Gog & Magog

Some time ago I wrote a short story for a friend who was asking for tales based in the city we live in, Melbourne. This struck me as an interesting request as, for those who have visited Melbourne, Australia, you will know it is a city which is diverse and rich in cultures from all parts of the world. Rather than try to capture all of what makes Melbourne what it is, I attempted to pick just a small element of that, and splash in what I love the most; Fantasy.

As a child I always had fond memories of visiting Royal Arcade in the city center and having the statues of Gog & Magog look down at me. When I think of Melbourne I also always picture the vivid street art which covers our alleyways and side streets. So I hope you enjoy this short tale as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Gog & Magog

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Royal Arcade – Melbourne

“Only an hour till it begins,” said Sal, scratching the heat rash on her neck.

Her new partner spun around in shock. He wiped the hair from his sweaty forehead and gulped over the lump in his throat.

Sal caught his eye and then noticed the wet patches all over his grey shirt. “Relax mate, they’ll come through. At least they have in the past.”

He swallowed once again, though this time it caught in his throat and he began to sputter.

Sal shook her head and looked up. Staring down ominously from beside the clock were the statues of Gog and Magog. The arcade was silent – eerily so. She had watched the shoppers drift by, stopping to buy macaroons and deliciously overpriced chocolate, before spending all their money on jewellery. By the time the sun set, the shoppers had left, including a bunch of acne-scarred adolescents who had reluctantly stumbled up the stairs from the Dungeon of Magic.

“What’s going to happen?” he stuttered.

Geez, where did they find this kid? Sal shook her head. Twenty years she’d been with the Bureau. Twenty years of keeping the world safe with no credit but a pat on the back from her superiors. “What’s your name again?”

“Russell.”

“My dog’s name is Russell,” Sal replied, not taking her eyes from the statues. “I’m going to call you John.”

Russell’s mouth opened but then quickly shut.

They’re making them with less backbone than ever. She pulled out a pistol and handed it to him. “Our friends up there are going to wake up and help us make sure that tomorrow we have a city to live in.”

He hesitantly took the gun, gripping it loosely as though it might bite. “And what exactly is going to happen?”

Sal sucked her lips and let out a frustrated breath. “Blighters,” she replied curtly. “Been appearing for over sixty years.”

Russell looked even more confused than before. “Appearing? From where?”

“Who knows? Since mankind decided to go and split the atom we’ve had to deal with them.”

“Why didn’t they tell me any of this?” he asked.

“Can’t trust you. Who’s to say you won’t go spreading state secrets to the public?”

“But I could go tell them now,” Russell replied incredulously.

Sal smiled. “After tonight, you won’t want anyone else to know what really goes on in the shadows.”

“But-“

“John, stop talking. Only fifty five minutes left.”

 * * * 

It didn’t happen slowly. It happened all at once, catching Russell unaware and causing his heart to leap to his mouth. The two statues began to move, their pine carved bodies springing into action and scaling down from their perch beside the famous Gaunt’s clock. 

“Cutting it fine this time, gentlemen,” Sal called out.

Gog and Magog stretched out their muscles, patted the dirt from their red and cream outfits and shuffled over to the front of the jewellery store.

“Good evening, Miss Sally,” said Gog. “And may I say you look very fine this evening.”

“Thanks, G. You’re looking pretty handsome yourself. New paint job? Or have you been working out?”

Gog blushed, “You are too kind.”

Magog let out a cough that sprayed dust onto the floor. “Forgive my interruption, but how long do we have left?”

“Ten minutes,” answered Sal.

Russell had taken on the colour of spoilt milk.

Gog eyed him with suspicion. “Is this young man quite himself? I suspect he may faint. We would not want a repeat of last year.”

“I remember last year,” replied Magog grumpily. He turned his hip to show them a dent in his rear end. “Bullet nearly took off half my arse!”

“This one’s got more pedigree,” Sal assured them. “Don’t you, John?”

Russell was still staring at the statues with the queasy look of someone who was sorting through rotten fish.

“Talkative, this one,” said Magog.

“Yep, well come on, the city isn’t going to save itself.”  Sal turned and began to strut down the arcade.

