Setting it straight

mordorSetting as a writing tool is not to be underestimated, though it is possibly the most undervalued of the 3 main elements of fiction. Authors fret over characterisation and plot, but it is setting that anchors the writing and is a great thematic tool. One only has to think of Mordor to know how resonant it is in terms of Tolkien’s themes.
In science fiction and fantasy, setting may not only involve location, it can become the whole world of the novel. Worlds where imagination conquers all. Yet even when it is a fantasy world,  familiar details are the things that chime with the reader. The writer who gives purpose to setting by integrating it into the body of the story, shaping the characters and forcing them to interact with the environment it creates, goes beyond simply describing place and time.
I try to do this in my writing. Fro example, in The Obsidian Pebble, Oz Chambers lives in an old house called Penwurt and I wanted to imbue this place with as many qualities as I could. I tried to make it mysterious, a little spooky and full of secrets. An extension, in fact,  of the artefacts which give their name to the whole quintet, and a great metaphor for the science-fantasy theme I’ve employed. It is a place where Oz feels safe, but a place he is also in awe of.
When it comes to setting, by all means use the trite and predictable in your first draft and accept the fact that revision will involve you in deep research and contemplation. Use your character’s viewpoint to show what he/she sees, but remember that eyeline view precludes going on about the weather in the next county.
Setting is a tool best used during revision for:
1/ Adding a sense of place that should intrinsically modify your characters actions and behaviour.
2/ Using as a character in its own right.
3/ Being a metaphor for theme.
4/ Perfecting the emotional landscape through pathetic fallacy.
5/ Using all the senses.
6/ Being not a hang-up for first drafting.

Rhys A Jones

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First Page reads

great expectationsssssThere is a school of thought that says most readers will make their minds up about wanting to read a book after the first few paragraphs. Noah Lukeman in his book  The First Five Pages compares judgment on a book with seeing a Van Gogh for the first time. Most people look and make their minds up in a flash whether they like it or not. They may be scorned by critics and even called a fool, but art is art, and everyone has the right to pass his/her own judgement. Of course, when it comes to the ‘classics’, this gut-reaction response suffers a snobbery bypass and a lot of people keep reading to keep up the pretext.

But most of us read for pleasure. We’re influenced by lots of things. Title, cover art, blurb, reviews. But what do we do in a bookshop? We pick up the book and look inside. Amazon allows you to do much the same, so if they think it’s important to invest in the “look Inside” feature, that should tell you something.  so it’s refreshing to find a site which allows readers to peruse  the first page of a book in order for them to get a feel.

This is what advertiser  BooksGoSocial does. It’s a newish enterprise, but a novel idea. here’s my page for Obsidian pebble.

Worth checking out?

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Cover reveal–The Beast of Seabourne

Beastone page best We’ve had this for some time but for whatever reason we’ve not sent it out into the world. So, at last, here is the cover for book 2 in the artefact quintet. Once again I am indebted to the amazing Lisa Amowitz who has done a great job of injecting mystery and more than a touch of spookiness into this cover.

So whats this one about?
Well, now.

Oz Chambers has a wonderful secret; the obsidian pebble, gifted to him by his dead father, is an artefact of astonishing power. The kind that makes the year eight science competition a hands-down walkover thanks to the pebble’s genius avatar, Soph.

But there are sinister forces abroad who will stop at nothing to get their hands on such power, and when fellow pupils start being attacked, Oz finds himself accused of all sorts of shenanigans and in very hot water. Soon, he and his friend are caught up in a centuries old legend involving a missing ring, lava toothpaste and a murderous monster known as the Beast of Seabourne.

Thrills and spills come from all directions in this mystery-uncovering second book in the artefact series.

Due out in October from Spencer Hill MG, you’ll just have to wait for the rest.

