I’m currently working on the fourth novel in a series (of which there will be seven). I have been loosely planning the novels in my notebook but mostly they have come together of their own accord. It’s like something I’ve never experienced before and I love it!

I’ve come to the realisation that my weakness (because we all have them) while writing is the middle. Because I have planned the beginning and know where I want it to end up, I know what I’m doing there. However, because I haven’t been putting in a rigid structure or plan throughout my novel I’ve found two things: that my characters have free reign to tell me what they want to do and that I flounder somewhat.

In one way, I like writing like this. My story goes where it should go and the characters seem to know where to take me from one scene to the next. They seem to have a lot of bright ideas. But one thing that I do find is that on the occasion when I sit down to write and I’m not sure where my characters want to go, I’m a bit lost. Sometimes I find myself slogging through the thousand words just to get it down on paper but not really feeling it. Sometimes I’ll sit for ages just wondering (and of course procrastinating) what should happen next.

Of course there are pros and cons of planning and pantsing but I like to adopt an in-the-middle approach that seems to work generally quite well for me. What I do think I’m good at doing is soldiering on through the times when I find it hard to write. I make myself write because I know that when I hit the next scene my fingers will be flying and the characters will be taking over again.

In other news, I’m taking off this weekend for some time with family and my partner as we head to the Harry Potter studio in London. Of course I’m so excited about it being the huge Harry Potter dork that I am (and currently deciding how many Harry Potter themed clothes it would be acceptable to wear!).

Oh and look out this weekend for a cover reveal from Granville, my new co-written novella which is being released on the 17th. If you want to take part here’s the link to the release party on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/464630770410893/

David Owain Hughes will also be attending the party as of course, he is the co-author! Also look out for Eight Deadly Kisses released by Dark Chapters Press, an anthology written by women with strong female characters. All proceeds go to CAMFED.

Saying Goodbye to 2015

There’s always something quite nice and refreshing about a new year. I always find myself gearing up ready for exciting things. I make goals for myself and put in plot points to reach them. I relish the idea of starting afresh and while 2015 has not been a particularly arduous year, I feel like 2016 is signalling great new things to come.

Already I have had news that a co-written novella by myself and David Owain Hughes has been accepted for publication. I have a novel in with Dark Chapters Press which I hope to hear about come February and already a couple of short stories lined up to be in anthologies.

I have plans to finish writing a series of novels that I’m working on. This year I wrote two which means I’m challenging myself to write five novels next year in that series. I have another idea brewing that could possible be something in the middle grade/YA range which I’m excited about and of course I’ll try and keep up with short story submissions.

In other things I want to challenge myself to read more. Although the latter half of this year has gotten relatively better, I’ve picked up an actual reading challenge and started compiling a list of books that I want to acquire.

And of course there are those usual personal goals in amongst all of that including being more organised and certainly more assertive. That’s always a hard one, isn’t it?

Whether you’re a goal setter or not, I wish you all the most happy of New Years and hope that 2016 brings everything you could want.



White Walls and Straitjackets: a Review

I finished reading White Walls and Straitjackets after a copy was given to me from the publisher. I went into the book knowing nothing about it except that I loved the cover art and I was taken by complete surprise.

I met Harry and Crystal, two very devious, manipulative characters who are on the run together. They’re certainly a very toxic mix but they don’t think so and keep on going. When they find a book entitled White Walls and Straitjackets in the glove compartment, Harry begins to read to Crystal as they drive. The first few stories he reads scare them both but as the book winds on they both realise something is happening.

The book contains a lot of gore throughout and some very interesting characters and while gore is not usually something I go for, this I enjoyed. The characters are woven into the main thread until it came out with an ending that left me shocked. The novel itself is written in a different format which I really enjoyed. Having stories within a novel was something I’ve not seen before and I thought it might be distracting but actually, it really worked.

3rd Person vs. 1st Person. What’s your opinion?

I’m busy editing a novel (currently titled Labyrinth of the Fallen Angel) that I hope to send off for publication once I finish it. I’ve mentioned it on my blog here before and it’s already undergone a huge overhaul but I still think there’s room for improvement. There are two female leads in this novel and it’s currently written in third person which can make it difficult in terms of pronouns. I find I’m writing a lot of ‘her’, ‘she’ and their names ‘Bryony’ and ‘Francesca’ to try and differentiate and make sure the reader knows who is talking/who I’m writing about. It can get a bit messy and confusing and I’m not sure I’m happy with it.

I’m currently considering overhauling it and changing it to first person. It would be a huge task to undertake but then again, if it makes my work better and would make it easier for the reader, I’m willing to do it (and it’s not the first time either!) Looking for opinions here: What do you think?

So currently it’s in 3rd person and reads as:

3rd person: Over the past few months as Francesca’s relationship broke down and she found comfort in her best friend’s arms, she realised she was beginning to look at her in a different light. No matter how hard she pushed it away or wrote it off as a crush, she knew it was much more than that. “Nothing.” She shook her head, finally catching Bryony’s eye. “And for your information it’s ten.”

Considering changing it to 1st person and it would read something like:
1st person: Over the past few months as my relationship broke down, Bryony was always there to comfort me and as time drew on I realised I was beginning to look at her in a different light. No matter how much I pushed it away or wrote it off as a passing crush, I knew it was much more than that. “Nothing,” I shook my head, finally catching Bryony’s eyes. “And for your information it’s ten.”

I would appreciate any input you have and would like to share with me. It might make my decision easier!

Allegiant: a review

In case you want to read this, be aware of possible *spoiler alerts*

I was as attached to Allegiant as the first two books and couldn’t put it down. Following Tris’ journey through the factions, the factionless and then then outside world was brilliant.<br><br>I really liked that there was a split point of view in the last book. Giving the reader an insight into what was happening for Tobias was good and it meant that we were left wondering what was going on with Tris. Seeing Tris and Tobias at war over their opinions and personalities worked well throughout. It showed how different they were but they always came back together, as if they were magnetised, despite some wrong and misguided choices throughout. The two were meant to be together and  I could feel that from the very start.<br><br>I did find that the story was a little drawn out and perhaps could have been wrapped up sooner. I think the deaths that occurred within the novel were quite important to the narrative but the lead up to it and Caleb who was supposed to open the doors because he was the most hated, I found this bit quite unnerving. It was almost like he was forced into making the decision without much choice and not given a lot of thought around it. It was a big decision and I think one that perhaps he wouldn’t have made if not pressured to do it.<br><br>However, it was a good book all round and one that I enjoyed. There were a lot of good themes within this and think it would be a good read for anyone who likes YA.

Jessica Rhodes talks about her Debut Novel

Name: Jessica Rhodes

Age: 24

Where are you from? Ramsgate, Kent.

Tell us a little about yourself ie. education Family life etc.

I was born and raised in Ramsgate, and have always loved writing. My highest achievement to date is a BA (Hons) in Music from the University of East Anglia, which I received in 2013. I have a lovely baby son called Charlie, and I’m marrying my fiancé Josh in August 2016. We are also the proud owners of 3 gorgeous cats, who are mad as hatters but lovable with it!

When and why did you begin writing? I started writing in my GCSE year, so about 2007/2008. I did a piece about human grief in which the protagonist’s daughter passes away, shortly followed by her mother. It got a high grade and sparked my interest in the human psyche.

Do you have a novel/collection published? Would you like to tell us about it? I am currently publishing my debut novel, Lady Cannibal, with Immortal Publishing in America. It’s the first in a series of books, which is pretty exciting.

What inspired you to write your first book? I got the opening line for Chapter One of Lady Cannibal at 2 am! It was weird to wake up and have that line going round my head, but once it was down on paper that was it.

Do you have a favourite character from your book? If yes, who is it and why? My favourite character in my book has to be Serena Raymond. She’s feisty on the outside, but on the inside she’s fragile and hurting a great deal. Exploring her is one of my favourite things to do.

