What I’ve been listening to this week…

The other day, my wife convinced me to watch Dragonheart with her. I’ll admit to you what I admitted to her at the time – I was fairly knackered that day and half expected to fall asleep within minutes of the film starting.

But that was not to be the case.

I had seen Dragonheart only once before in my life when I was very young, and yet, despite my tiredness, I found myself absolutely captivated by it and managed to stay awake for the entire film. And it wasn’t particularly due to the story, which – whilst reasonable – felt very similar to almost every other fantasy/medieval film that has been produced in the last few decades. It was due to the brilliant score composed by Randy Edelman.

That being the case, it will come as little surprise to you that I chose the main theme of Dragonheart for my What I’ve been listening to this week… segment. The swooping score is so majestic and captivating that I find it hard to imagine that it would fail to elicit an emotional response from anyone listening to it. Furthermore, I don’t think it would surprise anyone to know that this same score has been repeatedly used for many movie trailers ever since.

As a piece of music, it is simply awesome.

Enjoy.

 

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First Lines: Atonement -Ian McEwan

The play – for which Briony had designed the posters, programmes and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper – was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss breakfast and a lunch.

Ian McEwan’s Atonement is well-crafted (if not slightly clichéd) novel, which essentially follows the story of a girl called Briony who witnesses something strange between her sister and a young man called Robbie as a child and lets her imagination get the better of her. Briony – who later becomes a novelist – ends up accusing Robbie of a horrendous crime that he didn’t commit and spends the rest of the novel trying to atone for her sins.

Whilst the opening line doesn’t convey the entire theme of the story in the opening line, the reader is treated to a huge amount of information about our main character. Whilst it doesn’t reveal anything of the nature of what Briony is trying to atone for, this first line sets up the rest of the story so brilliantly that the writer could almost have launched straight into the action afterwards.

Straight away, we learn something of Briony’s imagination. She has written a play but – more than that – she has also created the right atmosphere for the play to be performed in. This sets up the story perfectly for the lie that Briony is going to tell later on. She won’t just tell the lie, she will convince herself of its validity by creating an atmosphere in which there can be no doubt that Robbie is the guilty culprit.

Furthermore, we learn a little about Briony’s obsessive behaviour. The reader immediately learns that Briony wrote her play ‘in a two-day tempest of composition’, which suggests that – once she has an idea in mind – Briony will pursue it with little regard to herself until it has reached its conclusion. This latter part of the opening line – when coupled with her perfectionism regarding the details of how her play should be presented – goes a long way to set up the plot for the second two parts of the story where Briony desperately – and in many ways obsessively – tries to seek atonement for her mistake.

Atonement‘s first line ticks many of the boxes that we’d expect from an opening. It launches straight into the action, which is draws the reader in almost immediately, and it also sets the scene regarding the character of the young Briony. Whilst the first line does little to introduce the themes of the story, this early characterisation is essential to the plot and allows the rest of the story to unfold almost seamlessly for the reader.

Nick R B Tingley is a crime writer from the UK. After several years working as a ghostwriter, Nick released his debut novel The Bluebell Informant – the first in his DS Evelyn Giles series. He is currently working on the second in the series – The Court of Obsessions – as well as a Victorian-era mystery novella called The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow. 

To stay up to date with Nick’s latest releases, subscribe to his newsletter now. They’ll be no spamming – I promise!

Sneaky Snippets 21/9/16

Ali wants to be a writer. Like most writers he knows that he not only has a book in him; he has a library. His imagination is teaming with great stories that he can’t wait to unleash on the world…

So he settles down and starts writing his story. It’s a novel with dragons and sword fights and damsels in distress. Whenever anyone asks him about it, he talks with enthusiasm and his friends respond by saying they’ll read it when he’s finished.

Ali makes good progress to start with. He writes a chapter a day – three to four thousand words in a matter of hours. Every day – without fail – after he gets home from work.

Pretty soon he is half way through. But then Ali starts to have a problem. He doesn’t know where he needs to go from here. His story sounds a little like that book he read a few months ago and, even though he knows he hasn’t copied it, he’s worried that people will say he has.

A little more cautiously now, he carries on – growing more and more concerned and unsure of himself with each chapter.

He stops talking about it to his friends – instead he talks about new ideas that he’s had that are much better than the novel he’s writing at the moment.

Eventually, he gives up writing the novel and starts on the new one instead. This one is much better. It’s about a spy fleeing a corrupt country with half the army on his tail. He ploughs through the first few chapters but something still isn’t right.

Soon he gives up this story for another one.

And then another one.

Until finally, Ali stops writing altogether. Instead he can be found lounging in front of his computer watching cat videos on Facebook. Or out in the pub drinking with his friends and making fun of guys in the street who are enthusiastically talking about the book they’re writing.

Pretty soon, Ali’s friends realise what they thought they knew all along.

Ali is never going to be a writer.

From Defeating Writer’s Block – ©Nick R B Tingley 2016

Sneaky Snippets is a weekly segment of short extracts of my work – usually something I’ve been working on in the past week or so.

Did you like what you read? Do you want to learn more about Defeating Writer’s Block?

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What I’ve been listening to this week…

The coverage of Formula One, in the UK at least, is introduced by an awesome piece of music – a brilliant bass line with a distinctive rock overtone. In fact, as I’ve been walking around over the past few years, I frequently hear people humming that bass line as they go about their daily lives.

But what a lot of people don’t realise is that this little clip of music comes from a much larger song created by the brilliant band, Fleetwood Mac.

