Book Review – The Lollipop of Influence by Mjke Wood

The Lollipop of Influence 

Following ‘Deep Space Accountant’, this is  the second book in the Sphere of Influence series.


Bob Slicker and his navigation officer, Florence McConnachie, are blamed for the open-ended jump that dropped their battle fleet into deepest, uncharted space. 

They attempt to make amends and are pushed together into an unlikely alliance.
Can they find a way home to the Sphere of Influence? Nobody ever managed it before, so they couldn’t make things worse.

Or could they?

From villain to hero, the adventure continues.

http://mjkewood.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Back in October 2016, I did a review of Deep Space Accountant, Mjke Woods first in the trilogy – The Sphere of Influence.

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I had been eagerly awaiting this second book in the Sphere of Influence trilogy, and Mjke Wood does not disappoint. Following on from Deep Space Accountant – we have left Elton Philpotts behind – literally – and travel with the erstwhile slimy accountant, Bob Slicker into deep space. When I realised that the story had moved on from Elton, I was momentarily piqued, I liked Elton Philpotts, I had become irrationally attached to him – even though he is an accountant. However, Wood has managed to transfer my loyalties as smoothly as an Eddie Stobart entering a SLOG; smoother.

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And so to Bob Slicker; Bob is a spineless, sweaty appendage to the hideously megalomaniac Martin Levison, can he REALLY be our new hero?
Can Bob find home? Can Bob find a girl? Can Bob find a spine?! Whilst Bob is spineless, Martin Levison is heartless. Bob wants Eccles cake. Martin wants Cognac. Bob wants to go home. Martin wants the world!

Along for the ride with Bob Slicker, is Florence McConnachie, second navigation officer. Florence is quick-witted, independent, dexterous, and no navigator. Like Bob, she has a boss who ensures that the blame is passed onto and firmly held by their subordinates, unlike Bob, she is about to get married. She dislikes Bob Slicker due to his association with Levison, and refers to him as ‘The Slicker’; he is a sweat machine of great magnitude. And alas for Florence, she is going to have to work with the man.

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Some of the characters are beautifully awful; Lieutenant Commander Kurasov is an excellent portrayal of an American style military officer; but with a private life back home that is worthy of its own story! Meera, the navigation officer, is a preening, self-promoting egotist who will undoubtedly get what she wants. And although these are characterisations that we recognise, Wood somehow manages to NOT make them feel clichéd.

A couple of characters are who you would want on your side in an emergency; Winker Watson especially fits the bill (I am presuming the name was taken from the schoolboy who played pranks on his teachers and classmates in the popular British comic, Dandy). Watson is a bow-tie wearing, coffee-making, cake-eating Payroll officer, who enjoys tinkering with spacecraft in his spare time. I suspect that Wood is quite attached to this Watson chap, as he is more fully depicted than any other secondary character.

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Although the story takes part in the vastness of space; where many American movies have been set, and some American language features are use, this is a quintessentially British story; the tone of writing contains no ice or vinegar like so many American novels do, by this I mean sarcasm or nasty wit (not that I don’t like a bit of sarcasm and bite), the reactions to emergencies,  behaviours, idiosyncrasies and flaws strike as ‘terribly English’, small things matter; as Bob discovers when the kestrels power system is drained!!! (Beer anyone?!) – I love that.

There is even a YouTube trailer  –

I haven’t seen one of these for a book before – or maybe I just lead a sheltered life – If you get British humour, you understand that the YouTube trailer has it’s lollipop licking tongue firmly in its cheek; all those big movie trailers, influenced by American film industry, that we have become used to are pastiched here in a short space of time – the dramatic music, the panoramic views of space, and the bold text.

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Do read Deep Space Accountant first, it gives background to Slicker and Levison – which gives the ‘Lollipop’ story it’s tension.
And what is a lollipop of influence anyway? I hear you ask – well, you’ll just have to read it to find out!

