3 Minute Story: Everybody Dies

“I don’t want to die.” The sob escaped my mouth, cutting through the blackness.

Silence. “Everyone dies.” A rough voice echoed. “It’s the only thing in life that’s guaranteed.”

Stones shift and grind as I adjust my position, offering slight relief from the cold, sharp ground. “There’s still so many things I want to do.” I could feel my voice shake.

“Well, why haven’t you already done them?” The calmness of the other man’s voice sounded almost mocking. “You’ve lived a life, haven’t you?”

The usual excuses bubbled to the forefront of my mind. “I never had the time. I had to work. The car still needed paying off.” I thought. But could only manage a swallow. The thoughts sounding idiotic, even to me, in the cold pitch black.

Time passed, as time does, in its steady relentless way. For how long, I couldn’t say. I drifted in and out of what could only have been sleep. The intermittent sound of dripping water, the only sign that I was still alive.

Still no sign of any rescue.

“I was once like you, you know.” A dry voice, the product of dehydration, sparking me to alertness. “I used to think that there would always be a tomorrow.” The man coughed. “It’s a lie. One that everyone seems to believe. Or maybe just not want to talk about.”.

“What happened?” I managed, prompting for more. Anything to take my mind off the cold that had sunk deep into my bones. But the silence resumed. Maybe he had been talking in his sleep. Maybe he had died.

“I had a family.” The man broke through the dark. “There was four of us.” He paused. “I had met my wife in school. We married and settled not long after. I started working here at the mine, and before long, two kids had come along.” The words seemed to strain him.

I tried to focus on the man’s story, but I could feel my mind slipping away from my numb body. I didn’t even care anymore. I just wanted peace.

“I thought those days would be like that forever.” The man’s voice was a little more than a whisper. It was enough to focus my mind. “A car crash took them. On the way to the lake. All four of them. I had been too busy to go.”. For the first time I recognised pain in the man’s voice.

“I’m sorry.” The clumsy words tumbling from a numb tongue and clenched teeth.

“Everybody dies”. The man’s voice mocked.

I sank into the blackness.

A dazzling white light shone before me. Voices shouting muffed words. I felt my body leave the floor. I blinked my eyes clear and looked around, my head heavy on my shoulders. A face catches my eyes. A still face, as if frozen in time. A curled smile etched into his lips. Before me laid an old man, his hair long since greyed.

“Everybody dies” Echoed in my mind.

Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Author Interview: Devin Madson

This week I had the fantastic opportunity to talk with the incredible author Devin Madson. Devin is the author of the Vengeance Trilogy, the award winning novella In Shadows We Fall, and her most recent, and SPFBO 2018 entered, novel We Ride The Storm. As you can see from my review, I am a huge fan of Devin’s most recent novel. Before we being, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Devin for being such an awesome person for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me.

So, here it goes!

Hi Devin. Tell me a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

There’s not a lot of that sort of time because I’m a workaholic, but I do love playing both video games and board games, and I read as much as I can. I’ve tried more useful hobbies like cooking and gardening, but it appears I’m terrible at everything else.

How did We Ride The Storm come to be. When did you first get the idea to write it? How did everything come to together from there?

Since We Ride the Storm technically continues on from a story I began back in my first trilogy, I always knew I would write it. And the two dozen other books currently planned for the same world. As it’s still a world people are coming to I didn’t want to shift too far from the original roots, yet it needed to expand so I branched out by choosing POVs from neighbouring areas and the story just developed itself from there. I plan in a very… loose way, but mostly I have a very big picture understanding of the whole history and each individual book is written by the seat of my pants.

I loved your characters in your latest novel. The contrast between each and how this was expressed through the first person was something I found extremely interesting. Where did you get the inspiration to write three such different characters? Do you have a favorite?

