Method – Procrastination Be Thy Name

download (3)Some people have commented that they are amazed at how much work I get done despite being constantly plugged in. I watch movies while I paint, I flick between editing, Facebook, writing, YouTube, book formatting, digital jigsaw puzzles (my guilty pleasure, I’m not ashamed) and a plethora of timewasting online goodies, while I should be doing anything but that.

553Some say I need to switch off, be internet-free for a few days, work without Facebook Messenger pinging in the background while I work, but for me I need that distraction. I need a quick interruption sometimes when editing to re-buffer my brain, clear it out so that words I know are spelled correctly don’t start looking wrong. When I write I need bursts of YouTube, of music, of colour, newsfeeds and Instagram to reinvigorate my mind. When I paint, listening to the droning of horror stories being read from Reddit keeps my mind flowing. I also have tinnitus and an overactive brain so too much silence and monotony drive me just a tad bonkers.

But sometimes, it is just procrastination, and that’s okay. Because I don’t plan any of my writing – I’m a pantser through and through – if the characters aren’t talking to me and I finally have time to write between editing jobs (a rarity at the moment), sometimes I need that distraction for more than invigoration. Sometimes it’s a space filler and hell, if I’m honest, it’s an excuse, at least to myself. It’s the theme tune to my writer’s block.

NOV14_20_writing1But for me there is no point in forcing it. I know if I force myself to write it will be subpar work. So, I go back to my routine of painting and movies, designing book covers and conspiracy theory videos, and soon, that procrastination becomes creativity. That creativity becomes my muse. My characters wake up and finally get themselves out of that locked room, or the forest they’ve been wandering in for five months (I’m looking at you Everdark Realms part 3), or sometimes some new character will raise their little hand from behind all of the mess and jumble in my brain and say ‘Hey, over here! Have I got a story for you!’

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is sometimes it’s okay to procrastinate, to fill that time with bursts of other things, distractions, other creations or even just sit back and binge a series on Netflix. It’s okay if you need noise and distraction to create. It’s okay to be connected and online 24/7 if that works for you. And if it doesn’t, that’s cool too. In the end method is as method does – do what works for you.

~ Sabrina RG Raven

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Published in: on August 11, 2018 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sneak Peek: Inner Reflection by J.J. Fryer

inner reflection coverF.jpg1: A HORRIFYING WORLD

Today was the day that I entered a new, horrifying world: high school. Not just any high school but my new school. I never imagined a horrifying world with a rainbow coloured Australia as its logo. According to the sign at the front of the school, the name of my new world was Opal Creek High School.

As far as I could see, it didn’t seem that large at first. I could see a waist high wire gate in front of me, another building that looked like the administration building to my left, the school oval, that I immediately decided I was going to try to avoid, and a building that was surrounded by kids that I didn’t think were within my age group.

I could feel the chilling wind wrapping my body in goose bumps. The typically blue sky was blanketed in clouds; the gloominess of it was almost suffocating as I walked towards the front gate of my new prison. But was I going to let that stop me? Probably, I don’t know, there were so many thoughts swimming through my head. What will the other kids think of me? Am I Opal Creek material? How do I find new friends when I had to leave my other friends in Perth? Actually, I rarely made friends, not just in Perth but everywhere I went because I wasn’t good at figuring people out. I knew I wasn’t like other people because I have Asperger’s Syndrome.

I saw that every one of the students was wearing their school uniforms except me. The trees lurched ferociously in the wind and so did my short, hazelnut coloured hair. I tied my hair away from my face and decided that maybe reading might help settle my first day nerves. I slipped my beige backpack off my aching back, scoping around for a seat and there was one inside the school grounds nearby. Before I did something that I would later regret, I slowly pulled my backpack on again. I cupped my hands and allowed my face to fall into them. I started repeating the same thing over and over in my head, why do I have to be so awkward and out of place? I kept doing this for a few minutes, occasionally peeking through my fingers to see if anyone was observing my childish behaviour. I felt a shred of relief that even though some people were, more people were not.

I stared down at my purple t-shirt that had the symbols of the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece in a circle. ‘Give me strength,’ I whispered to myself. I turned the opposite direction to the front gate and began to walk from it. Then I heard a high-pitched sound that I knew I recognised but could not place. I turned around to see if I could identify it.

As I turned back to the gate, I noticed that the front gate was ajar. I was beginning to question the logic of how the gate had opened within a few seconds; someone must have either entered or exited the school. Just as I thought my morning could not get any more peculiar, a gust of wind somehow took control of my body, pushing me back towards the gate. The wind decided to force me through like a charging bull. I saw some students in my way, so I warned them to move, which luckily, they did.

The wind finally released me and I collided with a red-haired boy a little bit taller than I was but before I could apologise, or say anything for that matter, the bell rang for class. The boy was a few paces away from me now.

‘Come on slow poke, class is about to start,’ he called.

 

2: MY FIRST FRIEND

His rough arm grabbed around my fragile body. I was feeling extremely uncomfortable. I twisted my neck around and for a second the trees were standing still but then the roots jumped from the ground and cracked the footpath as they stalked toward me. My brow creased at the concept of trees freely walking around being an impossible occurrence. I closed my eyes and shook my head. The trees were no longer walking and were back in the same place as before.

