The author blog of C. J. Ivory

Tinkerer with words. Dresser-Upper. Adorer of Steampunk and VictoriaNoir fiction. Occasional Lawgineer.

January 10, 2012

ElevenEleven by Carolyn Arnold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eleven is a police procedural thriller based on the investigation of a current serial killer with narcissistic tendencies. It follows the investigation through several viewpoints, but chiefly through the eyes of Brandon Fisher, a trainee special agent.

While I don't normally read police procedurals (and don't tend to watch "CSI"-type shows), I enjoyed Eleven. It moved at a cracking pace, but was still a complex story with several sub plots, such as Brandon's troubled relationship with his wife and his antagonistic mentor. Brandon came across as a well-rounded likeable main character. The other supporting characters were well written, too; I especially liked the supporting characters Zachary and Nadia (both agents).

One issue I had with the Kindle edition of Eleven is that the majority of commas seem to have gone missing when the formatting was done. I am very big on the need for commas to break up sentence ideas and clauses, but often complicated sentences in the Kindle edition would run without a single comma and this made the novel a little harder to read.

All in all: an excellent read, which I'm sure will be a favourite for fans of police procedurals and intelligent suspense novels.

View all my reviews

December 29, 2011

The Time Travelling Island

Move over, H G Wells - today Samoa becomes the first nation to time travel.

Yes, indeed, the Pacific island nation Samoa will be time travelling exactly 24 hours - from 29 December to 31 December. Do not pass Friday, do not collect $200.00.

Search me how they're all going to fit in there...
What's It All About?

Samoa has, until today, been toeing the East side of the International Date Line, meaning that it's been one of the last nations in the world to bid adieu to a day, or a year, or in fact a millennium. This has always has been a bit of a nuisance, since the nation's closest neighbours (and trading partners) have generally been on the West side of the Date Line - in other words, while Samoa has been thanking God it's Friday, their nearest and dearest have been getting their Saturday Night Fevah on. And while Samoa has been idling away a Sunday afternoon, other Pacific island nations have been working and trading and stockmarketing in a frenzy of Monday efficiency.

The island nation of Samoa is nothing if not proactive (illustrated by its recent decision to switch to driving on the left side of the road to align with its neighbours). So to address the timing issues, today the country will... well, today the country will do exactly nothing. Because Friday, December 30th, 2011 does not exist for Samoa. They're skipping over it in favour of Saturday, December 31st.

So, while you're out enjoying the post-Christmas sales and finalising your plans for New Year's Eve, spare a thought for Samoa, which doesn't actually exist today...

Gone Time Travellin', Back Saturday

....not to mention those holiday-makers who thought they were getting a seven-day package holiday.

December 11, 2011

First Reviews Up For Peggy Blair's The Beggar's Opera

You may have heard read my post a few months back about a friend, Peggy Blair, and her upcoming debut novel The Beggar's Opera. It's a gritty detective mystery set in Havana, Cuba, and will be in bookstores in February (in North America and Europe, I believe).

Here's the blurb, in case you haven't seen it yet:

In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecon. For Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, finding his prime suspect isn’t a problem—Cuban law is. He has only seventy-two hours to secure an indictment and prevent a vicious killer from leaving the island. But Ramirez also has his own troubles to worry about. He’s dying of the same dementia that killed his grandmother, an incurable disease that makes him see the ghosts of victims of unsolved murders. As he races against time, the dead haunt his every step ...

Sounds delish, right? Penguin have given away some advance copies, and the first reviews are in. Check out what other readers thought here.

Free EBooks... Be Still, My Beating Coin Purse

Many of my friends will know that I am... how can I put this? Slightly careful with money.

Even though I am now part of a DINK household, and we're both on OK incomes (nothing to write home about, I hasten to add), we still have certain behaviours that persist from our Varsity days. I tend to be drawn to second hand clothes stores, we always buy stuff on special, and we'll trawl the internet to get new stuff at a discount from in the stores.

This is especially so with books. Here in New Zealand, books are horribly expensive. You'd expect to pay $25.99 - $31.99 for a paperback novel, and $45.00 or more for any kind of hardcover. So I've tended to buy second hand books and get a lot of use from my library card.

However, since getting my Kindle (on special!) I have been amazed at the amount of books I can download for really low prices. Not just pulpy, badly written stuff - some really good, impressively-written novels.

