Saturday, 28 January 2012

How goes the resolution?

I did the typical 'fresh start' thing after New Year's and I wrote a post on this blog stating how I will be more disciplined in terms of my writing.  So, how am I going with it?

Well I took a leaf out of Ernest Hemingway's book and started my own private journal on my writing.  In it I set out a long term plan for my writing along with some very clear goals.  Things like join five forums, follow five blogs, have three followers by Easter.  I haven't quite achieved all of these yet but I now have three followers - thanks :)

But the most important goal I set was to write at least 100 words everyday.  I'm not the first author to have this type of goal - Stephen King writes 10 pages every day!  My little 100 words doesn't look like much but I chose it for a reason.  Like many aspiring writers I find my 'day job' incredibly consuming.  Some days I know I will be struggling to get even 100 words done, but if I do it I'll be writing and achieving something.  So far I have written more than 100 words most days, there were a couple of days I was unable to do any writing at all, but I think we have to accept that sometimes this will happen.  I have completed the first chapter (5000 words) for one of my novels, so I feel like I have accomplished something.  Last night I gave myself a pat on the back and a glass of champagne.  Hope I don't go too crazy when I complete the thing!

One thing I have found quite inspiring to do, is to read what my favourite authors have to say about the process of writing.  I'd recommend this.  If you have a few minutes to spare, just google them and see if they have a web site or blog.  Lots of them do, and lots of them have a section on writing.

Here's some pearls of wisdom from some of my favourite authors:

Katherine Kerr - Here's the secret of any writer's success: reading. What really counts is reading a large spread of different kinds of books -- from fantasy to ancient literature to modern experimental novels to the great classics from all around the world.

Ken FollettAs an aspiring writer, you should certainly start by writing an outline... You solve a lot of problems with an outline. It is far easier to correct your mistakes if you write an outline than if you sat down and wrote, 'Chapter One' at the top of a piece of paper and started writing. 

Jean M. AuelI write for myself ... I don't write for my publisher. I don't write for critics. I don't write for my fans. I know some fans would wish I would write for them, but I don't. It's my book. It's my story. It's my characters. 

George R.R. MartinWrite every day, even if it is only a page or two. The more you write, the better you'll get. But don't write in my universe, or Tolkien's, or the Marvel universe, or the Star Trek universe, or any other borrowed background. Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings. Using someone else's world is the lazy way out. If you don't exercise those "literary muscles," you'll never develop them. 

Neil GaimanUse The Web. Use it for anything you can - writers groups, feedback, networking, finding out how things work, getting published. It exists: take advantage of it. Believe in yourself. Keep writing. 

See what I mean?  Aren't they useful tidbits?  The trick of course is to keep yourself focused on your writing and not to get sidetracked reading the wonderful insights of others.  I have sat down to write and two hours later found myself still reading the musings on various blogs and forums.  But this is a good lesson too.  I'm pretty good at tearing myself away now to write.

So off you go, stop reading this drivel and get into your bestseller ;)

I'll leave you with one more quote on writing, since I began with Hemingway why not finish with the Old Man himself?

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
Ernest Hemingway. 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

'Clan of the Cave Bear' ... Get around to it!

I remember during the eighties everyone was reading 'Clan of the Cave Bear' by Jean M. Auel - and they were raving about it.  I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading it, but finally I have and now that Auel has finished the six part series, I haven't stopped reading this saga (just finished number three 'The Mammoth Hunters').

The reason why I finally picked it up to read was because of a recommendation from a friend who I regularly 'talk books' with.  She was astounded I hadn't read it and demanded that I did so pronto, and I dutifully downloaded it.  So, what is it about this book that gets people talking?  For me it is the fascination of where we have come from as a species, and how we have become the people we are today.

The novel was also made into a movie directed by Michael Chapman.  Here is a trailer for the movie -

The story is set in prehistoric times, roughly 30 000 years ago.  It follows the story of Ayla, the protagonist, who is separated from her parents at a young age and taken in by a travelling group of 'clan' people, they are Neanderthal.  

This story interests readers on a number of levels.  Firstly, Ayla's struggle to belong and fit into a vastly different group is heart wrenching.  The emotional journey she experiences is so engaging to read.  Ayla is a highly likable character.  She is intelligent and caring and we sympathies with her readily as she attempts to learn the cultural norms, taboos and language of a neanderthal society.  As she becomes interested in healing and medicine, the story interests us further and we become privy to the magic of the plants used to heal in prehistoric times.

Secondly, the life of the Neanderthal, the way they existed and their differences from humans makes for fascinating reading.  Auel's ability to bring research to life is intoxicating.  I found myself doing a little of my own research as I read this book, wanting to learn more about our evolutionary cousins.  One thing I came across is that it is likely some human beings today carry Neanderthal genes.  Fascinating!  It is so interesting to read about a human species that is now extinct.  One thing that is particularly intriguing is the differences in the brain structures.  Neanderthals had very large back brains and Auel capitalises on this by showing the clan's remarkable capacity for memory.

