It’s time for NaNoWriMo!

shutterstock_204905575Halloween is over, and 1 November has arrived, which can mean only one thing – it’s time for National Novel Writing Month!

I’m going to be taking part with a brand new Sentinel project that should hopefully tide you all over until book three comes out. I’ll spend the next month writing the first draft of Splinters, a Sentinel spin-off that delves into the history of Jessica Bell and Isabel Hallow, two of my favourite characters.

And because I’m terrible at keeping secrets, I thought you might like to take a peek at what I’ve written on the first day of NaNoWriMo. I’m really, really excited about this story, and I can’t wait to share it with you all, so here’s a little snippet to whet the appetite…

Short Synopsis

Discover the secrets of the Sentinels…

1579. A sickness steals through the village of Orville. Young women are dying. After losing her mother to the blight, Jessica Bell is recruited by the cantankerous Isabel Hallow, who believes a cure can be found. When witch hunter Matthew Bone arrives in the village, though, Jessica’s investigation is disrupted with chilling consequences…

Excerpt

“What do the villagers say about me, Ms Bell?”

Jessica felt a blush creep up her neck.

“Imagine what they would say about somebody who worked for me. That person would become an outcast, subject to more gossip than a single individual could ever bear. Her reputation would be destroyed.”

Her mother had kept her work here a secret for five years? Jessica couldn’t believe it. Her mother was a housekeeper in the village and all that time she had secretly been coming up here to tend to Miss Hallow’s home?

Even if it were true, Jessica didn’t understand what Miss Hallow had to gain from revealing the secret. Why now? Why five years after her mother’s death?

She peered around the lounge. “You wish to hire a new housekeeper?”

Miss Hallow’s eyes flashed at her. “How shrewd you are.”

“I have no experience–”

“That is not the task I have in mind for you.”

“Then what–”

Miss Hallow rested the knitting in her lap. “You know of the sickness, perhaps better than any.”

“Yes.”

“You will aid me in discovering a cure.”

“A cure?”

“If it can be done, and I believe it can be, but I am little use here. I require somebody in the village. Somebody who sees and hears what I cannot. Somebody I can trust.”

Jessica couldn’t breathe. Miss Hallow trusted her? The old woman’s gaze was penetrating, the fire’s heat smothering.

“Your mother helped me when she was alive. She investigated the sickness even as she succumbed to it. She was the last to die, five years ago, but the sickness has returned. We must extinguish it before it claims us all.”

Jessica’s stomach turned inside out. “But… the sickness. It is God’s Judgement. There is no cure–”

“I will not have such idiocy tarring the air in this house!”

Jessica flinched.

Calming, Miss Hallow rose from the chair. At the mantlepiece, she opened a long, thin box and drew something out. Holding the object delicately before her, she turned so Jessica could see. It looked like a large, rusted nail, but it was as long as Miss Hallow’s forearm.

“A witch pin,” Jessica murmured, squeezing her hands together in her lap to stop them shaking.

Miss Hallow sniffed. “A barbaric device, but there are times when barbarism is the only option.”

Jessica recalled the girls at school singing about witch pins. They were used to determine if a woman was in league with the Devil. Drive the pin into the flesh and if it causes no pain or bleeding, the woman is a witch.

“Black magic is to blame for the sickness,” Miss Hallow said. “And black magic shall undo it. When the time comes, we shall sink this pin into the heart of the culprit and end this senseless suffering for good.”

Guardian Children’s Books review Ruins

After posting their review of Sentinel, Guardian Children’s Books have also reviewed Ruins! Check out what they had to say below…

Ruins Sentinel Trilogy Joshua WinningI was asked to give an honest review on Ruins, the new novel to the Sentinel Trilogy by Joshua Winning. I was surprised by how quickly I managed to finish this book. It was fast-paced and engaging as well as interesting. It made me fall in love with the characters even more as the reader gest to really feel much closer to them.

I loved this young adult novel and appreciated how all the plot twists and complicated story line turned out. It takes real talent to come up with this type of book.

Ruins elaborates on the demon hunters from the previous book and gives Nicholas some hope to prevent the world from spiralling out of control due to the Sentinels. Again, it is hard to describe without giving away spoilers but I would like to say that you must read the first book to understand Ruins just because of the elaborate story line. It was hard to keep up with everything going on as it is so action-packed. If you’ve read Sentinel then you must read this gripping sequel.

This review originally posted at Guardian Children’s Books.

