Monday, 18 February 2019

Writing tips — How to build a scene by S.J.A.Turney #amwriting #wordbuilding #tips @SJATurney





How to build a scene...

By S.J.A Turney



So, I write books. You probably know, or guess, that at least. And it occurred to me while working an edit on my draft recently that there are possibly authors out there who don’t have to repeatedly tweak what they’ve written. There may be people who write the perfect scene from square one and can just turn it over to their editor with a confident smile. I’m not one. You see, I think it’s because I write very fast. Working from my plan I will turn out a 5000 word chapter in a day’s work. But that is a draft. It will need self-editing before I can be happy with it. Each time I edit a scene (and some will take more editing than others) I build it up in layers. I’m going to give you a small example. Let’s start with this. I’m going to write a quick scene, just a paragraph or so long.

* * *

Philip adjusted his sword belt and straightened. The landsknecht with the greatsword and the scowl like a week-long thunderstorm simply narrowed his eyes and tapped a foot. So much for pre-amble, Philip mused, flexing his fingers.
‘I can only apologise so many times before it becomes repetitive begging. I had no idea she was your sister.’
The landsknecht’s narrowed left eye acquired an instant twitch. Good. Anything that might throw the man off balance had to help.


* * *

This, then is a basic and swiftly-written scene. It’s bones lacking flesh. The first thing I think when I look back over it is ‘where is the colour?’ It’s mechanics of a scene without the flesh. A terminator without the human touches. It needs to breathe, to live. Damn it. Let’s add some colour. Time for my first edit…


* * *

Philip adjusted his sword belt, the old tan leather flaking and falling away in fragments, and straightened to his full height. The landsknecht with the gleaming greatsword and the scowl like a week-long thunderstorm simply narrowed his steel-grey, unnerving eyes and tapped a heavy-booted foot impatiently. So much for pre-amble, Philip mused, flexing his bruised fingers and glancing down at them in worry.
‘I can only apologise so many times before it becomes repetitive begging. I had no idea she was your sister.’
The landsknecht’s narrowed left eye acquired an instant twitch. Good. Anything that might throw the man off balance had to help.

* * *

Not much changed there, but just a read through and it looks better to me. Already it has acquired feeling and a touch more visual. And people might say that visual is for cinema, but the best literature is so cinematic you can almost watch the book. It needs to be visual. Ooh, so what about conditions? Atmosphere? Weather? Without that it’s still just really mechanical text. Time for another layer.

* * *

Philip adjusted his sword belt, the battered leather flaking and falling away in fragments, and straightened to his full height. The cold November day settled into his bones, doing little to quieten his already tattered nerves. Somewhere above him a crow cawed angrily. Philip shivered.
The landsknecht with the gleaming greatsword and the scowl like a week-long thunderstorm simply narrowed his steel-grey, unnerving eyes and tapped a heavy-booted foot on the frosty turf impatiently. So much for pre-amble, Philip mused, flexing his bruised fingers and glancing down at them in worry.
‘I can only apologise so many times before it becomes mindless repetitive begging. I had no idea she was your sister.’
The landsknecht’s narrowed left eye acquired an instant twitch and his breathing became deep and angry. Good. Anything that might throw the man off balance had to help. Crow shit clanged off the man’s shoulder plate. The twitch deepened even as Philip fought the rising laugh.

* * *

Ooh, see what happened there? We acquired a whole new aspect to the scene. The crow became something of a character. On that pass, I also found myself removing just the odd word, because it can also be that less is more. I think my scene has all it needs now. It has the colour, the environment, the atmosphere, the personality and more. But what it has now is almost certainly too much of it. Time for my last pass. This time not to add a layer, but to streamline what I have. The best edits also include a surgical removal of bad tissue.
* * *

Philip adjusted his sword belt, the battered leather flaking and falling away, and straightened. The cold November air settled into his bones, doing little to quieten his already tattered nerves. Somewhere above him a crow cawed, making him shiver.
The landsknecht with the gleaming greatsword and the scowl like a week-long thunderstorm narrowed his steel-grey, disconcerting eyes and tapped a booted foot on the frosty turf. So much for pre-amble, Philip mused, flexing his bruised fingers and glancing down at them nervously.
‘I can only apologise so many times before it becomes mindless begging. I had no idea she was your sister.’
The landsknecht’s narrowed eye acquired a twitch and his breathing became deep and angry. Good. Anything that might throw the man off balance had to help. Bird shit clanged from the man’s shoulder plate. The eye twitch deepened even as Philip silently thanked the crow.

