Archive for » August, 2011 «

Summer Holiday

I’m officially on holiday now for the next 3 weeks. Yes I know 3 weeks. I normally only take 2 but I am going to need 3 this year I think. I’ll be back on September 12th with more lovely blog updates, until then I hope there is plenty of sunshine and everyone gets to enjoy it, not just me.

Being organised

Organisation is not really the strong point for many creatives and I am no exception. I have a messy desk, I dislike feeling like I have a schedule to stick to, I find to-do lists constrictive and I get bored if there is too much routine in my life. I love the unexpected for many reasons.

I have found, however, that being a full time writer requires some discipline. It requires promoting, time management and all sorts of organisationally related things. Running two companies makes this all the worse.

As I started getting more to do I would sit and think for at least ten minutes each day trying to figure out what I should be doing. As I found I had more to do this length of time got worse until I succumbed to writing at the very least the title of each project on a piece of paper. While I only had 5 projects I was working on at once this worked quite well. It was enough to remind me of all the different aspects and my brain could do the rest.

Then I created a second company and agreed to a whole bunch of other things. I also found all my admin related stuff began to build up and being a creative I didn’t like doing it.  As only projects were on my list the emails and non creative things weren’t always remembered. On top of that I then actually published my book and had promoting, social networking and all that to fuss with. I suddenly had a list of things to do daily.

This is where evernote came to my rescue. It’s basically a note system that can be used on any computer smart phone etc no matter where you are. What had become three pieces of paper of current project, ideas for future projects and admin tasks, became a bunch of loose notes on some program I could close if I wanted to ignore it and go do something unexpected.

My first created note listed all my ideas for books that I think are likely to be worth writing, some might be more film based but they were the best of the bunch. It’s nice to know its there rather than just a list of character names somewhere in the back of my head. I also created a note for all Flight’s projects and the next stages and things I needed to think about. I don’t use that note as often as my business partner and I frequently discuss that stuff but it’s still useful for not forgettin anything.

The best note I created though was the daily task list. The things that I struggled with the most in my bleary eyed morning state while I was waiting for the caffiene to kick in. Now when I first get up I just open up evernote and that particular note, go through the list doing what it says and usually by the time I’m on the last item I’m actually awake. I found this alone saved me at least an hour in the mornings. Rather than sitting scratching my head about what I should be doing I could just get on and do it and get back to the fun writing stuff when it was done.

My next set of notes was the dreaded to-do-list notes and I have to admit I thought about how I wanted to do these for a while. I didn’t want them to feel pressured. As a result I decided to break them down by month. I also decided not to name them to-do-list but each month they were created in. So in May I created the first one. I put on it everything I knew I needed to do. Things like write letter to so and so, work on this t-shirt design, finish book 2 etc. Fairly loose instructions. Anything I had to have done by the end of the month I bolded.

Then when it got to June I created another one for June and if something new came up I added it to June’s note. For the first time ever I could glance at these lists and just pick something. If I feel behind I pick something older, if I’m bored of that I pick something else. Everything that needs to be done for a deadline is being done and at any one time I have an idea of how busy I am but I don’t have a to-do-list. Nothing but the few bolded things require me to worry about them particularly. And because I just put stuff I ‘want’ to do on the list I can change my mind and take it off again if I decide it’s not that important later.

It reminds me of the quote that a canvas needs edges to make a good painting. I think I found my edges. Evernote.

Chains Of Freedom: Excerpt

Here’s the opening approx 1k of book 2, Chains Of Freedom, enjoy.

 

Kaihaitu Huatare lay on her back in the long grass, staring up at the star filled sky. It would not be long until dawn and another day but she had not slept yet. She had so much to think about that even when she closed her eyes her brain carried on as if she was wide awake.

Eventually Kaihaitu stood up. She could not sleep now. Her village would arise soon and as their leader she could not let them see her troubled.

