Throwback Thursday: The Malice Restored My Faith In Sci-Fi/Fantasy Trilogies

First published 05/03/2017
SPOILER ALERT

While every effort has been taken to avoid spoilers, anyone who has not read The Malice or The Vagrant by Peter Newman is hereby advised that this post may contain a few unavoidable spoilers.

I was rather reluctant to write a post reviewing Peter Newman’s The Malice (the second book in Newman’s The Vagrant trilogy) for the simple reason that I seem to be constantly bigging up Peter Newman on this site, as well as on Twitter. Frankly, if I keep this up, there’s a very real danger of Penstricken turning into The Peter Newman Appreciation Society (I may have raved about The Vagrant once, twice, or thrice before).

However, a few days ago someone very kindly (but not entirely accurately) referred to Penstricken as a ‘writing tips blog’ when really I intended this site to be for both story writers and their audiences. So, I decided it was time to write a post for those of you who have put up with me rambling about writing week in and week out when all you really want is a book recommendation. And since I have recently finished The Malice, it seemed a logical choice to review it on this week’s post.

Naturally I will try to give a fair, balanced and critical review but you know…

The Vagrant trilogy is arguably the best sci-fi/fantasy series I’ve come across in a long time!* It has made me believe in sci-fi/fantasy trilogies again! I wish the third book would just hurry up and COME OUT already!

… and relax.

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s get down to business.

The Malice is the second book in the Vagrant trilogy, based several years after the events of The Vagrant. When I read the first book a year or so ago, I did so believing that it was a stand-alone novel. You see, over the years, I have grown cautious about reading novel series (especially sci-fi/fantasy) from authors I don’t know because I have often found myself getting bored with them by the second or third book. As we know, some series just go on and on and on and on and on forever. Therefore, since there’s nothing worse than abandoning a story halfway through, I tend to think long and hard before picking up a new series. As much as I loved the originality, the poetic language and the vivid world-building I found in The Vagrant, when I learned that it was part of a trilogy I was a little anxious that it might go the way of so many other series I’ve started but never finished.

I was wrong. I devoured The Malice with as much proverbial** relish as I did The Vagrant. I think the reason it works so well as a sequel is because Newman has managed to strike that difficult balance between continuity with the first book and not rehashing the same story all over again. For example, there is a definite continuity in the style of story-telling. Newman’s distinctive voice has carried on into the sequel and draws us easily back into the same vivid and original world he has created. However, the characters are, as always, where Newman really works his magic.

As with the previous book, we have the protagonist who leads the adventure; the protagonist’s companion who supports and defends her and a capra aegagrus hircus (in this case, a kid), who serves in a comedy relief kind of capacity. However, Newman hasn’t relied on reusing the same (or virtually identical) group of heroes as before. The protagonist, Vesper, for example, is a young girl; chatty, a little unsure of herself, optimistic to the point of naivety and with an iron core of purity and unhindered free-thinking that suits her age and background. This is quite the opposite of her father and protagonist from the previous book: the strong and silent Vagrant who pushed his way relentlessly through whatever adversity he encountered.

Her companion, Duet, brings a similarly refreshing spin on the familiar role she plays. She is a Harmonised; an single entity made up of two joined individuals (as far as I could tell). Having been forced to kill her other self in the early chapters of the book, Duet grows increasingly bitter and cynical throughout the story as her health begins to fail her. Again, this contrasts sharply with the companion from the previous book, who served mainly as a very positive influence to encourage the Vagrant on his journey.

It was also good to get something more of the origins and inner-politics (if you can call it that) of the infernals who feature heavily in both books.

This book (both of them, in fact) also beautifully accomplishes something which very few other sci-fi novels do. It draws the reader into a dark and dangerous dystopian world while yet retaining a sense of optimism and even fun; exploring important themes of friendship, compassion (especially in the character of Vesper, who often resolves to help and heal others even at great risk to herself and her mission) and duty. For me, this sets it apart from many other sci-fi stories which are often either unremittingly depressing from the get-go or else are a little too fun to have any realism or tension about them (not that I’m knocking that. I like fun). This gives it a sense of believably, even though it is set in a world that is so completely different from our own.

