Avengers: Infinity War Review – Spoilers!

Spoiler Alert! – Seriously, if you haven’t seen the film yet then what the hell are you doing? Get out of here!!!! 😀

Avengers: Infinity War has been out worldwide for a few days now so I feel I’m safe doing a review with my thoughts and why such an enormous CGI filled visual superhero feast has a strange personal resonance for me, oh and yes, while I will not discuss the fates of the characters, there will be spoilers story/plot wise.

It’s a weird thing, but considering I’ve been a cinephile my entire life, did film studies as part of my Fine Art Degree (with combined studies, including some really obscure films like Dr Calgari’s Cabinet!), used to work in a video shop just to get the free movies and have a collection of films which must run in the 1000’s now…I’ve never actually done a film review on here before! It’s crazy, my filmic knowledge is better than most and I even used to write film reviews for a freebie mag at college so why did I stop?

Anyway, while not claiming to be the world’s foremost expert on all things Marvel, I have been a superhero nerd since I was a kid so these are my observations and opinions on what was, for me, the most fun I’ve had at the cinema in a loooong time!

Is Avenger’s Infinity War a perfect film?

No, but then there are very few of those. It does however get a solid 5* stars from me for sheer entertainment and ambition. The way the Russo Brothers (the directors) have interwoven all the disparate storylines and character arcs is truly impressive, think Civil War (also a Russo film) but on a whole other galactic level! Multi-layered and complex doesn’t even cover it!

Bloody hell, what a cast!

We have our primary Avengers team – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) & Captain America (Chris Evans), only Hawkeye is missing (*more on that later). Then you have the second wave Avengers – War Machine (Don Cheadle), Falcon (Anthony Mackey), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) & Vision (Paul Bettany). No Ant-Man, again *more on that later.

Add to that, Tom Holland’s plucky young, Spider-Man, definitely the kid of the bunch, Benedict Cumberbatch’s sardonic Doctor Strange with sidekick Wong and the WHOLE of the Guardians of the Galaxy crew, Chris Pratt’s inspired Star Lord, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora (who plays a central role in the unfolding drama), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Nebula (Karen Gillan) & Mantis (Pom Klementieff) AND all of the awesome Black Panther gang, including Chadwick Boseman’s powerful Black Panther himself, Letita Wright’s wonderfully loveable Shuri, Danai Gurira’s quick witted Okoye & Winston Duke’s fearless M’Baku.

And yes…we have Tom Hiddleston’s Loki as well, a treat for all Marvel fans!

As if that wasn’t enough, the Russo Brothers have been very intelligent in ensuring that the human drama and human connections are there too, so it’s not just a constant wham bang thank you mam! For instance, near the beginning of the film you have a lovely grounded scene set in a sunny New York park with Tony Stark & Peppa Potts jogging and chatting about their future plans (Tony wanting a baby with Peppa!), a really sweet moment before all hell breaks out that once again serves to remind the viewer that we actually CARE about these characters and their plans and futures. Take note DC!

Basic Plot…

Although the elements the film is juggling are complex, with so many characters and pivotal scenes all bouncing off each other and an almost dizzying density of action and effects, like trying to assemble a galactic jigsaw without the overlaying image to look at, it all works brilliantly and thankfully the primary plot itself is relatively simple…

An evil mad titan, Thanos (a suitably intimidating Josh Brolin), using his infinity gauntlet (an all powerful glove forged for him) races to gather all six infinity stones (enormously powerful gems created at the birth of the universe which each hold a specific power with almost limitless destructive abilities), and using these gems, Thanos intends to destroy half of the universe and peoples that live in it. Real end of the world stuff.

The stakes could not be higher!

We find the Avengers, after the massive events of Captain America: Civil War, splintered apart and scattered around the world (and galaxy) but they must come together to save the planet and stop Thanos!

FYI: The six infinity stones = The Space Stone/Tesseract (blue), the Reality Stone/Aether (red), the Power Stone (purple), the Mind Stone (yellow), the Time Stone/Eye of Agomoto (green) and the Soul Stone (orange) we know least about this one and where it is until this film…

Film Opens…

LAST CHANCE…SPOILERS AHEAD – leave now! Straight after the events of Thor Ragnarok and its final post credit scene, we see the remains of Thor’s ship (full of the last remnants of the Asgardian people, now refugees after Asgard was destroyed) overshadowed by a massive craft belonging to Thanos and his followers, the Black Order (almost as scary as Thanos himself). The camera pans over the many fallen bodies of Thor’s people, including whole families, slaughtered, lying dead or dying. Thor himself is being tortured by Thanos and head henchman Ebony Maw, as Loki is questioned by the rest of the black order. Thanos understandably is none too happy with Loki’s failure in the events of the first Avenger’s Assemble film. To placate his fury and save Thanos from killing Thor, Loki gives up the infinity stone he stole in Thor Ragnorok, against Thor’s protestations – yeap, none other than the blue tesseract itself. Thanos grabs the tesseract and crushes it to release the blue infinity stone inside and drops it into the gauntlet he is already wearing. Worse still, he already has the purple power stone (last seen on Xandar at the end of the Guardians of the Galaxy)!!!! Right from the beginning, the film starts at a breath-taking pace and doesn’t let up!

Now, I don’t mind revealing some spoilers in making this review understandable…but I ain’t going to say anything about the fates of beloved characters at this point, but we do briefly see Heimdall in the film too.

In fact Heimdall’s actions allow the Hulk/Bruce Banner to return to Earth, literally crashing through the roof of Doctor Strange’s sanctuary! Again, the Russo brothers expertly weave galactic space sequences with Earth bound ones in a cohesive way which could so easily have become disjointed and nonsensical.

Character Meet-Ups…

Banner is clearly terrified of Thanos and warns Strange of what is to come which in turn leads him to contact Tony Stark while he is on his New York park run with Peppa. I must admit, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film has definitely been the new character meet-ups and the interplay between them. The first of these really is the meeting of the ego’s and goatee’s in the form of genius Strange and genius Stark meeting. While they, along with Banner and Wong chat about the Thanos threat, the building shakes…no time to breathe folks, this is a massive Marvel film after all! They run outside to see the massive Q ship of the Black Order barrelling down on New York, the threat they were talking about is already here! This ties beautifully into a school bus, of course being driven by Stan Lee himself in his 35th filmic Marvel cameo, crossing the Hudson and Spidey’s senses going berserk. Again, a lovely moment of human interaction amongst the chaos with Holland’s best spidey friend, Ned, helping to distract the bus kids while Spidey swings into action.

