Project Isles – A Snippet

You may notice that my Blog and Website have been a tad quiet of late. Do not fear. This can only bode well for those waiting for my new book. I have now begun the actual writing on Project Isles, with the bulk of my planning and world building completed to a satisfactory level. I try never to do too much world building at the beginning, as my characters and places naturally develop as I write. Most of my best ideas come when I am in the middle of a chapter and can have a profound change on where the story is going.

Being a single book I am also blessed with the ability to chop and change a lot more than I was able to with the Valerious Chronicles. There I had to ensure all foreshadowing was 100% complete when publishing the first or second book in the trilogy. Writing Project Isles is a less structured task, with only a brief outline required before I dive right into putting the story to pen.

I foresee it being a lengthy project. So I will endeavour to keep you updated. As a little taster, here is a tiny excerpt from the Prologue, fully unedited and raw. It will give you an insight into what my first drafts generally look like, before they go through the meat grinder.

Until the next time, I hope your nights are full of wonderful stories and great company.

FIRST DRAFT EXCERPT: Project Isles:

Eva could smell her prey on the wind. It swept through the leaves up to her perch and smelt heavily of old sweat and dry mud. She crouched snugly between two of the larger branches, left fingers gripping her bow tightly, right fingers holding her arrow’s feather fletching, the string of her bow stretched fully.  

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My Top Picks – Part Two

Part two of my series on my biggest influences covers some lesser known things that have moulded who I am today. I will continue to cover some of the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me.

The Call to Ktulu:

Music plays a very large part in getting my creative juices flowing. Music can stir emotions that other mediums fail to. In many ways it requires you to really utilise your imagination as there is no visual stimulus. Metallica’s instrumental piece ‘the Call to Ktulu’ is one piece of music that is very important to me. I am referring to the version presented on their S&M album together with the San Francisco Symphony.

Why is this piece of music so important to me? Because it could be seen as a trigger for my choice to become a writer. Sitting on a bus for up to 8 hours a day whilst travelling through central Australia on a school trip, I was given ample time to listen to my Walkman. Metallica had opened my eyes to hard rock a year earlier and my tape got a good workout. None more than the Call to Ktulu. As soon as this track began I was taken away from that bus. Transported to a world of clashing armies, knights and demons, magic and mayhem.

I played out scenes of an epic tale in my mind whilst staring out of the window at the endless red blanket that is the aussie outback. The music fuelled my imagination. With every repeat of the track the story grew larger, clearer. By the end of a two week trip, I had to pick up a pencil and write the tale. And that is what I did when I got home. That story became the basis for the Valerious Chronicles. I have no doubt that without the Call to Ktulu to keep me company, Christill and Thibalt’s tale would have never been told.

X-Men (Comics and Cartoon):

One of my fondest memories as a child was going with my mother to the local shopping centre and finding that a new volume of the X-Men animated series had become available on VHS. This was well before the days of the internet and the only way for me to watch the show was through waiting months for the next cassette to become available. It was shown very rarely on TV in Australia giving me little opportunity to tape it.

I shudder to think how many times I watched each episode, glued to the TV to watch Wolverine and the X-Men fight the most dastardly villains ever to grace the TV. Much can be said about why X-Men is so popular. Strong characters, relevant themes and great writing perhaps to name a few. Its popularity is still on the rise. For me it was the first fictional universe to draw me in and create an obsession. There are few things that I liked as a child that I am still passionate about now. X-Men has stood the test of time.

My brother collected X-Men comics which I eventually inherited. They opened up to me the greater marvel universe and showed me how much more there was than just the animated show. I came to realise that there were thousands of people out there who liked X-Men as much as I did. It was my first introduction to true fandom. One could say it was the beginning of my transition to teenage nerd.

Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.

My Top Picks – Part One

What are my biggest influences? There are too many to cover in one post. So over the next few weeks I will be covering off on some of the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me, not only as a writer, but as a person.

 

The Lord of the Rings:

I will begin with the most obvious of choices. This covers both the books and the movies. I am not sorry to admit that I did not read the novels until after I’d already seen the first movie. Prior to that most of the fantasy novels I read were written by authors like Feist, Eddings and Weis and Hickman. But after watching Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring I found a new obsession.

