Sunday, 30 August 2015

Monthly Soundtrack Reviews: The Last of Us

Soundtrack: The Last of Us
Year: 2013
Composer: Gustavo Santaolalla
Stand Out Track: The Last of Us
Works Well With: Post apocalyptic stories, ghost stories, dark but not hopeless stories

This is a beautiful soundtrack. Stunning, actually. It's so sparse, like the music has captured life after the end of the world as we knew it. I love how the score uses each instrument so carefully. Utilising an entire orchestra would drown out the emotion. The music feels both intensely sorrowful and full of hope. You can imagine the empty, overgrown cities.

I don't think I've ever shared such a haunting soundtrack before. Vanishing Grace really captures the sense of things as they were and things as they are now in an empty and abandoned world, but The Path (A New Beginning) promises things can get better.

The soundtrack has some incredibly tense music. Listen to the drums in I Know What You Are. It feels like an entire city is coming to get you. The percussion in Infected is equally terrifying in its stark beats. If you just want to build tension, the menacing Breathless will have you looking over your shoulder because surely something is coming to get you!

There's a number of brilliant character pieces on here, too. Got a complicated and amoral character? Try Smugglers. Home is perfect for your main character's quieter, more reflective moments.

I really could review every single individual track, but just know that for any story's darker moments, this soundtrack will inspire your best writing. And if you own a PS3/PS4 and haven't played The Last of Us, you owe it to yourself. Yes, it's terrifying, and it will crush your heart, but it's so beautiful. So, so, so beautiful. This OST definitely belongs in my Top Five, and I'm not sure I'll listen to anything new in 2015 that will top it...

(We'll see how I feel after I go to Final Symphony II in September ;))

Saturday, 29 August 2015

TBR Pile DECIMATION - August Washout

My TBR pile is currently a WHOPPING three books big. Yup. Three.

Unfortunately, I ended July and started August with a fairly epic run of DNFs. And I'd been doing so well! *sigh*

I'm reading Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray and loving it, but unlike my usual self, I've been reading it very slowly. I started reading over a week ago and I just hit the halfway point. Life has been hectic lately. And after 11 hour days at work, I've really only wanted to hang out with friends or come home and play videogames.

Sometimes I just don't feel like reading, and that's fine. I know soon enough the mood to READ ALL THE THINGS will consume me once more. But right now, life has other plans...

Friday, 28 August 2015

Sorry, I Can't Hear You Over My Screaming Doubts

Doubts are a real pain in the brain, aren’t they? Mine tend to prod me when I’m in a holding pattern with querying (sent off a batch, waiting for responses), or when I’ve tried out a variety of SNIs and gotten precisely nowhere with them. All those niggling doubts start prodding and sneering at me.

You’ll never be good enough.

You’re never going to be published.

Your writing is “okay” but not “amazing”.

Guess you missed your chance.

You’ll just never write a story that’s good enough.

There must something fundamentally wrong with my writing. That’s why I never quite take the next step.

Is my writing worth it?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Shut up, head! I got enough problems in my life without you betraying me, too!

Everyone has doubts. Pretty sure it’s a pre-requisite to being human. What you have to do (hahah, because it’s that easy), is fight back and not give in. I want to be a published author so much I can’t be the reason I don’t make it. My doubts may scream at me, and they definitely get me down sometimes, but they only win if I quit and go “Yeah, you’re right, I am awful and I can’t write worth a damn so why keep trying?”

I’m not quitting. Nothing you want in life this badly is something you just quit.

I know self-esteem and self-belief aren’t always the easiest things to come by. Depression is real, and sometimes that tunnel swallows you whole and the end never seems to come into sight. You’re not alone thinking “agents don’t like it, so it’s no good and neither am I”, but you’ve got to fight back. Because writing is about more than being published. It’s about creating something only you can write and sharing that story with others. You love it. Don’t let doubt crush your creativity. Write what you want and don't back down.

Because I am good enough, so shut up.

I will be published.

My writing is brilliant, and I can and will get better.

There’s not “a” chance. There are plenty of opportunities out there. It’s up to me to find them.

I will write a “good enough” story. I just have to find the right agent for it.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with my writing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep improving.

My writing, and me, are worthy of everything so TAKE A SEAT, DOUBT!

Sometimes querying is just a miserable parade of rejection and the ideas do dry up, but you keep writing and you keep trying because that’s how much you want it. Remember to believe in yourself. You are your own worst critic. Fight back. You are worthy of whatever you choose to do in life, and the last person who should stop you is you.

Oh, hey, and if anyone out there is telling you you’re not good enough, send ‘em my way. I’ve been told I’m very intimidating for someone who’s barely 5'2".

Can't imagine what they mean...

