Of Musings and Wonderings

{June 29, 2013}   Play The Game – A WIP

So for a long while I’ve been working on my novella Play The Game. It was after a night out at University, when I found out about Kindle’s self-publishing. And found out that actually, it could be a really good idea. It was a drunken conversation with a very cute guy that clued me into it, and suddenly I thought “That’s what I should do.” I have a lot of projects on the go that I’d like to see published. A couple that I’ve submitted. But I knew, if I was going to self-publish anything, it should be Play The Game. Mainly because it wasn’t a full length novel, so I could work on it quickly. Or so I thought. To me, it was also something I wanted to get out there, as much as the others I’d tried to have traditionally published. And then I started looking into self-publishing, and following blogs of people who had done it, and tried to get it done and it’s taken almost a year to get to this stage where I’m not actually near doing it. But that’s okay. Because I’ve learnt a lot in the last year. It was never something I wanted to do half-arsed. I knew I needed a good cover, and I knew I wanted the novella to be as polished as possible.

In the last year, Play The Game has gone through many changes. A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger read over it for me and gave me some great feedback. Not only did it make me see some of the plot points that were wrong with the novel, but it made me sit back and really think about what I wanted in there. The main character needed more, the supporting characters needed a bit more back story to them. So, instead of just hinting about the reason Robyn’s father left, I used her grandmother – who only has one or two scenes in the original – to state Don’t underestimate the fear of what we might grow into” when she tells Robyn about her own past.

The novella had a sequel, which explores Robyn’s relationship with her ex as well as the main love interest in Play The Game, and I realised that I needed to show, in the first, more of the impact that Nate has on her. So I added in a completely new first chapter. I’ve added in extra scenes, drew on more what I wanted the novella to really say, and so far I’m not even halfway through the rewrite.

I haven’t talked about it much. Enough, even, seeing as the whole reason I started a blog was to try to promote the novella when I actually got it out there. So, after a few drinks, I’ve decided just to put up the first chapter of the current draft of the novella for you lovely readers to check out. Please, if you have any thoughts about it, leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think. Importantly, if this was available for you to buy, would you want to read on? Would you want to part with cash to find out what happens next?

And yes, the title is taken from the awesome Queen song of the same name. The sequel is currently titled Somebody To Love.

Play  The Game
Chapter One

The day slipped by, mostly unnoticed by Robyn. When she finally dragged herself out of bed, the weak November sunshine was trying hard to cling to the world. Her throat felt raw, dry, and her head was thumping. She could barely remember a thing about the night before, just the girls buying her drink after drink, dancing with them and stumbling quickly away from the couple of creeps who had tried to dance with her from behind.

She glanced at the planner on the wall. Classes highlighted in blue, shifts in yellow. At the end of the semester was a big red mark, and her chest tightened whenever she looked at it.

Robyn pulled open the curtains, covering the window beside her bookshelf. Snow was already starting, flakes drifting down slowly on the unremarkable street in the unremarkable area of London. There weren’t many cars outside. The street was dominated by students, a breed who could not afford to run a car even if they could afford to buy one. She was one of the lucky few. Since she was sixteen she had worked, part-time shifts in shops and bars once she was old enough, moving to working in a call centre once she came to University. Her savings had given her enough money for the second-hand red mini parked right outside the house.

Ducking away from the window, she began to get dressed, glancing at her bookshelf as she tried to judge if she had anything left to read before the end of the semester.

It had been two weeks since she had walked away from Nate’s, tears streaming down her face and her chest in so much pain she thought it would never heal. Once the tears had stopped, she had thrown herself into work and studying, making a huge dent in her to read pile. But even the worlds contained in the novels couldn’t alleviate all of the pain.

Robyn took a deep breath, glancing in the mirror as she brushed her hair and pulled it back, tying it with a thin black band. She frowned at her reflection, taking note of the dull green eyes and pale skin. Her dark brown hair, when let down, would fall straight to her shoulders, and sometimes she thought she would kill for Tina’s black curls.

She wasn’t going anywhere, so she grabbed her most comfortable clothes. When she left her room, it was in a pair of joggers and an old, baggy Green Day t-shirt.

The girls looked startled as she stepped into the living room/kitchen. The smell of spicy chicken filled her nostrils, and she inhaled deeply, smiling at Bobbie standing at the stove.

“Smells great.”
Bobbie smiled. “There’s enough for you, if you want some.”
“Great. Thanks.” Robyn nodded eagerly, stepping into the room and joining Tina and Lucy on the sofa. They had their eyes fixed on the television, watching some program about the Antarctic and Arctic. The documentary kept switching between the two. Robyn soon found herself transfixed on the giant expanses of white they were showing, drawn in by the idea of complete solitude contained in the two.