If I must criticise something about this book (and I really would rather not), it would be that the pacing of the last few chapters could possibly have benefited from a little tightening up. I don’t want to give away what happens, but it did feel a little bit like having dramatically saved the day, Vesper then goes back home via the long and not-terribly-thrilling route which left me thinking ‘I hope something good happens to justify all this excess narrative that’s been stuck on the end’. Well, I don’t want to give away what it is but trust me: something good does happen. It is definitely worth reading on, especially if you’ve got any plans (as I do) to read the third instalment, The Seven, when it comes out in April.

All in all, The Malice was every bit as excellent a story as its predecessor; perhaps even better. While it remains firmly rooted in its predecessor, it carries the story forward in great strides, opening up the possibilities for the next instalment and leaving the reader feeling both fully satisfied and eager for the next one. Go get it!


*Having said that, I have just started The Mistborn series. It’s off to a promising start too.

**Don’t put literal relish on your book. It leaves a stain. LFMF.

Buy The Vagrant Trilogy on Amazon


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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Fiction

Writing fiction is a funny old game. There are so many rules and conventions that you must absolutely never break, unless of course you want to break them [2]. It can be difficult to know for sure if there really are any hard and fast rules for writing than are universally applicable and must never, ever be broken, even if you as the author think it’s justified.

Nevertheless, there are some mistakes you can make which will almost invariably drag your pace to crawl, bore your readers to tears and perhaps even upset or anger some. If you’re writing a story, I’d suggest that you avoid the following:

Undercooked Characters

When a reader reads your book, they are stepping into an imaginary world of your creation. They will meet people who do not really exist doing things that have never really happened.

You’ve got to bring all this stuff to life in your reader’s mind using nothing but words. You need to make sure, therefore, that your characters are distinctive and portrayed in a way which brings them to life. Names and cosmetic descriptions alone will not suffice for this. Backstory; personality types; hopes and dreams; fears and pet peeves; distinctive voice and clearly established motives and goals all go into making characters who really stand out as believable people. Click here for more on constructing vivid characters.

Vague Settings

In a similar way to characters, your story’s setting must be brought to life in the imagination of your reader using only words. A vague setting will create the sense that the action is taking place in a vacuum. The characters might be walking about, but they go from nowhere to nowhere. They might be doing stuff, but they are interacting with a non-existant world. This can lead the reader to completely lose track of what’s going on in the story, as they struggle to to envisage if they are even supposed to be outdoors or indoors.

Moreover, setting helps to establish mood. Imagine if the famous ‘I am your father’ scene from Star Wars had been set in a fertile meadow on a bright spring morning instead of over a sheer drop at the heart of the Death Star. It would’ve spoiled the mood, right?

So remember, whenever you write a scene to consider the five human senses. What does the place look like? What sounds can you hear? What can you smell? Now you have your setting!

Click here for more on constructing a vivid setting.

Info-dumping

The thing about fiction is the reader comes at each story afresh. The reader knows nothing of your backstory, your characters or anything else you have created from your own imagination. This is especially true in high fantasy (though it can happen in any genre), where the entire world is made up from scratch.

But you need your reader to know all this stuff, so it can be very tempting to pile on the info in a long-winded, clinical sort of way. E.g.: ‘Madeupland was once a mighty empire spanning eleven continents, all the way to the Dragonsea. After the civilian revolts of 1203, the empire was fractured, and many kings arose to rule small communities throughout the Empire. King Sumwun, the forth child of a blacksmith, rose to prominence in the Wher’er District, wresting power from the legitimate governor seven years ago…’

I got bored writing that. You can bet your life your reader will bore reading it. Weave the facts through your story and allow your reader to become acquainted with your world by spending time living in it and experiencing it through the eyes of your character, rather than giving them a lecture.

Low Stakes or No Stakes

Reading a book takes time and your readers are busy people. They won’t sit through a 90,000 word novel unless they care about what happens, so be sure to raise the stakes a bit. If you write a story in which failure or taking no action is an option for your protagonist, it really won’t be worth the reader’s time reading it.

High stakes doesn’t necessarily mean the entire universe is in danger of destruction or that an evil sorcerer will take over the world (though those motifs are popular for a reason; the stakes are high). It could be as simple as Bob being secretly in love with Betty but now Johnny Sparklepants has proposed to her and she’s ‘thinking about it.’

Boom! There you go, high stakes! Without Johnny’s proposition, Bob’s story about secretly loving Betty would be stagnant and boring. But now Bob’s about to lose the love of his life if he doesn’t act quickly and decisively. Make sure your protagonist is facing some kind of crisis, where inaction is not an option and failure would spell disaster.