I think in choosing to write three POVs in the first person each character has to be very different, because three similar characters would view the events in the same way and the readers would lose the nuance… the greyness to the situation and might not see the weight of any given character’s decisions. In the case of We Ride the Storm, I knew I was writing a clash of cultures, and so to properly do justice to the fact that none of them are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ I needed a POV from each. That Rah turned out honourable, Cassandra not honourable at all, and Miko in between was an incidental bonus rather than something I deliberately sat down and planned. Like I said, planning isn’t something I really do. As to a favourite, Cassandra was the easiest, Rah made me feel like a good person, and Miko makes me proud. That’s as close as I can come to an answer on that one.

The pacing in We Ride The Storm was fast and furious. Is this something we can expect to see throughout the trilogy?

Yes! It helps that there is a lot of story still to come. It’s actually planned (ha!) to be a four book series rather than a trilogy, with a new, fourth POV showing up in the next instalment. Things could change, but at this point I’m pretty confident that’s how it will go.

Why do you write and what keeps you motivated?

So many writers say they’ve written stories for as long as they can remember and it seems trite and overdone to say I write because I can’t cope with not writing, but authors say these things because they are true! It’s like being born with a disease I can’t get rid of and don’t actually want to try. I’m motivated in part by having an obsessive disposition and in part because I have SO MANY stories to tell that even a single day off seems like a waste of time.

The reviews for We Ride The Storm have been fantastic so far. Is there any advice you would give to aspiring self-published authors?

Make sure you’re ready. In most people’s minds you’re only going to get one chance to make a good impression. Just because self-publishing allows you to put out a book as soon as the first draft is done – don’t. Take your time. Get a good editor. Keeping working at it until you have the very best book you can write.

I admit that I have yet to read your other works, but I am making it a top priority to do so. For a reader who is new to your works, where would you recommend starting from?

Because people will always be entering my world at different parts of the history, it was important to ensure any Book One would be a good entry point. Depending on where you start you might have a slightly different experience of the entire story, but no spot is inherently better or worse. If you like chronology then In Shadows We Fall is the earliest, but Blood of Whisperers was the first. Generally I tell people to start at the book that calls to them the most. If We Ride the Storm sounds like your cup of tea then start there!

We Ride The Storm was left on such a cliff hanger that I am eagerly awaiting book number two. When can your fans expect book number two of The Reborn Empire series?

We Lie with Death is due March 2019! I am super excited. Depending on how a few other projects go, I will either keep up with the every 9 months release schedule for it, or stick with March each year.

 

Find We Ride The Storm on Amazon and Goodreads

Life Outside of Fantasy: Learning Japanese Part 1

4000 words learned, 1000 to go. Then I can say that I have learned the vocabulary need for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) 3, the 3rd level of the Japanese government led fluency exam. But learning a language is more than just vocabulary. It’s the grammar, listening, reading, and speaking skills that combine to make a person fluent. And to top it off, the Japanese language uses kanji, Chinese characters that portray a meaning rather than just a sound. As if to engage hard mode, kanji have multiple readings, some with as many as 10 different ones, and the student just has to memorise each one as it is. It’s really fun, I promise…

Despite its difficulties, learning Japanese has been a huge joy. One of the most rewarding experiences of my life was during a trip to Japan. My girlfriend and I walked into a bar that was on the 5th floor of one of the many skyscrapers in Tokyo. A “salary man”, or businessman, was sat beside me. After a few drinks, I began to talk to this man sat casually beside me at the bar. He didn’t speak a word of English but we managed to have an in-depth conversation about the UK (where I live) and where he had visited and what he thought of it. A rather basic conversation you might think, but to me, this was a dip into a culture that I completely love, and otherwise would not have experienced. The look on my girlfriends face was an extra bonus.

As a diehard fan of anime and manga, I had always wanted to learn Japanese. But I was not stirred into action until I was backpacking around Europe. I met some amazing people, all from different parts of the world, who all spoke at least 2 languages, some even speaking 3. They were slightly taken back by my amazement at their linguistic abilities. I think it is unfortunate that native English speakers rarely learn a second language, which is understandable as there isn’t really a need for it. However, I think if more people learned a second language it will help to reduce the barriers and misconceptions we hold about other countries and cultures, which this world could probably use more of.