Walking past a shopfront full of babushka dolls, Gog and Magog shuddered and let out curses. “What kind of nightmare graveyard is this!” cried out Magog.

“Relax, M,” replied Sal. “They aren’t Sleepers like you. Just dolls.”

“That’s what you say. Took your people twenty years before they realised we were here.”

“Can’t blame us, M. You only show yourselves once a year. How are we supposed to know?”

Magog grumbled. “Bloody humans. Don’t know why we bother helping you.”

“Because, old chap, the alternative would be a life with the Blighters,” answered Gog.

“No more time for reminiscing,” said Sal, pulling a second pistol from her holster and cocking it. “Time to dance.”

Russell stared down at the gun in his hand and the fake police uniform they had forced him to wear. He should have just finished his arts degree.

 * * *

The alley was a teenager’s paradise. Graffiti covered the walls, spreading out onto three huge dumpsters standing to the side. Russell followed Sal and the two statues, eyes darting around nervously at every shadow. A couple of pools of rainwater dotted the asphalt. There was no one around. 

“This is it,” said Sal. “Five minutes.”

“What am I supposed to do?” asked Russell.

“You’ll see,” replied Magog, taking his flail in both hands and swinging it about. His hand slid familiarly along the chain, making sure the spiked ball on its end was secure.

Gog stood to the side, peering down the alley with a frown. His hands were hidden behind the wooden shield in his grip.

Their anxiety grew. A tram rattled past. Pigeons fluttered from between the dumpsters and out of the alley. Russell’s palms were so sweaty he worried the gun would slip from his grip.

They heard a faint whistle. Sal lifted her gun and Russell hesitantly followed, though he had no idea what he was pointing at. A gust of wind swept into the alley and hit them square in the face, throwing their hair up and causing them to gasp. The whistling grew louder, more high pitched, then – silence.

Russell’s finger twitched on the trigger, eyes scanning the alley for any sudden movement. Gog and Magog slowly began to step forwards, marching further into the alley.

Sal, noticing Russell’s unease, broke the dreadful silence. “Alright, listen up, John. I’m going to fill you in on what you are risking your life for.”

Russell listened intently but kept his gaze on the two walking statues.

“Every year, at the summer solstice, Earth gets invaded.”

Russell swallowed. The lump in his throat had grown.

“Bureau still doesn’t know jack about the Blighters,” she continued in a hushed voice. “Everything we throw at them only slows them. There’s no way to put them down for good.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Russell replied under his breath.

 Sal smiled. “But we can block off their gateway and send them back to whatever hell they came from. That’s where our friends come in. The Sleepers popped up same time as the Blighters and thank god because we’d be screwed without ‘em.”

“Huh?” replied Russell.

Sal sighed. “Doesn’t matter.”

“Why here? Why Melbourne?” asked Russell desperately

Shrugging her shoulders, Sal said, “Who knows. Maybe they really like the coffee.”

A shrill noise interrupted them, like an angle grinder tearing through concrete. Russell shoved his fingers into his ears.

Long lines of white and blue light shot across the alley walls. The light ran along the walls in jagged patterns, splitting apart the graffiti like a jigsaw and illuminating the wet asphalt in a harsh glow.

“Get ready!” shouted Sal over the high-pitched squeal.

Russell’s jaw dropped. The Blighters were graffiti. No, not graffiti, copies of the graffiti! The colourful tags and pictures had come to life.

They were peeling themselves off of the wall, ripping free from the bricks and stepping into the alley. Then a mouth opened on each of the Blighters, revealing a horrible maw full of sharp teeth.

Russell’s hands shook as moving, breathing copies of the graffiti shrieked and turned to charge at them.

Gunshots rang as they both pulled hard on their triggers. The bullets found their marks, tearing holes in the multi-coloured pictures and words heading their way.

“Don’t let them touch you,” shouted Sal. “They’re called Blighters for a reason.”

Even the two stubborn pigeons who had been devouring an old waffle took to the sky in fright. Russell watched as one of the Blighters caught a fleeing birds in its mouth. It exploded in a puff of feathers, replaced by a small picture of a pigeon which floated to the alley floor. The bite of the Blighter had just turned the frantic pigeon into a paper cutout. Panic gripped him. He fired more shots at the oncoming creatures.