Soapboxing

So you’ve got something important you want to say with your story: a real life theme you’re passionate about, with a core belief you want your audience to understand and perhaps even accept for themselves.

Good for you. I’m all for that. But you need to be careful not to make your audience feel preached at. That can feel patronising, even if the audience happens to agree with your message. It will also drag the pace of your story to a slow crawl if you’re constantly detouring into political, religious or ethical treatise. ‘Instead,’ to quote myself, ‘focus on telling the story. Make it as true as you can and fill it with believable, sympathetic characters to whom your reader can relate. They’ll start to understand what it’s like to be in that position and will begin to think. And that’s all you can hope to accomplish as a writer: provoke thought.’


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to ‘like’ this post and also follow us so you never miss another post. You can also follow Penstricken on TwitterPinterest and like Penstricken on Facebook.

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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

Monday Motivation

Want a blog of your own? Start writing today with WordPress.com!

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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

5 Hashtags Every Writer Should Know

I remember when Twitter was getting started. I avoided it like it had a horrible disease. I especially despised the way #hashtags began to creep into every area of life (I still despise it when people include hashtags at the end of texts, e-mails and in verbal conversation). Somewhere along the line, however, Twitter has become a part of life and hashtags have wormed their way into most mainstream social media. I, myself, now fully embrace the hashtag (#NotInVerbalConversation) and use it to network with relevant people: readers, authors, publishers and so on.

So, today I’m going to give you a brief list of some essential hashtags for fiction writers. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list (there are bazillions out there!) but is, rather, a selection of those hashtags which I find the most useful as a writer.

#WritingCommunity

Writing can be a solitary business. If you want to be part of a supportive community of like-minded people but don’t want to leave the comfort of your desk, you could do a lot worse than searching for the #WritingCommunity hashtag. Writers from all over the world use it to share their progress, ask for advice and generally connect with other writers. Apart from the odd troll, the #WritingCommunity tend to be a pretty decent bunch so don’t be shy. Send us a tweet and introduce yourself!

#AskAgent / #AskPub / #AskEditor

You might be confident writing stories, but do you know what to do with your story once it’s finished? The world of publishing can be complicated for the uninitiated and a giftedness in the areas of language or story-telling certainly isn’t synonymous with an understanding of the processes or etiquette involved in getting your work edited, represented, published and marketed.

Fortunately, help is at hand. Twitter is full of people who do this stuff for a living. While I wouldn’t recommend DMing or otherwise harassing individual agents, editors or publishers with your questions, you can send a general tweet which includes one of these hashtags (depending on whom you want advice from) and then sit back and wait for the replies to come flooding seeping trickling in.

#writetip / #WritingTip

Got a juicy nugget of writing wisdom to share? Include a #writetip or #writingtip hashtag so people hunting for writing wisdom can easily find it.

Looking for juicy nuggets of writing wisdom? Just search #writetip or #writingtip and waste the next few hours of your day sifting through all the gold and dross Twitter’s vast array of users have to offer on how to write a killer story.

This hashtag is especially useful for if you routinely blog writing tips and share the links on Twitter (like I do!), as links to your blog will be included whenever someone searches for the #writetip hashtag.

#writerslift

Not got quite as many followers as you might like? Try taking part in a #writerslift. These are tweets, generally aimed at writers with a specific number of followers or less, which encourage the struggling writer to comment back (usually with some fact about their writing project, or sometimes just a funny gif) to quickly reach a wide audience.

#VSS365

You might occasionally see this strange little hashtag attached to little single-tweet sized microfictions and wonder what the heck it means. Basically, it’s a fun writing exercise which has become very popular, in which writers publish a full story in a single tweet, based on a daily prompt.