After I realised that, the red-haired boy dragged me across the snaking footpath. I gazed into the classrooms that we were passing by. A crowd of white shirts that were splattered with colour like fireworks exploding across a blank canvas, the sounds of screaming teenagers, and markers squeaking across the whiteboards were overwhelming me.

I paused at a pond that was shielded by lilies; adjacent to it was a metal, green-painted table and chairs. I tore my backpack from my back and placed it down. Swiping the zipper across the bag, I burrowed through my belongings.

‘By the way, I’m Fletcher and you are?’ I plucked my timetable out of my bag as Fletcher craned his neck around my arm and saw my name printed on my timetable. ‘You must be Anastasia, right?’

 ‘You must be psychic,’ I said sarcastically. I looked at my timetable and it stated my maths class started two minutes ago. I tensed up and my facial expression showed that when I looked at Fletcher. He responded by shrugging his shoulders and pressing his pale lips together. I stuffed my timetable in my bag, zipped it up and it wasn’t until I had run a few steps that I realised I had no idea where I was going. I lined up my rage fuelled eyes to Fletcher’s and he raised his hands in surrender and mumbled. ‘Okay, Okay.’

We were powerwalking past what appeared to be the chemistry classroom and the library. ‘Can we stop for a minute please?’ Fletcher panted, as he fell to his knees.

‘Urgh, no,’ I snapped. I twisted around on the balls of my feet. Fletcher was heaving like bellows blowing into a fireplace. ‘You have been acting like a child and distracting me from getting to class so no I am not going to stop for you.’

I turned sharply on the spot and kept walking, leaving Fletcher behind. I heard his footsteps clomping alongside me. ‘So, you must be a brainiac with all the subjects you’re taking on, right?’

I sighed. ‘Not really. Do you always ask this many questions?’

‘Hey, I’m just trying to be friendly.’

Finally, we reached the maths classroom. I gazed inside to see what was scribbled on the whiteboard; it looked the Pythagoras theorem. The back row of students were trying to text without being caught. But lucky for them they weren’t the focus of the teacher’s gaze. I opened the door nervously and Fletcher followed.

 ‘Can you give a valid reason for your unpunctuality Mr. McGregor?’ the teacher asked sternly, the whiteboard marker scratching at the whiteboard.

‘I… I am responsible, Miss,’ I answered hesitantly. The teacher looked into my eyes with her prison guard stare. The classroom fell into an anticipated silence. All eyes were on me and the teacher.

‘Are you going to just stand there or are you going to take your seats?’ I was a little baffled by her response. I mean for someone who was dressed in a very sophisticated, grey, pin-striped suit and had her fading brown hair in a tight bun I’d expected her to go all angry drill Sergeant on me but no, she was as cool as a cucumber. We tip toed around the teacher like she was a mine about to explode, sitting in the only unoccupied seats in the classroom.

The teacher carried on with the lesson and as I was jotting down notes, I felt like everyone was burning judgemental stares into me. Was I even going to survive the rest of the day?

 

 

3: THE BREWING STORM

As my first day at Opal Creek High progressed, things were looking up.  Fletcher escorted me to every one of my classes; I learned about ancient civilizations, Victorian England and so much more. Fletcher even invited me to have lunch with him. For the first time, in a long time, I felt happy; happy that I was not being forced to do something that I never wanted to do. As the high-pitched ringing of the bell rang to start my final class of the day, Fletcher walked me inside to the lockers. I didn’t feel as nervous as I had this morning. Maybe that gush of wind pushing me through the front gate helped me after all.

 I walked into my final class with a spring in my step. I was not going to let anyone bring me down. I walked to the back of the classroom with Fletcher trailing behind me. We took our seats but while I was feeling on top of the world, I could sense something was bothering Fletcher. I directed my attention away from his troubled face and to the mysterious weather which now was no longer overcast. The sun was breaking through the grey and white cloud barrier. I took a moment to soak in the sun’s warm and gentle rays.

When the sun disappeared behind the clouds, I snapped my eyes open and I saw a handful of perfectly manicured, fake fingernails rising and falling onto my desk. I guessed the irritating noise that they made wouldn’t stop until I looked up at the person attached to the nails.

My eyes slowly ascended up the figure, and soon I saw the face of person that was making the irritating noise. The most obvious thing about the figure was that it was a female that clearly thought she owned the school. Which would be impossible, I think. Her less irritating arm was perched on her left hip. Dark red curls were sitting on her shoulders and her eyes were so dark that she could see into your soul.

 Another noticeable thing about her was that she made everyone around her, especially Fletcher, cower in fear. All she needed was snakes for hair and she would basically be Medusa.

 ‘Hey, newbie, out of my seat,’ she demanded. Gesturing to make us go elsewhere. Fletcher was about move to another seat, but I raised my hand and he stood dead in his tracks.

‘Didn’t you hear me? I said MOVE!’ she demanded again.

‘No, I’m fine just where I am,’ I replied.

‘Why you little…’

 The teacher walked in just in time. He saw the girl looming over me as he placed his briefcase on the wide, rectangular desk. He was a very young man about twenty to thirty years old, his hair and scruff golden as the sun and he was tall and lanky. I saw him start walking towards me, and at that moment I knew that I was in trouble. However, he was actually staring at the girl who was harassing me.

 ‘I suggest you take a seat, Margaret,’ insisted the teacher.

 ‘It is Maggie, Sir,’ she said irately.