Fighting For The Future…

A battle ensues with Stark, Dr Strange and Wong fighting the Black Order henchmen and Spidey swinging into help, against Tony’s wishes, who still wants to protect the kid. Things don’t go well and Stark ends up following the Black Order and a kidnapped Strange aboard the Q-ship (remember Strange has the Time Stone and Thanos wants it) and much to Iron Man’s annoyance, Spider-Man tags along. When telling him off, I loved Holland’s response; “I can’t be a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man if there’s no neighbourhood!” Very true. So here we see Spidey becoming the latest addition to the Avengers crew. While they are taken off in the ship, Banner, back in NY is calling a friend – Captain America, now in hiding. The shit has hit the fan and ALL the Avengers must fight it!

Meanwhile the Guardians, speeding through space on the Milano & responding to a ship distress call come across a scene of devastation – the bodies and remains of Thor’s ship and the Asgardian people, this is where the trailer we saw comes into play with a seemingly lifeless Thor slamming into their ship – seemingly lifeless until he opens an eye before falling unconscious again.

Humour…

Lol, the interactions are HILARIOUS, as Gamora massages Thor’s muscles and Drax praises the handsome stranger and points out that Star Lord is getting chubby! They awaken Thor and again the zingy one liners and twinge of jealousy on Star Lord’s part are great, especially when an insecure Star Lord starts emulating Thor’s deep voice and gets called out on it! 😀 I loved Thor referring to Rocket as clearly the intelligent captain of the ship and as a rabbit and referring to the others as morons…and who knew he could understand sulky teenage Groot! Brilliant!

The action swings to Edinburgh where Vision, in human form, and Scarlet Witch share a tender moment, clearly in a relationship with each other. Warning signs of something foreboding lingers though and sure enough, another of Thanos’s Black Order henchmen turn up to kill Vision and take his Mind Stone. Vision is injured and as they fight them off, good old Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon turn up. Captain America btw, looking more like the Nomad character he turns into in the comics, dressed in black with no visible sign of the old red & blue cap costume.

One of the hilarious touches I loved throughout the movie, which was both frustrating and refreshing, was a terrified Hulk refusing to Hulk out after his Thanos encounter, much to Banner’s exasperation! 😀

Wakanda Forever…

Before we know it, the action earthbound has switched to Wakanda and here we see Banner, Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Cap meeting Black Panther and reuniting with Bucky who had been recuperating there since Civil War (as seen in the post credits for Black Panther, which of course signposted the ‘White Wolf’ character that Bucky later becomes in the comics).

In Space…

Galactically – Iron Man, Strange and Spidey manage to kill Ebony Maw and crash land the Q ship on an alien world, Thano’s old home planet! Meanwhile, realising that Xandar has been destroyed by Thanos while retrieving the power stone from the Nova Corp and that Thanos already has two infinity stones, they decide to team up and stop him before it’s too late. After a bit of comical bickering Thor splits off from the Guardians with Groot & Rocket, to get himself a Thanos killing weapon (since his beloved hammer Mjolnir was destroyed in Ragnorok), while the Guardians head to Knowwhere and the Collector who was given the red Reality/Aether stone by Thor’s friends at the end of the events of Thor: Dark World. They’re too late, Thanos is already there!

Did I mention how you’re not given a chance to catch breath during this film?! 😀 Seriously, it’s the ONLY movie I’ve ever been too where I was so absorbed and exhausted by it (in a good way), that I hardly touched my popcorn or coke for the whole movie! 😀

Fathers and Daughters…

In a moment of desperation, Gamora attacks and stabs Thanos in the neck. Thanos falls back, dying, bleeding heavily from his wound and asks why. Gamora bursts into tears and then all is revealed. Thanos already has the reality stone/aether and wanted to know how Gamora really felt! Previously to this, Gamora revealed to Star Lord that she knew where the soul stone was and because of this Thanos could not collect all the infinity stones. She refuses to tell Quill where it is and makes him promise to kill her if things go wrong. This is heavy emotional stuff guys! After she stabs Thanos & everything turns to shit, Thanos disappears dragging Gamora with him as Star Lord tries to stop him.

On board Thanos ship, Thanos had previously captured Nebula when she tried to board his ship to kill him. Nebula is being tortured as Thanos suspects Gamora knows the location of the soul stone (through a conversation Gamora had with her sister). He uses this knowledge against her, torturing Nebula to get the information he wants from Gamora. She finally gives in to save her sister. Nebula later manages to escape but events are spinning out of control.

Thanos drags Gamora off to get the soul stone. Things are looking bleak.

The Endgame…

Dr Strange, Star Lord, Iron Man & Spider-Man, still stranded on Thanos home planet after crashing the Q ship and killing Ebony Maw, realise that Thanos will HAVE to turn up there to get the time stone from Dr Strange, so they hatch a plan to stop him. Forebodingly, Strange zips into the future (actually about 14 million different futures, to see if Thanos can be beaten), in only one instance did the Avengers win…only one! As predicted Thanos then turns up to get the time stone. The plan, with the help of Mantis, almost works, then a shattering truth is revealed that pushes Star Lord over the edge and everything then goes wrong. Thanos gets the time stone and disappears, leaving the Avengers stranded and desolate. They have failed!

Stormbreaker…

Meanwhile, Thor, with the help of Rocket, Groot and an enormous dwarf, played by GoT’s Peter Dinklage, nearly dies trying to restart a dying star to create the Thanos killing weapon he needs, called Stormbreaker. Lol, btw, in a classic Rocket move, the raccoon gives Thor an electronic eye he stole from someone, so Thor is able to ditch the eyepatch. 🙂

Preparing for the end…

Earthbound, in Wakanda preparations for war are in hand as Shuri attempts to take the mind stone out of Vision and destroy it before Thanos turns up (and without killing Vision). Too late, a host of massive ships crash down unleashing hordes of alien creations (Thanos foot soldiers), a massive battle begins as our Avengers fight their attackers and try to give Shuri time to destroy the mind stone. Banner, with a Hulk still refusing to fight, gets into Iron Man’s huge armour to fight the aliens off.

Eventually, just as the battle looks lost for our heroes, Thor and his awesome new stormbreaker weapon + a load of lightning of course, appears and ploughs into the alien hordes. I LOVED the moment when Thor & Cap meet for the first time since Age of Ultron and exchange repartee: “Nice beard, very manly” says Thor to Cap’s “You changed your hair, it looks good” comment. 😀 SO love these interactions!

Thanos…

Just when things are looking like they might be alright, Thanos himself turns up…to get his hands on the final infinity stone, the mind stone from Vision.

OMG! The stakes, the danger, the loss, the personal moments! Vision pleads with Scarlet Witch to destroy the stone even if it means killing him, as she’s the only one with the magical powers to destroy it. Gut wrenching!

