Blog Archives

The Year Ahead

For those of you who have been reading my blog, or indeed read my acknowledgements in the back of Born of Hatred, you’d know that 2012 was a bit of a crazy year for me. 1 baby daughter, 2 published books (and their subsequent ‘success’) and a house move was quite a lot to go through in what amounted to a six-month period.

 

So,  I thought I’d make everyone aware of what my writing plans are for this year (considering the unlikely event of more children or a house move, I think I may also get some sleep too).

 

With Silent Screams – Hellequin Chronicles Book 3.

I’m writing this at the moment. And I’m about 1/3 of the way through. It’s set almost totally in North America, and introduces a few new characters and species.

Release – Probably summer, at least that’s the plan at the moment.

Prison of Hope – Hellequin Chronicles Book 4.

I’ve made some fairly intensive notes for it and will get round to starting it when the current draft of book 3 is done. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I’ve been looking forward to writing this one for a while.

Release – Hopefully before Christmas.

 

Short Stories

I also have plans to write several short stories. Most of these will be a few thousand words at most, and will be available to read on my blog for free. When I have enough of them to actually put a book out, I’ll collect them and do just that as I know some people would like to have a copy they can read wherever they like. And anytime I can get Eamon to do another cover for me usually works out well.

Some of these short stories are:

 

Infamous Reign – Nate’s meeting with Richard 3rd just after the disappearance of the two princes in the tower of London.

Frozen Rage – Nate and Tommy investigate the murder of several werewolves as a peace treaty is being signed in Milan 1709.

A short story that deals with what happened between the end of book 1 and beginning of book 2. I don’t have a title for it yet.

I’ve got ideas for several others too, but no more than just whispers of details for them at the moment. So, if I get time, or if the day becomes about 12 hours longer, I’ll probably figure out more details.

 

 

So that’s my writing plan for 2013. Which is a lot now that it’s written down. Things might get moved around, or added, but for the moment I’m happy with it.

 

And then 2014 will hopefully have more Hellequin chronicles, books 5 and 6 already have a lot of notes (and titles), so I don’t think there’s any worry about not being busy for a while.

Distractions…

And we reach the end of the excellent guest blog posts and interviews for the time being, and we end with a bang. The superb Keri Lake, author of the excellent Halos Book 1: Somnium.

The floor is all yours Keri.

 

 

Distractions…

…those annoying little forces that always seem to pop up when we’re smack in the middle of something important.  If they’re welcomed, we call them ‘a shift in focus’.

I’m plagued by distractions.

As a flash fiction addict, it’s inevitable that my brain will wander off from time to time into the middle of a totally unrelated scene.  Dialogue.  A kiss.  A fight.  All completely random and usually out of place in what I’m writing at that moment.  And since I never know when they’re going to hit, I can’t say they’re welcomed.  Often times, I do my best to ignore them.  I’m more of a novelist, preferring the long haul over the instant gratification of something short and sweet.

Completing a novel though, comes with its challenges and takes a lot of perseverance.

It’s not easy, sitting down to the same thing day in and day out, agonizing over every word (every 100K words, that is).  If it’s a tough scene, it can be like sitting down to the same dinner every night for a week.  Ugh.  Do you even taste the individual flavors after a few days?

This is where the danger for distraction is at an all-time high.

When the ideas just aren’t flowing easily, you could become resentful toward your muse, bored with the writing and angry at the stubborn characters who refuse to cooperate.

Oooh look!  A shiny!

And just like that, you’re swept away by something totally different…

But is there ever a time when these interruptions are a much-needed change in focus?

Back in December, I published Somnium (Halos, #1).  This is book 1 of a trilogy, and unlike some writers, I didn’t have books 2 and 3 polished and ready to go.  I’m still writing, tweaking, editing.  I took an easy pace, since Somnium was riddled with a number of mysteries.  I wanted to be meticulous about plotting and addressing the answers.

So there I was in January, not even a full month from the publication date of Somnium, toiling away on Requiem, when all of a sudden it struck me.  Hard.

What was it?

Well, I’ll tell you what it wasn’t:  it wasn’t just a simple flash story like most of my usual distractions.  It wasn’t a short story, maybe forcing me to explore the characters a bit more.  It wasn’t even a novella – just something to satisfy this ridiculous craving I suddenly had for distraction.  No, no.

Call it nervous energy or a need to sate my inner badass, I sat down and drafted 100K-word book in about 6 weeks.

I hated myself for it.  It felt as if I’d abandoned my beloved characters for some rockstar life.  How irresponsible!  The ideas poured out of me like I’d swallowed the evil pill and was having an exorcist moment.  I cursed myself for being so easily tempted by my muse.

At the same time, I couldn’t stop.  I’d become some kind of writing junkie, flying high on a winning streak.

Worse?

I involuntarily plotted out additional books – eight of them! – making up an entire series of this foreign invader that’d taken over my brain.   No!!!

A mutiny I tell you!

Ah, but alas, something else happened…

Something odd.  Something wonderful.  Something I hadn’t anticipated when I offered up my guilt-laden mind for this new project.