The Lollipop of Influence has

Spaceships! Alien Planets! Bad Guys! Good Guys! Cake!

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I still haven’t a clue – sometimes…

I am a little late updating my blog this week, apologies. I went shopping this morning. Yeah, I shop; too old for my mum to do it (and even if she did it would be all kilts and scone shoes!) I needed new jeans for work and a shirt; I had vouchers left from Christmas, I hate shopping, but it’s a necessary evil – wouldn’t want to subject the world to my naked, flabby torso!

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Anyhoo, one shop which I have patronised for about 20 years now, was extremely disappointing, the range was poor, and there was no style consistency that made it the brand I am used to. It looked like a hotchpotch of clothing from various stores. And it got me thinking about how authors write.

Who do you write for? Are you the kind of author who is so familiar with their audience that the stories just flow? Or are you so familiar with your audience that you daren’t stray from the style they like? Do you even have/know your audience? Are you writing in a fixed style/genre, even though you’re a ‘new’ writer? Is it bad to write different styles or should you stick to one?

I don’t know!

You’re you. I’m me.

But regarding my own writing – I’m relatively new to this ‘business’, having been applying myself to it seriously only for the past 4 years. I dove straight in with a novel. I was attending The Asylum in Lincoln; it is the largest annual Steampunk Convention in Europe. I attended a writing class run by Sam Stone, author of delights such as “Kat on a Hot Tin Airship. We all had to write the opening line of a story, I didn’t win the competition, but received some very encouraging responses and went home to continue writing. The story is finished, (it took three years) the manuscript doing the rounds! But afterwards I read “The Drowned World” by J.G Ballard; at the end of the book was a list of quotes from the author and one of them stuck with me – he advised new writers to NOT to go straight in with a novel, for how can you know what your style is? What genre suits you? He suggested writing lots of short stories in different genres and to keep doing it until you found your own.

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Faced with the plethora of genres to chose from, Alex sank into a state of lethargy.

 

I suppose these days, many people who think they want to write, do it because they want to write ‘that style of story’. I thought I wanted to write Steampunk. I have since written horror, sci-fi, dark humour, poetry, speculative fiction, children’s and more. I’m still not sure what my genre is, though I have very strong leaning to Speculative/science fiction.

So like that shop I visited this morning, I’m not sure what to put on my author ‘shelf’, so to speak. I am still learning, I have a HUGE amount to learn, I write daily. I write short stories, flash fiction, all genres, I enter competitions, I submit all over the place. I carry a notebook everywhere and write down lines, words or imagery that pops into my head; sometimes I listen in on peoples conversations and write down what they say. And sometimes, I really haven’t a clue what I am doing! HA!

It’s all grist for the mill.

Keep writing, reading, submitting and have a great day.

It’s Monday, what are you writing?

Good morning all !

First, let me slide this in here swiftly; new anthology, Tick Tock, is out now on Amazon. This is an eclectic mix of poetry and prose, sci-fi, fantasy, fiction and more, from Wirral Writers. I have three pieces included – The Scream of the Butterfly, Blackbird and Farewell. I hope you will enjoy it.

Now, it’s Monday, for some reason it is looked on with misery or a feeling of bleurgh! I fell into this trap during my mid to late twenties – but why?

It’s only another day to write something amazing!!!

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What are you working on at the moment?

Are you struggling to get that character with the rather bland personality to be a hero?

Is there a flaw in your timeline?

How many fluffy aliens does it really take to run a spaceship?

All relevant questions; to someone! And you know what? You’re the ones who have the answers – it’s your world, your people, grab them both by the short and curlies and shake the living daylights out of them until they comply. Bend them to your will. Be the boss, go on!

Now go write!

 

 

*Postscript – I am letting you know, so I don’t deceive my readers, some of my links  now connect to Amazon. If someone buys something via my link, I get some coin, not a lot, I’m not going to be able to buy a new washing machine, but I want you to be aware.