* * *

Now my scene is ready for the editor, I think. And if you’ve not noticed the huge difference in the passage, I would suggest that you pop back to the start, read the draft, and then zip right down here to the final version.
So there you go. Scene building in layers. Might not be good for everyone, but for me it’s invaluable. Oh, and as a final thought, I’ll leave you to wonder how many edits the non-story parts of the text here had!



Praetorian: Lions of Rome




Rufinus is dead, crumpled at the base of a cliff in far-off Dacia. Or so the world believes. Back in the west, secretly in the entourage of the fierce Septimius Severus, the young hero moves in the shadows with fellow conspirators in an attempt to finally bring down the would-be tyrant of Rome: Cleander.

Under assumed names and in a variety of roles, the former Praetorian conspires with some of the most important men in Rome, bringing the city to the very brink of disaster in a grand and complex plot to cause the fall of the untouchable chamberlain.

And as governors, prefects, Praetorians and consuls work their secret plots in the seedy underbelly of Rome, Rufinus finds he has an opportunity to settle old scores along the way.

The empire is suffering. Rome is seething. Rufinus is back.







Simon Turney


A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of country, history and architecture, Simon spends most of his rare free time travelling around ancient sites, writing, researching the ancient world and reading voraciously.


Following an arcane and eclectic career path that wound through everything from sheep to Microsoft networks and from paint to car sales, Simon wrote Marius' Mules. Now, with in excess of twenty novels under his belt, Simon writes full time. He lives with his wife and children and a menagerie of animals in rural North Yorkshire.

Find Simon: Website • Blog • Facebook • Twitter.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

#BookReview — The Vogels: On All Fronts (The Half-Bloods Book 2), by Jana Petken #HistoricalFiction #WWII @AuthoJana




The Vogels: On All Fronts
 (The Half-Bloods Book 2)
By Jana Petken


“The Vogels are fighting on all fronts in this compelling story of intrigue and betrayal in a world at war.” 
European citizens feel the full force of German injustice, but not all are willing to bend the knee. From France to Poland, Resistance groups fight from the shadows to thwart Nazi rule and hinder their goal to exterminate Jews. 

In Russia, Wilmot Vogel struggles to survive the ravages of a frigid winter, compounded by the German army’s lack of progress. Hit by a surprise Russian attack on the front lines, however, he finds himself facing an even greater challenge than the freezing weather and Soviet bullets. 

In Łódź, Poland, an idealistic doctor is resolved to oppose the Third Reich, but is he willing to betray his country? Will a Gestapo major find the answers he’s looking for? Can a ghetto Jew avoid transportation to a Nazi extermination camp? 

Can two spies rekindle their friendship, or will past betrayals become hurdles too great to surmount? Can Britain’s MI6 maintain the upper hand in a contest against the German Abwehr? Who wins when one man fights for British interests whilst the other seeks to undermine them? 

In the darkest days of war, love flourishes. Two women with very different paths are led to one man who changes the course of their lives forever – but only one will win his heart.



 I’m still trying to wrap my head around Paul being married to a Gestapo Major’s daughter, Wilmot spending time in a prison camp, and your father being a British spy. What sort of family have I married into?”

There are no winners in war, or so it is said. For the Vogel family, the war has brought division and mistrust. They are a household divided. While two sons fight for the Third Reich, the other, along with his father, is a British Intelligence Officer.

Max Vogel will not fight for a government, a country, that had so fundamentally lost its way. He will do everything in his power to thwart the Nazi Regime and help the Allies win this war.

Wilmot Vogel did not think his life could get any worse than the time he had spent as a prisoner in Dachau concentration camp, but that was before he experienced winter on the Eastern Front. Supplies are slow in coming, and the winter seems as never-ending as the war. However, Wilmot, unlike Max, believes in the Führer and the Party. He dreams of committing an act of true heroism. It is his ardent desire to one day have an Iron Cross pinned to his uniform.