Gog and Magog were standing by, ignored by the Blighters peeling themselves off the wall.

“Why aren’t they helping us?” yelled Russell.

Sal leapt backwards, dodging the gaping mouth of a Blighter that had taken the form of a sour faced rapper. Her gun jumped up, sending a bullet right between the rapper’s eyes. The Blighter crumpled to the floor but was still moving. “They are waiting for the right moment.”

More pictures were filling the alley. A group of names had sprung from the bricks and were advancing on them with as much of a snarl as moving words could muster. Those that were shot yelped in pain and slowed their advance, but Russell could already see some of the earliest targets recovering. Sal was right, they couldn’t stop them, only slow them down.

A blue tag spelling ‘Frizbee’ launched itself at Russell. He screamed and fell backwards, just avoiding it’s snapping teeth. The letters loomed threateningly over him and he lifted his gun. The Blighter wrapped its teeth around the weapon and Russell found himself holding a paper cut out of a pistol. He threw it down and scrambled away on all fours. 

Sal saw his desperation and put a bullet right into the ‘B’ of Frizbee, sending it stumbling to the ground. “Anytime now guys!” she called out to Gog and Magog.

The Blighters now filled the alley, snapping at everything they could find. Dumpsters and beer kegs turned to paper pictures and drifted to the asphalt. The two statues shared a quick look and nodded.

Russell watched as the flail soared through the alley. Magog twirled around, pummeling the Blighters with satisfying crunches. They parted before him, smashing against the walls, lifted from the ground by his powerful strikes.

Gog waited until his companion had cleared the area and then reached behind his shield. His hand came out in a triumphant gesture, holding a thick brush that was covered in gooey paint; paint that swirled with different colours.

Russell was standing beside Sal, furiously swinging a milk crate in front of him. She was running out of bullets. Two spent cartridges lay on the floor by her feet and the Blighters kept coming.

Gog looked around. The walls were quiet. New Blighters had stopped entering. He smiled. It was time to save the day.

He leapt to the closest wall and began to run the paint over the graffiti of a zebra. The paint made no mark on the wall, but as he spread it, the zebra shaped Blighter in the alley faded away with an angered scream. He moved to the next section; a bright yellow tag spelling out the artist’s initials. His paint brush moved back and forth over the graffiti and the corresponding blighter disappeared, its link to Earth severed by Gog’s mystic paint.

Now the invaders were aware of Gog and Magog, and knew their peril. Forgetting Sal and Russell, the Blighters all turned and ran at the Sleepers.

“Just try an’ stop us!” Magog growled, swinging his flail around and knocking the colourful Blighters away from Gog.

Sal grabbed Russell. “We need to keep them off Gog. He’s the only one who can remove their link to this world.”

Having no idea what she was talking about, Russell ran after her with the milk crate in hand. Sal continued to fire, each shot ringing in their ears. Gog ran about frantically, covering the graffiti in his gooey paint, sending more and more of the Blighters back.

Russell smacked away with the milk crate, pushing the Blighters away from Gog. A face with a long trunk and tusks hanging from it appeared before him. It came with a rampaging mass of swinging arms that reached for him. He swung out with the crate. The Blighter caught it within its mouth and Russell saw his milk crate shrink into a picture and float slowly down to his feet. He gulped as the imposing figure of Ganesh bore down on him. He saw the mouth open to suck him in and was paralysed with fear. Then the Blighter shuddered.

Gog ran his brush over the wall covering the spray-painted Ganesh as quickly as possible. Exhaustion lined his wooden features. The Ganesh thrashed furiously, trying to hold onto its link to Earth, and in its final throes dived at Russell.

Russell closed his eyes and screamed but was saved by the swift stroke of Gog’s brush.

 However, the act placed Gog in danger. The panicked Blighters all shifted attention to him. A snarling Frankenstein head moved perilously close to Gog. Gog looked for the matching picture on the wall. It was too far away.

The Frankenstein opened its mouth and moved in for a bite, only to find Magog stepping in to block it. Gog dived out of the way, running towards the Frankenstein on the far wall to aid his friend.