Rhys

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The River Singers — a classic in the making

river singersOne of the really wonderful things about living in the UK is the quality of radio broadcasting. I am lucky enough to have DAB radio  in the car. And since I spend a lot of time commuting to and from places of work, I get to listen a lot. I have broad tastes, but I tend to default to the comedy and drama station of Radio 4Extra which is full of gems. But one of the success stories that does not involve reruns of classic comedy series is a magazine show for children called The 4 O’clock show. In addition to interviews and music and discussions about books and films, they serialize a story. This is usually at the end of the hour and I occasionally catch the last few minutes of one of these. This last week it was Tom Moorhouse’s tale of water voles, The River Singers. And what lifted this one into the stratosphere, apart from the pace and excitement, was the reading by Shirley Henderson (you will know her as Moaning Myrtle from the HP films). Her vocalization of the animals was masterful in a soft Scottish accent.     I took the opportunity of listening to all five episodes and it was well worth it.  A great story for children. I’m not sure how easy it will be for anyone to listen from across the pond, but if you can, give it a whirl. You will not regret it. This is the first of 3 books. I wonder if they’ll be able to persuade Shirley Henderson to do the audio book.

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The fishingboatbobbing sea: Under Milk Wood at the Swansea Grand

UMW2To be honest, I’d rather be writing than blogging. I have no interest in sharing with the world the minutiae of my day and, like a lot of people, find a blog a bit of a nuisance. I still remember the old days when the only way you could communicate with anyone was through a letter. Yes, it’s true! before instant messaging and emails and whatsapp, it was either the telephone or a sheet of paper and a pen, preferably with a plastic tip that you could chew whilst mulling over the words, and the unspoken hope that the top didn’t leak and leave you with a lip the colour of a ripe blueberry.
And, as a college student, it used to be a bit of a chore to think up things to say even though this was a communication to those nearest and dearest to you–you mother or brother or sister, not a meandering thought bubble to the rest of the world.

These days, the idea of having to do something as primitive is frankly laughable in an age where you can Facebook your cat from the top of a mountain. If you google ‘why I don’t blog anymore’ you’ll find, ironically,  a slew of blogs on that very subject (i.e. why they don’t blog,  not why their facebooking a cat from the top of a mountain). Most of them have the same theme. A dawning realisation that the need to share every little thing with the world is a little pointless, takes time, and is usually immeasurably tedious for anyone other than the writer. It may be self serving, it may be unappealing, it may be simply pointless. So, unless I have a point, I am going to limit posts to thing of import in the context of this website.

So what is it, Rhys, that you have to say?

Well, last night I was taken, rather reluctantly, to a stage performance of Under Milk Wood in The Swansea Grand, a home town staged performance of  Dylan Thomas’ play for radio by Theatre Clwyd. I am not a great fan of theatre and this, of course, was written as a play for voices, ostensibly to be performed on the radio. But it is Thomas’ centenary year and this was an all Welsh production with authentic, homegrown accents. And so I went, and have to say, I enjoyed it. The ‘action’ of the cast is limited to augmenting the verbal badinage because the narrative is nothing more than a montage of snapshots as we revisit the lecherous, frustrated, plotting, pious drunks and gossips and feckless fishermen as they exist for twenty four hours in a dazzling, star-skinned soup of words. Yes, you could watch this play with your eyes closed if you wanted to, because it is the prose and poetry that seduces. And yet, to do so, diminishes the skill and style of this performance delivered with  tenderness and paradoxical bursts of gusto. As Kenneth Tynon said in 1956 when the naysayers insisted that this was a work, like the antithesis of childhood, that should be heard and not seen; do they, I wonder, go blindfold to symphony concerts?

It will embark on a world tour and America beckons. if you get a chance, see it because it resonates with love and despair, tragedy,  religion and humour and is what, I think, Thomas surely wanted his play to be.

And as for me and my own literary efforts, The Beast of Seabourne, number 2 in the Artefact series is almost at the printers for an October release. And the amazing Lisa Amowitz has designed another stunning cover. So, next time I post it will be to show the world this wonderful cover.
So, watch this space….

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Gimme 5.

Did I set out to write a five book series? The answer to that is no, I started out with the kernel of an idea, which was; was what if a kid found something left to him by his father that would change his life. And what if that thing had to be kept a secret to stop it from getting into the hands of people who would want to use it to do harm.five
Pretty generic as what-ifs go. But I knew as soon as this little idea for the Artefact quintet crystallized, that it had scope for lots of conflict with family, friends and authority. As I developed the story, I realised that to tell it properly would either need one book 700 pages long, or maybe four or five books in digestible,  140 page wedges.  Since I’m writing for middle grade–10 and up, that seemed to be by far the most sensible approach.