With small acts of heroism, Paul Vogel finds himself fighting injustice from the right side of wrong. A doctor for the Third Reich and son-in-law to the Gestapo Major, Kriminaldirektor Biermann, Paul plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse. He isnt the person his father-in-law, and the Third Reich wants him to be, but if he refuses to conform, then he risks everything.

From the dangers of occupied France to the adversity of life on the Eastern Front, The Vogels: On All Fronts (The Half-Bloods Book 2) by Jana Petken is the compelling account of one family as it navigates the horrors of World War II from opposing battle lines. 

Petken’s narrative is flawless. This is a story which appals, impresses, and fascinates in almost equal measures. However, what makes Petken a master bard is that she knows when to pull back and change the scene, which gives her readers a chance to catch their breath. Petken can do this because the story is told by several points of view, which I found exceedingly compelling and utterly riveting.

Petken has a novelist eye for detail, not only with regard to the history of this era in which it is very obvious that she has spent many hours researching, but also in the study of human fallibility. Petken has created characters that are very real in the telling. I thought the portrayal of Paul’s wife, Valentina, showed how easily some German citizens believed fabricated and colossal untruths. Valentina is so blindly loyal to the Führer and her father that she cannot see the truth even when it is looking right at her. Valentina believes that she is part of the “master race,” and yet, as a mother to be, she cannot place herself in the shoes of her Jewish counterparts. She has been told the Jews are vermin and that is that. She has ceased to think of them as humans. They are an annoyance — and she wishes they would all disappear. Valentina is a stark contrast to her husband. Paul is loyal to his country, but he isn’t as devoted to the Führer and the Nazi Party as he has led everyone to believe. As a doctor, Paul deplores the things he has seen and the things that he has been forced to do, but on the other hand, he isn’t the victim in this story. There are decisions that he makes which have profound consequences on innocent people. Paul is, I guess, an ordinary man, who has been thrown into Hell without a map to guide him. Therefore, his story is one of utter heartbreak.

At times the tension in this book was so unbearable that I found myself holding my breath as I daringly turned another page. It is well documented that the German Army failed to supply their soldiers with equipment and clothing for the tempestuous winter weather on the Eastern Front. However, to read about a character whom I have come to care for made this knowledge all the more poignant and upsetting. Wilmot’s struggle to not only stay alive but to keep his wits was, at times, tremendously hard to read, and I did find myself in tears on more than one occasion as he faced one unimaginable horror after another. Petken’s portrayal of the terrible conditions on the Eastern Front was masterful. There is a realism that comes with Petken’s writing that is almost tangible. She has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading.

I thought Petken’s portrayal of MI6, and the very secret Special Operations Executive (SOE), was fabulous and a direct contrast to the Gestapo, especially when it came to interrogation tactics. Like his father, Max is involved at one time or another with both organisations. Max is a very experienced intelligence officer, but he is also a son and a brother. Max cannot understand why Paul chooses Germany and the Nazis over, what is so obvious to Max, the right path. Max is the only brother who sees the Nazi Party for what it really is, and he will do everything in his power to bring them down. Max lives in a shadowy underworld. He faces a different type of war to his brothers. I thought his story was tautly gripping.

The Vogels: On All Front (The Half-Bloods Book 2) is a wonderfully magnificent book that was so enthralling that I simply could not put it down once I had started. I cannot wait to get my hands on Book 3 and find out what happens to this extraordinary family.

If you are looking for your next great World War II, historical fiction read, then look no further than The Half-Blood series. You will not be disappointed. This series has everything you could want, and then a bit more.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.




Jana Petken

Jana Petken is a bestselling historical fiction novelist and screenwriter. 

She is critically acclaimed as a bestselling, gritty, author who produces bold, colourful characters and riveting storylines. She is the recipient of numerous major international awards for her works of historical fiction and is presently in talks with film producers regarding one of her titles.

Before life as an author, she served in the British Royal Navy. During her service, she studied Naval Law and history. After the Navy, she worked for British Airways and turned to writing after an accident on board an aircraft forced her to retire prematurely.

Connect with Jana: Website • Twitter  • Goodreads