Without revealing everyone’s fate…Thanos gets the final stone and inacts his plan to destroy half the universe and people in it. Think about it, 1 in every 2 people in the entire universe dying, as if they’d never existed at all. The film ends with half our heroes in Wakanda and the others still trapped on the alien planet, distraught as Thanos’s plan takes its dreadful toll. The final frame of the film, after Thanos has unleashed his horrifying plan, sees the mad titan peacefully enjoying a sunrise having completed his mission.

OMFG!!!!!!

This being a Marvel film, there is of course a post-credit scene, only one, at the very end. We see former Shield agent, Maria Hill & and former Shield director, Nick Fury seeing the devastation that Thanos’s plan causes – 1 in every 2 people dying as if they never existed at all. Cars crash, their drivers disappeared, planes smash into buildings, people disintegrate to ash before their eyes. The very final frame, as everything turns to shit, is Fury sending a message on a pager like device and the pager saying ‘sending’, before the star symbol of Captain Marvel flashes up! :O

There you go…the entire film story, minus some of the biggest spoilers.

Satisfying Fan Moments…

For me, apart from getting a good insight into Gamora’s backstory/past like her first meeting as a child with Thanos, which underpins so much of their complex relationship, “What’s wrong little one?” Thanos asks amidst the chaos he has unleashed on Gamora’s homeworld, the film also manages to give some really satisfying moments for the fans. For me, having Star Lord and Gamora eventually declare their love for each other was one of the biggest and most emotionally impactful. I also loved the whole teenage Groot thing, seeing Spider-Man in space with his new suit, seeing Iron Man’s new nano-technology suit and again, the personal moments…that look of relief and warmth between Black Widow and Banner, the first time they’ve been reunited since the events of Age of Ultron.

Critical response…

So far the general consensus is that this is a great film. If you don’t like Marvel movies and superheroes then you won’t like it, but if you do, then this is a film that will greatly please the majority of fans. For me, it was EPICALLY AWESOME! I’m sure some will criticise it’s frenetic pace, but with so much to stuff in there and to still keep those lovely humorous exchanges and touching personal character moments, the pace needs to be frenetic. If I was making this film it would probably be two weeks long, not two and half hours!

WOW!!!!!!!

Personal Resonance…

On a personal level, despite on the surface this being yet another ‘silly comic book film’, I think the reason it resonated so much with me, beyond my being a huge superhero and Marvel fan, was the conflicted father-daughter (Thanos-Gamora) storyline at the heart of this film. As a daughter myself to my own Thanos evil type monster father (happily out of my life for over 10 years now), I totally understood Gamora’s feelings, angers, self-doubts and fears. You can come from evil without being evil yourself, you CAN overcome your beginning, history does NOT have to repeat itself. So yes, despite all the massive set pieces, action, frentic pace and stunning visuals, for me, at the heart of this was a very and all too personal story of a bad father and the damaged daughter trying to better herself and break free of her poisonous past. And I guess the other message for me, is that your family can be who you CHOOSE to be your family not necessarily the people who brought you up.

Anyway, enough of that personal heavy stuff. 😀

Am I going to see it again? Hell yes! You bloody bet cha I am! I’m sure there’s LOADS I missed out and didn’t pick up on the first viewing, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on the whole glorious thing.

Well done to the Russo brothers for pulling together and wrestling a leviathan like this and making it work, a job I am utterly stunned that they managed to do so well.

*Now, briefly, about the lack of Hawkeye and Ant Man, it is mentioned that they are protecting their families, so this could be the primary reason why they don’t feature in Infinity War, especially for Hawkeye, there is also speculation that they may well be in Avengers 4, so the reasoning for their absence may be further explained then.*

Yes there are some flaws, of course, but, certainly on first viewing, they really are not big enough to impact on the sheer blissful enjoyment of this! Roll on Avengers 4!!!! 😀

5* stars!!!! 😀 #LovedIt #AvengersInfinityWarRocks

❀

 

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Distant Worlds – Welcomes AFE Smith!

Well, amidst a sea of tears over the devastating news that one of my all-time idols, David Bowie has died at the age of only 69, I will post this blog as planned as a little tribute to creativity for which David Bowie was such a master. RIP Davy Jones, we all love you and will feel your loss for the rest of our lives…  (1947 – 2016) 😩 ❀ xxxx

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The silly season is over and 2016 beckons with the promise of yet more great books to read and new authors to discover. I hope in some small part that this series helps to spotlight some of these hidden gems. So, for the first interview of 2016 and the eighteenth outing of this series, we have a treat…author extraordinaire, AFE Smith.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (today’s interviewee! – see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring
so today I’m a little nervous interviewing ‘Barren Island Books’ interviewer AFE Smith herself!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

Fire-Planet[1]The Distant Worlds strand started last year, focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber-talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

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A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our eighteenth author interview and our sixth AWB member, the Spymaster general herself, the mysterious fantasy writer…

AFE Smith

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AFE, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world


What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

If this were a normal stranded-survivor story, I would probably die after about a day, because I have no practical skills whatsoever. But I’m going to assume that since I’m part of a space colony, I come from a scientifically advanced society that can supply me with some whizzy gadgets. So I’d go for:

Some kind of respiratory mask. The planet may be habitable but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got viciously adaptable micro-organisms. I don’t want to be knocked off my feet by alien flu while I’m trying to survive.

A water purifier/air-to-water distiller. For many of the same reasons. And I want to have enough to drink even if I land on a part of the planet where rain is infrequent and waterways are scarce.

A strong, lightweight tent with enough insulation to keep me warm at night.

A solar-powered survival manual so I can look up which plants are safe to eat, how to make fire, etc. If it could say DON’T PANIC in large friendly letters on the cover, that would be a bonus.

And talking of which, a Babel fish.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

Given that I’m going to be carrying my home on my back for a while, I’d better not take anything heavy or bulky. I’d definitely take a photo of my family. And my laptop (assuming I can get a solar-powered battery pack), allowing me to keep a log of my adventures in case (a) I die horribly and future space explorers want to find out what happened to me, or (b) I survive the whole thing and can turn my experiences into a blockbuster movie starring Matt Damon. But other than that, I’ll give up all my personal possessions and stick to the survival gear, thanks.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

It depends what my survival manual has to say about the indigenous population. If they are friendly, great. Hopefully they can help me build a transmitter to send a distress signal back to Earth. But if they’re the kind of life-forms who like to sacrifice human cattle to the great god Belzi’iar, I’ll steer well clear.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

I guess I have a solar-powered e-reader with me too, then! Fantasy novels are BIG, on the whole, and I don’t fancy lugging them around with me.

