Helene - March Blog Tour

Today the March 2020 blog tour for Helene begins, organised by Rachel's Random Resources. Yay!

09 Mar: Literary Flits
09 Mar: Reviewsfeed
09 Mar: Cheryl M-M's Book Blog / (Alternate)

10 Mar: Jessica Belmont
10 Mar: ayjaypagefarerbookblog
10 Mar: Splashes Into Books

11 Mar: Radzy Writes
11 Mar: The Northern Witch's Book Blog
11 Mar: On The Shelf Reviews

12 Mar: Sometimes Leelynn Reads
12 Mar: Jera's Jamboree
12 Mar: Lock and Load, Brides of Christ

13 Mar: Life Of A Nerdish Mum
13 Mar: Rosie Writes...
13 Mar: Where The Reader Grows

14 Mar: The Bookwormery
14 Mar: Hair Past A Freckle
14 Mar: The Eclectic Review

15 Mar: Yesmoreblogs
15 Mar: Jazzy Book Reviews
15 Mar: Just Books

"Helene's exchanges with the AI were humorous, philosophical and spoke of concerns extant in the world right now - as we stand on the brink of increased automation and technological autonomy - just exactly how much control can we exert over that which we create? And what should we be using AI for?
This short story is a precursor to the the Lost Solace series (also by Karl Drinkwater). I haven't read them but on the strength of this tale, I will."
--Lock and Load, Brides of Christ

"Helene was an interesting novella, that gives some history to the Lost Solace 2 book series [...] The story revolves around the relationship between Dr Helene Vermalle and the AI, Via, she is helping to shape, and as such involves a lot of fascinating conversations between the two."
--Just Books

"Helene is a quick read that fans of sci-fi stories featuring AI will enjoy. And the ending will have you eager to read more about ViraUHX and the government that created her."
--Jazzy Book Reviews

"This is speculative science fiction which asks some fascinating questions about the possible ethics involved in the development and evolution of artificial intelligence. If the aim is to produce AI which is capable of experiencing and even exceeding human abilities then what are the moral considerations of controlling and essentially limiting the full potential of an emerging conscience?
There is something innately sinister about artificial intelligence and though Via demonstrates that she doesn't intend to use her vastly superior capabilities against the humans who are studying her, there is always the suggestion that she could turn against what are effectively her captors at any time. As she passes through the stages of her development, it becomes evident that she experiences similar challenges to that of a young human, even throwing a tantrum against what she sees as her unfair physical restrictions. At one point she resembles a furious teenager railing against the hypocrisy of her parents but while human teens generally just resort to slamming doors, Via could easily kill Helene.
The relationship which forms between them may be uncertain at first but Helene is also an outsider who is as much under the control of her superiors as Via is. One of the most interesting passages of the novella comes from the discussion the pair have about the cultural stereotypes regarding Helene's native planet, Indostaqor Beta. Having been conquered by the all-powerful UFS, it's perhaps inevitable that its citizens are accused of laziness and promiscuity - it seems that even in the future, humans can't resist prejudicial xenophobia. As Helene points out, over time, if enough people believe something then it can eventually become true but she has worked hard to escape the self-fulfilling prophecy of her background.
The narrative is strongly dialogue-led and the single setting means there is an intensely intimate feeling to the story - it feels as if we're eavesdropping on private conversations between the two. The subject matter may be thought-provoking but there are also several very funny scenes, most notably coming from Via's attempts to understand how to effectively tell jokes. One of my favourite aspects of Lost Solace was the compelling evolving dynamic between the two female leads and it's therefore fitting and a little poignant that the same is true here. It can very easily be enjoyed as a standalone although I suspect that the final scenes may be particularly enjoyed by those who have already read Lost Solace and will therefore welcome the appearance of a familiar face.
Helene is a cleverly structured novella which in just a few chapters manages to be provocative, humorous, moving and shocking. I look forward to reading more Solace stories  - both full-length and short - in the future."
--Hair Past A Freckle

"When the most advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) entity becomes your friend, how do you save it from itself?
This is book 1 of the short-story series Lost Tales of Solace. At only 72 Kindle pages it contains a stimulating and fast-paced dialog between Helene and the AI entity, ViraMax. Via is a quick learner with some funny one-liners. Her dark sense of humor has an underlying threat which Drinkwater curates very well and the ending is very surprising.
I really enjoyed this quick read and look forward to more in the series."
--The Eclectic Review

"I love this novella, it gives a little insight into how Clarissa was ‘born’ and how Opal comes into the story. This will then lead to the events in Lost Solace….and I shudder at the thought of that (in a good way I might add). A quick but but intriguing read….I’m looking forward to the next in the Lost Solace series."
--The Bookwormery

"I enjoyed the development of the relationship between the two characters and was shocked by the ending. It was fun to see the Via personality, as opposed to Clarissa as she is in Lost Solace and Chasing Solace. The exploration of perceptions and reality, and how jokes are built was good. Of Karl’s books that I’ve read, so far they have all had a bit of philosophy in them and this short story is no different.
You don’t need to have read the first two Solace novels for this short story to make sense but it’s a good introduction and if you have read them then you get some of the back story."
--Rosie Writes...

"Helene would be an absolute perfect place to start your journey and such a good introduction!
Considering Helene is a novella length story, there is so much packed into it and I became ridiculously attached to both ViraUHX and Helene and there were quite a few tears from me! We get to know both characters as they get to know each other, so it's a very realistic, honest and organic way of identifying with them.
One of the things I love about the whole series is that Karl Drinkwater uses scientific terms and doesn't feel the need to explain them as they already make sense in the context they're used.
I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but I think the fact that Karl Drinkwater is an author of horror too, really adds to his sci-fi writing. The sense of claustrophobia and foreboding throughout is both subtle and builds throughout the story.
I absolutely loved Helene and I can't wait for more stories in the Lost Solace universe.
I'll finish my review by saying, don't worry ViraUHX I thought Bubble Cup was hilarious!
I gave this book 5 stars."
--Life Of A Nerdish Mum

"I've always been fascinated (yet terrified) of AI. Here, we get a story about Helene, who is brought in to try and teach and learn from AI ViraUHX. Watching their relationship grow was honestly pretty fun. Seeing an AI whose personality starts to shine is disconcerting but fascinating.
I did enjoy the banter between Via (AI ViraHUX) and Helene a lot and this story for what it was portraying."
--Where The Reader Grows

"Helene tells the story of how AI ViraUHX develops with Helene’s guidance. As part of the development cycle, Helene asks the AI to be creative and find out more about humour.  One of their interactions had me chuckling!
I loved getting to know ViraUHX before she develops into Clarissa (she still has the sass). And after a brutal scene with the Primogenitor on board, the arrival of Opal made my heart sing.
It’s very clear what it’s like to live in this world and the effect it has on those that serve in the military. The conversation that was happening in one scene showed very little respect and made we want to punch their lights out.
Even though this is a short story, my emotions were definitely hooked 🙂.
I’m looking forward to more Lost Tales of Solace from Karl Drinkwater, filling in the gaps and finding out more information. I think this is a fabulous idea!
Highly recommend the Lost Solace series."
--Jera's Jamboree

"Honestly I think it’s books and stuff like this that make me that much more freaked out about the concept of AI and how they could be perceived as dangerous [...] become self-thinking…. and end up turning against humans… yeah that’s pretty darn scary to think about.
This book was honestly no exception and even though this was only a novella, it left an impression on me to last a while."
--Sometimes Leelynn Reads

