Consume

I ramble often about letting my subconscious figure out my story problems or put together hints I didn’t even know I was including in my work. Some might call this their Muse, but that evokes a concept of something more Other than my process, an external force partnering the creative, while mine is more of a surprise discovery that I had the keys to the castle all along and just hadn’t checked the right pocket yet.

I believe everyone can learn to let their subconscious do the heavy lifting for tough plot points or laying foundations for even cooler events than originally outlined. But it’s probably not just a matter of typing madly away and expecting magic to happen out of nowhere. Because, ultimately, my subconscious can do the hard work as I’ve given it plenty of ammunition.

I consume information.

I’m always reading and learning new things, old things, anything in between. I read fiction as a way of life, but we’re graced with the internet age, and such an array of knowledge available in our homes, that it would be a disservice to existing without taking in as many of the universe’s juicy details as possible. I read non-fiction, technical texts, biographies, and just people’s personal blogs, relating their experiences and hardships and the way in which they overcome or simply survive the unimaginable… Without feeding so much into my mind, I wouldn’t have enough to draw on when I need my subconscious to insert something real and vital.

And it’s all interconnected. The way I name things, the themes I come back to, the character types and their trials and growth. What exists in my worlds, and the rules and lore. There are elements from all over the place, and they are all assembled in the unique way my mind functions. This is part of what people end up calling your “voice”, because the exact circumstances of you will be translated into your work.

Give yourself as much information, from a huge range of sources, across any number of subjects, as you can. Read and revel in knowledge. Build a deep well and fill it, and you will always have something to draw from. Let your subconscious handling putting together the jigsaw of these otherwise-disconnected pieces.

~A

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Behind the Scenes

I have a favourite saying: 90% of research will never make it onto the page. It’s great to bandy about percentages like that, but it seems like an accurate estimation from my experience.

I love the research which is associated with my fiction, because I love learning and acquiring knowledge. It’s easy, too easy, to get caught up in discovering new pockets of the world we live in and delving deep into the detail and minutiae. But, by far the majority of any information I unearth will never translate to prose. It will not be added into the literal text of my story. What that bulk of knowledge will do is build a stable foundation for the written work to rest upon.

Facebook friends will know I’ve been working on a piece of short fiction known only as the unexpected story. It has an asteroid in it. When the flash of unexpected inspiration overtook me, I put in some place holder name for said cosmic rock, because I needed to get the words out of my head as quickly as my fingers would allow, and there was no time for checking into the facts of asteroid naming conventions. Once the first rush had passed, I could hit the internets and find out as much material as possible, and adjust the story accordingly.

Upon discovery of any significant rock hurtling through the vacuum of space, it gets a provisional designation, using a specific system to state the year, which half of the month, and its order of discovery for that time frame. For example, the eighth object found on June 10th, 2015, should receive a provisional designation of 2015 LG. Cool stuff to learn, but not what I wanted to know, no matter how interesting.

I kept looking and read that when the asteroid’s orbit is calculated, it changes to an official sequential number, in order of its discovery in relation to every other astronomical object previously found. They can also get a temporary alpha-numeric code based on when and where they were initially spotted. Well, still neat, but not quite to the point of straight-up naming an important asteroid.

I got to the good stuff and learnt there are some pretty strict guidelines for naming a celestial body of any kind. Follow the specific rules, you can propose a name, and the space committee will have final say over approving the name. But the really fascinating part, and the most important for my story in particular, is that Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) should be given a name from mythology that is not associated with the underworld or creation themes. Now we’re getting somewhere. There are lists published with all the names already used. It runs heavily into Greek and Roman mythos, unsurprisingly, but that isn’t a requirement for an asteroid.

So, I took my new knowledge, and flicked through some of my older research, which extensively covered gods from multiple cultures. In the end, I had to choose a fertility deity who comes from Australian Aboriginal culture, for all the myriad reasons it worked in the story. My asteroid is Anjea.

And without this blog post, no one would especially know, because none of this explanation ever makes it to the page. It’s important to the story, not in it.

~A

Wow, so… May, huh?