Lucy glanced at her. “How you feeling?”
“All right.” She shrugged. “A bit rough. You?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Lucy smiled at her, though it was hesitant and slightly strained. Concern danced in her hazel eyes, as she studied Robyn.

Finally, Robyn relented. “If you’re asking in general if I’m fine, I think I’m getting better.”
Tina leant forward. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. It still…hurts. And she hasn’t been in my classes for the last couple of weeks, and I keep dreading the day she comes back but…” She sighed. “I’m going to have to face it eventually, aren’t I?”
Lucy reached out, squeezing her hand.

They were the only people Robyn could open up to, could really talk to, but even they didn’t know anything. They knew some of the key facts, and they knew enough to know who ‘she’ was without Robyn having to mention the girl’s name.

“It’ll be okay,” Lucy said, smiling brightly. “And if you need us to find her house and kick the crap out of her…”

Robyn laughed. She was sure they had offered the same thing many times over the past two weeks. “No. It’s okay, really.” Because the girl wasn’t the root cause. “She’s not worth it.”

“Neither is he,” Tina chirped up. “Really. Once you get back from Christmas, we’re going to have an awesome semester, aren’t we?”

“Sure.” She nodded, perhaps a little too eagerly. “We should go to Thorpe Park when it opens, or something.”

“Oh, hell yeah!” Bobbie cried. “Good shout.”

“And you’re coming back for my birthday, right?” Lucy asked, sliding just slightly closer to Robyn.

Robyn nodded. “Of course I am. Nothing like spending New Year’s Eve in London, right?”

Lucy grinned, as Bobbie pulled the pan off the stove and called to them over her shoulder.

“Come on, girls, dinner’s ready.”

She had met Nate her very first day of University. He had been the tall, good-looking blond showing her to her new room. He had appeared a few nights later as she was walking home, and had, essentially, rescued her from a situation she never really thought would happen to her, even with the warnings thrown around campus.

But the way she met him was vastly different. Nate had been what the girls termed a ‘pretty boy’, even with his scars. The guy she met in Cardiff, on the other hand, was nothing like the constantly clean-shaven, slightly metro ex-boyfriend. He was tall like Nate, but with brown stubble and dark brown hair that constantly fell into his eyes. He looked like he took care of his appearance just as much as he had to, no more, no less.

He approached her when she’d darted out for a cigarette, the few girls she kept in touch with from school still inside. They had drifted apart, no longer shared secrets or talked for hours on end. But they were a good group, and she liked going out with them.

“Got a light?” he asked, holding up a long, thin, completely white cigarette.

Menthol. Robyn liked them sometimes, liked the way they made her mouth feel like she’d just brushed her teeth, but couldn’t smoke a whole pack.

“Sure.” She dug the silver Zippo out of her pocket, holding it out towards him. He brushed the hair from his eyes and smiled.

It was a nice smile, kind, showing just the right amount of teeth. “Thanks.” He lit up, handed the cigarette back and inhaled.

After the first drag, he began to cough. She laughed.

“Do you usually smoke?” she asked, watching him carefully. His eyes were a deep, dark blue, and Robyn didn’t mind staring into them.

His smile was sheepish. “Nah. I just…wanted an excuse to talk to you.”
They’d ended up talking for a while, swapping numbers and going their separate ways. Every time they passed each other, they smiled, and when the last song came in on her found her, grabbing her hand and leading her to the dance floor.

“Come back to mine?” he whispered, lips close to her ear, one hand on her waist. She’d agreed, glad for the chance of one night where she could push thoughts of Nate and her brother to the very back of her mind.


{June 22, 2013}   Milestone – One Year

Today, WordPress reminded me that it’s been a whole year since I joined. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a whole year since I published my very first blog post followed quickly by the second, which was a Happy Birthday thing to my dad. So, I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you, to everyone who has viewed, read, commented, liked and followed me.

Through you guys, I have discovered some amazing blogs. I’ve read reviews of books, films and games, seen political arguments with interesting twists, seen the journeys of self-published authors, who I one day hope to join among their ranks. I’ve learnt a lot from you, all of you, and I’ve had a lot of fun in putting up my own opinions about everything, from musicals to theme parks to, well, everything else. And it really brings a nice spark to my day when I see someone else has taken the time to read my little posts and liked or commented or whatever.

Thank you.

With that said, I’ve been thinking recently about how I can give back to those blogs that I find so entertaining. Even if I can’t read every post published, I enjoy the ones I can get to. So, with that in mind. I’d like to say this; I am more than willing to review books, or host guest blogs or, let’s push the boat out, interview anyone who has a blog. I know I don’t have many followers, but if you are interested, just comment below or drop me an e-mail at gracebunting@hotmail.co.uk.