Feeding this distraction somehow bred new ideas for Requiem.  Hot damn!  That vigor trickled into the slow and easy pace I’d adopted for my second book of the Halos trilogy.  And now the words are flowing like a fountain of…uh, words.

I dare not call the lull I experienced after publishing Somnium a ‘block’ because the story was there, waiting to be written (seriously you should see my writing wall – it looks like a murder investigation is going on with all the character profiles).  For some reason though, I’d been working against myself, allowing it to stay locked inside a small cramped cage in the deep recesses of my brain, screaming as I held the key in my pocket the whole time.

Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can, in fact, write a decent story in a month’s time, my mind has grown hungry for this feeling of accomplishment.

Does this mean I intend to write a book every couple of months?

No, no.  I’d be writing crap.

What it means to me is that there are going to be times when writing comes easy and times when no matter how hard I tug and tease, it’s not coming out.  This experience has taught me to ride the high when it happens and not feel guilty if it takes me in new directions.  When things slow down and it feels like I have no story left in me, to give myself the permission to surrender to these distractions, shift focus, and come back to the old and familiar when it feels right again.

What do you do when distraction hits?

 

Thanks Keri for taking over my blog and discussing something so central to so many of us writers. If you want to learn more about keri and her work:

Blog

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 

World Domina…*ahem* Building

Welcome to another edition of my blog. Today I have the privilege of handing over the reins to writer, Natalie Westgate. Enjoy.

 

Hello fellow citizens of Stevetopia!  I’m here infiltrating Steve’s blog this week to talk to you a little about world building.  Now, I don’t mean literally building a new world – we’re not going to colonise the moon.  Sorry!  Although from my architectural background I have often wondered about building models of some of the cities in my current work in progress, Pink Mist.

But for now lets put the LEGOs down and focus on how we’re going to get from a blank page, to a world that’s not only functional but draws the reader in and makes them want to keep reading.

World building is something that’s very close my heart right now.  I had created a world for Pink Mist but, as I was working on chapter 7, I had a different world idea come to me.  Now, this new idea meant rebuilding the entire world from scratch, which in turn meant re-writing everything I had so far. It sounds like a big job, but creating a new world from scratch is a lot of fun and it’s definitely something you want to get right.

So first things first, we need to decide if our novel is to be set in the past, present of future.  If you’re writing historical fiction then most of your world is already built for you, if you’re writing non-fiction then stop reading this now and get on with your research 😉

Let’s say we’re going to set our novel in present day.  So now we’re faced with the choice of shaping the world via our characters – keeping the world accurate to modern day, with changes only because our characters exist in it, such as in the Sookie Stackhouse series or Steve’s novel, Crimes Against Magic – or, shaping the world from scratch and then putting our characters in it – such as in The Hunger Games with the districts and way of life there.

Lets follow the latter route and create our world from scratch.  This presents a lot of things to think about, the first of which is to keep in mind that our world needs to be bigger than the immediate surroundings of the protagonist.  For example, in our new world the protagonist could live in a city, we can call it Stevetopia, that is surrounded by a giant bubble.  Our protagonist may never have ventured outside of this bubble, but we need to know what’s out there and if it caused the bubble to be built or not.  This will add depth and draw the reader in by eluding to, or even flat out explaining, why things are as they are.  If you do it right, the reader will feel that they are living in your world and not just reading about it.

Turning our attention back inside the bubble for now, we need to think about things like government.  Is there one?  If so, is it the only one or is there another part of the government outside of the bubble?  This brings on the question of communication – how do people communicate in our new world, is it by phone and computer, or writing on paper or even telepathy?

From communication we can look at transport.  How do people get around inside the bubble?  By car?  If the bubble is completely sealing them in, then how would exhaust fumes be ventilated?  Which brings us on to fresh air – how is it being produced or circulated in the bubble?  Are there vents?  If so, do these vents pose weak spots that could let something evil into the city?  Or are the people outside of the bubble more worried that something evil might come out?  This will also link back to government, if there are guards at the vents for one (or both) of these purposes.

Now we need to think about how our citizens are going to get food and water.  I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’ve read a few books where half way through I’ve suddenly realised the main characters have gone through weeks or fights and running, yet no one has seemed to ever stop and eat anything!  Unless your world involves beings that don’t sustain themselves by normal means, then you will need to mention the occasional meal.  This is a great way to draw a reader in, by enticing them with exotic foods, or talking about dishes they would recognise by a different name.

The subject of food also brings on the question of how do they get rid of waste?  In a bubble-free world this wouldn’t be too much of an issue to consider, but with the restrictions Stevetopia faces how would our city tackle this problem?  Even now in our world we’re seeing that landfills are getting full, so would they bury their rubbish?  Burn it?  Or do they recycle everything and never throw anything away?  This alone could spark a whole new dimension to the story and characters we meet along the way 🙂

Which brings us on to clothes – what do these living conditions mean for the clothes of the citizens?  Have they been stuck with the clothing style from when the bubble was formed (due to “recycling” their clothes through generations, or lack of designers to think of new styles)?  Or are they more fashion forward because people have had to be creative with what materials they have at their disposal?