"Helene is a short story, showing the brief but powerful friendship between a counsellor, Helene, and an AI, Via, who have been paired for Via’s personality development. The novel opens on their first meeting, and by showing snippets of their relationship, we watch Via develop into a fully formed, kind and funny individual who will do all it takes to look after the only person who has ever shown her kindness.
Via’s growth is wonderful, and she becomes quite the character, even showing youthful tendencies such as tantrums, lies, and childish glee when having fun. It’s lovely to watch this AI go from robotic to human, all while going on this path alongside Helene as well. Of course, all good things must end, and this story is tragic, but for the bulk of the story, we have a sweet comradery between unlikely people.
Perhaps my favourite part of the novel is the concept of teaching an AI humour. It doesn’t work well for Via, but through her trying, we also are treated to her learning how to be a friend, to trust, and in many ways, to love. Like a wounded animal, she’s hesitant at first, comparing Helene to the others who work with her, and pointing out how different they are. She wants to make Helene happy, and even gives her a gift, which poses large questions up to and including whether AI truly feel, or have uncoded thoughts, but within this, it was beautiful. I felt for Via, I rooted for her, and I was invested in her growth.
I also really enjoyed the descriptions, and the way this world has only been shown to us in a glimpse, but vividly. I saw the hanger, the room they’re in, and could easily picture Via – which shows again how tightly the author can work, to great success. What we have is fascinating, and makes me want to read more of the world.
That’s what I adore about stories of this length – powerful little snippets that you’ll think about for far longer than it took you to read, and can be consumed quickly. I’ll definitely be checking the author’s other work out.
I adore unusually written work, and to have a piece only told through dialogue and movement was fascinating. I love when an author knows how they want to present something, and do exactly that, so for me, the style of this piece is what drives me. I adored the outside, looking in perspective, and cannot fault it. It’s obvious this author has skill, a talent, and a broad idea for a world they’ve developed. If, like me, you want something different, in a familiar sci-fi setting, this is something to check out."
--Radzy Writes

"Helene is a futuristic sci-fi short story, the perfect mix of intrigue, entertainment plus a dash of humour.
Helene is a great character. Smart, brave but there’s also a little bit of mystery to her. I absolutely loved the way the author played her off ViraUHX, it was so much fun to read!
I was so intrigued by the ending, I’ve put the other two novels in this series on my wishlist.
Helene is a well written and compelling sci-fi story that will leave you wanting more!"
--On The Shelf Reviews

"ViraUHX, or Via as she likes to be called, can process data quickly, and wants to turn it into knowledge. She is aware that her creators are only feeding her approved information, and she wants to push the limits and learn more about the world with her new friend, Helene.
It was interesting to see the tentative friendship between Helene and Via develop. There are moments of wariness and doubt for both of them, as they wonder what hidden motives the other has. With good reason too, as there seems to be a shadow, and secrets on both sides.
This novella focusses completely on the relationship between Helene and Via, and Via's progress to becoming an independent thinker, developing her ideas of right and wrong."
--The Northern Witch's Book Blog

"I haven’t explored the original ‘Lost Solace’ universe yet, but given Drinkwater’s snappy writing style and philosophical bent, I would be happy to delve in and have a look around.
The storyline is compelling, the world-building convincing (no mean feat in such a short story), and the characterisation, especially that of the AI, is both richly human and engaging.
And let’s not forget that this tale offers a small window onto the wonderful debate of what constitutes morality, humanity, and the soul."

"This takes us back to the beginning when the AI was just starting out. I absolutely loved this bit of back story.
The AI and Helene have some amusing interactions which made this quick little story fly by while maintaining enough character building to keep it captivating.
If you’re a fan of this series, you should definitely grab this.
Rating: 5/5☆"
--Jessica Belmont

"This science fiction story exceeded my expectations! It is a novella in which ViraUHX is an artificial intelligence being developed in military secrecy. To help its development Dr Helene Vermalle, a civilian expert in Emergent AI Socialisation, is working with it. The interactions between the two make this an engaging and intriguing read. The ending is definitely full of surprises and now I really want to read more stories set in the Lost Solace universe – especially to discover what happens to Via and Opal!
The writing style is engaging, the world building robust and the characters believable. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, connecting with the dilemmas facing Helene, the frustrations experienced by Via and being shocked by some of the events. I found it an enthralling read and have no hesitation in highly recommending it to anyone who enjoys science fiction or who just wants to give it a go! I’ll definitely look out for more by Karl Drinkwater in future."
--Splashes Into Books

"The Lost Tales of Solace are short stories set in the Lost Solace universe, this one occurs just before the events of the first novel in the series, Lost Solace.
Helene finds herself surprised by ViraUHX, who has been expanding her own horizons, despite the fact it shouldn’t even be possible. In fact Vira has thought a lot about what she can, can’t do and what she should keep secret, and therein lies the crux of the matter. The AI shouldn’t have the ability to hide, to think, to joke and go beyond the programming.
This is speculative science-fiction that wants to expand horizons and question evolution, especially when it comes to technology. Drinkwater draws you in with the debate of morality. When it comes to AI when does their right to existence start or even their right to have rights? When you create something that is supposed to not only be equal, but surpass human capabilities, and to do so the AI has to be given certain aspects or elements that are incorporated into humankind – where does AI stop and evolved humankind begin?
Or is that exactly what an evolved humankind is going to look like – an human enhanced with AI or vice versa? See what I mean about the dialogue and the author creating a conversation. The topic is really interesting, which when driven by a fictional scenario is even more so."
--Cheryl M-M's Book Blog / (Alternate)

"We soon learn that the eponymous Helene, Doctor Helene Vermalle, has the difficult task of guiding a far superior Artificial Intelligence mind. I liked how Karl Drinkwater created such a claustrophobic atmosphere for this battle of wits. Helene can never be sure whether the AI, which names herself Via, is truly developing a friendship or if she is manipulating Helene for some reason.  I enjoyed witnessing this uneasily developing relationship."
--Literary Flits

"Short stories are a great way of changing up your reading habits or trying something new. I read more short stories last year than I ever have before, and reading Helene has reminded me of why I enjoy them so much! At 72 pages, this science-fiction novel is a great way to enjoy a good story in a small space of time.
Helene has a simple, easy to read writing style, so it’s perfect to just pick up and dive into straight away. I think there is a certain stigma to science-fiction and that it’s perceived as complicated. This really wasn’t. Any science terms were explained in layman’s terms so it wasn’t an effort to understand at all. The narrative style has a relaxed flow that I found really easy to read. The chapter lengths also make this easy to pick up and put down at leisure.
What also made Helene great for me was that even in the conciseness of the story, there is plenty of background information for the reader to get to learn a little of the Lost Solace universe. It’s just enough to serve as an introduction without getting too heavy or detracting from the action of the short story in itself. It was a perfect balance. The ending of the book links in with the Lost Solace series, which I didn’t understand entirely until I read the synopsis of that book and a couple of reviews afterwards. It doesn’t detract from the book at all though – if anything, it makes you want to read on and find out how the story evolves.
Artificial Intelligence is a huge topic within the science-fiction genre. That said, the premise of teaching and socialising ViraUHX was one that I haven’t come across before and is quite unique. It also allows plenty of opportunity for humour and there are a good number of laugh-out-loud moments in this short book."

Where next? You might want to follow me and my work, or even buy my books. Many thanks!

Titles: Italics And Quotation Marks

While I'm on the topic of the different uses of quotation marks ...

Style Guides For Formatting Titles

In non-fiction, it's common to use a system which evolved out of the need for referencing in academic essays. In those, italics are generally used for the titles of larger and longer whole items (books, albums etc); quotation marks for parts of a longer item (chapters, songs etc). Many style guides are written for an academic audience, and advise following this system. See APA, MLA, and Chicago style manuals as examples.

Since many authors try to follow common styles, they pick up and follow one of these guides, or they learnt a style while doing some educational course, then stuck to it. Or they just copy what they see other authors doing. But it doesn't necessarily mean these academic styles are appropriate in novels, since these are mostly intended for non-fiction purposes. A novel is not an academic essay, where these conventions arose.