Keep writing, because I will always keep reading.

Here’s to another year.

{June 22, 2013}   Man of Steel

man of steelMan of Steel is, essentially, the origin story for Superman. And why not? We’ve had Batman, Spider-Man (twice), X-Men (old and new) along with the characters that make up The Avengers. So why not Superman?

Because, more so than the others, Superman can be hard to do. We’ve had Smallville, which tackled this superhero from the angle of a teenager just trying to be normal. We had Superman Returns, which was, well, not that great. But to do a complete origin story of a character that is essentially Godlike, to go up against the films of the all-American Captain, of the actual Norse God Thor, and the billionaire playboys Batman and Iron Man, well, personally I reckon the makers of this film had a hard task before them. Because how do you help an audience connect to a character that is virtually indestructible?

Well, you could pit him against people of his own kind.

The film starts off on Krypton, and here we see Jor-El – the father of Superman – pleading with the council to let him try to save their race. Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe, is a scientist, but that doesn’t mean he can’t kick arse. The opening sequence was strong, with some nice shots and action scenes as Jor-El tries to do what he can to ensure his race and his son survives. The world created was stunning, and part of me really, really wants to see a film that’s just Krypton. Before Superman, before he arrives on Earth. There’s a lot that could be done with that world, and the basics – thanks to Man of Steel – are already there.

imagesCAL5BS2WThe story doesn’t then jump into Clark being found, Clark growing up, Clark discovering what he can do etc. It skips this and delves straight into the heart of the story; Clark on a journey. Instead of spending the first half of the film focusing on him growing up, we get the main points told in flashback. We see how his powers affected his childhood and family, how he discovers that he actually is from another planet. It’s done nicely, and between it we get some nice Henry Cavill topless Superman doing what Superman does best scenes.

We also get the introduction of Lois Lane.

As a character, I’m not usually a fan of Ms Lane. But I did really like the way the character was done in Smallville, especially when compared with the show’s drab, boring Lana Lang. To me, Smallville’s Lois Lane was a character it made sense for Clark to fall in love with. She was strong and feisty. And in truth, Man of Steel’s portrayal of Lois was almost on par with that. Almost. Except…I don’t know. Something about her really bugged me. Maybe it’s how easily Superman falls in love with her, or how much it seemed like she was trying hard to be all tough and not-need-saving when…well, she seemed like the only character Superman actively tried to save throughout the film. She also had an annoying habit of seeming to have the ability to be everywhere at once. But Amy Adams, despite this, was good. As good as she could be in the role she was given, anyway.

man-of-steel-amy-adams-henry-cavill1And then, you have Zod. And Faora. But, and this is a real shame, nothing even close to the line “Kneel before Zod, son of Jor-El!” Okay, maybe it would have been a little campy for the film, but anyway. Zod and Faora make a brilliant pairing, with Zod as the general, Krypton’s Military Leader eager to do anything to bring his people back, and Faora as his second-in-command. I feel like Faora is almost a counter-point to the typical female; she’s brutal, harsh and lacks emotions. Her whole purpose is to serve Zod and her people, and she moves through the film as a kind of graceful warrior, happily wrecking destruction and delivering the line “A good death is its own reward” with no indication that she doesn’t believe it.

To me, she was much more of a villain than Zod. It felt almost too easy, every time Superman faced Zod, for Zod to be overcome by something. Yet Faora just didn’t stop. Nothing was going to stop her. I think she may have been my favourite character in the whole film, and even as a villain she – to me, anyway – was more likable than either Lois or Martha Kent.

Also, I’m not the only one who noticed how when Clark put on the costume, he was suddenly clean-shaven, right? With no hint that time had passed, at all.

EDIT: I did have a more conclusive ending to this. But for some reason it got deleted when I pressed the publish button. So I’m going to be working from memory for most of the next part.

The film is stepped in post-9/11 imagery. This could, arguably, be true for most films published in the last few years, but for some reason it feels more apparent in Man of Steel. The climax *SPOILERS* of the film shows the almost total destruction of the city, and the collapsing buildings, covering bystanders in dust and debris, will almost certainly bring up certain images from 9/11 itself. But, and here’s where I had a slight problem, at the very end of the film we see people strolling into the Daily Planet offices, none of the characters seem affected by what they’ve just witnessed and the buildings all seem pretty much intact. Hell, at least in The Avengers we had glimpses of a memorial. In this we just get…well, nothing. Despite the fact that God knows how many MUST have died. Superman wasn’t even close to saving them all, but instead gets angry only when he sees Zod and co go for a direct target. He does save one guy from a helicopter, only to let another ‘chopper fall with two people inside.

It’s like, seriously, Clark, save someone apart from Lois. Please.