Guardian Children’s Books review Sentinel

Sentinel Joshua Winning book cover ravenA new review of Sentinel has gone up over at Guardian Children’s Books. Check it out below…

I was told to write an honest review about Sentinel, the first book in a trilogy by Joshua Winning. I have to say, although it was a bit slow-paced in the beginning, it quickly sped up later on and I’m very glad to have read it.

Sentinel follows the story of Nicholas, a 15 year old boy who suddenly loses his parents on one fateful day. And thus, their deaths begin Nicholas’s journey about discovering the secret that his parents had always kept from him. The backstory of Nicholas’s parents remains unknown to the reader which is all the better because it keeps them engaged. It’s difficult to explain the plot without giving too many spoilers away. But here’s my word of advice: Just Read It.

It lives up to the fantasy genre as you never know what will happen next. This is the type of book that keeps the reader on the edge all the time. I would highly recommend reading this as the idea of it is very unique and original. The ending was unexpected and it made me eager to read Ruins, the next book. If you love action and mystery then this book is for you!

Overall, I would recommend this book to fans of YA fantasy and I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5, just because the beginning could have been a bit more interesting.

This review originally posted at Guardian Children’s Books.

SciFi Now review Ruins

The fab folks over at SciFi Now magazine have reviewed Ruins, and they’ve given it a pretty gob-smacking 4 out of 5 stars (not to mention flagging it up as a ‘must read’)! Check out their review below…

SciFi Now review Ruins Joshua WinningThere’s no time to waste as the second instalment of The Sentinel Trilogy blasts us back into the world of young Nicholas Hallow, newly discovered guardian and chosen one of the trinity. Aided by his trusty companions, Isabel, reincarnated in the form of a black (talking) cat and Sam, the aging, but ninja warrior-worthy ass kicker.

Their mission is to find the other ‘chosen one’ before she is found by Laurent, the latest bad guy in town with a seriously twisted plan to ruin the world.

The plot’s darkness intensifies rapidly as Nicholas is drawn to the unassuming town of Bury St Edmunds, nothing more than a school with seven murdered teachers to see here.

Oh, and it may well be the home of Snelling, the vicious ‘harvester’ that attempted to put an end to the Sentinels in the first book, aptly named Sentinel. We should also mention the creepy blonde fellow that keeps appearing, leaving devastation in his wake.

Author Joshua Winning has cranked up the villainy another notch as he introduces the loathsome Laurent, a man so wicked he makes Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort look like a fairy godmother. There are some devilish similarities between the two characters.

However, Laurent’s bloodline-protection methods have a far sicker edge to them, and his sidekicks are much scarier than a rat and a snake.

Nicholas, as hoped, continues to mature nicely, the addition of several new teenage characters helping to keep him grounded and allow him the space to be defined by more than the fate of his birth, of which he gradually learns the truth.

With more pace than Usain Bolt, Ruins leaves no room for a breather as it charges from one intense situation to another. This is a cracking filling for what has the potential to be a very tasty trilogy.

Read the review over at SciFi Now here.

The Eloquent Page reviews Ruins

That was quick! After reviewing Sentinel earlier this week, Paul at The Eloquent Page has posted his review of Ruins – and it’s great! Check it out over at TEP or read it below…

Ruins Sentinel Trilogy Joshua WinningRuins picks up events not long after the end of book one. Nicholas Hallow is starting to settle into his life as part of the Sentinels. He is beginning to accept his place as part of a secret society tasked with protecting all humanity. Nicholas still has lots to learn however and so some on the job training is required. Working as Sam Wilkins assistant is the best way to learn, the old man has a knack for locating evil in all its many forms.

I was glad to see Sam appear again, he was probably my favourite character from Sentinel. I love his world weary, slightly jaded character. Liberty makes a welcome return, but there are also some cool new characters in Ruins. I particularly liked the trio of Benjamin Nale, Zeus and Merlyn. I hope they will all pop up again in the future. Though the focus of the novel remains fixed on Nicholas, it’s nice to learn a little more about some of the other Sentinels and their origins.

Winning has also introduced some characters roughly Nick’s age, and it acts as a good reminder that Nicholas is still young and has much still to learn. Getting different perspectives on events is a welcome inclusion. Dawn and Rae have both seen far more than your average teen and it is interesting to see how they have learned to cope. Rae has developed a defensive, spiky attitude, while Dawn is more withdrawn and shy.

Once again the demonic forces are directing all their energies towards raising the Dark Prophets and bringing about the end of all things. Nicholas learns that he may well be directly targeted, and that there is also another teen who is as equally important to the demon’s plans. What follows is a race against time. The Sentinels need to stop the forces of evil and their human thralls from unleashing an unspeakable evil.