‘I do not care what your name is,’ he explained. ‘You are still one of my students in my classroom, so I strongly suggest you take a seat.’

 ‘But she’s in–’ Maggie began.

‘Not buts,’ the teacher interrupted.

Maggie growled and stormed to the front of the classroom and collapsed into an empty chair. Finally, the teacher could commence the lesson. Fletcher gave me a nudge, and I observed him laughing quietly to himself. I also saw Maggie’s eyes boiling over with rage. It wasn’t until this exact moment that I started to regret what I’d just done.

 The bell rang indicating the end of my first day at Opal Creek High. Fletcher and I were about to go to his place to study. As we were halfway across the road someone pushed Fletcher and me onto the bitumen. We scraped ourselves up off the road and to our feet brushing off the morsels of tar. I turned to see Maggie and a couple of her friends looming over us like shadows.

We were surrounded. They began to slowly close in on us. Maggie was furious and apparently her friends were as well. Fletcher and I gazed deep into each other’s eyes and exchanged the same looks of sheer terror.

Maggie started accusing me of not being obedient to her. Which was true but accusing me was putting it strongly if you ask me. It wasn’t until the next statement that I felt rage coursing through my body. She started calling me names like retard and a joke. Fletcher then started poking me on the shoulder. At first I ignored him, but I finally glanced at him now shaking his hand as if something had either burned or electrocuted him, which both seemed impossible. The clouds above me were rolling in and deepening in colour like food colouring pouring into water. I felt my body levitate itself a few inches off the ground. Fletcher’s mouth dropped with a shocked expression scribbled across his face.

Maggie folded her perfect, pale arms across her thin chest and she just stood there acting as if she owned the road we were standing on. Her friends on the other hand were shaking all over and their teeth were chattering from the rope of wind that was tearing through the dramatic tension.

I could feel static electricity making my hair stand up. ‘I have known you for an hour and already, I’m over you.’

 Maggie’s friends were shuffling away. I pushed my hands aside in opposite directions like I was opening a pair of curtains. Huge gusts of wind swept down, and Maggie’s friends flew to opposite sides of the road. They collapsed to the ground like rag dolls. The expression on Maggie’s face when she turned to see her friends lying helplessly on the ground was priceless. For the first time today I saw a whole new side of Maggie. She fell too, scuttling away from me. She ran her hands over the asphalt surface, until she could feel the rubbery texture of a tyre, she then pushed her back into the front of a ‘70s Mustang, trying to get to her feet.

 Lightning cracked across the sky. My burning eyes were still filled with rage. A bolt of lightning smashed in front of Maggie. Her body was shaking as she fell to the bitumen again like a domino. I walked back to Fletcher, who was lost for words. The storm clouds were beginning to separate just when I was beginning to calm down. Almost immediately, a silver Pajero screeched only inches from hitting Fletcher and me. A man and woman emerged from the car, shock smudged across their faces. The man ran to Maggie to try and settle her nerves as the woman looked curiously at me and called for an ambulance.

Published in: on August 8, 2018 at 3:52 am  Leave a Comment  

The Power of Words

157195302Recently, I attended my friend’s birthday party. There were people going to be there that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I got chatting to someone I hadn’t seen in over twelve years. She said to me, ‘Are you still writing?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’ve got three books out and I’ve submitted my fourth.’ She was surprised. She reminded me that I had given my early work to her to read all those years ago. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t remember it, or what I had given her. She said it was a short story, and at the end the wife lays her head on her husband’s chest and listens to his heart beating. She said she remembered that since she had read it and it really resonated with her. Now that she’s married with several kids, she does that – listens to her husband’s heartbeat.

71R0PRLJi5LI have no idea what book that was from; I have a vague idea, but I’ve written so much in twelve years it may be on my old computer that died a few years ago and I lost a few short stories. It got me thinking of the power of words. A scene I wrote was remembered twelve years later and really struck a chord with someone. It meant a lot. I started to think of all the books I had read and which ones I remembered. Which scenes were the most memorable for me? Stephen King’s The Shining didn’t stick with me as much as the movie did, however his other book Gerald’s Game has remained me for nearly fifteen years due to the very end scene. I remember being scared out of my wits at night trying to finish it. Graphic novels like Essex County by Jeff Lamire have had an unexpected impact. Its powerful, heart-wrenching storyline has affected me in ways that no other comic book has.

When writing, I’m not looking for scenes to write that will be memorable, I’m looking to write a whole book that has a feeling of accomplishment, not only for me, but for the reader as well. What’s the use in reading a whole book if it didn’t entertain you for a few hours, or days? I’ve read far too many books where the writer was floundering for the first half of the book till the storyline kicked in and then it was wrapped up in a hundred pages. To me, that’s not good story writing. I don’t want to read about nothing until you’ve come up with the plot. Give it to me from the very start.

6fcb98f63717a44fe466782d098d17aaThe book I’m writing at the moment, Elephant Stone, has scenes of dreams in it that won’t appear till book 3. The very opening sequence won’t be explained till book 2. Reading it, the reader won’t ask questions because I’ve tucked it away nicely so that it is forgotten until they read book 2 and then they’ll remember ‘Oh, that was the start of book one.’ I like hidden treasures like that; it makes the reader think that I’ve actually put thought and process into my plot development. Hopefully they will read it and say it’s a good book and the payout will be linking scenes together through the four books series.

