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

Advertisements

Dudes

Greetings my dear internet buddies. Today has been a very long day. Between having my super awesome photo shoot this morning, and covering extra shifts at work tonight, I’m feeling like sleeping a whole lot is a solid plan. But I’m also at a really exciting point in my writing, so I’m pretty drawn to working on that, even though I might blather pretty badly being this spacey. That isn’t always a bad thing, funny enough. There have been occasions where my subconscious has been 100% in control and poured out great work.

I missed blogging on the appropriate days, and this is just a short one, today. I’m sorry if I haven’t been seen around your respective blogospaces. I have honestly, really, truly been flighty and distracted, and even if I’ve read your posts and updates, I haven’t known what to say most of the time. I will make the effort to catch up soon.

Aside from not blogging quite on time and not commenting as I normally would, I have probably avoided doing a whole lot of other things I might normally find myself enveloped with. The good news to come from that, though, is I’ve been chipping away at various writing projects and other important related goodness. Making accounts and updating websites for writing-related ventures, certainly. I’ve also been subjected to candid video recordings by the husband, who proceeds to make the weirdest things he can with the footage. Somehow, I am not concerned by this. It’s actually pretty awesome.

I’m going to set a countdown timer for half an hour or something. Then I shall sit and klackity away, then get myself some reading in before sleep finds me. I hope you lovely people have been busy with all your favourite things.

~A

Sometimes I wonder

I read a lot online. Blogs, articles, forums, humour sites, random research. I spend a lot of time on my computer, and have for most of my life. Wouldn’t trade that for the world, either, because the kinds of opportunities which come from being on the internet are incomparable.

But sometimes, I’ll be reading something. Often of the writing/publishing nature, since we all tend to get a little obsessive over that at times. And I will think to myself, “Why am I reading this instead of doing something productive?”

I love learning. Acquiring knowledge. The reason I spend so much time online is because there is so much available. I’ve been known to spend days straight consuming a good blog, or disappear a six hour block following links around Wikipedia. Funny enough, while I do check on things like Facebook regularly, I don’t spend a whole lot of time there (unless someone catches me on the chat function while I’m not looking).

But there are little triggers. I’ll read something, and for a myriad of reasons, it will make me wonder why I’m not doing something else. It’s not a guilt complex; everything I do has its reasons, and I’m okay with that for the most part. It might be partly an avoidance technique; I’m in the middle of a lot of things, and what I should work on isn’t necessarily what I’m most drawn to. But really, I suppose I just want to have something tangible for my time and brainpower. Knowledge can’t be tallied like words or stitches added to a project, so even while I value what I’m reading and experiencing, I feel I will have nothing to show at the end of it.

Which is ridiculous. If I didn’t have all this knowledge accumulated, these observations of humans and their thoughts and behavioural patterns, I wouldn’t be able to apply that to my stories. Which is pretty integral.

All the same, I’m going to draw a line this weekend. Get some serious work done and knock out a few of the smaller projects I’ve been dragging my feet over. I will say I have enough information to cover me for those two days, cut off my reading of things until Monday.

~A

Integral ending

I recently read a book. I loved it; a cynical, jaded, altogether unsympathetic main character made through sharp dialogue and subtlety in action into the anti-hero you want to cheer on, even if he’s doing all the wrong things.

Then the ending happened.

I won’t say it was a bad ending. It tidied everything up neatly, took care of all the problems, and set the (remaining) characters off on their way with the right degree of this is completed, but there’s more for these people in life. Still, the ending. It niggles at me as too quick, too wrapped up. It rushed through a somewhat surprising turn and almost seemed to state, “There. All the loose ends have been taken care of. Are you satisfied?”

The answer to my imagined question is, unfortunately, no. Not really. The ended could have, and from my perspective, should have been drawn out further. The final chapter lacked the same wry interaction (largely because most of the characters died), and I felt like the protagonist began acting outside of his normal bounds, without a proper reason. Oh, sure, I know what part of the story was meant to act as the turning point, his trigger to behaving a little more compassionate. But I didn’t believe it.

Just because I can identify the when and why of this character’s motivation doesn’t mean I buy it.

Maybe that’s me being weird. Maybe it’s my background in psychology making the developments ring false. I would probably need to re-read the book, perhaps even several times, before I could pin down exactly what throws me about the ending.

Nevertheless, I’ve learnt something from this story, which I still think is pretty awesome. The ending is actually the most important part of your story. It’s the last taste we get of your characters, and the world they are in. It’s the part which will linger, because it’s the freshest in our memory. A weak ending could very easily ruin an otherwise good book.

Cue writer’s paranoia! Does my ending measure up? Have I made it too obvious and forced that all the pieces are coming together and being taken care of? Does it finish at the right pace?

It’s a wonder I’ve survived being an author as long as I have. Egad.

~A

Book websites and the art of covers

As regular readers know, I’m really big on making stories with a high degree of supplemental media; art, music, interactive websites, whatever works with that book. That, to me, is the ideal aim with most written work. Not because it needs it, but because it meshes together so well to create a larger experience for a fan.