To find the daily prompt, just search for the hashtags #VSS365 and #Prompt. It will usually be the first result that appears and is easily identifiable. More on this Twitter trend here.

honourable mentions:
  • #Amwriting – Used mainly by people who should be writing but are tweeting.
  • #Amediting – Similar to amwriting, only for people who should be editing.
  • #Writerslife – Used mainly to reflect on the strange lifestyle of writing.
  • #IndieAuthors – A community for indie authors. Essential for getting the word out about your book.
  • #WordCount – Used mainly to share how well we think we’re doing based on how many words we’ve written.
  • #WIP – stands for ‘work in progress’, used mainly to talk about how our current projects are going.
  • #FF / #FollowFriday – Similar, though not identical, to writerslift. Used on Fridays.
  • #MustRead
  • #BookGiveaway
  • #Novelines – a hashtag used when sharing excerpts from one’s own novel.
  • #ASMSG – Authors Social Media Support Group
  • #SCBWI  – Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators #SciFi
  • #Romance
  • #Fantasy
  • #Horror
  • #Erotica
  • #Suspense
  • #NaNoWriMo – Comes but once a year. More on this here.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to ‘like’ this post and also follow us so you never miss another post. You can also follow Penstricken on TwitterPinterest and like Penstricken on Facebook.

Want a blog of your own? Start writing today with WordPress.com!

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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

Throwback Thursday: 5 Sci-Fi Tropes I Could Live Without

First published 29/10/2017

Among the many styles and genres of fiction which I enjoy, I must unashamedly confess to a particular fondness for popular sci-fi and fantasy. Yes I know it’s all just unrealistic escapism into a nonsense world of space adventures, suspiciously human shaped aliens and humanity being conquered by the very robots we built to help us but still… it’s fun. And you know… fun’s allowed, even if you like serious literature.

All the same… there have to be limits. But for some reason, sci-fi is just chock full of certain clichéd tropes, some of which are so very ridiculous that it frankly beggars belief that they ever became clichés. The others are just plain done to death. What follows are some of my (least) favourites.

The Holographic Hook

You’ve got to write a space opera and are struggling to come up with an exciting opening scene to draw the audience in from the very beginning. Solution: an exciting space battle! Ships firing at one another, hand to hand combat between aliens and humans, lasers, explosions–

Then an admiral calmly walks onto the scene and ends the simulation. It was all just a holographic training exercise!

This kind of scene, made famous by the Kobayashi Maru scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (and then repeated time and time again in one form or another), gives the audience a burst of excitement that has very little bearing on the story which is to follow. The best it can do is foreshadow some internal conflict the protagonist may face later on in the story.

Please… it’s been done too often. Put some effort in and come up with a proper hook for your story.

Is That You Clive?

You’re alone on an abandoned space station or a spooky castle. Or maybe you’re just home alone, meticulously colouring in your colouring-in book on a dark and stormy night. Suddenly you hear something… something rattling, hissing, banging… perhaps even a sinister inhuman voice whispering your name.

You spin around wildly.

‘Is that you Clive?’

No. No, it’s not Clive. It’s never Clive. And really, ask yourself, is this the sort of thing Clive normally does? If it is… you need to dump Clive and get yourself some nicer friends. Just saying.

Just once I’d like to read or watch something where the victim doesn’t automatically assume that the scary noise is their friend pulling a cruel prank on them. Or better still, just once, I’d like it to really be Clive pulling a cruel trick. At least I’d be surprised.

Hey Clive, Are Those New Horns?

Something terrible has happened to Clive. He’s being controlled by an alien or replaced with a robot duplicate. His behaviour is erratic. His speech has become strange. His eyes have turned luminous green and he has grown horns.

And no one really notices until it’s too late.

My personal favourite example of this occurs in the Doctor Who episode, Rose. Rose returns to her boyfriend’s car to find he is now made entirely of plastic and is talking funny. And what does she do?

Goes out for dinner with him. She suspects nothing until the Doctor fires a corkscrew straight through his skull without injuring him. And she’s supposed to be his girlfriend.

Sigh. 

We, The People of Earth…

So it finally happened. Aliens have made contact with humanity. They may have come in peace or they may have come laser guns blazing, but one way or another, it’s first contact day for the people of Earth.

You know Earth, don’t you? Seven-point-four billion different versions of the truth, spread across one hundred and ninety five independent sovereign states (to say nothing of those who want to break away and start their own nation or conquer others) all gathered together on one planet, unable to agree on even the most trifling of matters?

A whole host of different political ideologies, systems of government, international treaties and religious beliefs, and yet when the aliens finally come, humanity all rallies around a single leader, or at the very least, sets aside all their differences. Usually it’s the President of the USA, except in Doctor Who where it can be just about anyone except the President. In any event, I have a sneaking suspicion that if aliens did make themselves known to us today, humanity would not respond with a single unified voice, or even two or three differing voices. Call me cynical but I think it would probably be chaos.