When it comes to the second book in a trilogy, I am always on the look-out for a couple of things. The continuation of the plot has to make sense and fit well with the events that have transpired before. The narrative also has to point towards the overall conclusion of the series. The writing in Ruins accomplishes both of these tasks with ease. The feeling of urgency present in book one feels like it has increased exponentially.  Events in the world of the Sentinels have consequences and repercussions. It is nice to see that things never happen in isolation. There is an over-arching story developing that is pulling everything together.

The good news is that my minor concerns in book one regarding all of the secrets and mysterious characters have been suitably addressed in book two. We learn more about the origins of both Nicholas and the always enigmatic Esus. Actually, the origins of Esus and the Trinity he serves are particularly cool. I would happily read an entire book based just around that.

Ruins feels like a more confident and self-assured book than its predecessor. This trilogy is shaping up nicely, and I have high hopes regarding book three. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing where the final book is going to take us. My nephews are avid readers and I reckon they would enjoy both Sentinel and Ruins. They just can’t get enough horror, especially demons for some reason*, and this series is turning out to be a damn good introduction to the genre.

Ruins is published by Peridot Press and is available now.

* I suspect this may be because they are demons themselves. Unfortunately, I have no conclusive proof.

(This review originally posted at The Eloquent Page.)

The Eloquent Page reviews Sentinel

Paul over at The Eloquent Page has written a fantastic review of Sentinel. Check it out below and be sure to visit his site, which contains loads of great stuff on fantasy books.

Sentinel Joshua Winning book cover ravenI’m sure that everyone has had daydreams of living a different life; of waking up one morning and discovering your regular life is changed so dramatically that everything is new and exciting. It’s great to dream but for Nicholas Hallow the dream becomes a nightmare when a family tragedy unlocks a new life that he could never have expected.

The Sentinels are the de-facto guardians of humanity. This secret society are the chosen few, just slightly out of step with normal existence. They suffer and fight for us so that we can live on in blissful ignorance. I’ve always liked that idea, the premise that groups like this could exist side by side with the rest of us, hidden in plain sight.

Nicholas is an engaging lead, and it was easy to empathise with him as he is dragged through the emotional wringer. I have to admit though, I was more interested in another couple of characters. First there is Sam Wilkins. Sam is an old family friend who becomes Nicholas’ guardian and, perhaps more importantly, his mentor. He remains suitably mysterious throughout, but you get the sense that Sam has seen some things in his time and still remains a force to be reckoned with. Sam’s character reads almost like an old school private detective, he even favours a fedora, and I just bet he has some stories that would make your hair stand on end. The other character is Isabel. Nicholas and Isabel have an interesting relationship. Let’s put it this way, they don’t always see eye to eye. Isabel is wonderfully snarky and looks down on everything that Nicholas does. Needless to say I loved her immediately.

The forces that the Sentinels face are an entirely evil bunch. Demons and their followers don’t take prisoners, they exist only to destroy or to corrupt. It quickly becomes obvious that the Sentinels aren’t just in a fight for their lives, but for everyones. I rather like the dark nature of these villains. Nicholas is forced to grow up quickly when he realises exactly what is at stake in his new life. This is end-of-the-world type stuff we are talking about here, people. There are no second chances when facing off against demons; it is kill or be killed. The tools of the Dark Prophets are violent, utterly driven, and have no problem doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

My only criticism, and it is a relatively minor one, is that there could have been a little bit more exposition in some areas. The author successfully piqued my interested about the Sentinels and how their organisation works. but just a little bit more detail would have made all the difference. For example, there is a character called Esus who appears to hold a very special place in society. He pops up from time to time, but could be the posterboy for the word enigmatic. I don’t mind a bit of mystery, Sam being the perfect example, but Esus was just a little to inscrutable for my liking. Hopefully there will be a bit more detail in future novels.

That quibble aside, this first book in the Sentinel trilogy does do a pretty solid job of setting up this new series. Nicholas is initially oblivious of his origins, and this gives Winning the opportunity to reveal the rules as Nicholas learns them himself. I don’t think you could hope for a more entertaining introduction into the world of the Sentinels. If other teens with a destiny have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t really can’t go far wrong with fiction like this. Sometimes darkly horrific, but always exciting. This is great deal of fun. Put it this way, if you enjoy danger, demons and more secrets than you can shake a big stick at, then Sentinel is the book for you. I wish there had been more books like this around when I was a teen. I would have devoured them all, one after another.

Sentinel is published by Peridot Press and available now. The sequel to Sentinel, Ruins, has just been released which is handy as I’ll be reading that next.