If anyone is interested in finding out some free resources where they can learn Japanese, leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Keeping Your Writing Motivation High: How To Set Goals

As a psychology PhD student, my studies have taken me into the midst of many psychological theories. My particular area of study involves encouraging people to adopt certain behaviors, or do certain things. When trying maintain or increase motivation towards a specific behavior, a lot of research has suggested that goal setting can help you achieve this.

Goal setting may sound simple, and it really is once you understand its basic principles, but it can be easy to create goals that may actually become detrimental to the goals you want to achieve. Here, I will show you how to use one of the most well-established and simple methods of goal setting that you can use to set your own goals. Those of which can be applied to all aspects of life, such as staying motivated to complete your novel, adopting a new exercise routine, and learning a language (These areas are just some of those I have personally used goal setting for).

Image result for smart goals

The SMART method of goal setting has proved to be very useful to me and is extremely easy to pick up.

Specific – Goals should be specific. “I want to write fantasy” would not be a specific goal and would be difficult to know when this has been achieved. “I want to complete my novel” would be much more specific.

Measurable – The goal should have some component you can measure. Adding onto the previous analogy “I want to complete my fantasy novel”, how many words per day would that take, or how many hours per day? Using methods such as this to track progress helps to keep you motivated.

Attainable – “I want to complete a whole 80,000 word novel in a weekend” is obviously not an attainable goal. This aspect of goal setting is also very personal, and will vary person to person. “I want to write 3000 words per day” may be attainable for some, but for others, such as myself, it is not.

Relevant – Keep your goals relevant to higher goals you want to achieve. For example, “I want to write 1000 words per day” should be relevant to the higher level goal of completing your novel.

Time-based – It is easy for goals that lack a time component to be put aside and lost in a busy life. Having a point in time that you want to complete your goal helps to keep it high in your priority list.

For me, my current SMART based goals look like this:

  1. Complete the first draft of my fantasy novel by 31/10/18 by writing 1000 words per day.
  2. Study Japanese for 40 minutes five times per week in order to take and pass the JLPT 3 exam.

If you look back at the SMART principles, you will find that this covers them all.

Adding onto the SMART goal system, there are a few other points that research says make your goal setting more effective. These are:

  • Write them down and put them where you can see them – This helps to keep them at the forefront of your mind.
  • Don’t be too strict with yourself – For example, if I was to write 1000 words per day until the end of October would be much more than the word count I have planned for my novel. But it is likely that something will come up during those three months which means I am unable to write, so to ensure I stick to my goal, I have given myself some wiggle room.

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I would love to hear your thoughts on whether you found it useful or not. Psychology is a very broad subject and if you would like to see more of it applied to writing let me know!

Review: We Ride The Storm

Rating: 9/10

Gripping from the start, We Ride The Storm is a face-paced grimdark adventure that plunges the reader into a complex world of diverse culture and politics. The opening chapters thrust the reader into the Madson’s world and it took me a few chapters to adjust to the three very different characters. Despite being thrown in at the deep end, the world building came across as effortless and never once felt like an info dump.

The novel is centered around three stories that quickly interweave into an immersive tale. The perspectives of these characters are wrote in the first person, and as a writer, I can fully appreciate how difficult this is to pull off well. Madson executes this flawlessly and the successful first person accounts give the reader a deeper understanding of the character’s thoughts that helps the reader sympathise with the character’s actions, even some of the more difficult and dark. Something I found particularly engaging was that each character has a different cultural background which effects their perceptions of the world.

Rah. A Levanti nomad and captain of a band of warriors who has been exiled from his herd for disobeying an order. Rah seeks to uphold his culture’s traditions while protecting those he leads. In the unfamiliar world he is thrust in to, upholding his own idea of honor becomes increasingly difficult. A stubborn character who I was constantly sympathizing with, as even in today’s world, it is difficult to do the right thing and often it can put the doer in undesirable circumstances.

