Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Previously...


It's that time of the month already. Come and share how your month of June went. Because June was...well...June, er, happened...

Previously in Writing

I finished my just for me book which was... a fifth Ghost!Story. I just wanted to say one last goodbye to those characters. And now, with the first book still querying, it's time to find something new. I toyed with an idea for a thriller and wrote the first few thousand words, but I've put it aside for now. Not quite enough plot to go around.

I am now eagerly awaiting my brain's next big idea. Any day now...

Previously in Reading

I read more in June than I have in any other month of this year. Read the last book in The 5th Wave trilogy. Good ending. I also read the finale to Justin Cronin's The Passage trilogy, City of Mirrors. Currently my favourite book of 2016. Couldn't have asked for a better conclusion. 

Next Time in Goals

Hehehe, my main goal for this month was to play Uncharted 4. And I did. And I loved it.

July and August are going to be busy at work for me. School holidays = very limited free time for me. Keeping my goals really, super dull - endure and survive. 

A Word of Advice 

For my British readers: things seem really, really grim right now. Like, really grim. Surround yourselves with the people and things that make you happy, and only look at the news/your Twitter feed when you've got the strength to do so.  

Endure and survive, y'all. Endure and survive. I am here for you, and I have lots and lots of tea to drink while we gather ourselves.

Leave your Previously... link below!

(Dear July. Please be better. Please, please, please be better)

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Monthly Soundtrack Reviews: Uncharted 4 - A Thief's End

Soundtrack: Uncharted 4 - A Thief's End
Album Art Source
Year: 2016
Composer: Henry Jackman, Alex Belcher (with a few hints of Greg Edmonson's scores peeking through) 
Stand Out Track: For Better or Worse
Works Well With: Big adventures,  relationship drama.

This review is spoiler free!

For the record, I am still sad that Greg Edmonson, for whatever reason, didn't return to score this game. The Uncharted 3 soundtrack is one of my all time favourites. But Henry Jackman isn't slacking here. The music for Uncharted 4 is fantastic. Well, okay, I'll be honest, it grew on me. A lot of music needs a few plays to be really appreciated. It's alright to not like something the first time. 

So, a couple of things hit me the first time I heard this score in game:

1) I love the arrangement of Nate's Theme (called A Thief's End this time around). The use of strings and drums added weight to an already brilliant piece of music. It was nearly my stand out track, but I wanted to go with something Jackman composed himself.
2) It does, at times, sound too much like Jackman's score to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It's the brass/drum/string combination in tracks like Meet Me In Paradise that really sound similar. I'd say that's Jackman's musical signature. It does sound intense for sure!
3) The mellower pieces really capture the game's quieter, more thoughtful mood.
4) It sounds a bit generic action movieish at times.

So, first impressions were good but not as memorable as previous soundtracks in the series. When I bought the album and proceeded to listen to it several times without gunfire/talking/sound effects running over it, I definitely gained more appreciation for it. There's a distinct lack of musical diversity that I really love in the previous soundtracks, hence my feeling that it was a tad generic. There's no attempt to fit the music to the location like in the other games. Personally, I think it's because the story being told is less about where Nate's going, and more about what's happening in his own life. The music definitely reflects a personal journey. The Brothers Drake is full of promise, like adventure is just around the corner. I really love that quieter feel. For me, the soundtrack's strength is in its calmer pieces, and in the build up to the big battles - One Last Time is a great example of that. You can sense the journey Nathan Drake has been on - and not just in the game but over the course of his whole life. And my stand out track, For Better or Worse, captures his and Elena's relationship in such a thoughtful way. There's an ache to it, which I really can't go into without epic spoilers. But if you've got characters who love each other dearly, you have to listen to it. When I first played the game, this is the piece of music that really stood out to me. It's just so effortlessly beautiful. I really love it.

The ominous undertones of Avery's Descent work so well, too. There's an undercurrent of noise, a hum and a buzz the melody can't escape from. It's from one of my favourite sections of the game, and the music really captures the sinister atmosphere. Again, I don't want to spoil anything, so I won't say more.

When this soundtrack does get louder, it is every bit as bombastic as you'd expect an Uncharted score to be. Give Cut to the Chase a listen. It thumps with excitement and action. Perfect if you're writing a chase or a fight. Nearer the end of the album, you've got the brilliant No Escape. For me, it certainly inspires a feeling that maybe these characters aren't going to make it. Perfect for when you need to add tension.

If you like your videogame scores to sound like they'd slot right into a film, A Thief's End is absolutely perfect for you. And if you like Jackman's other work, this is a fantastic album to buy. For Uncharted fans, this is absolutely what the end of this series needed. It might not be as varied as the albums from the previous games in terms of instruments and styles, but it is exactly what the game's story needed.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Dark Souls is Kinda Like Querying

Or - if you ever want to explain to a non-writer what querying is like, give them a copy of Dark Souls.

I was driving home from work the other day, planning how I was going to approach my recent return to the game, when its mechanical similarity to the act of querying hit me.

For those of you who don't know, Dark Souls is a game in which you die constantly. Over and over and over and OHMIGAWD I JUST LOST THOUSANDS OF SOULS NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!


*deep breath*

Why do I keep dying in Dark Souls? Mostly because my gameplay style of whacking it until it dies really doesn't work. This is a game that requires all kinds of strategy and planning and...

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH JUST DIIIIIIIIIIIIE!