I would take the complete works of Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, Diana Wynne Jones and Juliet Marillier. All of those are comfort reads and I figure I’m going to need a lot of comforting. (And yes, I know taking ‘complete works’ is a total cheat, but the beauty of e-readers is that you can fit a vast quantity of books on them, and since I’m about to be slaughtered by a worshipper of Belzi’iar I hope you’ll cut me some slack.)

I’d also take my own complete works, such as they are. Not because I think they deserve to survive over anything else, but because being stranded on an alien planet might actually give me a better chance of meeting my current writing deadline than I have right now.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

I never get to listen to music any more, other than the Frozen soundtrack (thanks, three-year-old). Hey, this is going to be great! I’m actually looking forward to this terrible disaster now!

I reckon I should choose as wide a range of music as possible, to stand the greatest chance of bonding with the aliens over music and thereby convincing them not to dig my intestines out with a spoon. So I’d take The Beatles’ White Album, Wishbone Ash’s Argus, Steeleye Span’s Commoner’s Crown, my Max Bruch/Mendelssohn album of violin concertos 
 heck, and the Frozen soundtrack. It would remind me of my children.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued
do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

I haven’t drunk alcohol for nearly five years, so it would take very little vodka to drown my sorrows. And since I haven’t yet managed to make myself a toothbrush (dammit, should have claimed that as one of my personal possessions!) I’d better avoid the Coke. So I’ll stick to water.

Random comet question: As a hard working editor and new mum to two little ones, how do you juggle your life to ensure that you have ‘writing time’?

Ha! That makes it sound like I have some sort of plan! With a full-time job and two young children, the only writing time I have is in the evenings after everyone has gone to bed. But of course, that’s the only time I have to get anything else done, too. I’d say I manage a handful of evenings per week … assuming I don’t just fall asleep, which happens far too often and proves that I’m older than I’d like to think.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go! 

What? That’s even worse than being sacrificed to Belzi’iar!

No, wait, that didn’t count as part of my 100 words 
 what do you mean, these words count too? That’s not fair! I –

OK. Fine. OK.

Since I’m rapidly running out of words, I’ll just say that my latest book is a sequel to my first, and they both feature shapeshifters, pistols, an industrial city, a big chunk of mystery, a dash of romance, and people trying to kill each other in a variety of interesting ways. You ought to appreciate that, brain-eating alien.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Trying not to die. If I succeeded at that, I would write increasingly delirious streams of consciousness on my laptop whilst talking to a nearby tree upon which I had drawn a smiley face.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Chocolate. The landscapes (these long spindly purple trees are all very well, but they’re not like home). Other humans. New books. Did I mention chocolate?

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Politicians. War. Other humans. Creepy crawlies (please tell me there are no spiders on this planet). Constantly feeling like a failure (I figure if I survive this new situation, that automatically makes me a success – and if I don’t, I won’t care because I’ll be dead.)

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Nothing. The things I’d like to change are large enough that they’d have profound knock-on effects. I’ve read and watched enough time-travel stories to know that’s a terrible idea and would probably result in my own extinction. And the smaller things wouldn’t be worth the effort (I mean, I’d like not to have been such a total disaster in secondary school, but I don’t think it’s worth the cost of a TARDIS).

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Yeah. Why not? It’s been fun, if you ignore the bloodthirsty aliens and gradual descent into madness.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Harriet Goodchild – beautiful, complex, poetic fantasy with a real love of language.

Evangeline Jennings – taut, gripping, often sexy and always brutal femme noir. (If you don’t know what femme noir is, you should totally go and find out.)

Hazel Butler – fascinating, myth-drenched Gothic fantasy that blends darkness and light to great effect.

S.L. Huang – action-packed sci-fi with a kick-ass mathematician heroine. (Maths-based superpowers FTW!)

W.R. Gingell – gentle, tongue-in-cheek fantasy romance mysteries. Think Georgette Heyer with magic.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Always know where your towel is. (Dammit! Towel! That’s another useful personal possession I could have claimed! Can I go back in time and change the answer to my time-travel question to say I’d change what personal possessions I took with me 
 no? Too complicated? OK.)

Don’t be like me, children. Appreciate your towel while you have it.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

Author_photo_DARKHAVEN_AFE_SmithAFE in her own words…

That’s a HUGE question to end on. Er 
 I am a fantasy writer, an editor, a Ravenclaw and a robin, not necessarily in that order. You may already have gathered that I have a weird sense of humour (there’s a reason I don’t write comedy; no-one else ever thinks the same things are funny). I have two children, neither of whom I want to sacrifice to the great god Belzi’iar (though sometimes it’s a close-run thing).

My inspirations are as varied as life itself. That’s a nicely pretentious statement, so I’ll just leave that one there.

My publisher is Harper Voyager. They also publish people like Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin and Mark Lawrence. Which makes me feel rather like I’ve accidentally gate-crashed a celebrity party and now I’m sitting quietly in a corner, hoping no-one will notice me and tell me to go away.

Bio:

A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

AFE social media links:

Website
Facebook
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Cover_image_DARKHAVEN_AFE_SmithBook Blurb:

Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven.

Yet her half-brother Myrren hasn’t inherited the family’s ability to shapeshift, so their father, Florentyn, forces Ayla to take over as heir to the throne.

When Ayla is accused of Florentyn’s brutal murder only Myrren believes her innocent and aids her escape. A fugitive from her own guard, Ayla must now fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

But does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

DARKHAVEN buy links

HarperCollins Amazon (global link) Waterstones Barnes & Noble Google play iBooks Kobo

Goldenfire cover mediumAFE Smith’s new book being released by Harper Voyager this week on January 14th 2016!

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GOLDENFIRE preorder links

HarperCollins Amazon Barnes & Noble Google play iBooks Kobo

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Thank you, AFE. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing Illyrian mining vessel has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Andrea Baker!