“Hehu, Matiu,” she called into the surroundings. Two small rustles in the grass came towards her and then two capuchin monkeys bounded out and chattered excitedly at her as they clambered up onto her shoulders. She straightened her clothes where their hands and feet had pulled them about in their scurry to their current positions.

Kai dressed simply, in clothes made from animal pelts. The brown leather complemented the creamy colour of her skin and was all that she wore except for a belt with a knife and small pouch.

Standing for a moment, she looked towards the brightening sky to the east, reluctant to head back to the village and her responsibilities. With a sigh she picked up the bow and arrows on the ground near where she had been laying. Hehu and Matiu chattered indignantly at this as they had to hang onto her shoulders tightly so they did not fall off. She ignored them, knowing they were perfectly fine and started the trek back home from her refuge.

The sun had just started to show her face when she arrived back to the huts of mud, stone and grass that made up the tribes home. Several of the people were already up and fetched her some fruit from a basket sitting out in the open.

After saying thank you to the older woman and asking her how she was, Kai handed both monkeys one of the small fruits. They stopped their excited speech to eat breakfast. The silence was a relief to her and she thoughtfully munched on some more of the fruits as she walked through the rest of the village.

No one else talked to her until she reached a small wooden outpost, built overlooking the east side of the village and the valley stretching to the nearest beach. She relieved the night sentry of duty and climbed the rope to the wooden platform.

For a few minutes the young male that she had replaced stayed with her. He filled her in on the happenings of his watch. He was new to this as was almost the entire tribe.

They had only needed to place people on guard duty since they had fought with the redcoats. Before then their village had been peaceful.

The male villager due to take his watch after her, Henare, disturbed her from her thoughts. She frowned when she saw him. He was early, he was also annoying.

To be fair to Henare, Kai did like him and he was a very respected member of her tribe but he kept following her around and fussing over her. Now she was the leader of the tribe she was considered to be ready for marriage by the majority of the village. Although she had several winters more than the fifteen that they normally expected, she did not agree.

He, however, seemed to think that not only was she ready to be married but that he was the perfect match for her. If she wanted a man who could build her a sturdy house with good furniture and keep her well fed, she would have been pleased. She wished for someone different entirely, even if she did not know who she wanted yet, he was definitely not it.

Henare was everything her mother thought a good husband should be, strong, yet protective and caring to Kai, and although what he lacked in intelligence he made up for by working hard. He also had a certain rugged appeal to his looks. There was something missing she could not define, however.

She pretended she had not noticed him until his head appeared above the level of the wooden platform she stood on.

“Good morning Kai, your mother said you had only had some fruit for breakfast this morning so I thought I would bring you some food and drink and keep you company until my watch,” he told her.

“Thank you Henare,” she replied as Hehu and Matiu scampered off her shoulders and up into the tree nearby. They did not seem to like Henare and always ran off when he turned up. This alone would be enough to stop her from entertaining the thought of having him as her husband. Hehu and Matiu were always with her and were much more important to her than having a partner was.

“You look tired, you did not sleep again last night?” Henare asked.

“No, I was busy.”

“Busy doing what?”

“Just busy… I had some things to think about,” she replied, not wanting to explain.

“Anything I can help with?”

“Not really… Actually there is something you could do for me,” Kai smiled, thinking of a way to get him to go away, “my mother needed help with her roof, it’s leaking in one corner.”

“Oh that, I fixed it already,” he said, looking very pleased with himself.

“Thank you.”

“You are welcome. I am sure it was not that which kept you awake all night, however.”

“No it was not.”

Kai lifted her hand up, stopping him from replying. She had heard something in the distance, away from the village and listened and looked intently up ahead. He knew better than to say anything.

For a few minutes they only sound that could be heard was the rustling in the nearby tree as Hehu and Matiu moved about. She then saw two redcoat men slowly creeping through the undergrowth. They had not noticed Kai and Henare watching them as they were obviously hunting something.

Suddenly one of them raised his gun and fired, narrowly missing Hehu. Kai instantly yelled out. Hehu and Matiu both ran down the tree towards her as she climbed down from the look-out post.