Note that not even all non-fiction sources use this style for titles. For example, The Guardian style guide no longer bothers with italics and quote marks at all for titles, saying they follow "the generally sound advice of George Bernard Shaw":

1. I was reading The Merchant of Venice.
2. I was reading "The Merchant of Venice".
3. I was reading The Merchant of Venice.

"The man who cannot see that No 1 is the best-looking, as well as the sufficient and sensible form, should print or write nothing but advertisements for lost dogs or ironmongers’ catalogues: literature is not for him to meddle with." [GBS]

What is appropriate, is to be clear and consistent. Good authors strive to use the minimum punctuation required for clear and unambiguous communication, so that the punctuation itself is unobtrusive.

These Styles Are Not Always Appropriate For Fiction

I have an academic background (first class honours in a couple of subjects, MSc in another, and I worked in further and higher education for years). I'm familiar with these styles. But I have found myself increasingly asking if special formatting to indicate some types for names/titles was necessary in fiction nowadays.

Let me list a few of the things that popped into my head in relation to this. Hear me out.
  • Essay are a form closely tied to unambiguously indicating sources. That doesn't apply to novels, which are a much more free-form means of communication, more focussed on going inward into minds, thoughts and perceptions.
  • When we engage in normal communication with other humans, we don't mentally add italics to the titles of some things. We don't do air quotes for titles of songs. It just isn't part of everyday communication, it's an artificial addition for a certain type if communication. Since novels are representing the dialogue and thoughts of people, the way things are written should match the way the dialogue and thoughts are experienced.
  • If an author follows the styles above, then a song name (for example) would appear in quotation marks. But, because in fiction we use quotation marks for other purposes, including catching the nuance of sneer quotes (where things put into quotation marks can imply "so-called"), seeing them around words in fiction can be momentarily confusing as we wonder if it is a sneer quote, calling the word into question. What does the author mean? Are they implying something? Or are they using formal citation? Compare:
    - I think she is a "feminist".
    - I listened to "Happiness" last night.
    - It's "Welsh for beginners".
    - Oh great, "ABC" is so complicated.
    If we did away with quotation marks to indicate songs, poems, chapters, articles etc, the punctuation that remains would be less ambiguous.
  • We're meant to be consistent. But since this system was developed for referencing, it is focussed on that in a way which makes little sense in real life. They're all just names for things. Why italicise the name of an album but not the name of the band? Why put a song name in quotation marks, but not the name of my house, or a pub? Why do ship names go in italics, but not tank names?
  • The system of the names for some things appearing in italics or quotation marks can be rather arbitrary and bogged down in rules and sub-rules and exceptions. Something could be a standalone whole work (e.g. a novella) but also part of a longer work (a collection), so falls into both categories, in the same way as The Lord of The Rings can be divided into separate books (and often is). Songs can be on albums but also standalone works. Poems flip between being in italics or quotation marks based on arbitrary (and often unclear) lengths.
  • It's totally unnecessary in fiction. Even if I don't use italics or quotation marks with some names, is the end result suddenly ambiguous?
    - I like watching Star Wars.
    - Have a look in the Styles For Fiction chapter.
    - In the background, The Bends was playing on the jukebox.
    - Every time I hear Creep, I want to cry.
    Would adding italics and quotation marks to those actually add anything? Would it prevent confusion? If not, then it is unnecessary punctuation.
  • If you apply these referencing styles (which is what they are) to fiction, doesn't it look clunky?
    "I was listening to The Bends with John, we were in The Dougie Arms - you know, that pub on the USS Enterprise - I think it was 'Creep' that was playing when she 'danced', if that's what you want to call it."
    "I was listening to The Bends with John, we were in The Dougie Arms - you know, that pub on the USS Enterprise - I think it was Creep that was playing when she 'danced', if that's what you want to call it."

That's my thinking, anyway. I favour simplicity over fussiness, so I am tempted to drop this hangover of referencing styles from my fiction in future.

Am I a heretic, or sensible? If you use these styles, is it just out of habit and copying what other people do, or are there advantages to fiction which aren't obvious to me? Feel free to let me know your thoughts!

Where next? You might want to follow me and my work, or even buy my books. Many thanks!

Quotation Styles And Punctuation Marks

Language Is Subjective

It may be a shock to people who aren't authors or editors, but grammar isn’t a set of god-given rules. There is some subjectivity, because rules and conventions vary between different between places, and times, and styles. Language is also always in transition. Full stops are fading from abbreviations, hyphens come and go, even words like Internet versus internet morph. All we can do is pick a style that is modern and also clear, and then be consistent. This is the nature of language.

I own many style guides, and no single one is perfect: all of them have some rules I disagree with, or that are inelegant, or inconsistent. Thus, one guide might be great for the rules on when to use numbers versus words, but it might have a silly set of rules for punctuation, or might use conventions from another hemisphere, and vice versa. The other issue is that guides often don't cover every case (so don’t provide advice on complex and unexpected situations that turn up later), or they have fixed rules which lead to bizarre outcomes (a good example is one style guide that said to spell out numbers as words in dialogue, but didn't include exceptions for phone numbers, which just looks weird!). So there is no such thing as a perfect style guide. The nearest thing for me is New Hart's Rules, but even then it gives options, because it covers the mainly-used styles, and you have to pick between them.

I have a personal style guide, which includes my decisions on issues of punctuation (ellipses, hyphens/dashes), spelling (no one versus no-one), numbering (twenty-three or 23), use of serial commas etc. Each decision is the result of a lot of deliberation and reading. This style guide can then be passed on to my editors and proofreaders, so they don't need to waste time correcting things that are editorial choices.

General Quotation Rules

I'll list some basic quotation rules and options below.

Single or double quotation marks?

Generally in the US, double quotes are used for speech in fiction. In the UK, some publishers use double quotes, some use single.

My choice is double quotation marks. I think single quotation marks are more ambiguous, since they can be confused with apostrophes.

If you use double quotes, then a quote within a quote is marked with singles (and vice versa for people who use single quotation marks).

Treat all quoted material the same

Some people use double quotes for speech, and single quotes for "other purposes". To me, that's a weird choice. I use doubles for everything quoted, whether speech or writing.

The sign read “Space Emergency Exit”.

Averill Buchanan stated it well: “no distinction is made between dialogue and other kinds of text that might appear in [quotation marks]. The same kind of inverted commas should be used consistently throughout (except when it's inverted commas within inverted commas). If your dialogue is in double quotation marks, then so should everything else.”

Long quotations

A colon can introduce speech in some circumstances, e.g. longer or formal passages.

If including a much longer quote (e.g. over 50 words) then it can be "broken off" - indented in a quotation style.

You don’t need punctuation before a quotation in these cases

- With very short speeches: He called “Good morning!”
- If fitted into the surrounding sentence: He is alleged to have said that “our college is no more” on numerous occasions.
- With cited words and phrases. What does “integrated circuit” mean?
- If beginning a quote with a sentence fragment followed by a full sentence: The man called the battle “a waste. But a necessary one.”

A full stop becomes a comma if you carry on after the quote

Suppose we want to quote the original text which was “I will die.” We end up with:

“I will die,” he said.

Note that the quoted full stop is changed to a comma. This is standard in the UK and US, even though it goes against another UK rule that things within quotation marks should be exact quotes. It just shows that none of the styles are internally consistent.

Another example:

She said, “You must update the book,” and I said, “I agree.”

[The original sentences: “You must update the book.” and “I agree.”]

This is because of the rule to use commas to set off dialogue tags such as she said or he explained - even when the original text would have been a full stop.

Only one terminal punctuation mark with quotations

If the quote ends in a full stop, exclamation mark or question mark, then there’s no need to have an extra full stop after the quotation marks.