(I am the reason I die in Dark Souls so much. Me and my total lack of patience. And the fact that my PS3 controller is kinda broken and my character just walked off a bloody cliff of her own volition ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff)

But the part of this game that is like querying is the fact that every damn time you die, you come back to life and do it all again.

And again.

Aaaaand again.

I started playing this game last December. I've put it aside more than once, but I keep coming back to it because, goddammit, I am going to beat it.

Just like how I keep getting back up after every rejection and send out the next batch because I believe in my books and I know there's an agent out there who'll believe in me, too. So I take the rejections, because every now and then I get a partial or a full request, or an agent takes the time to give me some feedback. Just like how defeating each boss in Dark Souls is a mini triumph before the next cycle of constant dying begins, each moment of promise while querying is absolutely worth celebrating and being proud of.

So, yes, the next time someone says "what does querying feel like?" give them this game. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Miss Cole's Tea Time - Darjeeling Second Flush from Eteaket


Thanks again to my eldest brother for treating me to a tea subscription for my 30th last year. I never would've discovered this delicious Darjeeling without it.

I am very new to "neat" Darjeeling. In fact, I can pinpoint the day I first drank it - May 26th 2016 in a hotel in Switzerland. I've had it in so many blends, I knew I had to like it, and I did. So when I came home and saw that my latest tea delivery was, in fact, Darjeeling, I was pretty excited.

And this is a delicious Darjeeling. Strong, yes, but if brewed just right, you get a really refreshing sweet, floral taste. It's completely different to any of the other black teas I've had. You'd think, with the flowery notes, it'd have more in common with a Ceylon, but the heft of it nudges it closer in taste to an Assam. It's a great breakfast tea, and it's been keeping me company while I work at my desk. I drink it with and without milk. I don't have a particular preference, but if you are simply used to tea with milk, don't be afraid to pour some in.

Aaah, it's always so exciting to find a new tea to drink.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Taking Stock of Your Ideas

Back in the dark days when I worked in retail, the dullest thing in the world was auditing and stock taking. Climbing up shelves, making sure what was there lined up with the computer systems... uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh.

...But as a writer, taking stock of things can be a pretty good idea, especially if you're not sure what to write next. I've finished  a project I started in April, and I'm currently mulling over what to do next. I tend to find this "between books" phase a blend of excitement (oooh, what about this idea?), and total frustration (uuuuugh, that'll never work).


I love writing, but sometimes I don't have enough of an idea to carry out into an entire novel. So I like to take stock of these ideas. I've talked before about my "I Want To Write..." book, but you're just as likely to find me staring out into space daydreaming about the fragments I have and what I could do with them.

Music, as you all know, is an essential part of my writing routine. When I'm taking stock of ideas, I love to just listen to music and let it take me on a journey. Sometimes it takes me back to ideas I had years ago, back when I used to take the bus to school or university every day and daydream the journey away.

I think lacking a solid idea to write for any writer is a frustrating time. Sure, I have more free time right now to channel into videogames (Dark Souls, you and I have such a love/hate relationship) and reading, but what I really want to find is my next idea. And an idea I can successfully divorce from the whole "THIS MUST BE GOOD ENOUGH FOR AGENTS AND PUBLICATION!" which is definitely one of the hardest things any non-agented/unpublished/rejected but REFUSING TO QUIT writer has to wrestle with. Taking stock of what scraps and hints you do have can keep you from going completely barmy.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Framing


So here's something I never consciously think of but probably should when writing - framing. What do I mean by that? Well, it's how you tell the story.

Oh, wow, that clears it up. Good job, me.

Okay, okay. Let's use an example. Let's say my main character is a murderer. I could frame the story in a way that shows the reader my character is an awful terrible despicable human being and by the end of the book she gets what's coming to her. OR I could frame it in a way that humanises her and shows that she had to kill someone to save her best friend from a fate worse than death. The way you frame a character like that can completely change the kind of story you tell. 

Whether you're ever consciously weighing up the options or not, a book is framed from its initial concept. There's an idea buzzing around my head right now that, framed one way, would make it YA, or, framed another, would tip it into adult thriller territory. Not even sure if I'll ever write it, but it's fun to pull it apart and have alternate versions floating around.

I've only really recently stopped to think about framing. I suppose it's so innate to the story when you first come up with the idea it's not something you sit back and think about. But if your story or your character aren't totally nailed down, it can be fun to consider it. You never know where framing will take your story...

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Miss Cole's Tea Time - East Frisian Broken Blend from Tin Roof Teas


Today's tea comes from North Carolina's Tin Roof Teas. It's another good, strong tea. I personally wouldn't drink it with cream, as I feel that would weigh the taste down too much. I like to taste the malt and the tartness. It's a really satisfying tea to kick start your working and writing day with. And yes, I have a new Tea Traveler! I had to replace my old one with the green lid as it had seen so much use the poor thing was cracking. I picked it up at Tin Roof, too, after failing to find a similar product here in the UK. I love using a teapot, but sometimes a single cup brewer like this is exactly what I need at my desk. Plus it's so easy to get the leaves out and clean it.

Anyway, back to the tea!

I gave this a minimum four minute brew, but given the size of the leaves and how much you get in a single scoop, I think you could probably get away with three. Thanks to the Assam, I definitely class this as a morning and afternoon tea if you're hard at work, or perhaps just morning if it's a lazy weekend. Unless you're working late, you'll probably want to switch to a lighter tea in the evening.

A great blend for all of my fellow black tea drinkers!