(This review originally posted at The Eloquent Page.)

Wednesday Warble: The thrill of the new

joshua winning sentinel blog postEvery Wednesday (or whenever he feels like it), Sentinel author Joshua Winning will be checking in to variously vent, whine and blab about a topic that’s playing havoc with his tiny little mind .

This week: The thrill of the new

Starting a new project is a lot like the beginning of a whirlwind romance. When you meet somebody new, there are the belly butterflies, you want to spend all your time with them, and it’s impossible to think about anything or anybody else. A quiet sort of madness takes over, and it’s the same with writing.

It’s been a week since Ruins, book two of The Sentinel Trilogy, was published (more on that here) and I feel like I’ve just been through a rough break-up. Ruins pushed me and my writing abilities to their limit – by the time I got round to draft six, I was pretty sick of the sight of it.

With a few months’ perspective, I can see it’s not all that bad, and I’m pretty proud of what I managed to do with the story. But now that the release day excitement has died down, I’m left with a weird sense of bereavement. Ruins has dumped me and gone on to a new life beyond the limits of my control.

The only way to get over a break-up? Meet somebody new. That’s why I’ve enthusiastically thrown myself into a couple of new writing projects, all of which I’m giddy with excitement over. The first, naturally, is the as-yet-untitled third book in The Sentinel Trilogy. I started outlining it last year during the redrafting stage of Ruins and I’ve been putting off actually starting writing it for a number of reasons.

Firstly, when it’s perfect in your head, you get scared of it becoming imperfect when you put it on the page. At the moment, in my swiss-cheese brain, Sentinel #3 is the best book I’ve ever written. It’s epic, it’s poignant, it’s full of heart-stopping action. I know that when I start writing it, though, I’ll be confronted with plot holes and leaps in logic that I missed during planning. And those things are both fun AND painful to figure out.

The other problem is that all-consuming ecstasy of starting something new. Once I start writing Sentinel #3, don’t phone, don’t write, don’t even talk to me in the street. I’ll become a single-minded zombie whose sole purpose is to get that thing onto the page no matter what. I’ll eat, sleep, drink, bathe and dance Sentinel #3 for as long as it takes to finish the first draft. Which will probably be about a year. That’s a long time to be out of action.

Then there’s that crippling doubt that comes with starting something new. What if I’ve forgotten how to write? What I can’t put down a decent sentence to save my life? What if I’ve lost touch with the characters? What if what if what if…! Honestly, it’s exhausting.

The best way to get over all of that? JUST WRITE. Today, I chucked the cat outside, made myself a coffee, sat down and wrote for an hour. And you know what? I got 1,000 words out of my head. Granted, they aren’t all beautiful, but they’re WORDS. And I wrote them. The only way to beat inactivity is to get active. Don’t overthink it, just do it (to pinch a marketing sell from a well-known sports brand).

So yes, the thrill of the new. On top of starting Sentinel #3, I’ve also begun work on a top secret Sentinel spin-off project that’s both terrifying and thrilling. I’m 4k into it and already I can’t think about anything else. There are belly butterflies and I want to spend all my time on it. Which, when it comes down to it, isn’t a bad thing after all, right?

Past Wednesday Warbles:

Sentinel Joshua Winning book cover raven Ruins Sentinel Trilogy Joshua Winning

Buy your copy of Sentinel and Ruins today at the Peridot Press bookshop and receive an exclusive fan pack!

amazoncom amazoncomreal

 

We Love This Book: 10 Questions with Joshua Winning

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This week, Joshua Winning chatted to We Love This Book about Ruins and writing. You can check it out at the WLTB website, or read what he had to say below…

1. Sum up your novel in three words.
Scary, weird, catty.

2. Where did the initial idea come from?
The trilogy grew out of my love for monsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and daydreaming about a supernatural world hidden behind the boring and everyday. I grew up in and around Cambridge and thought it was the perfect spooky setting for a demon invasion.

3. How was the title chosen?
Ruins is one of those words that looks a bit odd if you stare at it for too long, but it perfectly summed up the mood of the book. I wanted something ominous and portentous. I also love single word titles.

4. What’s your writing routine?
The only routine thing about it is that it’s not routine at all! I try to write 1k a day, which I do in an hour-long writing sprint. As a freelance journalist, my schedule’s pretty unpredictable, so I cram book writing in anywhere I can.

5. Which book do you wish you’d written?
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. I read an ARC (it’s out in August) and the idea’s so clever. It’s about a group of ordinary kids who contend with real-life problems while the Chosen Ones fight the supernatural forces in their town. It’s similar to that Buffy episode, ‘The Zeppo’, which focussed on Xander while Buffy was busy averting the apocalypse.