 And all that for as litte as $4.99, $2.99, or even 99c? Wow. Life never looked so good.

Until now, that is...

I've recently joined WoMens Literary Cafe, after discovering their Free E-Book Friday. Yum! Free E-Books every Friday, starting in January. I think you might be asked to provide a review once you've read them (heh, give me something free and then ask to share my opinion? Seriously, where's the catch?).

It all kicks off in January, so if you're of the... ahem, careful persuaion, go on over and sign up!

~ Charlotte

PS I don't run or have any vested interest in WoMen's Literary Cafe, but I do love a freebie

PPS In case you were wondering, "DINK" = Dual Income, No Kids 

December 1, 2011

What Winning NaNo Means To Me

Another year, another NaNoWriMo challenge over. I crossed the finish line on November 30th with 50,320 words. **happy dance**
I am of the school of thought that anyone taking part in NaNo is a winner, because they either make a start on a novel, or brush up their writing skills, or start a good daily writing routine – or any of a hundred other benefits that NaNo brings.

However, I am still proud to say that I have reached 50,000 words every year that I have taken part (2009, 2010, and now 2011).

So, if taking part already means I’m a winner, what’s the point of crossing the 50k line? I'm glad you asked, Gentle Reader - it's a question I’ve been mulling over.

First, for me it’s rising to a personal challenge. I feel really satisfied to know that I set myself a goal, and achieved it. I’ve always thought that beating other people at things isn’t so great – at best, it means I’ve managed to find someone who is slightly worse at that particular thing. But beating my own challenges– that’s something special.

Then there’s the feeling of overcoming adversity. There is never a “good” month to write 50,000 words, but November seems to be especially bad. In 2009 for example, I got married, my cat died, and I handed in four 10,000-word Honours papers. I still managed to squeeze over the NaNo finish line. This year wasn’t quite as manic, but I was working full time as a lawyer and feeling like my eight-to-ten hour days were wringing every ounce of creativity out of me.

The final Big Deal is consistency. This is a trait I have struggled with over the years with everything, not just writing (eating healthy, exercise, keeping in touch with family and friend, practising various instruments – seriously, everything). So the knowledge that I have written more or less consistently over the month is fantastic. There were a couple of days where I couldn’t write, and those are the sort of pitfalls that would normally get me right off track. But I kept going, and clawed back my word count.

And now it’s over. And I have 50,000 words of a shiny new novel!

I'm interested: what writing goals do you have, and what does achieving them mean to you?

November 26, 2011

Help! My Characters Have Turned On Me!

Right, well I'm either going mad or... no, actually that's the only explanation. You see, Gentle Reader, the characters in my NaNo novel are starting to be mean to me.

I don't deserve it. I slave all day over a hot laptop (yes, actually hot; I think something's on the fritz with it) just to breathe life into their sorry carcasses, and what do I get? Attitude, that's what.

I have my protagonist, who insists on doing a very good impression of a cardboard cutout, and having all the personality of low fat cottage cheese. She's got the makings to be fantastic, but she's determined to be ho-hum.
Then there's protagonist number two, and he kind of is being a number two at the moment. He's gone decidedly creepy on me. I mentioned earlier that he was coming across a bit Oedipal; now I can add to the list breaking and entering a widow's house in search of drugs and licking a girl's face at a formal dance. Not to mention the habit he has of wandering around Victorian London half-dressed (on a brighter note, because of his indecent habits I have learned that "pizzle" is an old-fashioned word for penis).
Then there's the antagonist, who spends more time reading the newspaper than anyone I've ever met. It's my fault, really. I was determined he wouldn't come off as a comic evil genius type. So he reads the paper a lot instead. Exciting stuff.
And then I have a whole cast of extras, who generally walk on scene, slowly go insane, and walk off again. I don't think there's a single one of my characters whose mental health I am not concerned about.