This song, The Chain, is what I’ve been listening to this week. I find it quite compelling as a song – it’s essentially a mixture of various rejected cut offs of different Fleetwood Mac songs that allow it to go from a folky, country-like song to a harder rock ballad. Rumour has it that the band weren’t even all present for the recording of it – that’s how different all the sections and instruments are – and it is one of the few Fleetwood Mac songs where the entire band is credited with its writing.

The whole song is great to listen to but, without a doubt, the fun comes in the last minute or so.

Enjoy.

First Lines: A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.

Charles Dickens was a true master of the opening line. So masterful in fact that it is very hard to pick one novel over another.

That being said, A Christmas Carol has perhaps one of the most memorable starts of them all. The gloomy opening perfectly sets the world of the novel whilst also providing a little hint at the themes that will occur throughout its course.

But it is the first six words that resonate so well through time. Right from the off Dickens sets the scene by telling the reader in no uncertain terms that one of the characters – Marley – is dead. He then goes on to clarify this statement by providing the witnesses (in the form of the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker and the chief mourner) to his death. Then – as if it needed anymore clarification – he continues to announce that the death was officially signed off by Scrooge  (who goes on to become the main character) whose reputation is in turn described as beyond repute.

In five sentences, Dickens has created a character who is so undeniably dead that he may as well have nailed the coffin shut with the doornail that he describes with the last word.

And yet, as we all know, Marley will soon make a dramatic reappearance as a ghost. The rest of the story basically works on the presumption that death is not the end of our existence, so why does Dickens make such an effort to clarify this?

The answer, quite simply, is that Dickens is creating an air of finality about the character of Marley. He is dead and he isn’t coming back. Whatever has happened in his life is nothing more than past history. In short – Dickens is tapping into the mindset of Scrooge himself – a man who believes that everything of importance happens when he is alive. By creating such an air of finality in Marley’s death, Dickens is setting up the shock and distress that Scrooge will experience when Marley returns to warn him that all his past misdeeds will terrorise him long after his death – a key factor in what eventually causes Scrooge to change his ways by the end of the novel.

In these first few lines, Dickens has not only set up the dramatic premise of the story, but he is also given an insight into the story’s key theme – albeit in a subtle way. Death and loss play a key part in A Christmas Carol and here – in the opening passage – we have a keen examination of an individual’s death, but there is no hint of loss displayed. Everything about Marley’s death is described in a clinical way – right down to Scrooge’s part in proceedings – something that becomes a key attribute of Scrooge’s character in the early stages of the novel.

As an opening passage, it is brilliant. And if you need anymore proof of that, I recommend you asking anyone who has ever read it to recite the first line – I’d be very surprised if anyone gets even one word of the first sentence wrong.

Nick R B Tingley is a crime writer from the UK. After several years working as a ghostwriter, Nick released his debut novel The Bluebell Informant – the first in his DS Evelyn Giles series. He is currently working on the second in the series – The Court of Obsessions – as well as a Victorian-era mystery novella called The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow. 

To stay up to date with Nick’s latest releases, subscribe to his newsletter now. They’ll be no spamming – I promise!

Sneaky Snippets 14/9/16

On Wednesday morning, a body landed in my back garden. It had been thrown out of a plane and landed smack bang in back corner section in between the vegetable patch and the decking – that little patch of grass that Mum had been religiously working on after the dog had ripped it up the other week.

I threw on my clothes and rushed excitedly downstairs to where Mum was cleaning up the remnants of last night’s takeaway. I told her what had happened. She listened with feigned interest as I told her the details before finally rolling back her eyes and giving me that submissive, yet grateful, smile and said:

‘Go on then.’

I gave her a large peck on the cheek, told her how much I loved her before she shooed me off. I legged it outside, reaching deep into my pocket for my phone as I approached the crime scene.

I was off on another adventure.

From Virtual Detective ™  ©Nick R B Tingley 2016

Sneaky Snippets is a weekly segment of short extracts of my work – usually something I’ve been working on in the past week or so.

Did you like what you read? Do you want to learn more about Virtual Detective ™?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below and subscribe!

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What I’ve been listening to this week…

This week, I was driving down the motorway (well, my wife was driving – I was enjoying it) when a song came on the radio that I hadn’t heard in years. In fact, when I was younger, I used to listen to this song fairly regularly and yet I never really appreciated the lyrics until quite recently.

For me it was about the sound – but the whole song is nothing short of awesome.

Bat Out of Hell from Meatloaf’s 1977 album (Bat Out of Hell) is a masterpiece of rock music. The album version is a ten-minute long epic rock fest that takes on a journey following a motorcyclist from a gritty, violence-ridden city street, who goes for a ride – speeding as fast as he can along the highway. But the song ends in tragedy as the motorcyclist mis-judges the corner of the road, crashes and dies whilst he watches his own heart beating through his chest.

Quite a morbid theme for a song – and yet it is pulled off with great skill and technical mastery. Everything about the song, from the representation of his beating heart from the bass guitar to the roaring of the guitar echoing the revving of the motorbike, is perfectly pieced together to create a song that is not only epic but toe-tappingly brilliant.

I’m not going to pretend that I am even capable of writing when I have this song playing in the background – it is far too distracting for that. But it is very rare that you find  a song that deals with something so horrific and tragic and yet is still a thoroughly enjoyable song…

And this is one of those rare occasions.

Now it’s your turn.

What do you make of Bat Out of Hell? Does it get your toes tapping? Or do you find it all a little bit too tragic?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

And, as always, if you like what you’ve read and heard (and I would hope if you’ve read this far that you did), press that like button at the bottom of the post. Or, if you’re not a blogger, share it on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you can think of.

Don’t agree with me? Didn’t like the post? Leave a comment down below and let me know why. Anyone can comment so don’t be shy.

And if you have a suggestion for something I might like to listen to next week? Leave your suggestion below.