The power of words comes from the reader relating to scenes, relating to characters and falling in love with people that don’t actually exist. The reader is with them, beside them and they feel attached enough to believe they know them. When writers abuse that power, the reader reacts in a way that would indicate that character was real, and in a way, they are.

~Mitchell Tierney

Published in: on August 2, 2018 at 3:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Book Review: Banished Spirits by Jacinta Maree

29964717Banished Spirits by Jacinta Maree brings possession to a whole new level. When Rachel visits her father in Whitehaven, she arrives to find that his recent descent into madness has consumed his body as well as his mind and his death is eminent. Though what she does not expect is that when she loses her father the burden he bore would become hers.

Lock is a banished spirit who must latch himself onto a human host in order to survive and hide from those who are determined to drag him back to hell. Though when Lock attaches himself to Rachel he finds more than just a host, he finds an ally. Together they must defeat the seven sins and find Lock safe passage into the Third Realm.

This YA book is amazingly written and captivates you instantly. Jacinta has amazing attention to detail and story flow that you can’t help but fall in love with her imagination.

Rachel is a courageous and compassionate character who shows strength and conviction when thrown into a world of spirits and darkness. Lock grows on you; when you first begin the story you just want to slap his arrogant handsome ghost face but as his personality and past unfolds you learn how he and Rachel perfectly balance each other.

This is a must read story as Jacinta is an amazing story teller, I admire and envy her way with words and can’t wait to read the next book The Reapers. This is a three book series you MUST get your hands on.

 

~ Danica Peck

Published in: on July 18, 2018 at 3:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Finding Your Editor

On a sunny summer morning at the very end of 2013, I met my editor. We met at a local café and I ordered wedges. I mean, I don’t specifically remember the wedges, but I know that’s all I eat at that place, so it must have been what I ate. We ate and talked about my book, because in those days, Chosen and Scarred were one single gigantic Word document and Unbidden was an unnamed pet project, and Sabrina – that’s her name, my editor – had the unenviable task of suggesting to her newest client – me, Shayla – that I make changes to my book. *gasp*

SHAYLA.jpgFast forward five years and I not only have my first three books in print thanks to Sabrina, but a whole new career she inspired me to follow without even meaning to, and I find myself compelled to tell the story of how important my author-editor relationship has been to both my writing and my life. In an age of instant communication, increasingly accessible self-publishing options and changing understandings of literacies, I can see how easy it would be to discount the value of an editor, but I can guarantee I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this, living the life I’m living now, without the ups, downs, challenges and windows of opportunity granted to me through the professional and personal relationship cultivated between me and my editor.

In keeping with a narrative theme, Sabrina is honestly a fairy godmother. What does that make me? I don’t know – princess? It’s definitely been said before, meant in an entirely flattering way I’m sure. Sabrina runs her own indie press, a small publishing imprint called Ouroborus Books, and with her near-magical skills of editing, formatting, graphic design and tech-wizardry, she turns people’s unreasonable 200k-word manuscripts into two beautiful, coherent, saleable books. Well. Your book mightn’t be 200k words and in need of a tidy split, but mine certainly was. Not that I necessarily wanted to hear that, because, you know, I’m a writer, and writers don’t need editors telling them what to do, because they already know their work is perfect. Ahem. So, there was me, a relatively newbie teacher with an oversized manuscript and a publishing dream, thoroughly impressed by Sabrina’s CV of skills. I wish I could smugly say I knew what all of those were, but as we talked I became aware of just how much I didn’t know about this process I wanted to take my book on and how valuable someone like Sabrina would be to have onside. She could help me make my dream real. Thus began my professional relationship with my editor.

184928153-57a5555a3df78cf459a45874It also started something else – a newfound fascination with the publishing industry. But it came about through some less-than-fairytale moments. It’s a well-kept secret that I am, in fact, a control freak, well-accustomed to running a classroom of wild, magical children and getting to decide everything from what colour poster paper you get to how far we can stretch free writing time out to. So, like for most writers, it’s quite terrifying to hand over your precious creation to a relative stranger – or, in fact, anyone – and allow them to judge your work, but for me there was this other layer of twitchiness, this silent fretting of “What’s she doing to the book that I can’t do?” It became an obsession, constantly wanting to know, every step of the way, and wanting to do anything that remained in my power to do. And wanting all the power. Wanting to view every single change to the cover. Wanting it explained why a cover feature had shifted due to spine thickness, which in turn was due to word count. Wanting double quotation marks because that’s how I was taught, and silently seething when I was told that it was non-standard practice and would make my book look unprofessional. Sabrina, accustomed to handling this whole process on her own, got an opportunity to practise tactfully managing an overbearing author, an opportunity I’m sure she much appreciated. I got an opportunity to practise compromise. It’s not very fun. I recommend either tennis or calligraphy instead.

Regardless, the first book was born, and when I unpacked the first box in Sabrina’s driveway and held Chosen in my hands for the first time, I realised quite suddenly what this professional relationship and all this practise at compromising had brought me. Not just a book. Not just a whole box of books. A better book. And a new understanding of how it got there. With her skills, talents and no shortage of patience, Sabrina had guided me to this moment and made it real.

Here’s the link to the video of that moment, so you can see the enlightened joy in my eyes for yourself, along with how nice my hair looked that day.