Is your book part of series? If so what can readers expect to find in your series? It is, and people can expect to find a lot of darkness, depravity and sexual tension as well as every range of emotions possible.

Do you have a specific writing style? Not really. I suppose my “style” is simply to sit down and ask the book what its story is. It sounds weird, but I literally think to myself “What does this book want to tell me? Whose story am I telling? What’s the story here?”

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Starting a book! Once I’ve started a book, I’m away, but looking at that blank page is the most daunting thing I will ever face.

What are your current projects? I’m working on my second novel, Prison of the Angels, and editing my fiancé’s book Shadowborn.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? That would be telling! No spoilers!

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? A lot of them are based on my own life experiences and events that have happened to me, especially the experiences that shape Serena. She is, to all intents and purposes, my twin. Just with a far better job!

What books have most influenced your life most? Do you have a mentor? I think it would be better to say which authors influenced my life! They are Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, Kate Rhodes, P D James, J K Rowling and the wonderful Sir Terry Pratchett. As for a mentor … I have a lot of friends who kick me up the backside when I’m slacking!

Have you ever been able to travel in regards to your books? What was it like? I’ve had the opportunity to travel, but not in regards to my books. Travel is a huge passion of mine, even though I’ve only been to Europe, and I hope to take my son abroad when we can afford it.

Do you have any advice for other writers? Always listen to yourself. Don’t listen to people who say you should write in a specific style, or with a set number of words, because it’s all a matter of opinion. As long as you are being true to the book and true to yourself, nothing else matters.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Other than enjoy the book, nothing really!

What book are you reading now? I’m reading The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman for a website I review for. Juggling that and a baby is certainly fun!

Do you remember the first book you read? If not tell us what your favourite book is and why. Hmm … my favourite book has to be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I just love how feisty Jane is, how firm she is in her moral outlook, and how she stands by her decision not to marry Rochester and make him a bigamist. She is the older sister I wish I had.

Other than writing do you have any hobbies? I like keeping fit through a mix of Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred and martial arts, and I love cooking and baking. I also love reading when I get a chance, although playing with my son on his playmat is far more fun!

Do you have a day job? If so, what do you do? I used to work for the NHS as admin staff, but I’ve applied for Kent Police as an officer. I’ve passed shortlisting so just have vetting and medicals to pass before I can potentially be an officer!

What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching? I love Strictly Come Dancing and the Great British Bake Off, as well as Masterchef and Celebrity Masterchef. As for films … if I listed them all we’d be here all day!

Favourite foods /Colors/Music.

Foods is a hard one – I’m pescetarian so I love a lot of Asian flavours, and I also love a good Sunday roast! Just with fish rather than meat. Colours-wise, I like dark colours such as purple, red, black, blue and green. I’m not one for pastels and floral prints – you’re more likely to see me in jeans and a t-shirt than a fashionable dress! Music – again we’d be here all day! At the moment I’m loving Pentatonix, Peter Hollens, Evynne Hollens and Lindsey Stirling as well as Nathan Alef and Merlin Showalter.

Links: www.writersedit.com – Writer’s Edit, the site I do freelance reviewing for.

Blog: thehomegrownmum.blogspot.co.uk – my parenting blog.

theliteraturewhisperer.wordpress.com – my book review website.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/somethingtosaytoyou – author page.

www.facebook.com/theserenaraymondnovels – the book series page.

Twitter: @JLRhodes91

Instagram: jessica.rhodes91

Bio: I was born and raised in Ramsgate, and have always loved writing. My highest achievement to date is a BA (Hons) in Music from the University of East Anglia, which I received in 2013. I have a lovely baby son called Charlie, and I’m marrying my fiancé Josh in August 2016. We are also the proud owners of 3 gorgeous cats, who are mad as hatters but lovable with it!

Co-writing Experiences

Recently I met a man who is going to be in the same anthology as me. It’s released on Halloween (can you guess the genre?!) and is published by Burning Willow Press. It’s going to be awesome.