Time is whizzing by at an outrageous pace. Since my last blog entry seven months ago, I have been busy. So, a quick recap!

November, the usual celebrations for that time of year. December, health issues arose. January, we slowly started to get things back in order. I managed to take the whole summer break to simultaneously get nothing and everything done. February, March, and April have been spent in a haze of writing and editing, writing and editing, as best I can while continuing to recover.

By the end of 2014, I had written an incredible 120,000 words for the entire year, across multiple projects. The next novel in the Snowflesh Trilogy clocked in over 90,000 words, and I have moved onto revising it into something worth handing to my editors. Other stories, a couple of which have been invitations to upcoming anthologies, have demanded sporadic bursts of attention with their various deadlines scattered throughout 2015.

All in all, things are good, continuing to progress, and as long as nothing new crops up, the next novel will herald its arrival by the end of the year, and I hope to have a few more significant short stories accepted in the meantime.

Of course, if you want to have a tiny taste of the efforts I’ve been expending, there will be a piece of my flash fiction in this month’s Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing newsletter. Sign up is free, you’ll get to read Night Sounds and see another end of the world from yours truly. Go to www.pmmpnews.com and fill in the relevant details to receive your copy around May 28th!

And for me, I’m falling back into Book Two. One third down, two more to go.

~A

The things that can be said

Losing people can make you quantify who they were, assessing the size of the hole left. When more than one person dies around the same time, the measurements become hazy. They are going to be similar pains, and deeply unconnected at the same time. The two deaths are felt in totally unique ways, yet combine, a jigsaw of strangely matching pieces.

A dear aunt, someone I thought of regularly, even if I saw her only infrequently, joined the great beyond. This was sadly expected and she felt, ultimately, ready to find her next adventure. She truly lived larger than others. She had enjoyed two lives. More.

I can imagine with perfect clarity the tone and lilt of her bright greeting for those she would have finally seen again in the Otherworld. Parents and brother, the grandfather I never met but knew so much about. I did not visit her weekly or even monthly, nor speak on the phone with her – there’s a good chance I inherited my avoidance of answering calls from the way she would never pick up – but she was always present at every family event. Birthdays, Christmas, Anniversaries. If there was a party she could be invited to, she was, and you were guaranteed her attendance.

A woman whose personality was so expansive and singular to her. Things throughout the world have reminded me of my aunt, of how she might share an over-abundance of pleasure at something beautiful, or express her quick opinions on the state of affairs. I would have liked to cook for her again, once more. No one appreciated the little things the way she could, with absolute, committed joy, and no one else could drop the kind of instantaneous, easy curses as she did. She was, in all things, unapologetic for being herself.

And so I’m left thinking, no more of her loud amazement at something in the garden; no more of her carefully large hair and coordinated costume jewellery, which would look off on anyone else and yet, somehow perfect and gorgeous when worn by her; no more terrible, wonderful giant artificial flower arrangements filling her house, making the rooms nearly untraversable; no more of her perfume lingering after our long, long hugs; no more of her laughter and outrage and indignation and smiles and beaming pride for everything her family has done and will come to do. Those in the Otherworld have her now, we are left with memories.

~A

In speaking, and death

That time comes. The king is dead. A structural shift in the family, to lose the patriarch, the grandfather. We are small and tenuously linked on that side. There exists tacit agreement of a bond rarely spoken, and a love barely expressed. Ours is a secret brotherhood where acknowledgement of familial ties is made more readily by a glance and a nod than anything else. A flock of black sheep.

The procession to his end of days was made through the plodding steps of someone ready for the quiet between lives. A long rest in the Beyond. Reunited not just with the grandmother and kin, but with Pete, and Butch, and Beauty; Honey, Harley, Maggot, Shadow… A host of most beloved dogs who crossed before him. No longer did he need to answer the question of his well-being with, “I’ll survive, given a bit of luck.” Luck would now bring easy peace instead.