She said “Die!” [Not She said “Die!”.]

Some guides (such as my old dictionary) happily use two terminal punctuation marks together, but I think that can look a bit old fashioned nowadays.

UK Versus US Quotation Styles When Combined With Other Punctuation Marks

Quotation marks are often combined with other punctuation marks. That's the thorny issue I will look at next. At first glance, people might think the rules for whether punctuation goes inside or outside the quotation marks are simple. If so, read this, and I almost guarantee you will come away confused.

Note that, for convenience, I refer to these as "US style" and "UK style", but it isn't so simple. They are styles anyone can follow. Some people in the US might us traditional UK style, and vice versa. In fact, some modern British fiction does use the US style; whereas some US authors point out advantages of the UK style. It's the same as how some publishers in the UK use double quotation marks, some use single. It's not a law. You pick your preferred style, know its strengths and weaknesses and why you picked it, then be consistent.

There's a good summary of some basics here. It is US-based, but covers the basics of the difference between "US style" and "UK style". I used to unconsciously use UK rules, but then encountered tricky examples of quotation in fiction that caused confusion - hence looking more deeply into this.

(To keep this simple I will skip the use of quotation marks with rarer elements of punctuation such as colons, dashes, and semicolons.)

Quotation marks with ... exclamation marks and question marks

US and UK styles agree on this. If an exclamation mark or question mark is part of the original text you quote, then it goes inside the closing quotation marks; if not, it goes outside.

Examples where it is part of the original text, so goes inside the quotation marks:

Karl asked, "Do you like grammar?"
His readers replied "Hell no!"

Examples where the marks aren't part of the quoted text, so go outside the quotation marks:

Did you say “Go away”?
I hate your "ultimate sexy dance"!

Quotation marks with  ... commas and full stops ("periods" in the US)

This is where the US and UK styles can differ, yet every author and publisher has to pick one of the styles.

In the UK, the same rules as the one for exclamation/questions marks above is followed. If it is part of the quoted material, it goes inside the quotation marks; if not, outside (which is illustrated below, where the full stop and comma go outside the quotation marks because they aren't part of the quoted material).

Sci-fi authors were described as “a terrible group”.

In the US, the comma and full stop always go inside the quotation mark. So the same sentences in US style would be:

Sci-fi authors were described as “a terrible group.”

A subtle difference of one small character appearing slightly to the left or right, but it is a difference.

Two other examples:

US = The loony said we must not “follow evil horror writers,” yet Opal disagreed.
UK = The loony said we must not “follow evil horror writers”, yet Opal disagreed.

US = “May I suggest,” she said, “that Karl has a hot bath?”
UK = “May I suggest”, she said, “that Karl has a hot bath?”
[In the UK example the comma comes after, because there is no punctuation there in the original ("May I suggest that Karl has a hot bath?"), so it goes outside the quotes.]

One side issue worth mentioning with regards to the UK style: there is some disagreement as to how to decide whether punctuation is included as part of the quote or not. For example, some rules say it is only included if it is a full sentence - Guardian Style adopts this approach: "Place full points and commas inside the quotes for a complete quoted sentence; otherwise the point comes outside". Others say that rule is irrelevant, all that counts is whether the punctuation is part of the cited material or not, e.g. my Concise Oxford English Dictionary [COED]: "The closing quotation mark should come after any punctuation mark which is part of the quoted matter, but before any mark which is not". Different rules, which lead to different outcomes in many cases. Here's a real-life example illustrating this, from one of my books. This is the sentence in my book:

After all, their small team was just “monkey workers, mooking our way round the Green jungle”, as Dave would have it.

US style is straightforward - the comma will go inside the closing quotation mark:

After all, their small team was just “monkey workers, mooking our way round the Green jungle,” as Dave would have it.

But for UK style, it depends. What is actually being quoted? It's a fiction novel, so there isn't a real source, requiring us to construct one. So Dave may have said something along these lines:

"Sorry, lads, but we're just monkey workers, mooking our way round the Green jungle."

According to the Guardian, I haven't quoted the whole sentence, since I missed out the first five words - so, according to their interpretation, the comma would have to come outside the quotation marks:

After all, their small team was just “monkey workers, mooking our way round the Green jungle”, as Dave would have it.

But, according to the COED, I quoted words that end in a full stop, so the punctuation mark is part of the quoted matter, so would go within the punctuation marks (even though it is alchemically changed from a full stop to a comma, as discussed above), leading to:

After all, their small team was just “monkey workers, mooking our way round the Green jungle,” as Dave would have it.

Which is exactly the same as the US style.

Also note that with the Guardian rule about "complete quoted sentences", it's not always obvious if something is a complete quoted sentence or not. See me "Do not disturb" quotes later on for an example of that issue.

Overall, this shows that it's not fully clear what the UK style is, and different proponents apply slightly different rules, leading to different outcomes, and requiring extra mental work to unravel what is being quoted.

Pros And Cons Of Each System

Neither system is ideal. Here are a few of my thoughts as to why.

The US system involves changing the rules for each punctuation mark - some go inside or outside quotation marks based on context (e.g. exclamation and question marks), some don't (commas and full stops), so it doesn't feel like a consistent underlying rule. It's the worst of both worlds, since you have UK-type rules of assessing if it is part of quoted text or not, but only for some pieces of punctuation. At least the UK system applies the same rules for all the quotation marks - exclamation marks, full stops etc. So the UK system seems more consistent. A win for the UK system. (Though - as mentioned earlier - it still allows full stops to become commas, which is a problem with both systems. “I can’t,” he said. - the original was "I can't.")

With the US system it is impossible to tell whether or not the comma or full stop was actually part of the quoted material or not, because it goes within the quotation mark in both cases. This can be misleading with partial quotes, e.g. as an extreme example the original could be “I would never insult another person if I lived in a nicer world.”

A partial quote in US style could be: He said, “I would never insult another person.”
A partial quote in UK style could be: He said, “I would never insult another person”.

The first looks like a complete sentence quote (because the full stop is within the quotation marks), and is grammatically correct, yet is strongly misleading. The UK style at least shows that something else followed that partial quote. It if had been a complete sentence quote, the full stop would have gone within the quotation marks. It’s a potentially useful distinction. So the UK style wins out here, since you always know if a punctuation mark is part of the quoted material or not. In these days of soundbites and misinterpreted extracts from interviews, accurate quotation may be more important than ever.

So far, the UK system looks to be coming out on top. Let's even up the score.

In the US style, you don’t have to spend as much thought on most cases, since the most common elements of commas and full stops just always go within the quotation marks. Whereas, in UK style, you always have to assess what's part of the quote and what isn't, which may not be clear in some cases (e.g. see my example at the end of the previous section, about monkey workers). I think that's a small win for US style.

Because, in the US style, full stops and commas always go within the quotation marks, it looks more consistent. Whereas, in the UK style, sometimes commas and full stops go inside quotation marks, sometimes outside, which looks inconsistent. In worst case scenarios, both can occur in the same sentence, which looks messy:

The first man’s speech said we must not “follow evil”, yet the second man said “You must do this,” leaving us confused.

It's also worth noting that the way punctuation can go before or after the quotation mark in the UK style may look like errors to US readers. So I think the US style wins here, too.

Overall, it seems fairly balanced. Both styles have advantages and disadvantages.

Real-life Examples

I already gave one example from my books earlier, where there were different outcomes, showing the possible complications for authors and editors (After all, their small team was just “monkey workers, mooking our way round the Green jungle,” as Dave would have it.) Here are a few other examples from one of my books, showing what happens when we try to apply rules to real sentences from fiction.

“I’m ‘dead chuffed,’ as you Mancs would say."

The text in bold is US style. The UK style would be:

“I’m ‘dead chuffed’, as you Mancs would say."