Another shot rang out and Hehu squealed and then stopped moving. She called out again as the two redcoats started to jog over. She picked up the motionless monkey as Matiu ran up onto her shoulder and tried to burrow into her neck, scared.

Inception: A Review

I have been in two minds about seeing this film for absolutely ages. I have a lot of dreams and was wary that a film all about manipulating dreams would have a very negative impact on my dreams. I was also quite wary of the fact of the only two films on my very much banned list one of which was directed by the same person as Inception. As such I didn’t go to see the film at cinema ( in case I would want to walk out part way through) but waited until a convenient time to watch it with my most trusted film critic.

Thankfully the film had none of the problems I was afraid off, in fact it had quite the reverse affect on my thoughts. The film was much much lighter than I was expecting and although it dealt with some pretty difficult issues that I won’t mention here, it handled them amazingly well.

Although the main plot of the film was to do a particular job before they ran out of time I was pleased to note the film actually spent a good deal more of it’s time focusing on the affects of the issues, and other things in peoples lives, had on the dream they created. That the things we dwell on, good or bad, come out in what we do, whether we want them to or not.

I really loved this idea as I personally feel that it’s something an artist or anyone who creates can never be too careful about. We create from the input into our lives and the important things to us. Therefore, what we watch, read and take in, in our every day lives, as well as the state of our own emotions and hearts, comes out in our work. It’s incredibly hard to write a light fluffy poem about sunshine and clouds when you’ve just watched The Dark Knight and you’re still really bitter and angry about the fact someone crashed into your car in the car park that morning and drove off.

It’s a pure example of what goes in must come out and I think that’s true for everyone, not just creative people. Therefore, we have to be relatively guarded with what we watch and read if we want to be careful what comes out of us.

Another thing Inception did well was the whole notion of accountability. For a good chunk of the film only one other person knew of the main characters issues and rather than telling everyone or being angry with him she gently helped him through working it out, offering her support and encouraging him to open up to her. In doing so it gave the main character the support and courage he needed to face his own issues and deal with them.

I would hope anyone I created anything with would have the same understanding and encouragement with me if some of my issues came out in my work, and that, as a result, whatever we created together would be a lot better for it.

In terms of the cinematography the film was, in short, amazing. I really do feel a little annoyed I didn’t go see it on the big screen. However, I’d actually be defying the films main premise if I had. It’s important to be careful what we see, read and let feed us emotionally.

Author Interview: Aman Anand

My next author is another uk based one and you may well recognise the name as I reviewed one of his books a few months back. Here’s his interview.

Tell us about your latest project.

I am currently working on an ongoing series of short stories called the G.C.P.U. (which stands for Global Crime Prevention Unit). The plan is to release each issue fortnightly and for the length of each issue to be between five to seven thousand words. So far I have released the first three parts of the first story arc, which is called The Kindle Murders. Eventually, I will bundle each story arc into novellas and give the reader two ways of following the series.

I came up with the idea because I think an aspect of the indie publishing revolution that has been overlooked is form. Writers now enjoy a freedom that they have never been afforded in human history. Whether you want to write an 8,000 line epic poem or a short story about the debt ceiling in America, there is now a medium for you to release your work, you are no longer confined to the economies of printed books. And as the e-book audience continues expanding exponentially, many writers will find a market for their work.

So the G.C.P.U. is an attempt at experimenting with form, adapting some of the practices normally associated with comic books and television shows. So far, the feedback has been positive and I am really enjoying working on the project.

You mention being able to experiment because of the Indie publishing revolution, how do you feel about the changes to publishing and ebooks in general?

I think the changes we have seen in the past few years liberate writers from the gruelling submission process and those dreaded slush piles.

Most importantly, it grants the writer complete freedom in terms of both subject matter and the form their work takes.

However, there is a fear that over the next few years there is going to be a flood of self-published work and it may put off readers from going down the indie route. However, as long as we ensure our work is well-edited, I think that this fear will prove unfounded.

How do you make sure that your own work is well-edited?