6. What’s your favourite word in the English language?
Discovery.

7. Who’s your favourite fictional character?
Yikes, tough one! Wolverine’s pretty awesome. He counts, right?

8. What was your favourite book as a child?
I was a Roald Dahl fanboy, so anything by him. Probably The Witches, which both horrified and hypnotised me. I used to watch the film with Anjelica Huston on a loop, too. I loved it when she took her wig off.

9. What book are you recommending to everyone at the moment?
On Writing by Stephen King, which somehow manages to be an autobiography AND an excellent guide to writing fiction. It taught me to give adverbs a very short shrift.

10. What do books and reading mean to you?
Reading is always an escape. I love getting on the train to work, shutting out all the noisy kids and gobby gossips, and getting absorbed into the world of the book I’m reading. I can tell it’s a good book when I consider missing my stop so I can carry on reading!

Ruins by Joshua Winning is out now from Peridot Press for £6.99.

Writing tips: Have a super-extreme writing day

writingHaving trouble writing? Here’s a post Joshua Winning wrote last year for Open Book Society that should help get you into the writing groove…

Like skinning a cat, there’s no one way about writing. Everybody has their personal own rhythm, just as some of us are morning people and some of us aren’t. However, if you’re struggling to find the time to get that story out of your head and onto paper, why not smash the apathy with a Super-Extreme Writing Day? All those holiday days you’ve been saving up for time off from the world? Use one to really get cracking on your project. This really helped me when I was writing my debut novel, dark fantasy Sentinel, in between my regular job, so hopefully it’ll work for you. Here are my tips for making that day really count…

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. Go to bed at a decent hour so you can wake up fresh. (This isn’t really a point because it’s sort of a given that you shouldn’t stay up ’til 2am playing Zelda before a hardcore day of writing.)
  2. Get up at a decent hour, shower, have breakfast, make a pot of coffee. Pretend you’re getting up for a day’s work – which of course you are. This isn’t an excuse to slob around in your onesie/dressing gown. You mean business, so act like it.
  3. Wear shoes. This is a weird one, but I find it really works for me. Instead of sitting at your desk in socks or slippers, put on shoes as if you’re about to go somewhere. Not sure why it works, but it does.
  4. Put on headphones. I know some people don’t like to listen to music when they’re writing, but if you’re struggling to get into the ‘writing zone’, blocking out all ‘life noises’ is the only way. Choose music you know well so it won’t distract you and turn it up enough so that you can’t hear the cat meowing at the door or your neighbours watching Wheel Of Fortune all day.
  5. Decide exactly what it is that you want to achieve. Are you planning your novel chapter by chapter? Attempting to nail that important first chapter? Or just hoping to blitz it by laying down as many words as possible in one day? Set yourself that goal.
  6. Turn off the internet. I mean it. And if you need the internet for research, don’t have a tab open with your emails visible. The world can wait. Similarly, leave your phone in another room and forget it exists.
  7. Have a lunch break. Food is fuel and you won’t be able to write if your belly starts grumbling at you. (Also, obviously, make sure your cupboards are stocked for the day. You don’t want to have to run to Tesco and panic-buy some crummy sandwich.)
  8. Don’t edit. If you’re doing a writing blitz, don’t stop. Just go for it. By all means, read the last few paragraphs of what you previously wrote, but only to get you into the mood for writing – and remind you what you wrote before. Now sit and just write. Without going back to correct it when you hit a tough spot. Push through.
  9. Screen breaks are important. Computers get overheated if they’re on all day, and your brain’s the same. Take periodic screen breaks, and try not to think about what you’re writing during that time.
  10. Having trouble writing or don’t know what to write next? WRITE ANYWAY. That may sound harsh and weird, but sometimes sitting and reflecting for five minutes, and then just bashing at the keyboard will help get the juices flowing again.
  11. Save everything. Even if you’re about 102% sure that what you’ve written is total crud, save it anyway. There might be something in there worth using down the line. I often find that re-reading something that doesn’t work simply makes you realise what would make it work.
  12. Finish at dinner time and take the evening off. If you’re not feeling too burned out, consider jotting down notes for what you want to write on your next Super-Extreme Writing Day (yes, you’ll want to do it again). Then leave what you’ve written to sit and stew for at least a week. You’ll come at it with fresh eyes and – hopefully – you’ll be surprised at what good stuff you’ve plucked from your brain and smeared onto the screen.

Got your own writing tips? Have you done your own Super-Extreme Writing Day? I’d love to hear about it!