Those are a lot of questions so far!  But all the while, you need to keep in mind that some of your world building will happen because of your characters’ interactions with it.  There needs to be obstacles for them to overcome but don’t make it impossibly difficult or you could back your novel into a corner.

Now, this isn’t to say that you have to go this deep for writing a short story.  Obviously you can if you want to but most things that you plan out won’t even come into play when writing short fiction.  In a recent short story of mine, The Guard, I knew it was set in a dystopian future and gave a few clues to that end but didn’t go too much in depth.  The reader is left to fill in some of the blanks themselves (which is always good).

Obviously when world building your genre of choice will come into play.  For a dystopian theme we could say Stevetopia is in the bubble because the world was getting too cold, so the bubble was built to protect the citizens of that city and other cities have done the same.  For a horror theme, Stevetopia might be in the bubble to protect them from a zombie apocalypse that is going on outside.  Both of these scenarios will change the way you build your world and which areas are more important than others.

The two biggest things I haven’t yet touched on are housing and weather.  Every world has weather and it can dramatically change a scene.  Fighting in the snow means you have cold and ice to contend with, versus fighting in burning hot sunshine would bring on dehydration, maybe sluggish movements or muscle cramping.  In a bubble how would Stevetopia be effected by weather?  Is it simulated or do they just never have any differing conditions?  Weather and housing are always linked: you don’t need sturdy brick houses in a world where weather is always a nice temperature and there are never any adverse conditions.  But you wouldn’t be building reed-houses if your world had a season of devastating hail storms.

This is in no way an extensive list as we haven’t even talked about wildlife or plants and trees, both of which have a dramatic effect on a world by either being there or not.  But hopefully it’s a good starting point to get your world building off to a running start.  The more questions you pose yourself, the more complete your world building can be.

Ultimately, the one piece of advice I hope stays with everyone is this: don’t treat your work as precious.  What I mean by that is, don’t hold onto a “good idea” if it isn’t working, and don’t be afraid to get a red pen and edit your world building notes just the same as you would a manuscript.

I went back and forth a lot over the the “new idea” I had for the world for Pink Mist, revising and rehashing for a long time.  It’s now somewhere so much more complex than my original thought but is all the better for it – it’s something believable instead of a shell that a reader could poke holes in.  Eventually though, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t right for this novel.  It was a “good idea”, but just not a good idea for Pink Mist.  So I’ve set my newly built world aside, for now, and it will be the foundation for a new, as yet unnamed series 🙂

So, I guess that’s it from me!  I want to thank you all for letting me ramble on about world building, and to thank Steve for letting me hijack his blog for today.  Feel free to come by and visit me at http://nataliewestgate.com, to see the shenanigans of me and my still unnamed protagonist.  But, she is an assassin so perhaps anonymity isn’t such a bad thing 😉

March of Ideas

Everyone occasionally has that thought where something pops into their head and they think, “Hey that would make a good movie/tv show/advert/book etc.” Most people then file that idea in a big box marked Imagination’s Home and forget all about it, moving on with their lives or promising that one day they’ll finally write the story/screenplay they always wanted to.

I typed "Gothic Chest" into Google. That was my first mistake. I wish very much that there are things I could un-see.

I’m not sure if the same is for all writers, but for me, I don’t get that luxury of filing things away for future use. I get to think about the idea, to ponder and shape it until it becomes something I can work with. For the most part I love this part of my brain—it’s what allows me to shape my words and worlds into something I can almost feel.

And then there’s the other times.

At the moment, apart from editing CAM, I’ve been writing the second book in the series. Unfortunately my imagination doesn’t seem to care about this at all, because a few weeks ago I got an idea for a story. It was only a glimmer at the time—a tiny fragment of something I thought was quite cool. Over the past two weeks, the idea has tried to muscle its way into my thoughts at every conceivable moment. This includes when I’m working on actually finishing the book I’m meant to be writing.

It happens quite often with me, I’ll be in the middle of one thing and my imagination wants me to do something else. My imagination, you see, is a small puppy that needs constant attention less it start driving me bloody insane. The last time I gave in, it resulted in pages and pages of notes about a second series of books staring someone just coming into their abilities. And the time before that it was a fantasy story.

You trying saying no to this face!

My imagination won’t let it go, so for the passed two weeks I’ve tried to give it the time it clearly craves. And I think the end results will be quite good. It’s certainly not something I ever thought I was going to write, although it will require a lot of research. There’s only one problem; it’s in the same series as CAM, but much further down the line, which means I’ll have my brain telling me to hurry up and write it for the next few years.

The weird thing is, no matter how much I wish my imagination would let me finish what I’m trying to do, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I love that it forces me to think about ideas outside of what I’m currently involved in. I love that it challenges me. But still, sometimes it’d be nice to have a switch so that I could only concentrate on what I need to get finished. Only sometimes though.

On another matter, I got to see the first draft of the cover for Crimes Against Magic. I was considering showing everyone, but I think I’d rather wait until it’s finished before unveiling it. But it’ll be soon. Very soon. And it’ll be totally worth the wait.