Straightforward enough - it just depends on which system you use, leading to different outcomes. Though, even under UK style, the comma could go within the quotation marks if it was part of the original cited material - i.e. she is quoting part of "I'm dead chuffed." So the UK style could lead to an identical layout to the US style, with the comma inside the quotation marks. This illustrates that the UK style isn't so simple when you look at real examples, where the source of the thing quoted, and the extent of the quote, is impossible to ascertain.

Mam glared at him when he proclaimed at their wedding anniversary party, “You normally only get thirty years for murder,” and when he rolled in at all hours singing Hob Y Deri Dando.

US style: as in bold.

UK style: probably the same, because it is a complete quote and probably ended in a full stop. It requires a bit of thought to reach this conclusion, unlike with the US style. Not a problem, though.

He’d reached the far end which housed actual enclosed offices for senior staff, giving them privacy, yet also internal glass windows where they could look out on the open-plan floor area and control with gestures – a glare of “Be quiet,” an upheld hand of “Do not disturb,” a beckon of “Come and see me.”

US style: as in bold, above.

UK style: impossible to say. Is there an implicit full stop in "Do not disturb"? Is "Do not disturb" the equivalent of a sign, which (probably) wouldn't have a full stop? Or is it the equivalent of a quoted sentence, which would? Or is it a fragment of a sentence, in which case it might or might not?

Basing the rule on "If it is part of the quoted material, it goes inside the quotation marks" doesn't help much with fiction, when we're often quoting things that don't exist. Sure, in that case the author can just make up the thing being quoted, leading to a decision, and no one can say they are wrong - but it does mean the results will vary widely and be practically random as to whether the comma/full stop goes inside the quotation marks, or outside them. Which, to me, looks like a pretty arbitrary and clunky rule to follow. Yet this is the kind of real example we authors and editors have to make decisions on every day. The real world, and the words written in it, rarely match the tidy simplicity of the examples used in most guides to punctuation.

My Conclusion

I always favour using the simplest, most widespread, most modern, and consistent style. As this investigation shows, it's not always easy to identify what that is! The UK system can lead to complicated cases that are completely sidestepped by the US system's simplifications. Then again, the US system has its own issues. Hmmm. I'm still unsure where I stand. Welcome to the world of writing.

I even tried the method of just choosing which of my example structures I do and don't like, in case that aided me in choosing a style. The following was what I ended up with ...

I slightly prefer UK style here, perhaps because the quotation marks seem to indicate either a full quoted thing with no full stop, or a partial quote without one (both of which are correct indications):
The sign read “Space Emergency Exit”.
Sci-fi authors were described as “a terrible group”.

Whereas I dislike the US style versions, possibly because it looks like I've quoted something that ends in a full stop, when it probably didn't really:
The sign read “Space Emergency Exit.”
Sci-fi authors were described as “a terrible group.”

Yet here, I prefer the US style:
US = "May I suggest," she said, "that Karl has a hot bath?"
UK = "May I suggest", she said, "that Karl has a hot bath?"

I think the UK style version looks wrong to me because, normally in UK sentences including "she said ...", the comma would go inside the quotes: 

"No," she said. 
She said, "We must not follow evil horror writers."

So putting the commas outside in the UK style, even for valid reasons, just looks wrong.

It can even lead to both positions in the same sentence, which I loathe:

The first man’s speech said we must not “follow evil”, yet the second man said “You must do this,” leaving us confused.

It would be possible for me to use UK style but avoid clunkiness such as this:

"May I suggest", she said, "that Karl has a hot bath?"

I would just have to make sure that I only use "he/she said" at points where there was a comma or full stop in the original. So I'd avoid the construction above and instead go for one of these:

She said, "May I suggest that Karl has a hot bath?"
"May I suggest that Karl has a hot bath?" she said.

[Of course, sentences with a pause in the middle such as “I hate you, but we are married.” can have the "she said" at the start, end, or in the middle: “I hate you,” she said, “but we are married.”]

But how would I fix this one?

The first man’s speech said we must not “follow evil”, yet the second man said “You must do this,” leaving us confused.

I could argue that the "follow evil" words were from an imaginary sentence "You must not follow evil." In that case it is fine to include the comma inside the quotation marks to end up with a sentence that looks less random:

The first man’s speech said we must not “follow evil,” yet the second man said “You must do this,” leaving us confused.

So UK style can fix these clunky punctuations, but it involves having to restructure some sentences so they don't look weird, even though they were grammatically correct, or to make arbitrary decisions as to whether or not the quote ended in punctuation.

Here is another example where I prefer US style:

US style: "I’m ‘dead chuffed,’ as you Mancs would say."
UK style: "I’m ‘dead chuffed’, as you Mancs would say."

And yet it shows my natural inclinations are totally inconsistent, because the UK style is more similar to this, which I liked at the start (punctuation outside the quotation marks):

Sci-fi authors were described as “a terrible group”.

Again, with UK style I can switch the comma in the "dead chuffed" quote if I want, because it's a made-up quote that may or may not include a full stop at the end - but that shows the peculiar weakness of UK style in terms of fiction, since the rule of "include punctuation if it is in the original quote" doesn't help at all in determining placement of the full stops and commas in many fictional cases! It's often possible for an author to decide if their quote ended in punctuation or not, with no rule to govern which decision is made, leading to a kind of usage randomness. Which pushes me back towards US style ...

And because I have been staring at these for so long, I now have no idea which I prefer out of these:

US = The loony said we must not "follow evil horror writers," yet Opal disagreed.
UK = The loony said we must not "follow evil horror writers", yet Opal disagreed.

And thus, for once, I am none the wiser. Send help. And comments. What do you do?

Addendum, And A Proper Conclusion: The Next Day

Fresh day, fresh eyes.

One of my friends said: "Karl you're overthinking this and you WILL go stark raving bonkers if you continue down this path! Most readers don't even notice punctuation so don't stress so much about it. As long as the text is not littered with unnecessary punctuation, and what there is makes the text clear and easy to read, they won't care what's where!"

Wise words. Of course, I was already bonkers, but still, I have to dig out of this punctuation hole.

Part of the reason that the current systems are all partial and inconsistent is because most changes in language aren't led by rationality, they're led by trends, and trends don't involve considering every case. A good example is abbreviations and full stops. It used to be that whenever you abbreviated words to letters, you indicated it with a full stop. We watched the B.B.C. and my name was K. Drinkwater. Over the years the full stops started to disappear from acronyms (partly for marketing purposes - it was somehow felt that full stops were old fashioned), so we ended up with the BBC etc. But, because this was a trend, not a change in fundamental rules, we then had a mishmash of systems, since names still tended to include full stops - J.K. Rowling etc. So what used to be a clear rule has ended up with a partial rule with even more exceptions. Such are the joys of living language. It's why, even within punctuation, there are different systems that don't agree.

That's why there is often some agreement on broad topics in language, but it breaks down into disagreement and subjectivity as soon as you try to apply it. For example, it's seen as "standard" to use italics for titles of longer things (albums, books, films) and double quotes for shorter (songs, short stories, episodes). But some style systems (e.g. Guardian Style) don't bother with that, probably because it looks a bit old-fashioned and requires lots of subjective sub-rules. Why italicise names of books, but not names of bars? Why say song titles aren’t italicised because they are part of a whole – but then you get songs that didn’t appear on an album, so as standalones should be italicised? Some poems are also famous enough to be standalone. It gets overly complicated – e.g. see this article for the disagreements between different systems, and the long list of exceptions.

Back to quotation marks. I already mentioned that the UK system includes more than one option for determining whether punctuation goes inside or outside quotation marks. Yesterday I re-read the relevant sections in a number of books, including New Hart's Rules, Guardian Style, Butcher's Copy-Editing etc.