So, it has its flaws. Of course it does. And it’s not one of the best superhero films to come out in recent years, but it is a good film. It’s enjoyable, with some great visuals, and if anything, the fight scenes really redeem it. The cast and characters – when they work – work quite well. There are different approaches that could have been taken with this, but this feels like the best one. It’s not the best superhero film, but it is perhaps the best anyone could have done with Superman. And it’s laid a nice foundation for the possibility of more Superman films, and even a lead up towards a Justice League movie.


thugs like usThugs Like Us follows Jimmy, a punk teenager in ’70s Britain, growing up in a place where the job prospects seem to be either the Dole or the Army. The book feels almost like a snapshot of his life, as he parties with his friends, sets his eyes on various girls and deals with his brother’s return from the Army.

Check out a much better synopsis on the book’s Goodreads page here.

Everything about the book feels real. It sounds like an odd thing to say, but the voice of the narrator, along with his day-to-day antics, just makes  it feel like what happens here could happen anywhere. Maybe because it’s based on a true story. Or maybe because it feels like it reflects life in ’70s Britain (or at least the things I know about it from films, books and my parents).

Throughout, there’s the sense of something bigger coming. The sea is mentioned often, and although at times it feels like the metaphor is leaning a little towards being heavy-handed, the use of it does make sense, especially near the end. Plus, well, anyone who lives near the sea knows how much it can almost bury itself inside you. It does, at times, feel like a constant presence, and I think the use of it works really well here.

Along with that, the style really adds to the overall feel of it. We’re told things from Jimmy’s first person perspective, and it means that we get glimpses of a lot of different things which are not always explained or returned to. It works. Again, it adds to the overall reality of the novel. How many things do we see in real life that we never get explained? How many times do we see our parents mess up, only to be left with no reasoning or explanation?

As well as these moments of reality, we also see a blurring between what is real and what isn’t, especially when Jimmy and his friends take various drugs. These moments stand out simply for what they show about Jimmy. It feels like, at those points, we get a real sense of who he is, a real idea of who he is beneath everything else.

The pacing matches the story and although at times it can feel quite fast, it feels like that’s just the way things happen to the main character. Nothing stands still for too long, especially when things are set in motion. And, to be honest, it’s just one of those books that leave you wanting more, leave you wanting to find out what happens to Jimmy next and where he might end up. The ending is almost bittersweet, and it’s handled in that same sort of no-idea-where-he’s-going attitude that carries the novel.

It’s a great book, well worth picking up and very difficult to actually put down.

So head over to Amazon and grab a copy. You won’t regret it.

Favourite Line: “If it’s good enough for Captain Sensible, it’s good enough for me.”

20th_century_ghosts_-_gollanczI finished this a while ago, but with everything else going on this is the first chance I’ve had to write about it. The book – and the author – made me think of what could be an important question.

Can talent be inherited?

I ask because, for those that don’t know, Joe Hill is the son of one of my all time favourite authors. And reading this book, there does feel like there are elements of his father’s work seeping through. Not a lot, but in some of the way the characters are written and the themes explored, there is a touch of Stephen King to it.

Despite that, based on this collection of short stories, Hill has his own voice to carry him through. Before I get onto the stories themselves, I’d like to point out how Hill actually used the pseudonym when he was first trying to be published so that no one would put his work out there based on his father’s name. And it meant, like every other writer, he struggled. Yet he still uses Joe Hill. For that, I can only admire the guy. He chose the harder route, rather than just going “I’m King’s son. Publish me, bitch.”

So, 20th Century Ghosts, like I said above, is a collection of short stories. Each one stands out brilliantly on their own, and Hill has the ability to really draw you into the world in very few words, setting the scene and introducing the characters quickly so we can get moving into the plot.

I’m not going to go into the individual stories. Mainly because it would be hard to pick which ones to focus on, and also because I really think this is a book worth picking up, whatever you’re a fan of, and I don’t want to spoil anything. Hill’s stories are fresh and interesting. I half expected this to be a collection of horror stories, and although there are a few horror tales in there, most of them are simply about people. Hill writes about relationships, between friends and parents and ghost-lovers. There are moments in 20th Century Ghosts which will make you cringe, shudder and, yes, almost cry in some points. Each story feels like it could be from a different author, but his voice – that thing all authors strive to make unique – carries throughout this collection.

Each tale manages to weave its way into your mind, and at some points it really feels like they just cut off too early. There are a number of different characters I wanted to read more about, wanted to stick with, but before I could really question what happened to them, I was delving into a new set of characters and new places.

Whether a fan of King or not, Hill’s work is worth checking out. And no matter what sort of books you enjoy, there will be something you love in 20th Century Ghosts.

et cetera