Final days, we prepared, our visits overrun by unavoidable knowledge and half-guilty relief that he would not be forced to linger. And still he cared, mightily. He enquired about my writing again, again. I don’t know how to answer that question normally, not sure what is really being asked, so what can I possibly say when he is sitting at the right hand of Death? Nothing more than a soft, “It’s good.” He was old. Loved. Soon to be missed – whether soon was down to hours or days, it would come too rapidly. And so, simply, “It’s good.” Writing is lively. Bright thoughts, clear-minded, an activity with such forward momentum that the very wondering felt out of place in a hospital room of tubes and wires and roaming medical staff. He would be comforted by my future, but this still felt too much like boasting. He was old. Tired. Gods grant his wish to sleep for a week and into the evermore. We can meet again in time eternal. It’s okay. Be free of this.

Thursday. Early morning phone call. There is only one reason. Ave atque vale, Granddad.

~A

In looking back

I’ve been writing for 3/5ths of my life.

This blog has already been around for three years, a confusing rush of time blended into the everything else happening. On that note, many thanks for continuing to read, my friends. This is, as always, an interesting experience for me.

We’re approaching the third anniversary of my first publishing acceptance, and in turn, the second anniversary of holding an actual printed book in my hands, containing a story I had composed. I’ve made some amazing friends in being a part of that anthology.

Almost six months ago, my first novel successfully launched, along with a little companion tale. The start of many to come in the Anecdota.

And now, another short story will be given to the world. Something small and special, still close to my heart, still young and cherished until the moment the anthology is made and I cannot hold the words as they pour between my fingers and make their way into the reader’s minds, when the story is no longer mine alone.

As stated on the Acknowledgements page of The Damning Moths, I merely write these things; they come to life when you read them. You take them in and experience the story, and they become more, something outside of my control.

Gazing over what I have already accomplished gives a sense of warmth and comfort, a happy glow proving, “I Am.” To know how many people I am reaching, from corners of the globe both obvious and unexpected, is poignant. I’m glad for what I have already done, and equally grateful for the small, screaming voice which always tells me it’s still not enough. Because I have a drive to do it all again. Write a story. Find it the right home. Release it to change and grow and transform into what it must.

Looking back over these things, just one possible sum of my existence, I know I have done well. Here I am, listening to songs hopeful and quietly melancholic and composing new tales, always, endlessly. I can wrap the past around me as a comforting blanket. None of it was a fluke, I’m leaving a mark.

I am here, doing what I was made for.

~A

Change is better than a holiday

The weather persists at being not-very-autumnal, but there is apparently still the instinct to prepare the burrow for winter. I’ve noticed among friends and family local to me that I’m not the only person going through the urge to rearrange and offload items no longer needed before the seasons change.

A common sight in Australia, or at least around the Perth metropolitan area, is roadside collection. Our normal weekly rubbish is removed by a truck with a big robotic arm rather than physically handled by the rubbish collecting people, so household goods like furniture and large items aren’t placed out on rubbish day. To account for this, many of the city councils announce they will be taking large items from the roadside at a designated time. This is, of course, a treasure trove of pre-loved furniture and other goodies, if you’re willing to browse through what some people have deemed rubbish.

That whole “one man’s trash” idiom at work.

I’d been looking at buying some new shelves and lamenting the high cost of such things – remember, the instinct to prepare for the coming winter had set in already, because I swear, the seasons will change and it will be glorious and rainy and gods, I can only hope this growing drought breaks in a big way. Then I saw roadside collection had started while driving through to work. Of course, I love recycling/upcycling, and generally finding ways to reuse valuable resources instead of seeing them sent to landfill. In the process, I also get a bunch of things I need for free? Awesome.

For a couple of days, the housemates and I set out to cruise around those neighbourhoods. We affectionately referred to the process as “scrubbing”. You know, the TLC song? Scrubs have no money? Well, maybe you had to be there to really get it, but the experience was both rewarding in terms of the many great pieces of furniture which were salvaged, plus we spent several hours entertaining ourselves.

We filled the front room with our acquisitions, and have spent the subsequent days clearing space, donating old goods of our own to the local charity shops, and rearranging half the house. It feels good. Change is better than a holiday, because it’s more permanent, and makes a difference every day.

~A