This is the fifteenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring
but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber-talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

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A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our fifteenth author interview, and our third AWB interview, our very own fantasy castle of paranormal loveliness


Andrea Baker

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Andrea, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world


What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Oh there are so many unanswered questions about this distant world Sophie, and my first thought was my family, but as I wouldn’t travel without them they’d be right there with me! So, all that said…

  1. Water filtration system, with enough spares to keep us going for a while, until we could find suitable clean water to maintain life.
  2. Medical pack, being a practical person, making sure the flint is in there for starting a fire, as the difference between night and day can be hundreds of degrees.
  3. Books – the whole pod library if I could get it down there, I’d need something to take my mind away and allow me to dream.
  4. As much food as we could carry, to give us chance to check out the supplies on the planet first, rather than poisoning ourselves on day one.
  5. A communication system, so we can keep track of what is happening on Earth

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

That’s a difficult one, and some things would be with me anyway, so they don’t count in the five, do they? I’m thinking of the rings my husband gave me that I always wear. The others, let’s see…

  1. My photographs, a reminder of home.
  2. Plenty of notepaper and pens!
  3. My glasses. I normally wear contact lenses, but there would be no point taking those because I’d never get replacements. I need my glasses though, I’m very short-sighted without them!
  4. My daughter has made me lots of little “I love you” signs over the years, and I’ve kept them all, so I’d take these.
  5. Music – I’d make sure I’d got some sort of solar-electric power conversion to keep this going. I need music in my life.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I wouldn’t actively seek out others, I’m quite the introvert, so I’d stick with the close group I have to be honest. Having said that, I wouldn’t turn them away if they found us and were friendly.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Only 5!!!!!! I’m not sure I could live with only five of them! Oh well, here goes…

  1. Robin Hobb, probably the Rain Wild Chronicles
  2. Nora Roberts, The Cousin’s O’Dwyer series
  3. Neil Gaiman, Stardust is the one currently closest to me so it would have to be that if we’d crashed

  4. Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials
  5. CS Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Sorry, I admit they’re almost all series, so I guess I’ve cheated a little. 🙂

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Again, with the 5
. This is really hard 😩

  1. The Muse version of ‘Feeling Good’, I adore it!
  2. Adele, the Album 21
  3. Ed Sheeran, X
  4. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
  5. REM – The Best of

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued
do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Vodka, although I’m not a heavy drinker of spirits, I don’t think I’d want to think too much about my predicament!

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

Loathe it, completely and utterly!

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go! 

My latest book is too raw to work this one through properly, so I’m going to focus on the current release, if that’s ok?

‘Leah’s nightmares are trying to tell her something, and will stop at nothing. When the dreams don’t get through, the message becomes physical in her waking life. What will it take for her to realise the truth?’

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Once my immediate needs are dealt with (food, water, shelter, heat, I would spend my time reading, listening to music, and writing. This is suddenly starting to sound like bliss!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

  1. Companionship from those closest to me, and our dog!
  2. My family, as I know only some of them would have travelled with me, and I’d miss the others dreadfully (I sound like Lady Mary from Downton Abbey there!). It sounds sentimental, but I’m close to my family, and being apart from them, unable to speak to them every day would be unbearable.
  3. The beautiful scenery of Scotland, I dream my most vivid stories there.
  4. Independence – the ability to walk, or jump in my car, and visit wherever I wanted without being restricted.
  5. The smells of home – Vanilla, my daughter’s hair when she’s just washed and dried it, my favourite meal cooking. All the normal things about life I suppose.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

  1. Politics! It drives me mad, you have each side accusing the other of manipulating the press, but of course everything that their own side puts out has to be the truth. As Billy Connolly once said, the desire to be a politician should automatically disbar you from ever being able to become one!
  2. Along the same lines, war and terrorism. I have my own belief system, and I know others disagree with that. I understand that is their right and have no intention of trying to “convert” them, or hate them for it. I can’t understand the desire to kill someone just because they’re ideas are not the same as your own. Having said that, I do believe that a country has a right to defend itself, and we have a duty to help those that are being victimised.
  3. Pollution – we’re slowly killing our planet, whether through fumes or the destruction of war.
  4. Traffic! I spend the best part of two and a half hours a day travelling, and most days am on the road for 06:45 in order to reach my clients at a reasonable time. I hate that this means I miss my daughter getting up in the morning, but it means I’m home for more hours with her in the evening.
  5. Insects – I’m an entomophobic, and am very scared of anything that crawls or flies. Having said that it stands to reason this new planet will be worse, because at least on Earth I recognise some of them


Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

That’s a really hard one, because of the ripple effect. We’ve just had Rememberance Sunday here, and I’d love to be able to stop so much death and destruction, but as history has proven, there is always going to be someone rising up trying to dominate the rest of the world. Perhaps I’d go back to the creation of man as we are today (however you believe we got her) and remove the gene that makes people hate one another and want to destroy anyone that disagrees with them! But then, perhaps we wouldn’t survive as a race then
 Maybe I could wipe out the creation of guns and explosives


If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Yes, providing you guaranteed me being able to return home!

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

  1. Will Macmillan Jones, The Banned Underground series, great books, and give you a good laugh too.
  2. Tricia Drammeh, Spellbringers series. It’s no secret that I love paranormal, and Tricia is brilliant with this series – I’d recommend it to everyone, and wish there was more to it!
  3. Lisa L Wiedmeier, The Timeless Series. This is a difficult one to explain. Lisa’s books appear to be set in the “real” world like my own, but there are significant differences. I love the concept of the Timeless Clans, and the stories that unfold. I’m a severe sufferer of CATTS (chronic addiction to the timeless series), I admit and can’t wait for each book to be released.
  4. AFE Smith, Darkhaven. I remember reading some of this when I first joined authonomy, and it hooked me even back then, you know how some snippets of books just stay with you. AFE has polished it and it is now published by Harper Voyager.
  5. It would have to be our very own anthology, A World Of Their Own. What a great way to discover the fantastic group of authors that have contributed to this, and for such fantastic causes too!

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

  • Never let someone tell you that you read too much – reading is the best way to understand the people and world around you. Personally I think it makes you more tolerant as well.
  • Writers, never give up. It doesn’t have to be perfection, write your story, that is what is important.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself and your inspirations!

12248781_920049701420680_491530867_nAndrea in her own words…

I’ve made up stories for as long as I can remember – if you think about it we all do as children, in the imaginary worlds we create with our toys. As I got older I would “live” in the world from the latest discovery from the library, making up many “what happened next” stories, and even though I stopped playing, I still lived in those worlds until my late teens.

Once I graduated however I forced myself to stop this, thinking I needed to “grow up”, and that is one of my biggest regrets, as I’ve lost so many great ideas as a result.

I read so many books it’s hard to name inspirations – at one stage when I was younger I’d read 12-14 books a week, so to name them all would be impossible. I’m married, with an eleven year old daughter and a cocker spaniel named Ellie. In real life I’m a management consultant, specialising in transforming public services, which sounds quite boring doesn’t it?

Bio:

Andrea Baker was born and raised in the beautiful English county of Warwickshire, where she lived with her parents and older sister. She left home to study at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science, with honours, in 1992. She now works as an independent management consultant, and lives less than five miles from the town and castle of Kenilworth, in Warwickshire, with her husband and their daughter.

Worlds Apart is a series of romantic fantasy books, the first of which, entitled Leah, was originally released on October 11th 2012. Since January 2014 it has been published by Rose Wall Publishing.

Writing History:  

I have made up, and written, stories for as long as I can remember, even before I could effectively write them down. Rose was a nickname that I had within the family as a child, and as a result, anything that I have written, has the pen name Rose Wall. Other than a few poems in student anthologies, none of my writing has been published.