Stephen King’s latest offering is titled 11/22/63. While I really kind of love making a date the title to a book, so many parts of the world work with the format of day/month/year, so it encounters the problem of not being universal. Nevertheless, the title is so interesting on its own, I actually clicked the link in one of my bookstore subscription newsletters just to find out what it was (I know, I’m awfully sheltered from industry news at the moment).

I admit, the cover art came as a surprise. The US get a very striking cover, torn paper, cream, red and black colour scheme, a nicely “aged” look. It’s a strong cover, good layout, very bold and appealing. I really love it.

Then we get… a lens flare? No, no, no, no, really. A lens flare, made to look like it represents some kind of time warp, since the story is based around a character who goes back in time and all. Having seen the fantastic cover art for the US release, I cannot express how disappointing the UK/Aus artwork is to me. The only striking thing about it is how someone could have honestly thought using a standard lens flare on this novel was a good idea.

It’s not that lens flares are inherently bad, it’s just they are so overused, and so basic. That artwork would have taken a proficient computer artist all of a minute to create, with no exaggeration. Of course that’s disappointing. What made them think our market is so different that we wouldn’t love the original US cover?

Complaints aside, there is a very neat website associated with this book, and it made me super happy to see other authors leaning the same direction and including a greater degree of content to accompany their books! Have a little click around 11/22/63 and see the awesome touches around the site!

~A

Scarecrow

I am a huge fan of Matthew Reilly’s writing. It’s all kinds of opposite to everything else I read, and that’s part of why I love it. The weaponry, the pace, the action, the brutality, the fact that anyone can die. Anyone. Including, and especially very important main characters.

My first foray into the insane worlds Matt writes was Ice Station, and remains my tied-for-favourite book of all time. Incidentally, the other book which shares tied-for-favourite is The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway, and it shares many qualities; military setting, action, and ridiculously awesome characters who you desperately want to spend time with. I got my copy of Ice Station from a little secondhand book store over a decade ago, and it has now gone beyond the stage of “much read”, to “lovingly battered”. Well over 30 read-throughs will do that to a book. I also went on to purchase a brand new copy of Ice Station; this second copy has been signed by Matt three times so far. Come November, when he’s on a book tour again and visits Perth, I intend on getting autograph number four in that book (and of course, a lone autograph in his new book!).

I just finished reading Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves. It took me a few hours to finish. That’s one of the things undeniably Matthew Reilly: the book is so fast-paced, and he’s so adept with words, you absolutely fly through reading it. Everything happens, bang, bang, bang. There are moments interspersed in the action, looking in on other characters that aren’t in the middle of a gunfight, that only spur you to read on more. Those moments are usually the ones that reveal a key piece of information that you just know will change the course of the story and throw everything into even greater chaos.

If you aren’t familiar with the four existing Scarecrow novels, and one novella, the main character is a Marine, Shane Schofield, call-sign: Scarecrow. There is absolutely every reason to love this character, cheer him on, and feel completely satisfied when he triumphs – albeit, usually missing most of his team by the end of the books. Trying to describe him would be a terrible injustice.

Reading Matt’s books always get me revved up. They are like all the great action movies, but 100% better. I see what he does, and I want to make awesome stories, too. Sure, I won’t ever write military action novels, but I sure can put every effort into being just as entertaining in my own chosen genres. After all, that’s the best goal possible for an author.

As always, Matt, fantastic work. Thank you for writing.

~A

Congratulations, Amazon

The newest Kindle iteration has come just in time. I was already considering an e-reader for my birthday this November, but hadn’t quite been convinced of what I wanted. The announcement of a smaller, simpler Kindle has sealed the deal for me. It’s cheaper, and doesn’t have unnecessary bells and whistles that I really don’t want on a device used for reading books.

My primary purpose for ever wanting an e-reader has been to carry a selection of texts with me in a lightweight and ultra-portable device. The opportunity to download all those free books is just a delight for me, because while I love real books and always will, I usually can’t justify buying many of them with my budget. There’s an entire library worth of old books that are now free to acquire, and I will finally get a chance to read, or re-read the “classics”.

I find it a real chore to read novel-length works on my computer screens, and indeed, I still haven’t finished reading a small handful of e-books I’ve already bought/downloaded because it’s just uncomfortable and inconvenient. I want to be able to read in bed, or at the park, or in the car.

Of course, I doubt I’ll ever use an e-reader as my primary reading source. Books have too many things that you can’t recreate electronically. They feel good, and have textured pages. They smell of paper and ink and other books. There’s the sound of turning the page, and the satisfying faint clomp of closing the book when you’ve finished a great story. The cover art, and browsing the spines, and the small details like publisher logos…

One thing I definitely won’t mind is a lack of dust covers! I always take them off my hardcover books when reading, since I tend to tear them otherwise. But I really do hope my eventual experience with the newest Kindle exceeds my expectations. Even if I resent the idea that my books can run out of battery. 😉

~A