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


Making tea is pretty easy. There's no need to get super technical about it when you're first starting out. But there's this one thing that will keep coming up over and over again. Especially if your British, because we like to argue about these things. A lot. In fact almost every time someone pops the kettle on, this will be a source of debate.

Do you put the milk in before or after you pour the tea in?

Science will tell you to put the milk in first. Why? Because then the tea warms up the milk rather than putting it in second where the milk chills the tea. At least that's my interpretation of it. And when you're sat at your desk writing and don't want to have to get up anytime soon, tea that stays warmer for longer is a good thing.

Problem is, if you're making tea out of a bag, and you dump in into milk while the kettle's boiling, you're going to lose some of the taste to milk and the leaves won't flow so freely. And there's a risk of adding too much milk if you put it in first. Enjoy that mug milky hot water with a hint of black tea! You have to learn to judge these things, and I'd be lying if I said I got it right every time.

If I'm making tea with bags, the milk goes in after the water. If I'm making it with leaves, the milk goes in... yep, still second. I only put the milk in first when I'm taking a teapot to my desk and it hasn't finished brewing.

Science, I respectfully choose to ignore your findings.

How about you? When do you put the milk in your tea?

Monday, 24 August 2015

Why You Should Be Setting Editing Deadlines

Setting yourself deadlines can be a perfect way to focus the mind. A deadline will stop any dawdling when the work needs to get done. You don't really want edits to run on and on. You run the risk of losing track of the story and characters.

If you're setting a deadline for a round of edits, it needs to be realistic. Don't tell yourself you'll get a massive edit done the same week your day job's going to take all your time and effort. And be prepared to turn down non-editing activities to stick to your deadline. It's an intense process, and getting it done promptly can be a great way to catch all the little problems.

I recently set myself a deadline of a week for a pretty intense edit. I received some amazing feedback from an agent in a rejection and after mulling over it, I decided she had a very good point and set about editing. It took the whole week because it was such a insidious issue, but now I'm happier with my book.

You have to be determined to hit your own deadlines. Rather than setting daily goals when editing, I set myself a week or two weeks to really get something done. And yes, I do make sacrifices. Once you start approaching writing as another job rather than as a hobby, you'll be prepared to make those sacrifices...

...which is why I waited until last week to play The Last of Us. It was worth waiting for. I'm a big fan of rewarding myself for hitting a deadline.

How often do you make and stick to deadlines?

Friday, 21 August 2015


The other week a hashtag trended on Twitter: Things Not To Say To A Writer. Ever had to explain to a non-writer what it’s like to write a book? People seem to view writing as this luxurious thing you do that requires minimal effort. 

“It’s not really work, is it?”

“It’s not work if you enjoy it!”

"How hard can it really be to write a book?"

Okay, compared to manual labour, writing is ridiculously easy. You sit at a desk, drink at your side, and smash out words. Sometimes you pause to gaze contemplatively out of the nearest window, or listen to a particularly inspiring song. Other times there's a really amazingly good reason for you to be on Twitter for an hour or so... but then it's back to writing, am I right?


To an outsider, it looks pretty idyllic. And it has its moments when it really is precisely that – easy. I don’t know about all of you, but compared to the physicality of my day job, being a writer is fairly lazy.




Because we know what line edits look like. We know the agony of a writing block, and the pain of rejection. Lots of rejection. ALL of the rejection. We know what it’s like to come home from the day job and get to work on a novel. We know the sacrifices we have to make. It’s not like we’re all making money from writing... yet.

Everything’s relative and you can’t compare one thing to another. My day job doesn’t compare to my life as a writer, just as the life of a teacher doesn’t compare to that of a neurosurgeon. And if you haven’t tried writing a novel, maybe don’t go telling someone who has how easy it must be. Because it’s not. It’s hard work, dedication, passion, excitement, disappointment, determination and a huge commitment. You take part of yourself and put it into words, and that's not as simplistic as it sounds. Not by a long shot.

How do you cope with people who don't understand the realities of writing novels?

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Miss Cole's Tea Time - Kenyan Tea from The Tea House

Pop the kettle on, readers. It's tea time, hooray!

If you're looking to branch out from your regular Assam for a strong tasting tea, you can't go wrong with a good Kenyan tea. It's smooth and deliciously rich. It's a tea to look forward to when you have to get up early in the morning. Especially if you're one of those weird types who gets up super early especially to write ;)

The first thing you'll notice when you open the bag of tea is its earthy scent. I love a tea that smells as powerful as it tastes. Brew it for at least three minutes to get the best out of the leaves. If you like it really strong, go for the full five minutes. Take care not to drown that flavour in milk, otherwise it'll be quite sickly. A dash of milk and the right brewing time for your tastes is the way to go!