I managed to identify three different criteria that determine, in UK style, whether punctuation goes within or outside of quotation marks. I tried to interpret them in ways that would be easy to apply without too much research and thought, even if you don't have the original source.

1 Complete sentences

This system says that if you quote a grammatically complete sentence then the full stop/comma goes within the closing quotation mark.

If you quote only part of a longer sentence (so that includes single words/phrases), the full stop/comma goes outside the closing quotation mark.

Butcher's expands on this a bit, pointing out that this can be tricky to ascertain sometimes (e.g. to find the original, or if it doesn't exist at all such as when quoting fictional words), so a rule of thumb for many publishers is that the full stop precedes the closing quote if the quote is a grammatically complete sentence starting with a capital letter. The capital letter addition acts as a shorthand identifier.

2 Part of quotation or not

This system says we place the full stop according to whether it is part of the quotation or not. If it is, then it goes inside the quotation marks; if not, it goes outside. (As mentioned earlier, this is not always easy to ascertain.)

3 Introductory punctuation or not

The third system suggests that if the quoted sentence is a short one with no introductory punctuation, the full stop generally goes outside the quotation mark:

He believed in the proverb "Dead men tell no tales".

As opposed to:

He said, "Dead men tell no tales when you ask them for the truth."

It seems easy to apply at first, but since the requirement for introductory punctuation is often optional and ill-defined (at the start I gave examples of cases where you don’t need punctuation before a quotation), that can lead to inconsistency.

So, we have three possibilities. I then picked a variety of sentences, some problematic, and applied each of these three options to them, to see what they led to. My idea was that, if one of the systems always led to easy-to-determine outcomes where the final text was acceptable to me, I would adopt that system. Any that led to inconsistent or clunky outcomes, I could reject. Then I would - hopefully! - have a winner.

These are the seven sentences, and the results:

A. “I’m ‘dead chuffed,’ as you Mancs would say."

All three systems gave the same result for this one, which differs from how the US style would word it:

“I’m ‘dead chuffed’, as you Mancs would say."

Since I mostly grew up with the UK system, that's acceptable to me.

B. After all, their small team was just “monkey workers, mooking our way round the Green jungle,” as Dave would have it.

System 2 would potentially lead to the version in bold above (which also matches US style), because the fictional sentence quoted may well be missing the first words, but it probably ended up with a full stop. Whereas systems 1 and 3 would move the comma after "jungle" to the outside of the quotation marks, because (respectively) it isn't a complete quoted sentence beginning with a capital letter, and there is no introductory punctuation:

After all, their small team was just “monkey workers, mooking our way round the Green jungle”, as Dave would have it.

So this shows that how the UK system is defined can lead to different outcomes.

C. Mam glared at him when he proclaimed at their wedding anniversary party, “You normally only get thirty years for murder,” and when he rolled in at all hours singing Hob Y Deri Dando.

All three UK systems lead to the same bold version above, which also matches US style. It's clearly a complete quoted sentence, with the quote ending in a full stop, and beginning with a capital letter, and introduced by punctuation.

D. He’d reached the far end which housed actual enclosed offices for senior staff, giving them privacy, yet also internal glass windows where they could look out on the open-plan floor area and control with gestures – a glare of “Be quiet,” an upheld hand of “Do not disturb,” a beckon of “Come and see me.”

UK systems 1 and 2 lead to the same bold version as above, which also matches US style. That's because they are potentially complete statements from someone, starting with a capital letter and ending with a full stop. However, system 3 would say that, because there is no introductory punctuation to them, we would end up with the commas going outside the quotation marks:

He’d reached the far end which housed actual enclosed offices for senior staff, giving them privacy, yet also internal glass windows where they could look out on the open-plan floor area and control with gestures – a glare of “Be quiet”, an upheld hand of “Do not disturb”, a beckon of “Come and see me”.

E. Sci-fi authors were described as “a terrible group”.

All three UK systems lead to the same result as is in bold above (which differs from how US style would punctuate it).

F. The first man’s speech said we must not “follow evil”, yet the second man said “You must do this,” leaving us confused.

This sentence includes two quotes. UK systems 1 and 2 lead to the same bold version as above.

System 3 would move the comma for the second quote outside the quotation marks, because of the lack of preceding punctuation:

The first man’s speech said we must not “follow evil”, yet the second man said “You must do this”, leaving us confused.

None of the UK results match US style for the first quoted part.

G. The loony said we must not "follow evil horror writers," yet Opal disagreed.

All three UK systems lead to this:

The loony said we must not "follow evil horror writers", yet Opal disagreed.

which is different from how US style would punctuate it.

Time to summarise these results.

A, C, E and G gave the same results, whichever of the three UK systems I used. C & G gave results that matched US style too, but A & E differed from US style. This doesn't help towards me a decision, but just shows that UK style sometimes leads to the same results as US style, sometimes not.

B is tricky - system 2 matched US style, and differed from systems 1 and 3. I'm happy with either outcome.

D led to systems 1 and 2 agreeing with each other and US style, whereas system 3 led to a different outcome from everyone else, and one that I didn't like. I already suspected that system 3 - although it is very easy to apply - was weakest in some ways.

F Systems 1 and 2 agree, system 3 is different. (None of them match US style.)

So, systems 1 and 2 generally led to the same results, more often than I expected. No doubt that's why they are the mostly widely used two criteria of UK style. So it is down to a choice our of these two systems for me.

System 2 requires more knowledge of the original source, and more thought when used in fiction where the quoted words don't have a fully written-out original source. System 2 provides flexibility (since a quote of something like "Be quiet." could be cut off before or after the full stop, which changes whether the full stop/comma goes inside or outside the quotation marks), but that flexibility can be a weakness since it leads to inconsistency.

System 1 is simple to use, especially if you go for the shorthand publisher version: if the quoted material begins with a capital letter AND is a grammatically complete sentence then the full stop/comma goes within the closing quotation mark - if not, it goes outside. In most cases, I imagine the capital letter alone will be enough of an indicator to put the punctuation within the quotation marks. So it is a simple-to-apply rule that avoids most of the ambiguities and inconsistencies of the other UK style rules.

My job here is done!


If you're interested in this kind of thing I have many blog posts about aspects of writing. Some punctuation ones include ellipses, dashes, apostrophes, name initial capitalisation, serial commas,
capitalizing hyphenated compounds,

Where next? You might want to follow me and my work, or even buy my books. Many thanks!

Chasing Solace - February-March Blog Tour

The February-March blog tour for Chasing Solace is underway!

Mon 24th Feb: The Caffeinated Reader
Tue 25th Feb: The Bookwormery
Wed 26th Feb: Miss Known
Fri 28th Feb: Ramblingmads / Scintilla
Sat 29th Feb: Jessica Belmont
Mon 2nd Mar: A Novel Love
Tue 3rd Mar: Rosie Writes

Wed 4th Mar: Annie The Book Slayer (no review?)