But the worst happened tonight, when my characters actually stopped the scene and started critiquing it. It was supposed to be a clever, picking-up-the-pieces scene where Constable Michael Connelly recreates, with the help of witnesses, a face off betwen the two protagonists form the night before. 
Creeper man, in a drug-induced mania, had been pursuing cardboard cutout girl through the London docks. She'd ducked into a boat building warehouse, and had climbed onto a ship in dry-dock. Apparently creeper man had attempted to burn the ship to smoke her out:

“That’s when he started the fire. T’was all so fast. One moment he had this oil lamp, that we’d left there from the afternoon, he smashed it against the sloop.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Michael Connelly said, stopping and staring at the author. “The girl could just have leapt off the ship and run away before the fire took hold.”
“Mebbe she climbed the mainsail first, so that she was stuck up in the crowsnest?” The bearded man offered. “That would make more sense, especially as I’m about to say she made a magnificent leap and swung on the end of a rope like a pendulum across the warehouse.”
“I think your main problem,” the tall man said, “is your terminology. Are you certain you even know what a sloop is?”
“And would a ship in dry dock really have a mainsail?” Connelly added. He scratched at his neck. “Wouldn’t they take the canvases down as they fixed it? You probably mean that pole in the middle of the ship that the sail is tied to, which I can’t possibly know the name of if you don’t.”
“I sergest you go Wiki it,” the bearded man offered. “Go on – we’ll abide here in the meantime.”
Argh. The worst part is, they're right: I'm not even sure that I do mean a sloop, and I'm pretty sure a mainsail is the canvas flappy thing that hangs off the big mast ("mast" being the word that neither Connelly nor I could remember at the time).

~ Charlotte, going slightly mad (but at least I'll meet most of my characters when I get there)

November 24, 2011

The Business End of NaNoWriMo

The other day I was having coffee with a dear friend, and she asked me how NaNoWriMo was going.
"Well," I said, in a devil-may-care-manner, "I'm six thousand words behind target, but I'm not worried. I've never lost a NaNo challange yet."
She nodded, obviously very impressed with my cavalier confidence. She even seemed not to notice that my coffee cup shook as I set it back in the saucer.

Happily, Gentle Reader, I am no longer six thousand words behind target. After a mammoth effort and some wordage of questionable quality, I am now only 5,666 words behind target.


The issue, I think, is that time has a terrible habit of zipping by when I'm not watching. Just when I think I'm catching up nicely, one day tips into the next, and suddenly I have to play catch-up plus 1,666 more words.

It doesn't help, Gentle Reader, that I live at the cutting edge of time zones. This is a fact that usually brings with it a perverse and illogical smugness: Sarah Palin may be able to see Russia from her house, but I can see TOMORROW from mine, etc. However, in November my chronological advancement means only one thing: NaNoWriMo ends a day earlier for me.*

So at present I have six days (including today) to get tothe 50k mark. I currently have just over 36k, so that's 14k in six days, which is... carry the 2... 2,333 words each day.
Right. Well, that's do-able.

After all, I've never lost a NaNo challenge yet. *cue nervous rattle of coffee cup in saucer*

Slinking off to NaNoLand,


* I know exactly what you're about to say, Ms Mathematics. Nobody counts the extra day I have at the start.

November 11, 2011

Books, Jim, But Not As We Know Them...

As some of my writer friends will know, I have recently purchased myself a Kindle. Yes, admittedly I was for years one of the "Eww, e-books, how sterile and dreadful" people. I talked about the tactile experience of printed novels, the satisfying heft of them in my hand, the nostalgic smell of the binding glue.
So what's changed? Nothing, really; I still like books you can use to tone your biceps, and I can still occasionally be found in a quiet area of the library, furtively sniffing at book bindings. 

However, you can't beat an e-reader for convenience. That baby slips right into my handbag and barely weighs more than my makeup bag (I realise I'm inviting jokes about wearing a tonne of makeup!). I can store hundreds of novels on my Kindle, and - I'm told - I can even subscribe to magazines in e-book format. What's more, because I take it with me everywhere, I read more: I actually use those annoying five-minute down times when I'm waiting to pick up my husband, or sitting at the doctor's, to zip through a book.

I'm downloading my books from Amazon and Smashwords at the moment (if there are other amazing sites I should know about, please share). And today I did my first batch of reviews on Smashwords! (Still haven't figured out how to log back into Amazon to complete the reviews... why do I ever vary my passwords?!)

One thing I realised as I wrote the reviews, is how careful I am now that I am a writer. In my former life, as a non-writer but prolific reader, I was probably a lot more cavalier about reviews - or I didn't bother to write them at all. But now my attitude is Hey, this person put their heart and soul - and craploads of time - into writing this novel/short story. The least I can do is write a fair and balanced review.