Ask yourself this. If aliens landed on Earth today:

How would Donald Trump respond?
What about Kim Jong-Un?
What about Angela Merkel?
What about ISIS?
What about the Pope?
What about the World Health Organisation?
The Scottish National Party?
The British National Party?
Richard Branson?
Kim Kardashian?
The writers of Doctor Who?
The guy that sells the Big Issue in the town centre?

You get the idea.

Magical Alien Artefacts

I don’t really have a problem with functioning magical artefacts if you’re writing a fantasy, set in a world of magic and myth, rather than a sci-fi set in space and/or the future. At its core, sci-fi (even silly popular sci-fi) tends to speculate on the advancement of technology and science, rather than the possibility that magic might actually work. If we are assuming that magic is not real, as sci-fi tends to do, we have to ask some serious questions about why it would work on an alien planet.

‘Ah, but, you see, it’s not really magic!’ I hear you cry. ‘It’s just technology that seems like magic!

But if it’s just technology… why dress it up like magic? Star Trek is very guilty of this. Whether it’s the legend of the Tox Uthat (a quantum phase inhibitor which appeared in TNG: Captain’s Holiday), or Vulcan mythology concerning the psionic resonator (TNG: Gambit), there just seems to be no end of magical artefacts in space which are actually just very clever technology. Technology made of stone. Stone technology that does magic. Heck, some even involve meditating and muttering incantations.

Dishonourable Mentions:

  • Everybody knows how to fly every kind of spaceship in the universe, even if it is of completely alien design.
  • Everybody knows everything about science.
  • Rough alien taverns. Just once, give me a classy alien wine bar.
  • With just a slight modification to the engine/shields/BBQ grill, we can do some sci-fi magic to save the day!
  • The bad guys believe emotion is a weakness and that is their Achille’s heel.
  • Love conquers all (exemplified in the Doctor Who episode Closing Time, where Craig is turned into a Cyberman then somehow manages to turn himself back into a human simply because he hears his baby son crying… as if he was the first parent the Cybermen ever upgraded. Seriously, I preferred it when the Cybermen’s greatest weakness was gold).
  • Universal translators.
  • Legendary technology, planets or lifeforms which really do exist.
  • Having a weapon of mass destruction called ‘The Weapon’. By all means call it the Super Zappy Death Ray, but don’t call it The Weapon. Use your imagination and give it a name.
  • Shooting the control panel/monitor shuts down everything on the entire spaceship, unlocks every locked door and/or disarms the Weapon.
  • Snippets of news reporters telling the general public how to survive the alien invasion. I repeat, do this to survive the alien invasion!
  • Jeanie who works at the shop is actually THE PROPHESIED CHOSEN WARRIOR QUEEN OF ALL THE MULTIVERSE and she doesn’t even realise it.

Well that was a far from exhaustive list but I’m glad to have got it off my chest anyway. Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Be sure to leave us a wee comment below and don’t forget to ‘like’ this post and follow us so you never miss another post. You can also follow Penstricken on Twitter and like Penstricken on Facebook, if that’s what reverses your polarity.

Until next time!


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to ‘like’ this post and also follow us so you never miss another post. You can also follow Penstricken on TwitterPinterest and like Penstricken on Facebook.

Want a blog of your own? Start writing today with WordPress.com!

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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

Monday Motivation

Want a blog of your own? Start writing today with WordPress.com!

WordPress.com Jetpack WooCommerce

ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

Dealing with Rejection

Rejection. It’s horrid word. It conjures up all sorts of images of being cast out, thrown aside, denied any part in the very thing that matters most to you. It’s also a word you’d better get used to if you want to write for a living, because no matter how good your writing might be, you’re going to experience rejection again and again and again.

Rejection of your writing comes in many forms: the short, professional note thanking you for your submission but this time you have been unsuccessful; the hateful diatribe telling you what a failure you are at life for ever attempting to write; the useful feedback explaining what you could have done better and encouraging you to try again and of course, the lengthy shopping list of everything that has annoyed the editor that day. But whatever way you dress it up, you’ve polished your creation as well as you thought you could, shown it to someone who might bring it to life and they’ve said no. That’s a rubbish feeling.