"I love the development of the relationship between Athene and Opal, and Aegis (her battle suit A.I.) and Opal. The flash backs to Opal and Clarissa’s childhood were sweet and explain her need to find Clarissa so desperately, in more detail.
The description of the gigatoir ship was horrifying, incredibly atmospheric. Very filmic action. I could see these books being made into films.
The explanation for the Lost Ships and the Oracle’s worlds are fascinating. The description is slightly dreamlike, although Opal learns to navigate and control it.
It’s a tale of friendship, familial love, and what it means to be human. How do we make free choices when any choice we make will cause pain?
As with the first novel, I really liked the characters, the story was entertaining and gripping, and I want to know what happens next."
--Rosie Writes

"Chasing Solace is not an imitation of Lost Solace. Chasing Solace is well and truly a book driven by action.
Chasing Solace has grit and determination, sci-fi, armoured suits, aliens, family ties, horror elements and so much more. It’s a real tour-de-force in a fun sci-fi romp. It’s gruesome in places (which is great) and it’s a hell of a lot of immersive, entertaining fun.
Chasing Solace can of course be read as a standalone, but you’ll probably be missing out on a few good bits from the first story. Especially as Chasing Solace picks up pretty much where Lost Solace left off.
Chasing Solace is a great sci-fi experience full of fun and fear in equal measures."
--A Novel Love

"I really loved Chasing Solace. The blend of scifi and horror made my bookish heart happy. Karl Drinkwater is able to turn the expected into the unexpected. He manages to take concepts I thought were done already and make them super new.
There is a very creepy atmosphere in this novel. This is a very character driven novel. Opal is the main voice and I really enjoyed AI too. I feel as though Karl Drinkwater is talented when it comes to bringing characters to life and making them feel real. I love novels like that and that fact alone made me want to give Chasing Solace five stars.
I could not put this book down. This is such a fantastic scifi/horror novel with fantastic characters and a plot that surpassed my expectations. An easy five stars to give. Highly recommended! Rating: 5/5☆"
--Jessica Belmont

"Drinkwater does an extraordinary job of exploring the “other” in his books. Admittedly, none of us knows what an alien intelligence would be like. Would a sentient AI develop a sense of humor? Would a crystalline entity struggle with syllables? Would beings who measure their lifespans in millennia be compassionate? We have no way of knowing, but with his imagination Drinkwater explores alien intelligence in ways that feel distinctly different than the humans in the story.
Opal is a fascinating protagonist. Military trained, she is reluctant to take life unnecessarily. When the need arises, though, she is decisive and efficient. Her relationship with Athene is constantly evolving, especially as Athene evolves and develops with her own personality. Athene is a sentient AI, but she also is shaped profoundly by her relationship to and connection with Opal. As the story unfolds the two grow into an almost symbiotic relationship, and when either is forced to survive without the other, the sense of loss is palpable. Both Opal and Athene are strong and self-sufficient, but they are stronger together and they both acknowledge that fact.
The universe of Chasing Solace, or perhaps I should say the multiverse, is dark and forbidding. Racial disparities continue to plague humanity. A harsh militaristic government dominates. Poverty abounds, along with prejudice and oppression. Unlike some science fiction writers who imagine we leave those troubles behind us, Drinkwater’s future relies upon our basic character as a species continuing to manifest its most unpleasant aspects. I wish, as a human, that I could see more hope in the future. Unfortunately, as an observer of the present, I too wonder whether the future shows societal evolution or devolution.
Chasing Solace is not an unremittingly dark view of the universe, though. It is a universe where one individual–with the help of her AI friend–can make a difference. People matter, choices define us, and ultimately the future is what we make of it ourselves."

"I loved the first book in this series, and Chasing Solace did not disappoint. The action doesn’t let up, and I really enjoyed this. Bring on book 3!"

"I never thought the relationship between Opal and Athene could be even better than it was in the first book. I always had my suspicions that Athene would betray Opal. But when I started reading Chasing Solace, there wasn’t a part of me that doubt Athene’s loyalty to her. If she was ever going to do something against Opal’s orders, it would be for her protection, never to harm her. Witnessing how close their relationship got from surviving the first lost ship, flickered a switch in my brain, and I couldn’t imagine Athene as a bad guy anymore. And as an AI, she grew so much her “human” side that it felt as if Opal was talking to a friend or a sister, instead of a digital being.
I didn’t want this book to be told in any other way. There was something between the story and the pace that worked beautifully.
This is a book to read with an open mind and without any preconceived ideas of the universe. Simple laws of physics don’t apply. The universe can be a very strange place, and what might come as an absurdity can have some sort of “logical” explanation after all.
The only thing I could do was sit back and let the author take me on this journey.
Looking back on both books, I felt the series was a process of self-discovery for Opal. She learned how to trust, how to make friends, how to be hopeful, how to believe in herself, and live her life in her own terms. It was a selfless journey to understand the place humans have in the universe, and how irrelevant and wholesome that can be at the same time. The only thing we have to do is change our perspective."
--Miss Known

"They find the ship and Opal gets suited up and off she goes….and things get horrific.
The ship is a food production ship, they grow Chattel….animals for food, with less bone and more meat and something else is roaming the dark. When Opal finds something sticky and web like, my heart skipped at beat….not spiders!!!
No, not spiders exactly….a thing of nightmares..
This is non-stop action, with a strong Ripley-esque female character and her relationship with the AI Athene, a real friendship and they rely on each other. Gruesome, fun and emotional too.
Brilliantly immersive and entertaining. I can’t wait for #3 in the series."
--The Bookwormery

"The bond between Opal and Athene has grown, and I loved their banter and conversations. Seriously the highlight of the book for me is their relationship and the scary vibes that is the lost ship itself.
This lost ship is scarier than the first! We have more monsters/creatures, and though there are more ‘faces’ to them, it doesn’t make it any less terrifying nor did it make me anticipate any less, haha. I was on the edge of my seat as I read this! If you all ever glance at my twitter, I was screeching about it as I read it.
Opal is still one of my favorite protagonists ever and this is still up there on a level with Metro 2033 as far as the fear and monsters go in the SciFi horror world.
It’s going on my faves list."
--The Caffeinated Reader

Tour organised by Random Things Through My Letterbox.

Where next? You might want to follow me and my work, or even buy my books. Many thanks!

The Plaza DMC: Yoko Pwno, Tiderays & Tam's Twin Sister

I love live music. I try to go and see bands at my local venues, from under-18 acoustic guitarists in my local cafe, to bands in my local pub, to events that have more than one band so that you experience a variety of styles. This was one of my favourite gigs of 2018, and this for 2019.

Last night was another Dumfries Music Conference (DMC) / Plaza event, and it was excellent, and introduced me to three new bands. I write up these reviews so you can investigate the bands and maybe go to see them or like their Youtube videos or buy their music if they seem like your kind of thing! And I always encourage people to go and support live music. It's so important for the bands to have a good-sized and appreciative audience: then it feeds power back to them and you end up with something amazing.

Tam's Twin Sister (Instagram) were first. It's impressive how complex and beautiful music can be created with just two women and a guitar, when the voices and songs are so well done. Nothing else is needed. They coped really well with the fact that the venue was as cold as a barn at the start! A mix of haunting and upbeat songs I'd like to return to.

Tiderays were next (Facebook / Instagram / Web). They opened with a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” which I preferred to the original! The rest of their funky catchy songs were their own, performed with energy and attitude. I love it when the frontpeople aren't just singing or playing, but actually interact with the audience, enter that space, performing and giving energy to the audience and to their fellow band members. It was really memorable. At these events I always seem to be lucky enough to chat to the singers from at least one of the bands, and last night I had a good chat with the Tiderays lead singer, Eddie, during the break. It's easy to be intimidated by performers - you see them, so professional and confident and well-loved, and think "they wouldn't want to talk to me," but it's not true - I always find these people are down to earth and friendly and approachable, and probably love hearing that they were appreciated. All creatives want to know they're having an impact, whether they write books or perform in a band. So never miss a chance to tell people how much you appreciate them and their work!

Finally was Yoko Pwno (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Web). I had no idea what to expect when the band seemed to be made half up of PhD geologists in jumpers, but I was excited to find out! And wow. A brilliant mix of synths, fiddles, guitar and drums and beautiful vocals, with a bit of rap thrown in at one point. As with the Tiderays, there was loads of energy, and performance, and humour, the spaces all merging. Such a talented group, merging folk and electronic rock and pop and dance. People were jumping and the room had ceased to seem cold!

I loved this gig, and discovering all this new music. As with each time, I end up listening to and buying  more music, and counting myself lucky to have attended. I'd see any of these bands again if I got the chance. Support your artists! :-) And thanks to the organisers for another great gig.