Cassandra. A Chiltaen substance abusing whore and assassin has an unexplained second person living inside her head, whose thoughts are regularly expressed during Cassandra’s chapters. In contrast to Rah, Cassandra does not care for honour or pride and will do anything to relieve herself of the ever present voice in her head. This character quickly engaged my attention. As a psychology PhD student, I was unsure if this was a genuine second voice in her head, or if this character was suffering from a mental health condition as a product of her work as an assassin. It was soon revealed that the voice was actually a conscious being, but despite this, I think the second voice and issues with her mental health are cleverly written that kept me intrigued throughout.

Miko. A Kisian bastard princess forced into dealing with the intrigues and politics of the Imperial court. To me, Miko felt like a mixture of both Rah and Cassandra as her motivations lie in her want to lead and protect the people of her kingdom, and she will not shy away from dirtying her hands in order to achieve this. Despite this character’s sense of entitlement, I found Miko to be the more relatable of the three characters, as she was merciless towards those who deserve it, yet merciful to those who are innocent. Her story follows her struggle as she attempts to gain power and sit upon the crimson throne in order to protect her kingdom from tearing itself apart.

We Ride The Storm was one of the faster paced novels I have read this year. Towards the end of the story each chapter seems to throw more conflict and challenges at the three protagonists. Combined with the first person perspective, this often left me unsure how the character would deal with the difficulty that lay ahead. It was satisfying too when my guesses were often wrong.

We Ride The Storm is a novel that combines fast paced writing, contrasting view points, and well written characters that lead to an immersive world and very enjoyable story. I would recommend it everyone who is a fan of fantasy and particularly those who enjoy a darker tone to their fantasy reading.

Find the book on amazon

A Completely Free Masterclass From the Legend Himself – Brandon Sanderson

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind you.” – Henry Ford.

I have found that I have always enjoyed writing. From the more formal academic writing, to writing fantasy where I can let my imagination run wild. Leaving school at 15 to join the Army, I have struggled in the past to understand the “how” when it come to creative writing, and primarily wrote from my gut instinct. In order to improve my writing, I had to take to the internet to find content which could help me develop my own writing style. Last year, I came across a series of Brandon Sanderson’s videos by BYU, where you can watch as a fly on the wall all of his creative writing for fantasy and science fiction lectures. I found these extremely useful and as Sanderson himself puts, has helped me to become more of a chef and less than a cook when it come to creative writing. The course spans 12 lectures across multiple topics including plotting, dialogue, character, and his renowned take on magic systems. Below you will find a link to each of his lectures. I hope you find them as useful as I did!

#1 – Course Overview

#2 – Chefs vs. Cooks

#3 – The Illusionist Writer

#4 – World Building

#5 – The Box

#6 – The Business of Writing

#7 – Character

#8 – Magic Systems

#9 – Guest Speaker – Brandon Mull

#10 – Plotting

#11 – Dialogue and Agents

#12 – Q&A

Bes: The Dwarf God of Ancient Egypt

When we think of Ancient Egyptian gods, many images come to mind. For me, my impression of Ancient Egyptian Gods initially came from watching Yu-Gi-Oh growing up. The card “The Winged Dragon of Ra” being ingrained into my brain as I desperately sought after the card, but never managed to get my eleven year old hands on it. Ra, the sun god (seen below), is probably the most known Ancient Egyptian God. This hawk headed god almost seems like the cover star of Ancient Egypt. However, during my most recent research for my novel into Ancient Egypt, I came across a god that was much to my surprise.

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Bes, the god of dwarfs, protector of households, mothers and children, is possible the most bizarre looking Ancient Egyptian god I have come across, and that is saying something considering the Goddess Nut had skin made from the night sky and is often seen stretching over her husband like the night sky, which looks slightly awkward.

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The Ancient Egyptians believed that dwarfs held magical properties. Bes himself was a dwarf and considered to to bring good fortune, as he watched over the common man. Bes was also said to ward off evil and came to be symbolize all things good, such as music, dancing, and even sexual pleasure. I think he has become my new favorite Ancient Egyptian God.

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