So you’ve got two options. Give up or deal with it and move on (hint: you’re not allowed to choose ‘give up’).

I’ll give you a few tips on how to deal with rejection in just a second, but first I think it’s worth pointing out that giving up comes in many forms. Sure, there’s obvious forms of giving up like quitting writing forever, divorcing your spouse because you feel guilty for shackling them to a failure such as yourself, or throwing yourself under a herd of stampeding cattle but there are also more subtle ways to cave into rejection such as abandoning your project and starting a new one. This might not feel like giving up, but if you really believed in this story a few days ago, why give up on it now? Has the story changed or have you? Alternatively, you might be tempted to put your rejected stories on your blog (yes, guilty as charged [2] [3] but I’ve made a solemn oath never to do that again: any stories you get on Penstricken these days were specifically written for Penstricken).

Anyway, you’re not going to do any of that. You’re going to deal with your rejection in a mature and productive way, so here’s my top tips on how to do it.

Persevere From the Outset

Before you even submit your work to anyone, remember my writing motto (one of them anyway):

Nothing appeals to everyone. Most things appeal to someone.

There isn’t a single story out there that everybody likes but any reasonably written story will appeal to somebody, somewhere. You will get rejections but, assuming you’ve written a reasonably solid piece of work, the chances are that you will also find someone who accepts it. So persevere. Find that somebody. Don’t write your story off as being a bad story just because it’s been rejected, even if it gets rejected many times.

Take Time Out If Needed

Rejection hurts. There’s a good chance you will be a bubbling pot of yucky emotions once you get that rejection letter, so do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel better. I find fast paced computer games I don’t have to think about too much work for me. You might enjoy a healthier option, such as going for a jog. Whatever it is, give yourself an hour or two to purge those horrible feelings in the way that works best for you.

Of course, there are some ‘techniques’ for dealing with your emotions you absolutely must not indulge in. For instance…

Do not Send an Angry, petulant or otherwise inappropriate Reply!

I mentioned this on Twitter the other day, but it bears mentioning again for anyone who missed it because it seems that agents and publishers are often inundated with authors writing back to vent their disappointment that their work has been rejected. This can range from general whining (‘I poured out my soul into this story and now you’ve shattered my dreams!’), to arrogant (and probably false) boasting (‘I’ve been accepted by a billion other people and you’re an idiot for not seeing how amazing I am!’), to blatant insults and threats of violence.

Don’t do this guys. Don’t ever do any of this, no matter how you feel. It will only put you on their blacklist and the blacklist of any other agents they might happen to know. If you must write back, write back only to thank them very much for their time. Graciousness, always graciousness.

Objectively Consider Feedback

You won’t always get feedback of course, but sometimes you will. Sometimes it’s constructive, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s well justified, sometimes it may not be.

We know you believe in your story already. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have submitted it. The question is, is the feedback you received justified? Think carefully and objectively about the criticism you received. Even the best stories have room for improvement, so if you think the criticism you received is justified then act on it. Make your story better and try again. Equally, don’t feel pressured into making unnecessary changes that might not be appropriate for your story.

Repeat until accepted.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to ‘like’ this post and also follow us so you never miss another post. You can also follow Penstricken on TwitterPinterest and like Penstricken on Facebook.

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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

Monday Motivation

Want a blog of your own? Start writing today with WordPress.com!

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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

Throwback Thursday: 7 Websites to Help You Procrastinate

First published: 21/10/2018

There’s a reason writers are often advised to completely disconnect themselves from the internet whenever they sit down to write: the internet is simply teeming with a million different things to distract you from what you’re supposed to be doing. It only takes one single moment of weakness and the next thing you know, you’re sucked into a swirling online vortex of time wasting.

Of course, these young whipper-snapper writers with their Facebooks and their Instagrams wouldn’t know a good time-wasting website if it came along and bit them on the nose; but if you want to waste time online without having to listen to all your acquaintances broadcasting their opinions that nobody cares about then you’ve come to the right place. I have scoured the internet looking for websites that you can waste your entire writing session on without having to interact with another human being anywhere else on the internet. Some of these are overtly useless (mostly free and silly games); others create the illusion of productivity by convincing you that you’re researching your story or tracking your progress when, in fact, you’re just procrastinating.

But be warned, gentle reader: when you visit these websites you might not leave and you’ll accomplish nothing.