To me the trilogy of movies summarise the Fantasy genre. It is a visual delight with set pieces and landscapes that make you wish you were born a hobbit. You have heroes and villains, elves, orcs and dwarves, battles, magic and political drama. In every sense it covers the things that make so many fantasy works what they are. The names are amazing, the characters strong. The story is one of good and evil with human drama and emotion the real focus. There is so much to learn from it.

Were it not for the movies it would have been many more years before I read the actual books. And, had that been the case, it would have been a lot longer before I decided to become a writer. But thankfully I picked up the trilogy and never looked back.

Many argue about how exciting the Lord of the Rings trilogy is. I love the books, but even I admit that there are parts where you feel like you are scraping nails against a blackboard. However I look at it as a foundation from which so much modern fantasy came. There are plenty of books which are better, but would those authors have been able to write those books without the inspiration and grounding that Tolkien provided? I don’t believe so.

Thus I attribute much of my desire to write epic fantasy to the Lord of the Rings. The writing is in every sense magical. There are lines from the books and films that make the hairs on my body prickle when I hear them. Scenes in the movies stir emotions in me that real world events fail to. I listen to the soundtracks when I write, for they throw images of Rivendell, Lothlorien and Minas Tirith into my mind. I can’t explain why, but I feel I have more of my own emotions invested in middle earth than in our earth. And I don’t regret it one bit.

 

Remember the Titans:

From an obvious choice to one less so. Everyone loves a good triumph over adversity story. Sport is one of the best mediums for it. I watched the mighty ducks and cool runnings as a kid. Practically everyone my age did. But the one movie that has stuck with me is Remember the Titans. I consider the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars to be outside of the normal catalogue of movies. They are an enigma of nerd royalty which would always win a competition for best movie. As such, taking them out of the running, I would name Titan’s my favourite movie of all time. It’s a big call, I know.

I have watched this movie countless times now. Every single time I am amazed at how much of an emotional rollercoaster it is for me. I swing from laughing, to shaking my head, to almost fist pumping in ecstasy as the movie plays out. At one point I almost struggle to hold back tears alongside the two main characters. Every time! For a movie to captivate me like that, it is doing something very right.

I have taken a lot from this movie with me in my journey to become a writer. The drama in my writing is heavily influenced by the character interactions in Remember the Titans. The varied cast of characters, though in many ways following established tropes, reminds me of what the right mix of personalities is. When I seek to place humour into my work I often think back to the lines in this movie which crack me up every time.

Most of all I am reminded that sometimes all you really need is an inspirational ending. I won’t necessarily put an inspirational ending in my own writing. But as soon as the credits roll on this movie I feel the desire to get to my keyboard and start typing. And the value of that can never be played down.

Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.

Review: On Writing by Stephen King

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Even if you aren’t a writer, I would say read this book. Part autobiography, part guide to writing, On Writing  had me nodding my head so many times, people on the train must have thought I was a bobble head. I will admit that I haven’t read a lot of his fiction. I am familiar with most of his stories through their TV, movie and comic adaptations. Yet I was fully engrossed for the whole book.

King’s early life is described in such a vivid way that I felt as though I was there with him. At other times I was sitting in a chair right beside him, listening to him talk on a lazy Sunday afternoon, recalling the days of his youth. I have a new found respect for the man whose life never seemed to be easy. I can appreciate how he is able to bring so much character and feeling into his own writing. That being said, it is obvious from his tips on writing that more than life experience has brought him success.

I will not go into the details of what he suggests every writer, new or established, do when practicing the skill. However the idea of having a toolbox from which to draw is one that I feel could translate to any art form. And that is why I would recommend the book to anyone who dabbles in some form of art. King provides not only advice on techniques, but a philosophy which inspires you to stop reading his book and get to it. Often I was torn between putting the book down and getting back to writing, or continuing to turn the engrossing pages.

The amazing thing, now that I look back on the book, is that I did not agree with all of his advice. Those who have read my blog before will know that I feel there are many different techniques and forms of writing. There is no absolute right or wrong, other than traditional grammar and structure, and therefore one shouldn’t feel as though you need to follow everyone’s rules. If you tried to you’d never get any actual writing done. You’ll find conflicting advice anywhere. However, despite my occasional disagreements, I found myself finishing the book and feeling invigorated. I felt like I have the power to turn on my computer and begin typing pure gold. For King to be able to do that whilst still have me questioning some of his advice, honestly amazes me.

One thing King mentions which I could not agree with enough is that without constant reading, particularly of authors who are considered masters, or books that are popular or acclaimed, one can never truly learn to become a better writer. To see examples of good writing, to absorb them properly, will do you more good than reading 100 guides on how to write. (Ironic really to make such a point in a book on writing advice.)

I don’t and will not hesitate to give ‘On Writing’ 5 stars. It strikes a fantastic balance between motivation, technique and biography. You don’t need to agree with everything he says, but you will feel like you have the capacity to achieve your goals once you have finished reading.

Rating: 5/5

Seeking out inspiration

florence

Each and every one of us seeks inspiration. It may be to paint a picture, write a story, or take a leap towards a new career. Whatever the reason we all require external stimuli to get the creative juices flowing, or preferably overflowing. There are so many options available to us. Let us take the internet as a brief example.

Healsville We live in an age where by reaching into our pockets we can press a few buttons, or even use voice commands, to access practically 99% of the world’s information. The height of physical exertion required to do so is reaching for your phone. There is no other word to describe it but astonishing.

Imagine going a thousand years into the past, pulling out an iPhone, and showing someone a live stream from the other side of the planet; or heaven forbid a Meme! Likely you would be burned at the stake, or at the very least put on trial for sorcery.

Sorcery Today we take it for granted. Don’t! The internet can be a treasure hoard of inspiration. Want to paint a picture of a toucan? Google it and you will get plenty of ideas. You’ll find help and pictures to allow you to achieve mastery of the toucan portrait. Want to write a story? There is literally no end to the advice you can find online. I mean that. Whilst you are reading advice, someone else is writing and posting more, so it never ends!

However there are times when you must look to other sources for inspiration. Recently I have found one in particular to be most effective for me. That is going places.

Montsalvat

Now these places don’t need to be far, in fact they can even be your backyard. Take a moment to step away from the TV, computer and iPad, and go for a walk. Hop into the car and drive to a local forest. Catch a bus to a museum. Go swimming in a lake, with or without clothes. Whatever you choose, make sure you take some pictures. Because it is easy to see something wonderful and fully appreciate it. It is a lot harder to remember it accurately when you are back at home seeking to draw on that inspiration.

Everybody has a phone on their camera now. When you see something which makes you stop and stare, take a quick picture. Collect all of these on your computer and over time build a library of inspiration.

Mitchell River Now this must come with a warning clause. Do not spend all of your time taking photos and not actually enjoying the scenery. That would be pointless. The photos are only there to act as a booster for when you get back home. You need to soak in the inspiration whilst you are actually there witnessing it.

Also take care not to get carried away with taking photos at the expense of the people you are with. It is fine to take a few quick snaps when walking through the old castle with your family. It is not acceptable to make them wait an hour whilst you catalogue every turret and stained-glass window.

Montsalvat A friend of mine once looked through my photos from a trip to Europe and about halfway through asked me why I had so many pictures of doors, windows and random houses. I explained to them that I like to write and when I write, every once and a while, the picture in my imagination isn’t as clear as it could be. In those moments I open up my photos and have a quick scan. Quite often I will find a picture that sets the juices overflowing once more and I am able to get the words out just as I needed them.

rode gardens

This might not work for everyone. But at the very least you will be getting a good lung-full of fresh air. Something priceless for those of us with office jobs.

Here are two of my favourite snaps that I go back to, which remind me of where I have been, and jump start the imagination.

Heidelberg

Austria

20 quick tips for writers

Writers can never get enough tips and advice from their peers. In an effort to give back from my own experiences here is a list of 20 things I’ve learnt.