When we started work on the second book, I knew a bit better what to expect – what I would be able to help with, what kind of quotation marks I would have to live with – and Sabrina knew a bit better what to bring me in on. Things fell into place, things got moving, and then suddenly there was a second book to join the first. Physical proof that Sabrina’s initial careful suggestion to split my manuscript was a very sound idea, since holding Chosen and Scarred in the one hand and pretending like anyone would buy a debut book that size is just silly. Very glad she persevered in pushing that agenda with me way back when, and glad I wasn’t too stubborn to agree.

Two other things changed around this point, too. The first was that my fascination with the process Sabrina has guided me through, and my emerging awareness of how undoubtedly irritating I’d been in my ignorant determination to be involved, led me to the door of the path of a Graduate Certificate in Editing and Publishing. I was really just eager to learn and be more involved and helpful to Sabrina and my books, but a Grad Cert led to a Masters, which led to both a thesis and a group project to start our own publishing collective to publish other people’s books, which led to freelance editing work. The thesis led to a Doctorate, which is where I find myself now. I’m still not entirely sure how I got here. Pumpkin carriage?

typed-manuscriptThe other thing that happened was that along the way of testing one another’s patience and tolerance, challenging each other to justify and explain our every decision on Chosen and then Scarred, toiling together to make them the best they could be and to bring them to the world, Sabrina became my friend. I learned to read between the lines of her editorial comments and know when she was being firm and when she was being funny. I learned how best to ask for advice as a new editor, because I know now that she’s straightforward and grounded and knowledgeable. We can agree and disagree very comfortably now. When we took Unbidden through the same processes as we had the first two books, it was all smooth sailing, and when Sabrina asked me to edit her debut novel, Blank, the open professional and personal relationship we had developed over so many years ensured the sort of honest, positive conversation that kept the success of the book at the forefront of our minds. I knew when a protagonist’s mentor betrayed her that it was a plot decision Sabrina wasn’t happy with – I knew her well enough to be ableebookBlank Cover final to tell from her prose, and I could suggest ways of rewriting that motivation to iron out the plotting that had forced her into that scene. Our boundaries were already established, so it felt perfectly natural to intersperse editorial comments with personal reactions (like, Lol, ‘as’ has one ‘s’, or KILL THIS CHICK I HATE HER!!!) the way Sabrina does with mine. And I knew, from my time spent on the other side of the fence, how terrifying this process was to a writer having handed over the reins to her editor, and how much trust and faith was involved. We had learned that trust and faith from each other. Together, we made Blank a better book. Go buy it. It’s cool.

A few weekends ago, on a fine wintery day otherwise reminiscent of that first meeting, Sabrina and I met a Masters student at a Brisbane café to discuss our relationship as editors and authors for her thesis project. That frank and open conversation reminded me both of how far we’ve come in five years but also of how valuable this relationship has been to me and my growth. Working with my editor and cultivating our two-way editor-author/author-editor relationship has not only made my books better; it’s taught me to look at writing in a more objective and professional way, it’s sent me on a whole new career trajectory, and, very importantly, it’s given me a fabulous package deal: a professional contact and a friend in one. Thanks, Sabrina.

~ Shayla Morgansen

Published in: on July 1, 2018 at 3:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Living the Dream

If you’d asked me what my dream was my entire life up until a year ago I would have responded the same way. Something along the lines of the fact that I like telling stories, and ultimately my goal was to publish a book one day.

I never really thought it would happen; it was just a dream I kept in the back of my head, to take out and look at when I needed it. Sometimes the dream would be fame and fortune, other times I just wanted the acclaim and satisfaction of having a few people who loved seeing me do what I love. I imagined the pride I’d feel looking at my work and saying ‘yeah that’s mine. I did that.’

coverfrontNow I’ve done that. My life’s dream has been accomplished which, as you can probably guess, is a much more complicated thing to have happen to you than it might seem at first glance. So I thought now would be a good chance to look at what got better, what got worse and what got weird.

What Got Better

The obvious is probably the best place to begin: I now have a book to my name, which is about the strangest thing to have happen. I still occasionally get a little flush of quiet accomplishment knowing that I’ve done something I always wanted to do. I talk to people and hear that they’ve always wanted to write a book, how they’d always had a story in them. I love the idea of being a positive example rather than a cautionary tale for once, and every time someone quotes my work on Facebook or tells me they recommended it to a friend I feel a happy buzz.

I got what I wanted most from life – so many people never get to do that, so I won’t pretend I’m not lucky, and I’ll never forget what it was like to open up my first box of books.

What Got Worse

writers-blockI’m only twenty-six years old and I’ve already done the only thing in the world I’ve always wanted to do, which is a confusing situation to be in. I love writing, but I now have a much greater mountain to climb to reach my next potential step. Living off my work is something a lot of authors never achieve, and having already lived my dream I have no overriding goal to accomplish.

It resulted in a sense of malaise that lasted months after I got my first book out there. The fact that not everything changed when I did the only thing I had ever wanted to do was difficult to deal with. My world didn’t turn on its head and honestly, I kind of expected it to.

The world seems so much bigger now, and apparently that’s where things begin. I now have cons, promotion, marketing, trying to meet the right people and get my name out there which are things I have no idea how to do. Something I loved is a job now, which takes something away from the favourite hobby I once had.

Where to go from here?