THE SECRET OF MONKEY ISLAND INSULT SWORD-FIGHTING – FREE BROWSER GAME

Gamers of a certain vintage will remember Ron Gilbert’s masterpiece, The Secret of Monkey Island; the classic point-and-click adventure game following the adventures of the goofy, mild-mannered pirate-wannabe, Guybrush Threepwood.

Well our good friends at Karza have knocked together this free-to-play online version of the insult sword-fighting mini-game from The Secret of Monkey Island, including three difficulty levels: Normal (Monkey Island 1 insults only), Hard (Monkey Island 3 insults only) and Very hard (all the insults!).

It’s a thing of beauty.

Enjoy.

Click here to play!

LETTERS OF NOTE

This fascinating little website is jam-packed with a collection of ‘fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos’. Most of them are from or to famous people, or else are just plain interesting. Some are really old. Some are really new.

Procrastinating writer, beware: once you start reading these letters, you might not be able to stop.

Anyway, you’re struggling for a story idea aren’t you? And reading all these letters is bound to help stimulate the imagination, or some other lame excuse like that.

Click here to read mail more interesting than your own.

LEVEL UP LIFE

If you love old fashioned role-playing computer games with their experience points based systems, and if you’re looking for a means of er… tracking your progress as a writer (😉), you’ll love Level Up Life. Once you make up an account (for free), you can then begin earning experience points and levelling up for completing all your real life achievements.

As you progress through life, you will also earn skill points. The skill points you earn are dependant on the particular things you achieve, allowing you ‘to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie’.

Faffing around with this is a great way to pretend you’re getting your life and writing organised when in fact you’re just faffing around.

Click here to ‘play’

FIND THE INVISIBLE COW

I spent way too long ‘researching’ this website when I decided to write about good procrastination websites, so this one definitely had to make the cut. You are presented with a blank screen and invited to move your cursor across the screen, listening out for a voice repeatedly shouting ‘cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow…’. The louder the voice gets, the closer to the invisible cow you are. Click on it once you’ve found it and boom, you score one point.

Five points allows you to unlock goats.

Fifty points allows you to unlock another animal, which I am sure to unlock soon and then I’ll let you know…

Click here to go cow-hunting

THE MOTH

This is another good ‘I’m not wasting time, I’m researching’ website. In it you will find a collection of true stories told by a diverse collection of people, unscripted and in their own words.

Moth shows are renowned for the great range of human experience they showcase. Each show starts with a theme, and the storytellers explore it, often in unexpected ways. Since each story is true and every voice authentic, the shows dance between documentary and theater, creating a unique, intimate, and often enlightening experience for the audience.

~ ‘About the Moth’

It’s not really my cup of tea personally, but like Letters Of Note, it’s another great source of real life material that can ‘inspire your next story’ (or as I prefer to call it, ‘distract you from your current story’).

Here’s the link!

DINOSAUR GAME (CHROME USERS ONLY)

You’re hard at work on your story. You’ve got a deadline looming and the clock is ticking. You mean business, so you’ve physically disconnected everything in your house that vaguely resembles an internet connection.

By sheer force of habit, you open Google Chrome, intending to peruse Letters of Note for a little inspiration, or perhaps to have one quick game of Find the Invisible Cow, but are rudely stopped in your tracks by this:

s

Don’t worry, there’s no need to rebuild your router. Just press the space bar and enjoy the free game which you play simply using your space bar to make the dinosaur jump and your ‘down’ key to make him crouch down.

I don’t have a link for this one. If you want to play it, you’ll need to disconnect your internet then try to use your Chrome browser.

SELL ME SOMETHING WEIRD OR CONFUSING

Fancy a bit of retail therapy to take your mind off your story? This website features one great big pink button which will link you to some of the most random and bizarre products money can buy. Whether it’s a an inflatable unicorn horn for your cata nose aerobics game, or the ever-popular pants for your hands this website will give you hours minutes a minute or two’s worth of fun marvelling at the things people will spend their money on.

Click here to be disturbed and appalled by what people will spend their money on.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to ‘like’ this post and also follow us so you never miss another post. You can also follow Penstricken on TwitterPinterest and like Penstricken on Facebook, if that’s what wastes your time.

Want a blog of your own? Start writing today with WordPress.com!

WordPress.com Jetpack WooCommerce

ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

You can check out our previous interviews here: