Dragon #1

I make no secret about the fact I love dragons and own a few. Some would say more than few but they fill only one cabinet so it’s far less than I could own if I let myself buy every one that caught my eye. Buying dragons began a while back. If I saw one that ‘spoke to me’, as such objects do, while on holiday in the UK I would bring take it home with me. In that respect my dragon collection has taken many years and hasn’t grown all that fast. I bought another the other day, people cried out to see it, and so I decided to share the occasional post featuring my dragons.

There isn’t much of a story to go with this one except it’s a garden ornament I have no intention of putting in the garden. It’s metal and no matter how many years it’s designed to last, invariably the elements will wear it down. I’ll set him by a window in the hope the light will work but, if it doesn’t, I didn’t buy it for the light. I loved the colours. When my other half first saw this his words were, “Is that a garden ornament?” to which I replied yes. “I wouldn’t put that in the garden,” he said so there is some method to my madness.

Not so Warm Bodies

The other week I read a post by Isaac Marion. He’s the author of the best-selling WARM BODIES, made into a film. He’s a success. A writer who has ‘made it’ in the world of the book industry, right? With a film (somewhat based) on one of his books, how could he not? Alas, being a writer is rarely that simple.

As I had already discovered, Warm Bodies is now the first in a trilogy. I read the second title, THE BURNING WORLD, this year after discovering its existence. I include my thoughts on both books below but what I didn’t know until more recently is that the third title, THE LIVING, is burning a hole in Isaac Marion’s hard drive, the author having finished it almost a year ago.

Although the first book was on the NYT bestseller list, book 2 hasn’t done so well, and, unless it does, there may be a no go on the third title. If it comes to that, I can only hope the author will find another publisher or go the route so many writers have to and self-publish (if contracts allow, mind). I won’t go into the pros and cons of that in this blog but I’m using it to illustrate one of the many reasons ‘why’ authors turn to self-publishing and why the perception that indie is purely amateur hour is false.

Not everything is as elementary as writers or readers would like to believe. This is a perfect example of the struggle writers face, of how ‘every’ book is as good as starting from scratch. Akin to an actor reading for a role, writers audition every time they submit a manuscript, and, if expectations aren’t met, the writer may have to climb a proverbial ladder again even if they’ve notched up a bestseller on any of the rungs close to the top.

That’s the truth, a simple, not-so-pretty fact about publishing. Unless the writer is a huge, well-known, consistently best-selling name (brand) often seen in the top 10, their next title will not automatically get snapped up. Even if under contract ‘to be published’ it may get pushed back or off a publisher’s list and, depending on the contract clauses, end up in limbo with the writer in purgatory. And I’ve known more than one writer to be in this position.

One thing I have to add is that I hadn’t heard a thing about the release of the second book or that even one existed. This leads into one of the biggest battles writers deal with every day — the need for marketing, something too often left to writers in the present climate. Most publishers do not have huge marketing budgets; many have none. Writers have even less but the expectation falls on them to get the word out. I only came across the second title because the question, ‘I wonder whether Isaac has written anything else’ popped into my head.

As to those books: I first read Warm Bodies about 4 years ago. With my hands on the novella prequel and the novel sequel I dipped in again. First, a word on the film of the book. It’s not bad, but it uses the more humourous parts to convey the author’s much more visceral idea in a too-light way. When I first saw trailers I imagined the book to be a Young Adult ‘popcorn’ story, a jokey hoot. Do yourself a favour; if you’ve seen the film, regardless of whether you liked it, DO read the book. It’s a decidedly different experience.

With the characters of ‘R’ and Julie, the setting is a modern twist on Romeo and Juliet set in a dystopian future where zombies outnumber the living. Even many of the survivors seem dead inside, imprisoned as they are behind their safety barriers. Like many zombie books this is a story that questions and reflects society, but in a skillful way. An unexpected read the first time around, and no less pleasurable the second. The book contains threads of something dark and disturbing, yet enlightening, will speak to some people though not all; I hope it speaks to many. This is not a gory horror novel, not a teen rom-com spoof. Hidden within its pages the tale celebrates life in all its messiness. The story is a metaphor for so many things, the state of the world, the meaning of life, civilisation out of control. It imparts the essence of almost every zombie story and life itself. It’s a book about living.

Where Warm Bodies stopped, the Burning World continues, and the story seems to speak on a wider basis reflecting society, the way we view authority and vice versa, the way countries are run. Maybe because Warm Bodies felt like a complete read I didn’t enjoy this as much, which isn’t to say I disliked it. It’s definitely a worthwhile read, earns maybe one star less than the full score of the first title. I’ll be interested to see where the author is going with this series. Warm Bodies is a book about living. The Burning World reflects more on ‘how we live’, on the quirks of society and how it’s governed.

If you read Warm Bodies and are interested in following further chapters in R’s world then it’ll be worthwhile to help Isaac out by buying The Burning World (and no, I do not personally know the author before anyone asks, but I loved the first book, enjoyed the second, and long for the third).

Flowers for someone…

When I signed a contract for Flowers for the Gardener I immediately knew I wanted to offer a celebratory giveaway for one lucky person. The only question was what. I popped along to Enchanted Elegance and got lost in the many pretty things. Hearts and flowers were an obvious choice but when I contacted the owner who offered to create a custom-made item, I did not envision something quite so lovely. But then I’m a writer, not a jewellery designer. On this occasion, I required someone else’s imagination to make what I wanted reality.

Though I cannot imagine Ethan giving Richard a bunch of flowers or vice versa (not with straight faces, anyway), I can picture the beautiful garden Ethan is capable of designing for them both to enjoy…if they get their act together and overcome the conflicts and vendettas they’ve clung to for far too long.

Coming end of April 2018. Check back next month on how to win!

(Note: this will be open to US entrants only as the item is in the US. My apologies.)

Warmhearted rich man’s son, Richard Gardener, needs to overcome three obstacles. To find a way the family business can run without him, help his mother cope with grief, and stop butting heads and other parts of his anatomy with the gardener.

Ethan Fields has worked for the family for many years. He’s struggling with debt, the desire to leave, and has loved Richard far longer than the man would believe. Ethan can cope with most things, but his anger with Richard’s mother won’t fade. Until that and his feelings over Richard are resolved, he feels trapped and, alas, the idea sex will get Richard out of his system isn’t working.

To make the situation worse, both assume too much, aren’t saying the right words, and Ethan’s offer of ‘just sex’ grows more complicated by the day. How can Richard and Ethan stop getting their wires crossed before their paths diverge?

Watch out, he’s behind you!

It’s just as well only my husband is present during our recent binge ‘catch-up’ watch of The Walking Dead. Like a participant in Gogglebox — a show that invites the audience to watch people watching television (though I’ve only seen adverts for it, some reactions can be to great comic effect) — I’m not a silent viewer.

This is a trait that once drove my relatives to gritting their teeth with irritation, much as I do when an inconsiderate cinema-goer persists on talking during a film, or won’t put their phone away. I appreciate the frustration; however, in the cinema I restrict myself to a few gasps or loud laughter when appropriate. It’s an entirely different experience with an unspoken rule of no talking. I’ve paid a ticket and want to be submersed. I have never, unlike when a grandmother of mine went to the cinema, made not only a public faux pas, but done so twice in the time it took to run through a single showing.

The film was The Time Machine, the classic version starring Rod Taylor made in 1960. She went with her husband and her adult children, and they arrived just as the film started. Although only the opening credits were rolling, my nan, intent on not missing a minute, gaze glued to the screen, fumbled her way along a line of people already seated. I heard the story of how she stopped one seat short of her own chair and plopped herself down on a bald man’s lap. I’m unsure as to the significance of his being bald other than that being the way she forever thereafter described him amidst general hilarity, but I am confident he was as surprised as she. My nan made everyone switch seats so she could sit as far away from him as possible and then sat hidden and, she hoped, forgotten in the darkness…

Until the moment when ‘George’ makes his way into the Morlock cave and we see their gleaming eyes. While the hero tries to creep around and the Morlocks brace to launch an attack, my grandmother gasped, put her hands to her face and shouted out, “Watch out, he’s behind you!” The cinema audience on this occasion met my nan’s outburst with a round of laughter adding to the collective enjoyment.

I once worked with a woman who never understood this. When I referred to laughing or crying over stories — viewed or read — she always shook her head. Strange from someone who read all the time and professed to be a bookworm.

“But…but…but…” I stuttered, “how can you not cry over a sad scene?”

“But it’s not real,” she said.

As one who understands that stories are our way of examining and learning how to deal with reality, I beg to differ. As someone who has had to put a book down in a crowded train carriage owing to the risk of a tear or two escaping among strangers with no easy-to-explain reason, I fail to understand this lack of emotional attachment. Thrill seekers get on roller coasters looking for that up and down ride of a lifetime; book lovers take more tight turns and steep slopes lasting far longer than your average amusement park ride. Our pulses speed up, our stomachs grow tight, our throats close, we cry, and scream, and shout…with anger, with pain, with frustration, and with joy. Even when it hurts, we consider ourselves lucky.

Watching a beloved character’s harrowing death the other night (even though through reading the graphic novel I had a sense of what was coming), make no mistake, I was vocal about it. Feel free to share whether you experience a story without emotion or find it next to impossible not to laugh when something is funny, cheer when the outcome is good, or scream when it’s the end you were dreading.