I know how monstrously self-indulgent this sounds. I’m droning on about how my life changed when I got everything I wanted but the idea that twenty-six might be my peaking achievement is so strange. I don’t know if this is a thing most writers go through, but there’s a possibility. For so long my entire life, and maybe yours, has been about doing this one thing we’ve always wanted to do and once that’s done we end up with a sense of aimlessness that takes some considerable getting over.

My Advice to Other Writers

downloadIf you feel like I feel my best advice is to find another goal to work toward quickly. It doesn’t have to be ‘live off my writing’ (which mine is, as insane as it sounds to write that down.) It might be to find a way for writing a sequel to fit into your life or building more effective writing habits. It might be to write something outside of your usual genre, or write something that impresses and pleases you on a level your current work doesn’t.

If all else fails, work on your magnum opus. It’ll never be good enough to satisfy you, but it’s a lot of fun to try.

 

~Robert J Barlow

Published in: on June 16, 2018 at 2:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Long in the Tooth

Every few years I make a list of the books I need to write. And I say need, because for us writers, it is just that. I hadn’t done it for a while, and coming up to the end of two books, I decided I should probably figure out what I need to write in the next year or so.

157195302I started writing down the books that are half written and sitting in my brain covered in cobwebs and I came to the realisation that, maybe, I don’t want to write some anymore. Some of them, like the one I titled ‘Generation Rat’, had a very interesting topic and dynamic, and I couldn’t wait to write it. But now, years later, I would struggle to finish it. My heart and energy just aren’t in the old books anymore. Which is sad. I have a fear one day the writing tube will just run out and I’ll have no more ideas; I’ll sit down to write and that will be it – it’s empty.

Most of these books are either half written or have chapters all over the place and some I still want to write, but ‘I’ll write it later’ when I run out of other things to write. Coming to the end of a book is equally exciting and depressing. If you’ve ever seen those marathon runners that are stick-thin, their knees are wobbly, they don’t know where they are, they’re sweating and falling over – that’s how it feels. You’ve made it to the end of a book, it’s done. Well, sort of. Editing and rewrites come next, but the hard part’s done. The exciting thing is, you get to start another book. Some people find it daunting, but I find it exciting. The first few chapters are vital. Even I don’t know the characters properly, or the environments.

images1I’ve got two chapters to go on ‘The Skellington Key,’ then I’ll edit it and send it to the publisher. Then I’ll work on ‘Children of the Locomotive,’ which is pretty much all written, but needs another run through. This will take up the next few weeks at least, if I get my arse into gear and knuckle down. After that, I’ll have to choose what to work on next. Do I dig the old books out and dust them off and see what can be salvaged? Has time and experience made them obsolete? Maybe. I really don’t have time to panel beat a book into shape and force myself to write these books that are long in the tooth and I’ve somewhat gotten bored of.

writingMy next adult book ‘Homeless Astronaut,’ excites me. It has a few subject matters that I’m keen to write about. There’s only two characters so far and I’m constantly thinking of what I can do with it. It’s something of a challenge and I like it. Last week I had an idea about writing a period piece called ‘The Wandmaker’s Apprentice’. That started me down a road of exploration and note-writing that lasted nearly five days straight. Although those old books are still in my head, patiently waiting, I’m sure there will be a time where the final story arc will fall in my lap and I’ll sit there and bash it out. I do want to write ‘Generation Rat,’ I like the characters I have. I like the story line. But I also want to rewrite ‘The Devil and The Wall,’ and the other books I’ve wanted to write forever: ‘Dark Water.’ But time and ideas restrict these books. I also can’t write five books at once, I’ll never get anything done. So, I try to only write about two books at once. One adult book, and one Young Adult book.

Don’t let books die, if they are meant to be in print, you’ll get it done.

Mitchell.

Published in: on June 3, 2018 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment  

In the case of Stuing the Sue

untitled.pngOnce upon a time (ignore the cliché) many characters were unique, interesting and most importantly they had depth. You may not know this, but many of those amazing characters were in fact Mary Sue or in the male case, Gary Stu.

EvilQueenReginaPromoWhile everyone has a different opinion on them, I’m determined that the Mary Sue can affect my mood for a story. In my eyes, they are very repetitive and they are more common than you think. They are consistently expressed as beautiful, with a sad ‘poor me’ tale, have no flaws, has everyone’s immediate attention that even bad guys are interested and the most common theme is that they are incredibly overpowered!

Known examples of these characters are:

  • Bella Swan from The Twilight Saga (I mean the name pretty much starts with warning bells)
  • Regina Mills/The Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time (Literally a person who is always the victim, then blames other people for her problems – but the best part is that everyone lets her do things without consequence)
  • Richard Rahl from The Legend of the Seeker (While I’ve only seen the first season and never read the books, he does have obvious elements of a Gary Stu)
  • Superman/Clark Kent from Superman (Alien orphan with incredible power – it’s safe to say I never liked him… No offence to Superman fans)

Richard_CypherAs you can see, there are several well-known characters that are Sues/Stus and I’m here to hand out advice to stop them from taking over our writing community.

I won’t say that my characters are non-perfect little angels – because they’re not always in that case. But I do work hard to make sure that they are dimensional with real struggles and pain. The only advice I can offer when creating a character is giving them a balance. If you feel like your character is a Mary Sue, take an online test and find out for yourself before giving yourself some time to give a certain character flaws.

imagesFGE1RXLRWith that, I must advise you to not give them so many flaws. If you hand them too many flaws, then they become the anti-Sue which is the opposite of what we want.