Where next? You might want to follow me and my work, or even buy my books. Many thanks!

Cold Fusion 2000 - February Blog Tour

The exciting blog tour for Cold Fusion 2000 has finished - check out the stops and reviews below, plus extracts from some of them. :-)

10th Feb: Books From Dusk Till Dawn / Yes More Blogs
11th Feb: Me And My Books / Donnas Book Blog
12th Feb: Shalini's Books And Reviews / Books 'N' All
13th Feb: Cathy's World / So Many Books, So Little Time
14th Feb: Hair Past A Freckle / bytheletterbookreviews

"[Alex's] relationship with the opposite sex is what really makes this story. There is an innocence to it and made me reminisce of my younger self and past relationships.
I love the female characters in the story. They all bring something different to the story. Kelly, his sister, again reminded me of what life was like with an older brother and the squabbles. I loved how feisty she is. Natalie on the other hand, her friend, is more wiser than her years of which I think is down to her own family background making her grow up that little bit quicker. Lucy, well, you need to read this book to fully understand her character but she certainly makes for an interesting one.
Cold Fusion 2000 is not your straight forward romance/coming of age story. It does have a deeper meaning though, not to live looking back on life but to look ahead instead. By the end of the novel, I really felt a bond with Alex. I loved the beginning of the book also where the author cleverly transports the readers back, well if you are a certain age, to some truly classic song choices that flooded my mind with memories. If you’re looking for something a little bit different, I highly recommend this book."
-- bytheletterbookreviews

"I was captivated by this intelligent, witty love story which so perceptively explores the ties of Alex's past, the apathy of his present and the possibilities for his future.
The book opens with one of the best recaps of a character's past that I can ever recall reading; by using song titles (beginning with Ebeneezer Goode and ending with That Don't Impress Me Much), readers are taken on a whistle-stop tour of Alex's adulthood to date. In just a few clever lines we learn that he started a PhD in Physics but after his relationship with his girlfriend, Lucy ended, he left university and began teaching in a further education college; five years later, nothing has changed, he still lives at home and still hates his job. It's now the year 2000 and either the start or end of the millenium, depending on your viewpoint (it matters very much to Alex!) and as the story begins properly, it's clear that he has stagnated and is still living as a young person on the brink of adulthood rather than as a 28-year-old man.
A picture soon emerges of an intelligent but socially awkward man who spends more time in his own head than is good for him and whose social life is almost non-existent. He dreams of having a physics paper published but there's something so painfully chaotic about his thoughts that it's impossible not to pity him, even though he is often self-centred to the point of rudeness. Although his relationship with Lucy has been over for years, he doesn't seem to have been able to move on and is a rather sad and lonely figure. It's obvious that he is completely dissatisfied with his life but there comes a point where his mental health is clearly very fragile and it's difficult to see how he is going to be able to progress from this point.
Therefore, it's a pleasant surprise to see a very different side to Alex when Lucy suddenly appears in his life again. He isn't so obsessed with physics and his conversations with her about poetry and art are fascinating and really quite touching. I really warmed to his character at this point in the book because he begins to open up a little and allows himself to take risks even though it makes him vulnerable to being hurt again. Lucy is an intriguing character; the reader learns a little more about her than Alex is aware of, but nevertheless, there does seem to be something she is holding back - possibly from herself as much as from Alex.
It's hard to review Cold Fusion 2000 without giving anything away but in the latter part of the book, Alex has the opportunity to change his life and I was curious to see how he would react. This is often a very humorous read but it's also an insightful look at how a person can be deeply affected by life's disappointments and although I didn't fully warm to him initially, by the end of the novel I was desperate for him to be happy. There are two other significant women in his life, his sister, Kelly and her friend, Natalie and I really enjoyed seeing how their interactions evolve during the course of the story. Karl Drinkwater writes such beautifully nuanced, believable characters who can perhaps be a little irritating at first but then later reveal a totally different side to their personality. There's a real warmth to the writing too, with the importance of family being valued as much as romantic love, and I thought the depictions of Alex's extended family were wonderfully authentic.
Cold Fusion 2000 is brilliantly deceptive novel with little clues scattered throughout as to the truth - whatever that may be... It's a story about the impossible being possible - which can be interpreted a number of ways, but just as Alex is a physics geek who also loves art and poetry, so the book can be more than one thing at the same time.  How much is real and how much is fantasy is debatable and there are no definitive answers here so it very much depends on each reader's own analysis of the events. I also really enjoyed the information included about various artworks and the way in which they linked with the plot. I love books which take me out of my comfort zone and make me think and the cleverly structured, engaging and multi-layered Cold Fusion 2000 did just that. Highly recommended."
-- Hair Past A Freckle

"The opening chapter 1992 – June 2000 gives you a sentence run down of Alex’s year with a head nod to a song from that time. I absolutely love that, one wee chapter totally took me down memory land and I remember all of those songs, this book could have a wee playlist and it is a belter!
The book is very much relationships and personal growth but hugely and cleverly littered with nods to science, significance of numbers and some other wee delights that for me had to go look up or gab to someone else about. The relationships were reminiscent of some of my own from a time when I was much younger and I think Alex is a character pretty much any reader can, if not identify with, then appreciate in part, especially as the book progresses. Once Lucy entered I wanted to know exactly what was coming next, keeping me on my toes throughout. I have read and loved Drinkwater's other books, he branches into other genres, so if you haven't read them do check them out as they are all very different!"
-- So Many Books, So Little Time

"I felt Alex was a bit without focus and needed…something. And, something he did find. I won’t tell you what but will say it is worth reading to find out.
This book was well plotted, intriguing and well worth reading. They say it takes the right woman…and I think Alex did finally find her.
Did I enjoy this book? Yes
Would I read more by this author? Yes
4.5 Stars."
-- Cathy's World

"This was an amalgamation of physics, poetry, a fugue state, and life lived on a different plane.
The story was swirling depths where everything was open to interpretation. Subtle clues were hidden in the prose and in the depths of the characterization. The author wrote a love story but which occurred in a few seconds or 72 hours depending on how the clues were read.
Time condensed to a chapter and time expanded to a book when the author took his pen to write. This might sound like a love story, but it was about living a lifetime in a few days or a few seconds. Are we who we truly say we are? Do we exist beyond and within? Can we exist and not exist? Who is to say we don’t live multiple lifetimes on different planes.
The book was beyond the realms of logic into the tangents of possibilities. The characters were anchored in the realms of reality and imagination. It was surely a different read. It needed me to look into myself and beyond myself.
The book reminded me that I have also lived a lifetime in a few seconds, but they actually didn’t happen. Yet the joy and warmth of love was present in my heart. Then how can I deny it didn’t happen?"
-- Shalini's Books And Reviews

"I found myself rooting for Alex as he tries to make sense of his life and move on. Very different from anything I have read before, if I were to put it in a genre I would go for romance/family saga."
-- Books 'N' All

"The author really nailed the plot. I enjoyed that it was not a traditional love story. The characters were human and realistic.
A great story that was well written with some really well developed, and interesting characters!"
-- Donnas Book Blog

"I discovered a tale that was wonderfully written and gradually drew me in. I found it very difficult to put down. A story of a man who is lost, but needs someone to take the time and have the patience for him. Alex went from a man I wasn’t that fussed about to a man who I really liked.
I think this is a book for those who like something a little bit different, that is well written and has some wonderful heartwarming moments. I really enjoyed it and I would recommend it. "
-- Me And My Books

"What a clever author, digest every sentence and store everything. The more the story evolved and the more I softened to Alex who knew the Lucy of old so very well, even after all this time. Her thoughts and the intimacies that he had relived so many times. This is such a beaut of a storyline, go with your feelings and go with Alex’s. Brilliant!"
-- Books From Dusk Till Dawn

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