I have two friends, both of whom are English graduates like myself, proofread my work. But now that I am writing more regularly it feels unfair to continually burden them with my work so I will be looking to hire an editor or a proofreader.

When and why did you start writing?

I began writing when I was fifteen – back then I wanted to be the next great songwriter. I still have the album of lyrics I wrote that particular summer. They are pretty atrocious – hopefully they will never see the light of day!

What lead you on from song writing to story writing?

My primary interest was storytelling and there were limitations to what I could achieve within a pop song. I also did not read as much as I do now and at that point music was a far bigger influence than literature was. I also found that I was a lot better at writing than I was at songwriting, not that that would be difficult given how bad the songwriting was!

What’s your favourite genre to write and what’s your favourite genre to read?

In terms of writing, I am torn between literary fiction and sci-fi. I would argue that the best of both genres fulfill a similar function, but the former delves into the past (and on occasion, the present) while the latter casts light on what our futures could be.

In terms of reading I mostly read literary fiction, but at present I am reading a lot of non-fiction to help me research a few projects I am working on.

What inspires you?

Many, many things. This was a problem for the longest time, but I had a breakthrough with my novel 2032. The novel functioned as a black hole that allowed me to absorb a kaleidoscope of influences; from great writers to football commentators, from inaugural speeches to cooking recipes.

I’m not sure I will ever have that much freedom in a project again, hence the reason I am working on quite a few projects simultaneously.

Working on more than one thing at once can be difficult for some people, how do you juggle them all?

Apart from with 2032, which contains a wide variety of styles and themes, I find that I end up feeling guilty if I am only working on either a science fiction or a literary work. But when I work on them simultaneously my writing is both stronger and more prolific.

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

Here is a little list of my current projects:

1. I am working on a series of flash fiction collections about each of the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues. There will be seven flash fiction stories in each collection, with the subject matter varying significantly between each flash fiction story. I recently released the first collection Lust and will soon be releasing Pride.

2. I have been working on a big science fiction/fantasy project for the best part of ten years. Earlier this year I finally started writing it and am now 18,000 words into the first draft of the first book. I hope the have the first book out by November.

3. Finally, I am working on a literary fiction project that is partly an offshoot from the final chapter of my novel 2032. It will concern a wealthy American family and will be set in the first decade of the 21st Century.

If you would like to check out some of the books Aman mentions, here are the links:
2032
U.K. Customers – http://amzn.to/oAMvzi
U.S. Customers – http://amzn.to/ot2oeU
The Kindle Murders: Part One
U.K. Customers – http://amzn.to/p7TBNV
U.S. Customers – http://amzn.to/qQKjCY

Background details: Book 3

Sherdan and Anya’s world

Now that there has been some more character development and some basic ideas of what’s going on has been established we can start setting up the world around the main characters. Figure out where they live and why and all the important details like that.

We know there is some kind of compound and a fairly large number of people so a city or edge of a city is best, and it needs to be defensible, so a port city. The only port cities I can describe well are Ipswich and Bristol in the Uk. I grew up near Ipswich and now live in Bath so Bristol is probably best for me wanting to check out anything last minute. Bristol is also the bigger of the two, I believe, and has a better network of public transport, as well as having the most strategic value in terms of nearby locations.

The story is sci-fi, end of the world stuff, so potentially set a few years in the future but not too many. Maybe 2020. I’ve always liked that number. It also gives me 9 years of back history where I can make it all up rather than following what’s already happened and having to stick to rules.

Moving in a little on their ‘world’ let’s decide how big this compound actually is. Research would be good at this point. How many people live in Bristol? This guys only had 9 years to displace people from their homes and I doubt he’ll have managed more than a few thousand without incurring the wrath of the Uk Military. Looking on Google maps for the areas with big apartment blocks, or open spaces, possibly even one of the Universities could have been Sherdan’s starting point. So mapping out an area about 5,000 people big in Bristol with a key structure or two would be a very good start.

Another key decision is how these ‘special abilities’ are spread and if everyone with one has come to join Sherdan’s group. If he started in the University, has he been spiking the campus coffee shop with some kind of drug? Possible idea, though there are many to choose from at this point. Some research into enzymes, drugs and spreadable things like viruses would be useful for this part.

From the world point of view what is Sherdan to them currently? An odd ball with a small cult? A uk threat or possibly even a world threat? Barely registers on the radar? In terms of a series barely registering on the radar gives us time for more stories, plots and development before we’re likely to hit mass end of the world stuffs. At the worst a small cult that Bristol authorities have begun to look into. May have made national news for some focus on the super powers, and it’s highly likely the local news have mentioned him.

From Anya’s point of view we need to decide some things about her church. If Sherdan’s only made local news then it makes some sense Anya is more local. She’s definitely got to be in the uk too. Do the church perhaps know more than the average person? They do have the whole grapevine flow of information between Churches, especially of the same denomination. It’s highly likely to be useful taking a look at Revelations while putting together her back-story. What do they think will happen when the world ends?

The other big question about Anya is how she managed to get into Sherdan’s compound and what kind of resistance did she meet. I think we can assume she doesn’t have an ability so she will have snuck past people that did. Seeing as she relies on the power of God, by fasting, it might be useful to research miracles that seem fairly normal for God to do. Healing is pretty standard but what other things do people say God has done? All could be things that have happened to Anya to get her into the compound.

So Research list

  • Bristol population.
  • Map are of possible locations for compound.
  • Viruses, Enzymes and drugs.
  • What authorities check out cults and how many reports they need to do so.
  • Local church denominations and what they believe.
  • Revelations.
  • Common miracles of God.

For more info on this book and all previous posts head here and look under Book 3

Her Daughter’s Dream: A Review

Her Daughter’s Dream is the second book in the series by Francine Rivers. This book follows Marta from the first book until her death, Hildemara from the first book until she’s in her 90’s, Hildemara’s daughter Carolyn, Carolyn’s daughter May Flower Dawn and then finally, her daughter, Faith. As you can see that’s quite a lot of daughters and the book pretty much brings everything up to the current age.

It leaves off exactly where the previous book ends so I’d actually recommend making sure you’ve got this book sitting in the tbr pile when you start the first one. Francine Rivers seems to be the kind of person who likes doing that with her series books. I had the same problem with her Mark of the Lion trilogy.

I actually prefered the sequel in this case as well. I don’t know for sure if it was because the more modern lives of Carolyn and Dawn were easier to relate to or they just made more mistakes growing up similar to mine but I found I empathised with the two of them more than I had with the previous two. This book also managed to make me cry at several points, very suddenly at one point too. Having a box of tissues handy while reading may well be very wise.

With the conflict between the first two women and the resulting conflict it causes between the next two I admit I was expecting some kind of working through or a resolution at some point during the two books and I wasn’t dissapointed. Although it wasn’t possible to entirely resolved everyone with everyone, (five generations can’t all easily live at once) they did manage to sneak in a few well thought through plot points to make sure Hildemara understood Marta did love her.

While both books focus more on the females of the family than the males there is still some story around the relationships each woman has with their husbands. Some of those men sure had to put up with a lot as well. I felt sorry for them on more than one occasion. They didn’t help either though in some cases. A lot of them had quite the desire to sign up for the military in some way or another. With all the other issues the girls faced it made quite a few of them worse.

Over all I’d be very surprised if Francine Rivers didn’t manage to touch on at least one issue most daughters have with their mothers. There were quite a lot of relationship struggles and misunderstandings and with any luck readers will be able to look at their own relationships in a fresh light. Misunderstandings are sometimes so easy to form and so hard to get rid of.

Discoveries

While I am on the net I spend a lot of time researching different things. Sometimes it’s book related research, sometimes completely random stuff like who played so and so in the film I just watched. Occasionally when I’m doing this I come across a little gem of information which usually causes me to be distracted while I explore further.