1)      If you don’t enjoy writing, stop and look for a new job/hobby.

2)      You will always look back and think that you can improve what you’ve already written.

3)      When selling books to strangers, Book covers are more important than your blurb and often more important than your story.

4)      Anyone who says ‘write everyday’ obviously hasn’t got a full time job and a family.

5)      That being said, write when you can, as often as you can. Even if it is only 200 words.

6)      Your back, neck, hands and arms will suffer. Maintain posture and take breaks!

7)      Don’t write what you think will sell, write what you WANT to write. Otherwise it will be rubbish.

8)      You are way more excited about your writing than your friends and family. Remember not to talk about it all the time.

9)      If someone is helping you with reading/editing make sure you really show them how much you appreciate it.

10)   There is nothing wrong with tropes and clichés as long as what you write is entertaining.

11)   Finishing a story is hard. Every time you do, pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

12)   Some people plan, some people write as it comes to them. Neither approach is wrong or right.

13)   Grammar is incredibly important. Don’t trust your spellchecker.

14)   Writing can be isolating. Make sure you step outside into the real world just as much as you step into your imagination.

15)   Reading for enjoyment is one of the most important tasks for someone who intends to write what others will enjoy.

16)   Set yourself small goals. My first goal was to get 1 single person I didn’t know to read my work. So far I’m doing alright!

17)   Even with a lot of hard work, it’s tough to make a living out of writing. But never give up.

18)   It is very easy for us to become overly critical. Be careful in how you judge the writing of others.

19)   Google really is your friend.

20)   Stop to smell the roses every once and a while. Then get back to the keyboard, you’ve got writing to do!

Remember the most important piece of advice, don’t take someone else’s opinions, tips or advice as gospel. Different things work for different people and different people have different tastes. Find your own happy spot and just don’t forget to never stop learning.

Giving up on a book

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

English: Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know why, but I feel a little dirty when I give up on a book. Recently I finally picked up my second hand copy of Dune and tried to read it. I got about a third of the way through and then couldn’t bring myself to keep going. This is supposed to be one of the masterpieces, one of the must reads of the genre. Yet I was bored. Don’t get me wrong, I can see its merit, and understand why it is a classic. but I decided that I only have one lifetime to get through my unimaginably high reading pile.

A few weeks later I still feel like I cheated on my high school exams. Why? It’s not like Frank Herbert is going to be at my next office party, leading to that whole awkward, “Oh yeah, still haven’t quite finished your book.” conversation. Well if he did show up it would be a sure sign of the Zombie apocalypse anyhow.

I know that this is a common theme with some of the classics out there. Writing changes over time and oft you can read a book from a few decades ago and feel like a drill is slowly twisting into your eyeballs. This is an inevitable thing (Not the drilling…the changing writing styles). I always use Shakespeare as an example. Most people have to study his works to really appreciate them. I myself never studied a lot of it and get lost in his works. However he will always be a master of the art.

At times I have powered through a book I did not want to read and regretted it at the end. So what is the best thing to do? Keep reading and hope that at some point the light bulb turns on and you see what it is that you have been missing this whole time. Or move on to the next book and pat yourself on the back for giving it a try.

What books have other people struggled to get through?

Dawn of the Valiant is published!

Dawn of the valiant front cover

Every so often a book comes around that will keep you reading until the early hours of the morning. A book that makes you forget your grandma’s birthday. A book that grips you so tightly that you fail to feed the dog or pick the kids up from school.

Is this one of those books? Maybe…maybe not. But do you really want to take the chance that it isn’t!

The first novel in the Valerious Chronicles is now published and available for sale. I urge all lovers of Fantasy and Adventure to sample it and let themselves be taken away to a world full of magic, conflict and characters that will sing from the pages. It is a tale of swords and comradery , where the lines of good and bad are thin, and gods and men struggle in an eternal race for power.

You can find Dawn of the Valiant at the following retailers. Sample a copy for free and most importantly enjoy.

Amazon – Kindle eBook

Smashwords – Multi format eBook