The idea for Worlds Apart has been in my mind for quite a while now, and I often wrote ideas, and dream sequences down into a notebook. In 2010, I started converting these into a story, and completed almost thirty thousand words whilst still working full time, in a high profile programme run on behalf of the Department for Education.

The Programme was closed at the end of November 2010, and after managing the handover of outstanding matters to the Department for Education, I found myself unemployed in January 2011. During the next four months, while trying to find another job, I used my spare time to continue my writing, and this novel, Worlds Apart: Leah, and the outline for its sequel, is the result.

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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Book Blurb

Worlds Apart: Leah

Nightmares are just dreams, aren’t they? They cannot hurt you.

It is simply your mind playing tricks…

Or are they?

Leah’s nightmares are trying to tell her something, something her mind is refusing to let her see.

At nineteen, Leah is still mourning the untimely death of her mother in an accident five years earlier. Her Father decides to move them both to a small Warwickshire town, for a fresh start. But Leah is plagued with terrifying nightmares, that seem to spill into her waking hours, and which somehow bring her comfort as well as fear. Conscious of the warnings in her dreams, and nervous of his growing temper, she deliberately withholds the details of these dreams from her Father.

One morning, Leah sets off up to the Castle, even though her Father would be furious that she had gone there alone. Settling down in her favourite spot, she dozes off in the sunshine, and for the first time experiences a nightmare outside the safety of her home. Disorientated from being awoken mid-dream, she instinctively distrusts the handsome young stranger, Ben, who had awoken her from her dream, yet is strangely attracted to him.

Over the next few weeks the two young people get to know each other better, and Leah finds herself more and more attracted to Ben. Her father finally discovers the relationship when she comes home late one evening. He attacks her, bruising her arm badly.

She fails to hide the injury from Ben the next day, avoiding the subject by questioning him about his music. As a thunder storm erupts they leave the shop at a run, racing together to his car. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a motorcycle skids in the rain, crashing into Leah and sending her flying into a wall.

Her recovery is hampered by her father’s temper and a break-in at the hospital, but this is tempered with the deepening relationship with Ben. Forced to move in with his family, Leah overhears mysterious conversations, her dreams begin to worsen and violent storms rage as she attempts to piece together the jigsaw of facts as they start to emerge.

A climactic event following a regional talent show final sees both Ben and Leah being severely injured, but they are saved by mysterious creatures. Passing out as a result of her injuries, and her discovery, Leah is transported back to the house, but when she awakes, Ben is missing. Forced into a journey of discovery, she finds hidden, surreal worlds within traditional English settings along with a truth about herself and her past that she can barely allow herself to believe, let alone understand.

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Thank you, Andrea. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing exploratory science vessel has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

White Mountain – The Movie!

 

 

To kick the New Year off, here is a bit of fun. As the final instalment of The Hobbit continues to play in cinemas and my own epic fantasy takes flight and hits Waterstones and Amazon, it got me thinking…

This is probably every author’s dream, to have their book fully realised and immortalised in film, but hopefully in an epic Lord of the Rings quality film and not an ill-conceived damp squib Dungeons and Dragons or Eragon cinematic outing!

So, for my flight of fantasy, here is my White Mountain – The Movie! (Are you listening filmmakers? Hey, a girl can dream!)

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Director:

Peter Jackson made an awesome trilogy of films with LOTR but then made the Hobbits films…ah, disappointment, so no, he wouldn’t be my choice. For me, despite a few duds along his cinematic career, it really could only be one Director – a visionary filmmaker, director of my favourite all-time film, Blade Runner, not to mention Alien, Gladiator, Thelma & Louise, lol, even Kingdom of Heaven! The one and only Ridley Scott! This, is a director who puts the ‘epic’ in epic filmmaking and has to have about the best visual eye in the business! 😀

The Cast:

Mr. Marval Agyk – played by Christopher Plummer. Scruffy, eccentric, mercurial, warm hearted and a humanist, most unusual in mages of the ancient order. Intensely protective of those he loves but flawed, as too often he allows himself to be ruled by his heart over his head.

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Gralen – voiced by Rufus Sewell. Impulsive, rash, quick to anger and laughter, fiercely loyal, ruled by his stomach. Thought to be the last of his kind/bloodline, the last Eurasian dragon still in existence, he is as head strong as he is stubborn.

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Wendya Undokki – played by Gemma Arterton or Natalie Portman. Somewhat of a hermit. Distrusting of outsiders, humans and the modern world, fragile but capable of great strength, melancholic, conflicted. In many ways, a lost soul scarred by the tragedies of her past and fearful of the future.

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Korrun (of Koralan) – played by Henry Cavill. Angst-ridden, revenge driven, guilt laden, an outsider in every sense. A highly skilled warrior and tracker, he is a survivor, quick witted and suspicious of all. Impulsive, quick to make enemies and slow to make friends he is however, intensely loyal.

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King Dorrol (of Kallorm) – played by John Hurt. Wonderfully flamboyant but frail ruler of Kallorm. Warm hearted, jovial, intelligent but plagued by doubts for the future of his people and the decisions he has made.

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King Baillum (of Fendellin) – played by Alan Rickman. Distant, highly intelligent, cold, a warrior king in the classic sense who inspires loyalty rather than love from his people.

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Frell, son of Baillum – played by Emile Hirsch. Ruled by duty and blind obedience to his father, who he seeks approval from. A skilled fighter and captain, but plagued by self-doubt and mistakes from the past.

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Lord Tollam – played by Patrick Stewart. Jovial, strong, warm of heart. Wistful and keenly aware of everything around him, he is as perceptive as he is kind. Inspires devotion and love from his people and his son.

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Hallm, son of Tollam – played by Ben Barnes. Confident, self-assured captain, master of horses, devoted son. Known as much for his playful nature, as for his skills as a warrior. A cavalier character, he is very protective of his father.

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Lord Nerrus – played by Ciaran Hinds. Strong leader to his people, serious but capable of humour, albeit grim. Fiercely protective of his daughter who he adores, but scarred by past tragedies.

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Orrla, daughter of Nerrus – played by Felicity Jones. Courageous and skilled captain, beloved daughter and strong leader, she is keen to prove her abilities as a master of horses and warrior. Hides her feelings for Frell due to their positions and responsibilities.

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Lord Lorrin – played by Kenneth Cranham. Beleaguered Lord, a pessimist or realist he would say. Keenly aware of the decline of his people and the coming war to end all wars. Courageous and grim in equal measure, but fiercely loyal.

