self manipulation - but in knowing yourself, and how you best think, you can overcome the blockages to your creativity and maybe even push your aspirations forwards.

Mainly though, you'll be writing again. And your page, whether it be a computer screen or a bit of paper, will be filling up with words.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Writing or Publication?

Do you finish one story, grab your notebook, and look for the next? Or do you focus on promoting a single story or manuscript to gain publication?

There's plenty of us out here in the wilds of the Internet who look to become published authors. I'm one of them. However, a thought struck me the other day: What's more important? Money, being published, or the writing?

Many people focus lots of time and energy solely on getting published... How do I get published? When can I get published? When do I get the money? Agent? Reply time? And so on.

So, incentive. Why do you write? Do you want to be the person who has published a novel, with their name cut across a hardcover? Do you focus on getting paid? Being the best seller? Or is it about your character, your story, the message? Writing?

This has been knocking on the door of my thought-house for a while. When I was 25 I said to Past Allan, 'give it ten years, if you haven't had a story published, quit writing.' This has been an incentive for me AND an excuse. I've just turned 32 (I know, THE HORROR!) and still not published. It's became a negative. Never been paid for my writing. Well, I guess you need to send off your writing to get paid... So my fault right there... Yet I have written many stories. But should I give up in three years just because of missing my deadline?

I've enjoyed writing most of my little stories. That's been the real incentive I guess, the getting paid part hasn't really been the focus.

Motivation is key here, I guess. Over the years I've done a few courses, read lots of blogs and listened to people talk about writing. At the end of the day, lots of it was about either getting paid or getting published. Yep, there's been the writing part, but a large percentage of time goes into the clinical side of writing, not the fun part.

Mind you, there's also a good shout that getting paid can fuel more writing, creating time and pushing along those ideas and turning them into characters, plots and action. There's another good shout about just wanting to write stories - you have an idea, a story, and MUST write it - and finding ways to share it with others.

Honestly, I feel that if it just becomes about being published you may forget what makes that happen: a bloody good story and damn fine writing. Without that core, all the self promotion and sent manuscripts will be for nothing. And let's be honest, how much time goes into twitter, emailing and blogging compared to actual writing?

If it's about getting paid, beware of a similar fate - if the story has no emotion and is just a deadline and word count, well, will it really be good enough? Will you have the same pride looking back after spending all the money you were paid? If so, fair dos, at least you're honest!

Writing a story has a magic about it. I believe that this should not be forgotten. Write first, money second. If you write for a living, well, I get that it's about being paid, but make it about the characters and story and not just about the deadline. Like anything in a workplace, have pride in your work. Please don't be soulless, theres too much of that about these days. I think the readers will thank you for it, and you may well enjoy the process that little bit more.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad