Planning a Novel – I’m trying out something new!

The development of my previous five books all followed a similar format – first came the initial idea, then the fabrication of the world and the characters within it, and then a basic outline of the story’s journey. This usually took the form of my thoughts combined with the plot outline on my iPhone notes; which seems ridiculous looking back!

With a new book currently in development, I wanted to try something a little different in preparing myself to write it.

Time and patience is the key to writing an effective novel. The initial planning and development of a story is more important than the writing itself.

My novel latest novel, DECEPTION: A Love of Lies, relied heavily on the characterisation and plot of the story. This is what drove the story. The initial idea was very different to how DECEPTION is now, but the time spent on researching and developing the plot is what made it the big hit it is today.

So, how am I changing my novel planning process?

I’m still embracing my mental plotting, but I’m taking the approach of jotting it down on paper, which is why I’ve got my own book planning notebook now!

Novel Planning Notebook T. J. Blake

As dull as the image is above, this little notebook of mine has book titles, plots, quotes, character profiles and backstories inside it. I’ve separated the various elements of the novel up. The notebook currently contains a book title page, character profile page, character background page, key events page, quotes page, writing inspo page and genre theme page.

With the divided pages, I’m able to jot down my ideas in basic note form. All the ideas I note down aren’t guaranteed to feature in the book when I come to write it, but it allows me to plaster my ideas and let me review it over time when the time arrives for me to start writing and put the plot together.

My character profile and background pages were looking very full to begin with, mostly because the protagonist in this novel was the key to the story; it all started with her (there’s an exclusive for you all!).

What’s your planning process?

I’d love to know what your novel planning process is. If you’ve tried many ways to plan your books and have both terrible and great experiences, I’d love to hear them!

Advertisements

Every author wants to read an in-depth review about their book!

If you ask an author what they want to achieve in their writing career, especially a self-published author like me, they might say “to be published and have my book adapted into a TV series or movie“. I would be lying if I denied that this is my long term objective… but we also quite like the idea of entertaining readers and hopefully receive positive feedback on our work.

Weirdly, this is kind of my review of a review… Book review inception!

I’m pleased to say that my novel “DECEPTION: A Love of Lies” has received a fantastic review from a reader. It’s not just any review, it’s a thorough analysis. The reader has taken the time to delve deep into studying the plot, setting and characterisation of ‘DECEPTION‘.

Deception: A Love of Lies by T. J. Blake

It was written to be a suspenseful psychological thriller riddled with clues and dark turns. So I’m very proud to see that this was well received by this reviewer and that they enjoyed the ‘DECEPTION’ experience!

Some key points I loved from the review:

Blake is a seed-planter all right. He knows when and how to drop clues, or hints. When to add to the uneasy feeling these create. When to allow said seeds to burst into sprouting life with the twist you’ve been expecting from the very beginning…

The book keeps on teasing us, building the suspense, adding in odd details until we’re crying out for the Bad Thing we know must happen, to happen. Even though we have no idea what it’s going to be.

“If you like atmosphere, you’ll get it by the bucket load in this book. Ditto if you like a slow build, mounting tension, having questions you just have to know the answers to.”

“For writers, the book is a great lesson in economy of style, internal conflict, and how to write an unreliable first person narrator – where the story we get is different the one in the main character’s head.”

Read the full review from Damien – https://damienseaman.com/2018/10/02/who-says-you-cant-start-a-book-with-the-weather/

Thank you so much for the review Damien if you’re reading this!

Book Cover Revamp for DECEPTION: A Love of Lies

DECEPTION: A Love of Lies has a new cover!

I’m pleased to reveal to all of you the new front cover for DECEPTION.

The original cover was good, I still like it, but it became a little outdated and the quality wasn’t the best. I liked its artistic style – it was a black and white cover with an in colour eye line of Billy watching Eve from the bushes. We kept to this theme in the new cover, but modernised it.

So here we go, check out the new front cover for DECEPTION (available on Amazon & other bookstores) below!

Deception: A Love of Lies by T. J. Blake

A lot of you may be thinking, “err, it looks exactly the same.”

It isn’t, the image is crisp, the cover’s in colour, there’s still a line of sight from Billy’s perspective of Eve walking Ella, and the typography looks waaayyyy better. The slight fade of the ‘KE’ of Blake is a new feature, along with the addition of ‘A Love of Lies’, which all looks pretty awesome.

What do you all think?

Get in touch, would love to know your thoughts!

If you’re interested in finding more about the book, check it out on Amazon.

It’s available on eBook: http://getbook.at/DeceptionTJBlake (the link will take you to Amazon, promise. It’s a geo locater to take you to the right site).

Synopsis:

Through the stark and leafless trees, I see her.

I remember the first day I saw her; an instant attraction. I think she’s beautiful. She has such pensive blue eyes; they remind me of a blue sky right before the sun descends. Every time I see her I want to talk to her, I want to get to know her, and I want to be her friend.
She usually completes the lower woodland walk in six minutes and forty-two seconds; she misses the deeper woodlands and goes home, I believe.

I walk down the road at the same speed as her. She reaches the crossroads at the bottom of the road, looks both ways, and then jogs across into the garden of a house. I stop walking and concentrate on which house is hers.

I can’t stare too long but I am intrigued already, I will come back.

Writers – How do you find the time to write?

For those of you who are new here and don’t know me, I’m T. J. Blake, a psychological, thriller, horror and mystery author. I’m also a full time content marketing executive at a Digital Marketing & UX agency, and the founder of the writing agency, TJ Creative. So, with these two commitments alone, this is most of my time taken up.

With my commitment to the two marketing agencies, it leaves me with hardly any time to work on my author profile and write my books. It’s been two years since the release of my last book, Deception: A Love of Lies, and it could be some time yet until my next novel is released. I’m pleased to say that I have been working on my book ideas when time allows over the two years, and now that I’ve decided on which of my ideas I want to start writing as my next novel, I can now get to work on developing the plot. I am yet to start the thorough planning (same problem as normal – lack of time).

After Deception, I knew that I needed a break from writing just to promote it. Alongside promotional work, I decided to focus on a new journey by starting my own writing agency. But with quite a sudden growth in client numbers over the first year, I now find myself in a situation where my “spare” time from full time work is being taken up by TJ Creative, leaving myself short on time for author work. It’s great to have grown this little writing agency, but equally I want more time for author work – especially when I have a new story and plot playing on my mind!

Anyway, back to the point – I’d love to hear from you if you’ve gone through this journey before and how you overcame it. Equally, get in touch if you’re in the same situation as me. It might be useful for us to chat and see if we can help each other to get through this dry writing spell!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Book Review: “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn

Atmospheric characterisation and narration. *** (3.5)

It’s dark, gritty, and at times, uncomfortable. But that’s what Gillian Flynn creates purposefully and brilliantly through her atmospheric characterisation and narration.

Of course, I wasn’t introduced to Gillian Flynn until I read Gone Girl, which by the way, I loved. It instantly became one of my favourite books. I wanted more from her. This is when I was attracted to Sharp Objects. Her debut novel.

We are introduced to a Camille Preaker, a young journalist trying to make a better life for herself. Her sister Marian died at a young age and Camille has been battling her own demons. Her family is hurting and so is Camille, but she wants to focus on her career. That is until she’s sent back to her hometown to report on the death of a girl in Wind Gap, Missouri, her hometown. Another girl is missing, and this is thought by her boss, Curry, to be a big story told by a local.

This is not a detective mystery where we follow the police. Law enforcement doesn’t exist in this story.

Camille is investigator, reporter and resident. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s disturbing, it’s creepy. This is all achieved, in my opinion, from the characterisation.

The story itself is painfully slow. I actually found myself telling my better half repeatedly, ‘nothing has happened’. The last 85% though is where EVERYTHING happens. It came and went as quick as a box of Krispy Kreme donuts!