 With a defiant growl, Magog sent his flail at the Frankenstein. The head dodged the attack and darted in to bite him across the shoulder.

Russell heard Sal scream and watched as the grumpy little statue turned into a paper cut out and flopped lifeless to the asphalt.

The sight sent Gog into a frenzy. He sped along the wall, scattering paint with rage over every inch of colour. Sal lifted her pistol and emptied half of her clip into the Blighter that had killed Magog, slowing it down long enough for Gog to paint over the Frankenstein on the wall.

Russell could only run. He dodged between the frantic creatures and ran away from the fight.

 Once far enough away he swung about and saw Sal Gog fighting off the final few Blighters. The last Blighter faded away with an angered scream. Then an eerie silence again filled the alley.

  * * *

Sal had been quiet since they’d saved the city. They talked for a bit afterwards. Sal had wondered whether the agents protecting the NGV had pulled through.

He watched her say goodbye to Gog, whose eyes were downcast. The statue glanced over at Russell and nodded. Russell moved to wave, but then decided it best not to. They then watched him climb back up the wall of the Royal Arcade, to take his position next to the clock.

Sal joined him and said, “We did our best.”

“Won’t people notice Magog’s absence?”

“The Bureau will put an ordinary statue there. Not a Sleeper … Just a statue.”

Russell sighed. “Can I ask, why didn’t you just paint over the alley walls earlier?”

“They would’ve showed up somewhere else, and we wouldn’t have had enough time to figure out where,” Sal replied.

“I still don’t unders-”   

“Russell, stop talking,” she interrupted. Sal walked out of the arcade.

Russell smiled and followed.

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The Valerious Chronicles are available in hardcover.

I have several projects on the go at the moment. It’s with great pleasure I can announce that one of them is complete. Since finishing the series, I have been wanting to release, what I would consider, the special edition of the Valerious Chronicles. Now the dream has become a reality and the hardcover editions are available for purchase.  

 
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I think the benefit of finishing a trilogy is that, from a creative perspective, you are feel as though you have just come out of seclusion and are able to see the rest of the world again. Whilst writing the Valerious Chronicles I rarely had time to work on anything else. So I am making sure that I take advantage of this time and work on different things.

I’m really happy with how the hardcover versions of the trilogy have turned out. For me it is a fitting end to a project that took up such a large part of my life. You can find the hardcovers for purchase here.  

I am sure that in the future there will be some more tales to be told from Kovi, but for now I am pleased to move onto bigger and better things.

In the next six months I will be releasing another book, something quite different to the Valerious Chronicles, but at the same time with a hint of the same flavours. I look forward to sharing it with you all soon.

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.

Fantasy Creatures Roleplaying the Real World

Anyone who is a fan of Roleplaying will enjoy this. The team at FantasyCon have created Cubicles & Careers to promote their convention and I think they really hit the mark.

Thank you to i09 for sharing this.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Austria

Writing, Editing, Writing, Editing – What works for you?

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whilst the motivation is high I have been able to get a significant amount of writing done on book two of my series. The fantastic response I have had to the first book has inspired me to write like I have never written before.

 

RSI, back pain, eye strain and general madness aside, the last few months have been amongst the most productive ever. And it made me think about what has changed. Firstly my approach to writing shifted from sitting down in one or two big sessions a week and grinding out pages and pages. I have moved to short bursts, 2-4 hours at a time of writing, over a number of nights.

 

The results are significant. I am finding less writer’s block and much more thought out words hitting the page (screen). I have also adopted the ‘get something out and fix it later’ motto. In the past, I would waste time finding the exact word I was after or the perfect phrasing. I have found that by just using the first word that comes to mind, I am much more likely to find the right word with ease the next time I read over what I have written. This has dramatically increased my output.

 

I would be interested to hear what other writers are doing that works for them.

 

A week of resources and inspiration for the Writer – Day 2

For Day 2 I have decided to share some of the more common things that I use throughout my day to day writing. I know that each and every individual will find some things helpful and other things utterly obsolete to their own creative process. I hope that from gaining an insight into my methods you might find something new or be reminded of something you haven’t done in a while.

Building your vocabulary

what are word for?

what are word for? (Photo credit: Darwin Bell)

Most writers I know, whether they write fiction, non fiction or even business writing, use http://thesaurus.com/. I myself always have it open whilst writing and if I don’t have internet access I use a Synonym reference guide that I own. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in the middle of a sentence because you can’t think of the right word, or have it stuck on the tip of your tongue. As with anything we are always learning and improving our skills. If you think that you know everything there is to know on a subject then I believe you still have something to learn, namely the fact that you can always learn more and will never know everything. Additionally you need to keep your knowledge refreshed. Your vocabulary is exactly the same. It is essentially a muscle that needs to be worked out on a regular basis. Here are the things that I use to build my own vocabulary and also help myself out of temporary writers block when struggling for the right word.

1) Read as much as you can. And when you do read, write down the words that you have never heard of, or do not use that often. If you don’t have a pen handy place a memo on your phone or send yourself a text message with the word. Then later, when you have time find out exactly what the word means and what words share similar meanings. Never skip over a word you don’t know and forget about it. The more words at your disposal the more unique your writing can be.

2) Utilize lists that show you descriptive words. Most of us tend to favor certain words, it’s natural human behavior, and we quite often forget to change it up a little. A simple list, like the ones found here or here, may seem arbitrary at first, but stick them up behind your computer screen and watch how often you glance up and find inspiration for your next sentence.

3) Learn more emotions. I have to say something I personally struggle with is how to describe someone as being angry or sad or happy, without using those words too often. I have found keeping a picture up either on my screen or on the wall near my computer gets me thinking about other words to use. When I can picture what my character looks like at that moment in the book, but can’t think of the perfect word to describe it, a table with pictures of various expressions is perfect.

Before finishing today’s post, a key thing that I must stress which I often come across or that my editor tells me, is to not use words just because you found them in a thesaurus. A lot of work that I have read, mainly stuff that has not been highly edited, tends to stand out when they utilize words like antediluvian to simply state something is old. A thesaurus is a guide to help make your work sound better. It is not a tool to add funky, unknown words to your writing. Remember that a reader does not want to have to pull out a dictionary to understand your book.

A week of resources and inspiration for the Writer – Day 1

Every author will have their own techniques, best practices and sources of inspiration. As well as this they will utilize their own tools. In an effort to share the best elements from my own writing journey I have decided to spend a week posting about the tools and resources that I have found to be most useful.

I will aim to cover a mix of the common tools that would be beneficial to all writers and also the more unusual which I have found helpful in writing in the Fantasy genre.

Where better to begin than the most basic of tools – The writing platform.

To begin with, I should mention that when I began to write I utilised microsoft word for all of my physical word processing. For a while it was satisfactory, but as my first novel grew larger I found word to be cumbersome and problematic in terms of its functionality. I then did some research and found Writeway Pro. It had received some pretty good online ratings and was considered an affordable writing program. Being a poor student at the time, I was happy to know that it offered a free demo, which had almost full functionality. Once I began using it I didn’t look back and purchased a full copy. At the low one-off price I consider it one of my best investments to date.

Its strengths lie in keeping all of my writing together in one easy to use program, which performs the majority of things that I need to with simplicity. Writing in itself is not dissimilar to Word. However splitting chapters and sections of your books is easier. Having your character profiles, notes and your research within a buttons reach from your main page is priceless, particularly when you are ‘in the zone’ with your writing.

Even better, exporting your work into a manuscript or draft format is done with one click. For those of you who have struggled with creating a manuscript in Word, this feature is worth the $35 price in itself.

Everything has its issues, and I have to admit that I find the spell checker to be a little basic compared to others in the market. In addition to this there are minor things like limited tab indent sizes that can be an annoyance. But when you are considering the price of the software, you can get over these little things.

If you are looking for something other than Word, which provides a more ‘full suite’ writing solution, for a low price, I recommend you hop on to http://www.writewaypro.com/ and try out the free demo.

Inspiration

We all write because we have a passion for it. Yet at times we all need to find some motivation. Here is a speech by Neil Gaiman that drives me to my keyboard every time I am feeling unmotivated. I thoroughly recommend it to all people with creative minds. I hope you enjoy it and share it with your friends and colleagues.