 

 

Merry Booking Christmas…

So, this will be the final post for 2016. I am going to take a break from ‘social media’ during the Christmas period, starting after this post.

It has been an up and down year as regards my writing. I had three short stories accepted for publication; e-magazines and actual paperbacks, I completed a novel (100,740 words) that I had begun in 2014, and submitted it for consideration (awaiting response!) And also completed a story for Wirral Writers anthology (5,000 words) plus two poems – that we will be publishing early 2017. I had six rejections and am still awaiting to see if four other submissions have made the grade. I joined National Novel Writing Month, reaching the 50,000 word target, thus securing myself a certificate (that I couldn’t print my name on as it’s a PDF) and the knowledge that I can work without distraction; sort of!

It isn’t complete yet, that NaNoWriMo story; 50,000 words does not a novel make.  Chuck Wendig – terribleminds blog – has some great stuff to say about NaNo and writing in general; http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/10/27/why-you-should-do-nanowrimo-and-why-you-shouldnt/

I’ve lost count of how many word counts I have done ,and  worrying that I haven’t written enough words, or too many; how on earth am I going to cut that 13,000 down to the requisite 7,000? I am beginning to realise – I am a writer, this is what I do. Oh sure, I have a day job (a real job some might say). I used to be a painter – no not houses, a real painter! Did I sell stuff? Yes I did. Did I make a living from it? No I bloody well didn’t. And it looks like writing will be the same. I know quite a lot of writers now, in fact, I know more writers than I ever did visual artists, and none of them is wealthy. NONE. The world is not really geared towards creative types; unless you create a sit-com (preferably American!), an advert for silky legs or yoghurt that’s great for your gut bacteria.

But it’s the continuous trying that makes us what we are, not the fails, in the words of Michael Jordan, Sportsman:- “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

 

Oh, so it’s all about money?! I hear you say. No, it isn’t. I would be delighted to have a book published by an actual publishing house. I’d wet my pants if it got turned into a movie! The acceptance of my creativity is far more exciting and important than mere pounds, shillings and pence – but it would be lovely to have some! I look forward to writing something that I myself knew was as good as J.G Ballard or Tim Powers or Angela Carter, that would be this writers dream. Most of all though, creative types have heart, and that’s worth more than any cheque.
So, next year, keep writing, keep submitting and hoping and praying…

Maybe Father Christmas will bring me ‘genius’ for Christmas, or ‘excellence’. I never got ‘excellent’ at school – for anything. Maybe some publisher will take pity on me and give a  generous contract! (And if it doesn’t happen, I might go all Hellblazer on them)  Next year, maybe next year….

So in the words of a fictional character, “God Bless us, everyone!” (I just threw up a little)

And in the words of Bob Hope, “If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”

Success is marked by your inner self, not stuff. In that respect, I have had a remarkably successful year. (By the way, you can feel all fuzzy and warm if you buy books, that way, you keep authors alive!)

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Peaceful New Year,

A x

 

*set image: John Constantine from Hellblazer.

 

 

National Novel Writing Month

Or NaNoWriMo, as it is affectionately called, has started again today, Tuesday 1st November.

It has been running for a number of years, though I personally only heard about it for the first time two weeks ago – and signed up.

A rash move you might think, especially when you discover that what you sign up for is writing 50,000 words in one month. Yes that’s right, you get 1st to 30th November to complete a ‘novel’ or 50,000 word story. Though no-one checks, or reads as you go along, the exercise is meant to give  motivation; no research, no faltering, or procrastination (my favourite activities) just write every day – something. Worry later about editing and so forth.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. 

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.”

NaNoWriMo’s own press release states: “Last year, NaNoWriMo welcomed 431,626 participants in 633 different regions on six continents. Of these, more than 40,000 met the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month.”

If you fancy a ‘kick in the pants’ (my reason for joining) then go to:

http://nanowrimo.org/

Good Luck!