The Artefact series is, in fact one long serialised story with a beginning on page 1 of book one and an ending on the last page of book five. This is not the same as a series whereby the same characters are retained in each book/story, but each episode is a complete and different story. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books are a serial. Enid Blyton’s famous five books were series. Of course, in a 5 book serial, the trick is also to make each book more or less a stand alone story as well. It is not absolutely essential that anyone has read book one to read book two or three, but the hope is that reading any one will drive the reader to the others. And here one has has to balance the need to bring the reader up to speed in each book against boring repetition. It’s a neat trick if you can pull it off.

I knew, too that this would be an SF/fantasy. The mission statement on my website is culled from Arthur C Clarke. Magic is simply our inability to understand technology and that, I would suggest,  pretty much explains the wonder of every episode of Dr Who. But I wanted to build a world that was real and yet subtly different. I wanted it to be set in the here and now and full of all the stuff that kids do like video games, texting and all the other distractions that drive everyone mad so that it would be identifiable. I knew that a chunk of 10-14 year olds  reality is school and so, school had to play a big part. But I also needed somewhere for the really good stuff to happen and so I had my protagonist live in a supposedly ‘haunted house’. This way I could begin to meld the supernatural with SF and fantasy. Has it worked? You tell me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent a lot of time working out how this would all end having established my premise. I felt that I needed to know the ending thoroughly before I launched into the writing and this is what I spent a lot of time doing. And I mean a lot of time. It is now six or seven years since I began this little adventure. Was it hard to pretend to be 11, 12 and 13 again? No, I don’t think so. The difference between adult books and children’s books, quite apart from the obvious, is the psychological reaction of the protagonist. I found it quite liberating not to have to think too much about adult themes.

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You can’t even give it away.

Today, I read about a chap in Minnesota who got arrested for throwing $1000 onto a bah humshopping Mall crowd from the 4th floor of a mall. This is possibly the winner of the ‘most ironic story of the year competition’. Why?
1/He did it while a choir sang let it snow
2/He’d just got divorced and lost his business.
3/ He’d invited his wife to the mall to see this stunt in the hope of getting his cat back.
4/ In the spirit of hopeless optimism, he felt that giving all this away might mean that he’d get it back in a ‘What goes around, comes around’ sort of way.
5/ He got arrested for his trouble. “It could have caused a  serious situation”, said the authorities.
Yes, like people actually leaving a Mall with more money than they came in with!
Watch it HERE.
So to celebrate a great idea having had scorn poured all over it, the good people at standoutbooks are giving away copies of The Obsidian Pebble and a £25/$40 dollar Amazon voucher in defiance of the authorities.

YAY. Go on–before they’re all gone–or I get arrested.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wonders of the Invisible World – Review

 

WOIWI enjoyed this very much. These short stories are full of tenderness and a descriptive, lyrical beauty, and the themes explored were often similar, but intriguing and beguiling. I am now a fan.

The stand out story for me was Byndley and Knight of the Well a close second. Little fixes, like stepping through a door into another existence. perfect for short journeys or bedtime reading.

Great stockign filler for Christmas for those with a taste for fantasy.

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Goodreads Autographed Giveaway for UK readers

We did run a giveaway for US readers in October and I will be giving everyone a chance to win more autographed books in December Worldwide. But for now, since the UK lost out on the last one, this is just for them.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Obsidian Pebble by Rhys A. Jones

The Obsidian Pebble

by Rhys A. Jones

Giveaway ends November 20, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Enjoy!

Rhys A. Jones

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Dog loves book.

Here’s Betsi recuperating after paw surgery–pink bandages, go figure.

Nice cover!

Nice cover!

Got my author copies of The Obsidian pebble with its awesome cover and showed it to Betsi. She was hooked. You will notice the jaunty soft collar she’s wearing to stop her getting at the dressings. So much better than the hard plastic cones we get from the vet. She looks like a black dahlia.

She loved the book. Well loves the fact that its a new smell, and that I told her that if she reads it she’d get a treat. Hang on, isn’t that what my mother did with me?

She’s a tough nut, is Betsi. We rescued her and she had to fend for herself quite a lot before moving in with us. But being a squirrecidal maniac, she’d ripped both dew claws and had to have them sorted out. She’s almost back to circular tail wagging normality–and for those of you who don’t know what that is–see here. Don’t say there’s nothing educational about my posts!

So, the book is out and here at last. Now on to the next one.The Beast Of Seabourne, next October…

 

 

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