The dreadful knowledge that comes with being a writer is that Critiques Are Scary. It doesn't matter if it's a friend's once-over of your draft, a beta-reader's crit, or a read from an agent. They're all scary, and they can all cut right to the bone.

I tread, therefore, lightly. My method is to pretend that I had written the novel, and see how I would feel if I read the review. It leads to some carefully-chosen words and several edits before I finally feel justified in hitting "Submit."

How about you, Gentle Reader? Do you find the time to write reviews? If you're a writer as well as a reader, has it chnaged the way you treat reviews?

PS NaNoWriMo Update: After a marathon effort today to play catch-up, my word count is 18 766, which, as the helping NaNo calculator tells me, is 1706 per day since November 1st!

Basking in the glow of her own verbosity,

~ Charlotte

November 3, 2011

Ten Percent Mark!

Today was Day 3 of NanoWriMo. Now my math skills aren't the best, but I figure:

Day 3 = 10% of the way through November = 10% of the way through 50k words = 5,000 words

And blow me down, I've scraped in at 5,666!

Yes, I did consider writing one more word so it wouldn't end in "666," but then I reflected that my scene involved:
  • A man being strangled to death;
  • references to avenging angels;
  • a black poodle called Iblis
So I figured that it probably was a fitting word count.

And now all that demonic bahaviour has worked up an appetite. I'm off to eat chocolate, the snack of Nano-champions.

Oh, umm, do I have favouritse bit of scribble today? Probably this:

He heard a sound, like the unfurling of a canvas sail from overhead. There was a slap as a line landed just yards from his feet. A second later a sudden winding noise and there alighted before him a young woman, dressed in men’s trousers and vest.
They gazed at one another for a moment, surprised. She was pink of cheek, as if from the exertion, and her lips were parted. Freddie could see a sheen of sweat on her top lip.
“Who the hell...?” He glanced at the man standing across from them. “What the divvil’s going on here?”
The fellow puffed on his pipe and seemed unfazed. He gave a small nod to the young woman.
She blinked at Freddie. Her right hand fumbled at her belt, releasing her from the line she’d sailed down on. Her gaze slid to the man – her master, Freddie thought, and for some reason the thought made his insides liquid.
“Come on,” the palsied fellow sighed.
“Wait. I...” Freddie experienced a moment of dreadful clarity, and realised that there were some things that were worth more than thirty guineas. He stepped backwards, darted one more look at the girl, and turned on heel.

Unfortunately, Freddie turned out not to be much of a sprinter!

PS Ten internet points to anyone who can knows where the black poodle reference comes from. I'll give you a clue: that particular furry character was suggested by my German husband.

November 2, 2011

Word Count = 3375

I had intended to start every NaNo day on a new document, so that I could easily see exactly how many words I had written on any given day. The theory worked for... umm... *counts on fingers*.... exactly one day.

Never mind; at least now it's easier to have a running tally!

By my calculations, I should have 3332 words, so I'm slightly ahead of the game. Some of my NaNo buddies are really kicking it already, with word counts of six or seven thousand. Very impressive. But as for me and my laptop, we're going more tortoise than hare this year. As long as I get my 1667 each day, and maybe a handful more on the weekends, I'll be happy.

Today I wrote a creepy scene introducing the protagonist's stalker, a troubled physician called Henry. I realised after I wrote the scene that Henry's complex relationship with his mother was almost coming across... how shall I put this? A little Oedipal, which is not what I intended. Oh well, editing's a job for December! 

Anyway, once he'd finished having an ambiguous conversation with his Mama, poor old Henry indulges in his favourite pasttime:

As the fluid turned the colour of molasses, he placed the end of the needle into the puddle, and drew it gently into the syringe. The surface of the silver syringe bloomed a sheen of moisture as the fluid’s warmth reacted with the cool tube.
Henry rolled the narrow tube between his fingers, relishing the warmth of it. As a bubble of dark fluid oozed from the end of the needle, he carefully lifted the tea caddy and peered beneath it.
The rat gazed back at him, his small eyes dark and unreadable.
“Well now,” Henry said, smiling at the creature. “It just might be that you’re the lucky one.”