Pieces of Eight

When I was doing research into book 1 I briefly looked up when pieces of eight were used as legal currency and subsequently found that they were actually spanish dubloons cut quite literally into pieces in a similar manner to how you’d cut a cake into eight pieces. A spanish dubloon is four in a normal dollar therefore there are thirty-two pieces of eight in a dollar.

Contralto’s

While browsing wikipedia looking at singers, a certain singer who shall remain nameless, I found mention that she was a contralto rather than a soprano (soprano’s sing high). Naturally I clicked on the word to find out what wikipedia thought a contralto was. A contralto is someone who sings much lower than the average soprano voice almost to the point where they sing in a similar range to the highest male voice. It also turns out I’m a contralto and the reason I have struggled to hit the high notes is not because I’ve got low range but because my range goes a lot lower than I had previously realised. Contralto’s are also one of the rarest singing types.

Stargate special effects

In the first few episodes of Stargate sg-1 the stargates opening kawoosh is actually just the image from a camera underneath a stone falling into a bucket of water. It is one of the cheapest special effects in the whole thing and it is arguable one of the most important. They even named a company after the kawoosh noise.

Karate Kid (the original)

Noriyuki ‘pat’ Morita is the guy that plays Mr Miyagi. Most people know that and are ok with it. What most people don’t know is that he was born in California, actually had an American accent, and faked all the cute quirky Japanese accent and antics for the Karate kid films. He was also trying to be a comedic actor rather than the serious kind of thing these set of films demanded of him. He’s also the voice of the emperor of China in Mulan.

Van Gogh

This one was something I learnt on twitter. A very kind friend sent me a message when they heard my first book sales figures telling me I had smashed van gogh’s lifetime sales record. In further research I found that during his lifetime Van Gogh only sold 1 painting. He painted somewhere in the region of 900 paintings before his death at 37 but only 1 of those 900 sold. Makes my sales figures on my book look very very impressive.

The Plan: August 11

Last Month

July was one very full on month. I got lots done but also turned 25 and celebrated my 5th wedding anniversary. Junk did launch, though not quite in the manner expected, and I pretty much did everything I wanted to. Pretty much anyway. Here’s some of the stuff I did.

  • Modeled our first t-shirt prototype and ordered a second.
  • Hand wrote approx 10k of book 2
  • Typed approx 35k (Including emails and blogs)
  • Spent about 25 hours reading
  • Spent about 40 hours working for Junk
  • Spent about 10 hours working for Flight
  • Spent about 20 hours promoting book 1
  • Spent approx 10 hours formatting and sorting out book 1 for print.
  • Sent 80 emails
  • Spent 10 hours on Skype doing business.

Promoting of book 1 yielded me two very lovely book reviews. The first one got me 4 butterflies out of 5 and you can read the review here. The second was by The Romance Reviews website and was one of the loveliest reviews I’ve had despite only being 3 out of 5 stars, you can read that one here.

On top of all the reviewing goodness I got picked for the facebook group Book Junkies August group discussion book along with two others. The participants are reading the book currently to discuss it on August 15th-18th and there is still plenty of time for anyone else to join in if they want to. Just head over to the facebook event here and click attending (worth doing even if you’re not 100% sure so you can get updates). I’m going to be giving out an advanced copy of book 2 to some lucky peeps that turn up to discuss. It will be a little delayed after the discussion as it’s got some editing stages to go through but the winners will get it before it goes on sale.

Junk is also on facebook as I’ve recently said and taking orders so I’d really like to encourage you to head over to Jnk Clothing and click the like button. There will be facebook fanpage only events and chances to win prizes over the future weeks and months.

Finally I finished book 2’s first draft and have come up with the working title of Chains Of Freedom for it to go through editing.

This month I don’t plan on doing huge amounts. I’m on holiday for the last two weeks and I expect will still be very caught up in business related things over the first few. If everything goes well I might get second draft of Chains Of Freedom done and potentially final draft of the two shorts for the collaboration in works. Either way it shouldn’t be too long before I can announce a release date for something new.