Another aspect that makes this an exceptional read is the detail in terms of the daily life of prehistoric people.  The clothing, food, tools and housing are all described in fascinating detail along with how they were made.  Humanity's capacity for innovation is celebrated in this series.  But at the same time we are reminded of the dire consequences if we ever lose respect for the earth and all that it provides.  Auel cleverly reminds us of this and we wonder if we have already lost it.

The only real criticism I have is that perhaps Ayla is too perfect.  Surprise, surprise, as we read on in the series, not only is she altruistic, intelligent and innovative, she is drop dead gorgeous!  Sometimes her perfection and her innocence about it, "I am not beautiful" gets a little irritating ... but only a little.

I am up to the fourth novel, 'The Plains of Passage', but for me, so far, 'The Clan of the Cave Bear' has been a favourite.  I highly recommend it for those who particularly enjoy historical fiction.

My Rating:

Sunday, 15 January 2012

My writing projects: The Viscount's Son

I call myself a writer, but you may be wondering what exactly it is that I am writing.  Currently, I have three major projects on the go.  One is a fantasy novel for young people, which I hope to have ready for publication at the end of this year.  The second is a large work that will be a series of novels.  It is a fantasy saga.  The third project is my blogfic serial called 'The Viscount's Son', and this is what I'd like to discuss to some degree in this update.

If you have read 'The Viscount's Son' you may have noticed that it hasn't been updated in a while.  A couple of blogs ago I wrote about needing to be more disciplined in my writing and this project is certainly one that I have been a little negligent about.

I have written another chapter, which will be released shortly.  But, I have also worked on a trailer for it.  Lots of authors are releasing book trailers for their novels, and I thought it would be a good idea to try it for my blogfic.  Well, it's an experiment, so I'll evaluate it later.  It was a lot of fun to make though!

Here it is -

The trailer features a number of comments from a review of my story at the Web Fiction Guide.  You can read the review, by Jaquelyn Waters, here.  If you have any comments about the trailer please let me know :)

So, in my new quest to be more disciplined I would like to release a new chapter of 'The Viscount's Son' every two weeks (roughly), feel free to remind me if I'm not keeping up to this promise.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Demon Lord, worth a read ... just!

 I have an interest in reading the work of some of those relatively unknown authors on Amazon kindle - you know, the ones whose books are very cheap or free.  I'm interested because I will probably be listed as one of them eventually (when I get around to finishing one of my novels).  So, recently I scanned the wide range of such ebooks and I came across Demon Lord by TC Southwell.

Demon Lord is the first book of a fantasy series that follows the quest of son of the underworld Bane to overthrow the overworld; and the healer, Mirra's attempts to do, well, good.

Essentially, Bane, the human Dark Lord of the evil God Arkonen, embarks on a campaign to destroy the wards that keep the dark god trapped in the underworld.  An elder Seeress foresaw the trouble and set in motion a plan to bring into the world a girl with powerful healing and goodness.  Bane kidnaps the girl, Mirra, who is then dragged along, often literally, with Bane and his army as they journey through the overworld.  Mirra tries to help Bane with his many excruciating headaches a result of the evil rituals he must perform in order to maintain his magical power.  However Bane is cruel and abusive and beats Mirra relentlessly.

As a story it is interesting.  It has all the typical elements of the fantasy genre particularly a world that Southwell has clearly put a lot of thought into.  There is a dramatic and tense divide between evil and good, and it includes a range of supernatural entities including gods, seers, vampires, demon steeds, grims and weirds.  Some of the descriptions and imagery reads very well and puts a clear picture in a readers mind. 

While the story is a bit of a page-turner, there is much in this book that needs improving.  To me it read like more of a draft than a novel ready for publication.  On a very basic level there were many spelling errors and typos.  But, more importantly the characters needed much reworking.  Mirra was most unbelievable as a character. She is the protagonist but she is painted as so innocent and naïve that she seems, quite simply, stupid.  Bane is angry, aggressive and hostile, and we are not really convinced as to why he is so consistently in this state and why he needs to incessantly beat and torture Mirra.  The whole physical abuse was quite unsettling.  Like a victim of domestic violence Mirra suffered great abuse from Bane but kept going back for more there was something very strange about it.  The other aspect that needed more attention, before publication, was the ending, it is one of the most unsatisfying endings I have come across.  I read the novel, with all its flaws, looking forward to see what would happen, but was sorely disappointed.

So should you bother?  Well one of the things Southwell did quite well was to develop a subtle promise of romance between Bane and Mirra (yup, believe it or not).  This was interesting and kept me turning the pages.  I havent as yet read the other books in this series so maybe it will get better and answer many things that remain unanswered in this first book.  I guess if you have nothing better to read, you enjoy fantasy fiction and you dont want to pay for a book (this one is free) then go ahead and read it.  I can guarantee you will enjoy some elements, but you will, most likely, detest others.