We spent a bit of time chatting and getting to know one another and it turns out, we have a lot in common as well as some neat ideas we can share. So we decided to co-write something. At first it was going to be a short story but it kept growing and the ideas kept flowing and in just over two weeks we have churned out a novella!

I always wondered how co-writing would work. The logistics of it confused me a lot and I didn’t know whether it would be set out a certain way or a certain author would write a certain bit. In fact, we have just gone with it as it suits us. I started and passed it to my friend who added and passed it back. Now we’re at the same stage only I did the first round of edits and emailed it to him.

What started as a bit of fun might turn into something more as we have queries several publishers who are all interested in seeing the finished novella which is great!

What I’ve found with co-writing is that it boosts my creativity. Not that I can’t write on my own mind you but have someone to constantly bounce ideas off is great, especially if you’re both on the same page but have different imaginations. I have also found that it means because I am responsible to my friend for finishing my section, I’m working quicker, I’m putting more energy and thought into the novella.

I’ve been writing this at the same time as working on my novel (which is now at 30k) and although I thought it may have been too big a project to take on at the time, I have really enjoyed the experience. I will certainly co-write again!

What are you thoughts and feelings on co-writing? Have you ever co-written something? What was your experience like? I would love to hear from you!

Review of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Niki Slobodian, #1)Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by J.L. Murray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked up this book, I didn’t know what to expect but I was immediately hustled into the world of Niki Slobidian. She is an Abnormal living in a world where Normals persecute those who have abilities and powers seen as unnatural. She’s put on the registry to be watched closely but when a case opens after a Dark is released from a portal to Hell, she regains her normal life back and begins this mission to find out why and how the portal was opened.

This first novel of the series had me intrigued from the beginning. I was drawn to Niki as a very strong, female lead. She was fiercely independent and passionately caring about, Sofi, the woman who brought her up, she knows she must solve the mystery and find out why her dad is involved. It’s very clear there’s a lot of story of Niki that we don’t know yet but I have to say I’m looking forward to finding out.

The novel moved at a very quick pace, full of action and intrigue that kept me guessing and wanting more. I’ll be back for more from this girl!

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Putting the Present in the Past

Have you ever edited something where you decided to change the tense it was written in? This is the first major work I’ve decided to do this for. I’m busy editing my novel, The Devil’s Playground, and when I originally wrote it, it was in first person present tense. I think it’s going to work better in past tense and so now I’m starting to make those initial edits. I’m two chapters in (well technically, one prologue and chapter one) and it’s not proving to be an easy feat. It seems that my brain is getting confused very easily and I’m constantly questioning myself as to whether I’m actually writing the right thing in the right tense at the right point. The thing is, if I was writing this from scratch I know I would have no trouble. I can tell this initial edit is going to be long and probably tedious. If you see me on facebook too much, kick me off please! I need to slog through this so I can move onto the second round of working on plot lines and characters.

So far tonight I’ve hit 1700 words in edits which I think is good for my first go at it. Let’s just hope it keeps up!

Review of Horns by Joe Hill

HornsHorns by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was both recommended and sent to me by a good friend of mine. It’s one of those where unfortunately I had seen the film first so I knew the storyline, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of the novel.

Ig is suspected of raping and killing his girlfriend Merrin after a huge argument in the local diner. While he can’t prove his innocence, he falls into a black hole of despair while hoping that one day her killer will be brought to justice.

When Ig wakes the morning after the night before with horns growing from his head, his first instinct is to panic. He goes to the doctors and as the day goes on it becomes abundantly clear that the horns are more than just protrusions from his skull, they have given him abilities to see what others truly desire and see fragments of their past.

It’s through this that he learns the true identity of the killer and plans to murder him.

Horns is a great read that had me hooked right the way through. The relationship between Ig and Merrin is really well developed and idealised throughout and the reader truly sees what soulmates are in them.

There is an unexpected twist at the end of this that left me shocked, but it was well done. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good horror!

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