For example, make a character intelligent and insightful – but perhaps making them not street smart or a little awkward due to the lack of experience.

However, despite that Mary Sues exist, you can make them better by making them realise their flaws and that they’re actually human (or… inhuman in some cases). Even now, I learn more about my characters – about their fears and hopes. Perhaps in the distant future you will be able to see it as well.

~Annalise Azevedo

 

Published in: on May 14, 2018 at 1:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Fandom Fun

SONY DSCAs the fourth Wonder Woman and second Scooby Gang pose in front of our book stall for a photo with a particularly buff Thor and a truly loathsome-looking Joffrey, I marvel at the colour, the life, the sheer enormity of this thing people still like to think of as cultish when it’s clear that at some point, it crossed over into mainstream: fandom.

crowdsartistsalleyIt’s Supanova, the biggest pop culture and comic book convention in Australia, and together with Oz Comic Con and a few smaller regional events, makes up the year-long national con circuit frequented by all things movie, TV, book and comic fannish. As authors and artists, we’re there with a table covered in books and artwork all centred around the genres most prevalent in fandom: fantasy, science fiction, horror, paranormal, and other subgenres of speculative fiction. We’re in the Artist Alley section of the exhibition floor, surrounded by other genre writers, artists, craftspeople and designers, all of us holding down stalls bearing our creative, nerdy wares like a great big colourful market of geekdom. Our customers are fans of all kinds, anime fans, Trekkies, Jedi, wizards, Brown Coats, Whovians… all wandering about in relative harmony, some dressed up, others not, many in some reverent state of in-between with a Sherlock-quote handbag or a Pikachu ears headband. When someone comes over to browse the books, it’s not hard to find something in common to chat about – we’re all fans, after all, though our sources of fannish interest and devotion are diverse. Fandom, whether fans identify with the collective or one of its subcommunities or not at all, is a fascinating worldwide space generated and sustained by the shared suspended belief of millions upon millions of media consumers of varying degrees of involvement. It’s here at Supanova, manifest in the cosplay and the hours-long lines to get a two-second photograph next to Stan Lee, comic book godfather; it’s online across hundreds of platforms and sites, evidenced in the deep meta discussions on Facebook and in forum threads about Kylo Ren’s emotional state; it’s in the conversation you strike up with your friends after walking out of the latest Avengers movie about the credibility of a particular action sequence or the execution of a particular humorous line. Fandom is real, and it’s far from underground these days. It really is a wonderfully fun place to be, and judging from the numbers of fanfictions just in the two biggest multi-fandom archives and the numbers of Supanova attendees ranging through the tens of thousands in each of the capital cities, I’m not alone in my opinion.

IMG_7900So for something so wildly popular, it’s almost funny that it continues to be treated as cultish, both in everyday discourse and academic circles. Introductions of fannish interests to polite conversations still seem to need a sort of disclaimer – “Sorry, I’m such a nerd” – and fan studies as a discipline, though established in the mid-1980s and then firmly legitimised by such pioneering researcher/fans as Henry Jenkins and Camille Bacon-Smith (both 1992), continues to be painfully underresearched and underappreciated. Though it doesn’t shock me, I wearily acknowledge the raised eyebrow I receive when I explain that my PhD draws from fan studies – “That’s a real thing that people actually study?”

Well, yeah. A study of people gathering both physically and virtually around shared interests to engage in literate practices such as discussion, critique, debate, collaborative writing and the creation of other arts works, of an media machine both influencing and influenced by the evolution of globalised mainstream culture, of a multi-billion-dollar industry transcending singular forms and challenging old notions of time and timelessness with reboots and reruns and Twitter petitions for cancelled shows to be revived as films. Yeah, that’s a real thing, and it’s kind of in plain sight. Disney didn’t buy out George Lucas’s soul (pretty sure that’s what you get in exchange when you give someone $4 billion, along with their movie franchise) because they’re silly.

23509306_1759794297364578_1377898381681322401_oStanding at my team’s stall at Supanova in author-Shayla mode, it’s hard to shift the hat of researcher-Shayla and not wonder at all these up-and-coming writers around me with their unique story worlds, and at the Cruella and Hermione standing on the other side of the table animatedly discussing the author’s previous book and all that they loved about it. For the purpose of that conversation, that story world is real for those three people, and if I listen in or join them, that world is open to me, too. To all of us. I think that’s the magic of being a media fan, whatever your specific corner of fandom, whatever non-fans say or can’t perceive – that ability to make real what somebody else once envisioned and tried to share, either as a book, a screenplay, a television series, and to join others inside that shared vision. It’s an exciting kind of magic as a fan, even more so as an academic who gets to research that instead of something more mundane, but most especially as a creative. When I put my books out into the world, I opened that world inside my head up for others to join me. What had been real to me for years was suddenly a place others could come and experience, too. Does that make my work part of fandom? I guess I already have my answer in the Octavias, Lisa Simpsons, Ariels and Castiels who stop at my Supanova table to ask when the next Elm Stone book is out. I built the door, but the fans bring the magic.

Shayla Morgansen

Published in: on April 26, 2018 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

SNEAK PEEK: Blank

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by Sabrina RG Raven

Release date: June 2, 2018.

To pre-order click here

CHAPTER ONE: Almara

When I was born my parents wept. Not in joy like most parents do, but in sorrow.