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Sedgewick – voiced by Ian McKellan. The great patriarch of the Fendellin dragons (fĂżrrens), powerful, aged, kind. He is the beloved leader of his people and defender of Fendellin. Sworn enemy of Morreck and Varkul, his servant, who brutally killed Sedgewick’s son.

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Varkul – voiced by Jeremy Irons or Bryan Cranston possibly? (any suggestions?) Without redemption, Varkul is as powerful as he is cruel. Known as the ‘dragon killer’, this evil servant and devoted acolyte of Morreck, has been known to feed off his victims.

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Morreck/M’Sorreck ‘The Corruptor’ – The beautiful and charismatic villain of the book played by either Brad Pitt, Alexander Skarsgard or Michael Fassbender. The epitome of evil in every sense. Capable of corrupting the pure, ‘turning’ loyal subjects into crazed killers and brother against brother, Morreck craves absolute power and the ‘purification’ of the planet (the annihilation of the ‘plague of humanity’).

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A silly bit of fun, eh? 😀

So there you go…my dream movie cast! Next time, a gallery of film locations! 😀 xxx

To read the book BEFORE the movie, grab yourself a copy now!

UK Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/White-Mountain-The-Darkling-Chronicles/dp/1909845973/

US Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/White-Mountain-The-Darkling-Chronicles/dp/1909845973/

White Mountain full book jacket

The Epic Tragedy of Love

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film)

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Literature, history and mythology is littered with great heroes and heroines, those mystically imbued figures whose short poetic lives have enriched ours, and whose tragic and doomed love affairs have become the stuff of legend. As a child I was first aware of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet, and their struggles against a world so determined to tear them apart. Their torn loyalties of family, responsibility, duty, honour, and the forbidden love they held for each other, seemed to mirror the angst we teenagers inevitably felt. Luckily at my school, we had a rich diet of Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Anthony & Cleopatra (another doomed couple), Julius Caesar, Hamlet (unrequited & destructive love), Othello (jealous, possessive love) & Macbeth (the manipulation of love). I was fascinated by the interplay of characters, how each couple and individual reacted to the circumstances they found themselves in, the choices they made, whether destiny played a part, how love could be corrupted or could corrupt others. As a hopeless romantic, (Shh! Don’t tell anyone! I try not to admit it and refrain from reading any chick-lit, ‘slushy trash’ as I call it, hey…sci-fi/fantasy girl here!), I do see the allure of such characters and such stories and how they ultimately convey the human condition in all its absurdities, frailties, flaws and its glory.

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shal...

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up, my reading lists widened and as my love of the fantasy genre and its origins took hold, I began delving into ancient mythology. The wonderful Welsh sagas of The Mabinogion (based on tales from 1190-1350) and particularly Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur (1485), is still a favourite of mine, and the eternal love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere & Launcelot. Somehow, you can still sense the searing pain of betrayal in Arthur’s heart, the conflict in the lovers and their guilt at their actions, yet their total inability to stop themselves falling in love. Of course, it is as true today as it was in 600AD, you cannot help who you fall in love with. I remember watching John Boorman’s mesmeric 1981 film Excalibur, with its incredible visuals and Carl Orff’s thunderous Carmina Burana spurring the horses on through the mists of battle. But still, through all the magic and heroism, it was the tragic love story that kept haunting me. As I’m typing this, I’m sitting looking at a beautiful print of The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (1888), based on the famous Tennyson poem and all that doomed heart ache just comes flooding back.

tristan and isolde

tristan and isolde (Photo credit: kairin)

When you think of the greatest and most tragic love stories you probably think of the ones I’ve mentioned and of Tristan & Iseult (Isolde), Paris & Helena, Orpheus and Eurydice and perhaps poor Pyramus and Thisbe. Having lived in ancient Babylonia in neighbouring homes, they fell in love with each other as they grew up. Their respective families were fervently against the match, so one night the two lovers hatched a plan. They decided to meet up under a mulberry tree in the nearby fields, and run away together. Thisbe reached the tree first, but frightened at seeing a lion approach with blood stained jaws, she ran and hid in some rocks, dropping her veil as she ran. The lion picked up the veil just as Pyramus arrived. Devastated at seeing Thisbe’s veil in the lion’s bloody mouth, Pyramus took his sword out and killed himself. When poor Thisbe eventually emerged from the rocks and saw her beloved Pyramus dead, she too took his sword and killed herself.  😩

Pyramus and Thisbe

Pyramus and Thisbe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, you have the sad tale of Heloise and Abelard, which is perhaps the most tragic love affair of all, especially as it is a story based on an actual event. Being fact rather than merely myth, makes us all marvel at the power of sacrifice and the power of love. Heloise (1101-1164) and Peter Abelard (1079-1142) had their story immortalised by British poet, Alexander Pope in 1717, who turned it into a piece of classic literature, ‘Eloisa to Abelard’. Heloise and Abelard were ridiculously in love and doomed to a tragic end in mid 12th century France. Abelard was a well-known French philosopher, considered one of the greatest thinkers of the 12th century. Heloise, was the niece and pride of the Canon Fulbert, who wanted her to have the best education possible. Abelard became the girl’s live-in tutor, 20 years her senior. A romance blossomed between them, a romance that so enraged her disapproving uncle that he had Abelard castrated shortly after they were discovered. Distraught, the lovers entered a monastery and nunnery and wrote a set of now-famous letters to each other up until their death, though they never met again.

Abelard and his pupil, HĂ©loĂŻse, by Edmund Blai...

Abelard and his pupil, HĂ©loĂŻse, by Edmund Blair Leighton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These tragedies both real and imagined have inspired such a rich tapestry of stories. As a huge fan of fantasy, from the world’s first ever story, The Epic of Gilgamesh to Beowulf to The Lord Of The Rings, Narnia and Game Of Thrones etc., I still like my fantasy to have that tragic element, that hint of doomed love or sacrifice. In the classic tradition J.R.R.Tolkien of course, being a scholar in ancient Nordic and Celtic mythology, was able to bring many of these elements into his work, particularly in The Silmarillion.

Cover of "The Silmarillion"

Cover of The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion, I book I still adore and one which I am very lucky to have a cherished first edition of, has two tragic love stories which really wrench at the heart. The first of course, is the heroic story of Beren and Luthien, later mirrored in the love story of Aragorn and Arwen in LOTR. Here, the story of Beren and Luthien (with similarities to Orpheus and Eurydice) tells of the love between a mortal man, Beren and the most beautiful immortal elf-maiden, Luthien Tinuviel and the struggles and obstacles they face in their quest to be together. But for me, by far the more tragic love story and the one which is the antithesis to Beren’s story, was the darker tale of poor Turin Turambar. Despite being a great hero, Turin Turambar, seems forever cursed with ill fortune and the very worst of luck. He battles valiantly against evil foes, yet whatever he turns his hand to seems to go wrong. Eventually both Turin and his sister Nienor are enchanted by a mighty dragon, Glaurung. Under its enchantment, they fall in love with each other and live as man and wife. But, when Turin kills the dragon and the spell is lifted, they are driven mad by the realisation of their sins and they both commit suicide. This perhaps, is Tolkien at his darkest, but still as a reader, you cannot help feeling such sorrow and sympathy for these two sad characters.