To conclude, I enjoyed the way the story was told but I thought the book was way too slow.

*** (3.5 stars)

Sharp Objects Gillian Flynn

Holiday Reading – 6 Book Reviews!

I spent 2 weeks chilling in the Lanzarote sun – eating, drinking beer and watching the World Cup. Not only did I gain loads of weight, but I also read a fair few books on my dinky little Kindle.

Without further ado, here are my book reviews of those I read:

Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott: ****

Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott

Olivia is known to the police. But what happens in this will keep you guessing right until the end!

You’re thrown into the mix with someone who is known to Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas. Olivia Brookes has called the police due to her husband and children disappearing.

In an interesting turn of events, the case ends, but commences once again two years down the line in much weirder circumstances. Tom Douglas is put on the case to solve another issue around this family.

I don’t want to reveal any outcomes as I think it’ll ruin your reading experience. You can, however, guarantee a very mysterious read which draws you in, boggles your mind and keeps you guessing.

****

Behind Close Doors by B. A. Paris: *****

Behind Closed Doors B A Paris

I read this on holiday along with 7 other books. This was the best read… proving anything can happen behind closed doors!

Anything could be happening behind closed doors right now – at your neighbours’ home, a place of work or even behind a closed door in your own home!

Behind Closed Doors was an exhilarating experience. It’s cliché to say, but I couldn’t put the book down.

Everything seems pleasant for Grace. She has a handsome and wealthy husband, and an adorable sister. Although all seems great from the outside, we know that something isn’t quite right; we have the intel of her mind and narrative.

Grace and her husband Jack speak fondly of each other. Individually, they are two likeable and strong characters that people desire to be like. So, what’s their secret to happiness? It’s much darker than you think.

Check out this book. Following Grace was a dark, twisted and psychological test!

*****

The Break Down by B. A. Paris: ***

The Break Down B A Paris

After Behind Closed Doors I had high hopes…

After Behind Closed Doors I had high hopes. Sadly, The Break Down didn’t live up to that standard.

Cass is on her way home from a night out. It’s stormy, her husband tells her not to go back through the woods. She does though. On route, she drives by a car. Has it broken down? Someone is sitting inside but they don’t respond to Cass pulling over. So, Cass continues and arrives home safely.

Cass hears the news that someone died in the woods the same night she passed through it. Consumed by guilt that she didn’t get out the car, Cass can’t ignore her guilty conscience. Even worse, she can’t tell anyone that she saw the woman before she died.

And ever since, Cass is being harassed… she receives calls and forgets things, just like her mother did!

It’s full of twists and it’s methodically planned. However, it is slightly far fetched and I was underwhelmed by the end.

***

Survivor by K. R. Griffiths: *** (3.3 stars)

Survivor K R Griffiths

A book which took too long to get going… But once it did, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

This horror thriller was a little bit of a weird read for me. The main reason being that, for me, it took way too long to get going. I got to around the half way mark and stopped reading. A couple of days later I picked it up again and loved it.

Although Clive is a dark and twisted killer, I quite liked him – he made me laugh. The author did well to make sure that Clive had both a false and accepted personality combined with his real and dark fantasies (which quickly become a reality). It was great to experience Clive. I began to like Clive most after his clever and witty moves outside the coffee shop!

If I didn’t stop reading this it would be a 4 star, but because I struggled to get into the story from the off, it has to be a 3 star.

***

She Did It by Mel Sherratt: ***

She DId It Mel Sherratt

In the world of business, can you trust anyone?

In the world of business, can you trust anyone? You don’t truly know anyone, even those who you think you have a friendship with.

She Did It offers the view of the two main characters, Esther and Tamara. Tamara hires Esther, little does Tamara know who she has hired.

They both have secrets and there’s no telling what is going to happen between these two very different people.

My criticism being that the plot is quite basic and that it doesn’t hit the highest of heights. From psychological thrillers I expect deeper meaning and especially a personal connection with the main characters.

All in all, a book which made me want to finish but didn’t grip me.

***

The Torment Of Rachel Ames by Jeff Gunhus: *****

The Torment of Rachel Ames Jeff Gunhus

This was tormenting for me let alone Rachel Ames!

A novella which hooks you and ensures sure you read it until the end. It’s dark, it’s creepy and it has a cunning end. I swear there were some parts of this book where I was a bit creeped out and it wasn’t meant to do so. It truly is harrowing.

I was reading this with no idea what was going on. I couldn’t decide on whether this was going to be a horror kind of ending or a dark fantasy ending. It’s a clever story which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Rachel isn’t the typical kind of protagonist you might follow in a book, but that’s simply another element to this book which makes it what it is. There is a lot of underlying genres and themes in this book, which you can piece together after the end.

This was tormenting for me let alone Rachel Ames!

*****

 

The last book I started whilst away was Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – I will be publishing my review of this one soon!

Have you written or read a book that you thought was amazing? Recommend it to me!

Book Review: “Secrets and Lies” by Lynda Renham

New home, new village, old secrets… and a haunting spirit?

Flora and Adam McIntosh move to the country. It’s a setting they’re not used to, but they absolutely love it, or at least Adam does. Flora isn’t so keen. She’s torn. She can admire the home’s charming quaintness, but she can’t shake off the feeling of a presence in the home.

The proud villagers are welcoming, but they’re also suffocating. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone knows everyone’s business. Everyone’s doors are open, literally, even if you don’t want them to be.

I did enjoy this book. The premise was great. Wherever Flora was, she wasn’t safe. Nowhere was safe for her. This added a lot of mystery and fear of what was going to happen next. The mix of overfamiliar villagers, secrets, Flora’s inquisitiveness, and a haunting spirit made this story addictive.

There were however a few things about the narrative I didn’t enjoy. Reflection and thoughts. Flora has many of them during the story. They were mostly following the line of questioning of: Is it this? Is it that? Could this happen? Or could this? Maybe this person did this. Maybe that person did that. It was a little much. Let the reader think about these questions, not Flora. Or not Flora as regularly as she does throughout the book.

There was also a twist which I DID NOT see coming. But as I reflect (not as much as Flora) on it, I feel the author cheated a little bit here and there to make this twist impossible to guess, which kind of ruins the fun. A character can’t react a certain way to something and then later in the book it’s revealed that same character already knew about it. Unless I’m misunderstanding the scenes, I would say that’s cheat storytelling. I can’t say too much more without giving away this twist (it’s not the big twist). Hopefully those of you who have read it know what I mean.

Overall, a fair 3 star rating. 4 star for the premise itself, brought down by my little doubts. 

Secrets and Lies by Lynda Renham

Review: “Lost Child: A Gripping Psychological Thriller” by D. S. Butler

You’re safe at a local summer fete. Right?

Having a child snatched from you is unthinkable, especially when that child was under your supervision. It not only affects you, but the entire family. Trauma, guilt, sadness and emptiness rock the Farrows, until there’s a glimmer of hope dangled in front of Beth.

This was a good, easy read. It kept me guessing and I enjoyed the mind games Butler played!

3 stars

Lost Child by D. S. Butler

‘Masterful Storytelling. Eery Silence. Emotional. Terrifying.’ A Quiet Place – Film Review

A Quiet Place. An amazing spectacle. Masterful storytelling, eerily quiet – on screen and in the theatre – emotional, raw, terrifying. 

As an Odeon Limitless member, I’m always at a local Odeon. For the amount of films I’ve already seen in 2018, this was the first one which urged me to write this film review. It’s that good!

Let’s get down to my review of A Quiet Place.

Plot

Set in 2020, Earth’s human population has been catastrophically wiped. We’re introduced to the Abbott family. Husband Lee, wife Evelyn, sons Marcus and Beau, and daughter Regan.

The opening scene is the family scavenging for supplies in a store. Bare feet and using sign language. They’re sneaking around for medication and other supplies.

I don’t want to get too deep into the plot (you’ll see why in my review). Minimal awareness of the story will allow you to enjoy this film even more!

Review

This film is being billed as a horror movie, but I think it deserves more credit. It’s not just another typical modern horror. There’s too many of those kind of movies where you can expect a killer or haunting spirit, jumpy moments, people running into danger or falling over. THIS is not one of those horrors. A better description would be that A Quiet Place is a thriller with horror themes.

Key elements of the film

There are so many elements in the first few seconds of the film which foreshadow the narrative. Equally, the film’s title kind of gives away the biggest theme of the film. Quietness.

The opening scene where the Abbotts are scavenging has stuck with me most. Mainly due to the masterful storytelling on show. It allows you to make many observations about the world we’ve been introduced to. There’s an empty food store that has been cleared out of everything, except all of the crisp packets. Such a simple yet powerful touch of storytelling!

Sound is the horror element of this film. Everyone is scared of making any sound, even us watching the film. During the film, I actually diffused a cough. Fed up with people scratching in their bucket of popcorn? Well, no chance of that in this film. You would feel so awkward digging into noisy popcorn.

I’ve been trying to think of a new horror idea of my own for some time. Sound being the fear in this film is brilliant. It’s completely unique. Although there are many films where people try to be quiet in segments when they’re hiding from someone, A Quiet Place uses sound as a fear to the extreme (in a good way). How we associate silence in day-to-day life is completely transformed in A Quiet Place.

The tension created in the film is unbelievable. My fingernails were non-existent by the end of it and my palms were so clammy. There’s not much more to say on the tension, other than YOU WILL FEEL NERVOUS DURING THIS FILM.

Another nice touch is that we’re following a traditional, loving family in a completely untraditional world. But this is what makes this movie so raw and emotional. There’s a clear, underlying love between each of the characters, but every family has their problems. There’s such a strong scene which made me shed a tear. It was such an authentic moment in the film which wasn’t overdone and executed well!

Star Rating: 4.7/5

Although minor, there were a couple of parts where I was a bit confused or I thought were not entirely explained all that well.

One is a scene where Lee lights a fire. We see other fires being lit miles away around him. But what was the point in this? At the time I didn’t really think anything of it. Now thinking back, I’m a bit like, ‘why did they show that?’ Maybe I’m oblivious and it was important to show that there are other people living in this world? I’m not sure, but there’s a scene with an old man that shows there are other people around, so was there really any need for the fire scene?

Anyway, I loved this film. The tension it created, the new fear of sound, the connection and disconnection between the family, the amazing storytelling. Tie it all together and you have a fantastic film!

If you haven’t seen this film, go and see it. You will not regret it!

Claret Press – Fundraising & Spreading Awareness for Motor Neurone Disease

I received an email recently from a small indie publishing house known as Claret Press, informing me they had just launched a short story competition. I thought it had a lovely incentive and story behind it, so I thought I would spread the word for them.

What you need to know

If you’re a writer and you want to take part, this is a little bit of background about their reason for the fundraise and how you can take part:

“We here at Claret Press are organising a fundraiser for the MNDA. We are a small indie publishing house and we have just launched a short story competition. One of our writers, Sarah Gray, suffers from motor neurone disease and the idea for this competition was sparked by her short story collection Half Life. The short stories will deal with all aspects of motor neurone disease: for people living with MND, carers, family members, heath and social care professionals, Association staff and volunteers and anyone else affected by MND. Winning stories will be published in a collection, and net proceeds will go the support people living with MND.”

Sarah Gray’s short story collection Half Life deals with aspects of physical and mental illness in innovative and original ways. The Judges will be looking for similarly engaging and novel stories of no more than 5,000 words inspired by these issues. Stories can be written from any perspective and in any format. This can include murder mystery, thriller, romance, post-modern, horror, etc.

I’ll certainly be giving this a go for a great cause, I encourage all you other writers to do so too!

29103793_787625631428385_8573881232608198656_n

Find out more by heading over to their website!