Everyone in the world is born with a tattoo that matches their soul mate’s. We couple for life. I have no idea, even now, how it all works, how that soul mate is always close enough to be found, but I am blank. That is why my parents wept.

The hospital put me in isolation, capsuled in a humidicrib, encased in plastic, hoping that a mark would appear in time, like the spots of a Dalmatian puppy. But I remained blank. They took blood samples, and skin scrapes. They bottled my tears and called in healers. They genetically tested me, looking for missing markers and the like. They found nothing out of the ordinary. I was a healthy baby who grew into a healthy toddler.

My parents searched my skin a thousand times, praying that a mark would appear. It had never happened in my town – a blank child – at least not in the past 100 years of records. There were rumours, rumours that left me isolated and my parents embarrassed.

My sister was born when I was three. She had her mark emblazoned on her calf, the same place as my mother. They named her Joy, as they were finally going to be able to get past my deformity. My name, Almara, meant one who is alone. I guess they were right.

There was nothing but stories of people like me. Eventually though I was ignored enough to make my life liveable. I went to school, but was sat in the back, so as not to disrupt the other children. I was a curiosity, but I needed more in my life than being the blank child. I worked hard at school and did as I was told. I got good grades and my parents were proud, but I was never acknowledged for my efforts. I was ten when I started looking through the town archives.

The archives were housed in the basement of the town library. The librarian, Mr Elwood, was used to me being in the building; it was a good place to escape the stares and whispers of the locals. My parents were content with me being there as long as I was out of their way and not getting in trouble. It was safe there and I felt safe too, surrounded by books and data drives.

I had asked Mr Elwood about the archived town records, but he would just ruffle my hair and tell me I would be bored in there, steering me towards the children’s library. One day I overheard an adult ask for access to the archives and Mr Elwood shuffled through the stacks of books, leading the man into the antiquity section of the library. I followed behind, darting from shelf to shelf to stay out of view. When you spend your life trying to avoid stares you get good at walking as softly as a cat and blending in to the background. I was good at being ignored now.

The vanilla-like scent rose from the old pages of the antique book section, cracked leather sent swirls of warm dust into the air. I loved that smell. I heard the hushed voices stop as they drew up to a door. It was dark wood, with a metal keypad on the side. I darted to the next shelf to get a better angle on the keypad.

4-6-8-2 Mr Elwood typed in. 4-6-8-2, 4-6-8-2, I repeated in my head, locking the number away for next time. The man slipped into the room and banks of fluoro lights lit the white room beyond as the door swung shut with a sigh of hinges.

I scuttled a few rows over, just in case. Mr Elwood knew I loved the smell in here so I slipped a tome from the shelf and began to look it over. A History of the Oasis. Herios was my city, built on old forests with a thriving paper industry. I flicked through the pages, gently leafing through the history of my family home. We were Herians going back five generations. This book concerned itself though with wars and industry, and not so much the people or where the population originally emigrated from. I knew that most Herians were from the mountains and beyond; my family from the beyond part. I closed the book with a sigh and a small puff of dust, and was sliding it into its spot on the shelf when Mr Elwood appeared beside me.

‘Almara, what are you doing back here?’ he said with a smile as the book returned to its place in the shelf.

‘Just soaking up the smell, Mr Elwood,’ I replied with a laugh.

‘A young lady like you shouldn’t be digging around in the dust of these old shelves. Why don’t you head back to the children’s section? We got some new books in this morning that I just finished putting on display.’

‘But the old books are interesting,’ I said, trying to think of a better excuse. ‘It’s for a school report anyway. Just looking at the old history books. Stuff from before the war. If I could get into the archives…’ I grinned, knowing his answer.

‘We’ve spoken about that before. You don’t need to go into the archives. Anyway, if you need pre-war history, you’re better off going into the Libriophile system. The pre-war books are in there and much easier to read than these old things.’

‘It’s just not the same. And there’s nothing else for me to do, so I don’t mind spending the time.’

‘Well, don’t stay down here too long. You’ll end up all dusty. Your parents won’t like that.’

‘Yeah, I guess,’ I mumbled, knowing full well my parents wouldn’t give a damn if I came home soaked in paint, let alone dust.

Mr Elwood smiled and wandered off, whistling a quiet melody that echoed through the shelves. I heard the town clock chime half past five. I had half an hour until the library closed. The archives would have to wait until tomorrow. I went to the history section and grabbed a few books to take home. I had read so many books on history that I didn’t need the books, but I hoped to find something I’d missed about being blank in one of them. Maybe one day I would find answers as to what I was, and what being blank meant. There had to be more to it than meaning I was meant to be alone.

The clock chimed 6pm as I walked through the heavy doors of the library and down to the bus stop. The man from the library was there. I glanced up at him, trying not to draw attention to myself. I was envious of him. If I were an adult, Mr Elwood would let me into the archives too. He held a wad of paper in his hand, printouts of plain text, still curled on the corners from the warmth of the copier. I sat on the bench seat and tried to read the documents in his hand but he soon shuffled them into the bag he had slung over his shoulder.

The bus pulled up and we both got on. Soon I was home and sitting silently at the dinner table as my family talked over me as usual. I was their broken child and Joy had news. She had found her soul mate.

 

Published in: on April 24, 2018 at 10:53 am  Leave a Comment