My personal favourite though, and a story that inspired Tolkien himself, has to be the story of Sigurd and Brynhild, from the Volsunga Saga. Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) and Brynhild from the Volsunga Saga (ancient Norse mythology

SigrdrĂ­fa gives SigurĂ°r a horn to drink from.

Sigrdrífa gives Sigurðr a horn to drink from. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

c.1000AD), is a bittersweet tale of romance, heroism, greed, betrayal and tragedy. The later German hero, Siegfried from the Nibelungenlied (1180 to 1210) (The Song of the Nibelungs) and Wagner’s Ring Cycle, is based on Sigurd and the Volsunga Saga. Basically, urged on by Loki and Odin, Sigurd kills the dragon Fafnir and takes his treasure hoard. He bathes in the dragon’s blood to become invincible, and meets Brynhildr ‘shieldmaiden’, who in some incarnations of the story is a Valkyrie imbued with supernatural powers. They fall in love but Brynhild prophesies his doom and marriage to another. They part temporarily. Sigurd travels to the court of Gjuki, whose wife, Grimhild poisons him with an ‘Ale of Forgetfulness’ to force him to forget Brynhild so he can marry their daughter, Gudrun. Meanwhile, Gunnar, Gudrun’s brother courts Brynhild who is still waiting for her beloved Sigurd. To win Brynhild over, Gunnar devises a plan and convinces an enchanted Sigurd to help him. Unable to get near to Brynhild himself, but seeing that Sigurd can, Gunnar swaps bodies with him to seduce Brunhild and break her defences/powers, enabling him to seize his prize thereafter. Eventually, all deceptions come to light. Gunnar plots against and kills Sigurd, in some stories Brynhild then kills him, but the story ends with Sigurd and Brynhild finally reunited in death as she throws herself onto Sigurd’s blazing funeral pyre! What a way to go!English: A Christmas bonfire in Guelph, Canada.

 

The map to the human heart is a complicated route indeed, full of hidden perils, surprises and joyous heights!

Now…you may well ask, why on earth I am exploring tragic love affairs in literature, myth and history? Why the sudden interest?

Well…I’m glad to say I haven’t had a tragic experience myself, but…I am, I’m afraid, witnessing one as I write this. Yes, I’m not talking about my favourite tear inducing movie, or the howls of, “NO, GOD NO!” that I heard being cried at the TV screen from my friends who were apoplectic at the death of Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. No…I’m talking about a real life love tragedy unfolding before my eyes right now – a scene of unparalleled sadness, of unrequited love that makes all of the previous tales pale into insignificance.

Forget Romeo & Juliet, Heathcliff & Cathy, who cares about Tristan & Isolde? This is the sad sad tale of…Tolly & Mimi…

On the 1st August 2009, four years ago this very day, I was travelling back from Bridgewater having rescued two gorgeous white balls of fluff from the most hideous living conditions you can imagine. Four years later, my beautiful white wolves, brothers Korrun & Tolly, are happy and healthy and well…totally gorgeous. 349

Only one problem…Tolly is in love, deeply, passionately, unconditionally…an all consuming obsessional love and one which tragically, it is completely unrequited.

Wherever Mimi goes, Tolly follows, every move she makes he mirrors, no more than two inches from her face at all times, staring adoringly, gazing, dribbling, sighing with pensive longing when she retreats upstairs. Such desperate longing, such sadness…the poor boy just hasn’t realised that cats and dogs simply don’t…well, it’s a barrier greater than that of the Capulets and Montagues!

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Castle of Dreams – Week Ten

I was very honoured to be featured in fellow fantasy author, Andrea Baker’s, wonderful blog series ‘Castle of Dreams’, for Week Nine and now Week Ten of the series. Check it out guys! 😀

Andrea Baker Author

Good evening, and welcome back to the Castle of Dreams blog series, I hope the change in weather has inspired your own dreams!

This week sees the return of the wonderful Sophie E Tallis, author and illustrator of The Darkling Chronicles. Sophie is one of my favourite debut authors, and another fellow member of the wonderful Alliance of Worldbuilders – regular readers of this blog will recall her submission last week, which was a factual piece about her own Castles of Dreams

This week however I am delighted to be able to give you a preview of Book One of the Darkling Chronicles, White Mountain.

Chapter Fifteen: The Silent Watch     (Author’s Original Text)

 Wendya had had another restless night and woke early. Her room was cold. The city lay silent and pensive. She peeled back the bed sheets and wrapping herself in a beautifully embroidered quilt, she stepped over to the


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Castle of Dreams…

Okehampton Castle

Apologies to all my lovely supporters for me being so absent in recent weeks. Still fighting illness I’m afraid so time on the computer is limited, but I will try to reblog interesting articles and get back to my normal blogging cycle. Scan0003

Inside Okehampton CastleAnyway, I was very honoured many months ago now, to be asked by the extremely talented writer, Andrea Baker, weaver of fantasy magic, to appear on her wonderful blog: http://rosewallauthor.wordpress.com/

Andrea and I are also fellow members of The Alliance of Worldbuilders, an amazing kick ass group of fantasy writers and artists: http://theallianceofworldbuilders.weebly.com/

Andrea Baker (Rosewall) is the author of the wonderful YA paranormal romance novel, Leah – Book One of the World’s Apart Series, which I would highly recommend you all to read!5127BRWJMNL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_[1]

http://www.facebook.com/WorldsApartLeah

Well, for those of you who are not yet familiar with this great book, let me explain that many of the locations in the novel, which inspired its creator, are real places. One of these is Kennilworth Castle. As such, Andrea who has always had a passion for castles and ancient structures, came up with the brilliant idea for a series of blog themed articles/posts about castles. Thus, her brilliant ‘Castle of Dreams’ blog posts were born, where invited authors shared their experiences of castles that have had a creative/inspirational impact on them or shared excerpts from their books! Scan0001 (3)

View from TintagelThis week it was my turn…

So here is the link guys, please check it out and the rest of her wonderful blog: http://rosewallauthor.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/castle-of-dreams-week-nine/

HUGE thanks to Andrea for inviting me to be a part of something so special, thank you honey! 😀 xx

Tintagel

So, which places inspire YOU?

😉 xx