In two minds

EricsqmultiI’ve been talking with my sister and found out that thinking is one of the big differences between us. We live at opposite ends of the country and rarely spend time together.

Whilst we both take our dogs for walks on the beach and would both say we did meditate the effect we seek is almost opposite.

I never have an empty head. I always have at least four thoughts queued up demanding that “I think them next.”
At the moment, I go to bed with my wife, but go to sleep think about another woman and start again the instant I wake up.

Amara’s predicaments take over a huge part of my downtime thinking. She’s suffering a crisis of confidence, doesn’t want to face life and has to go into battle with a troll-like opponent. Should she let him kill her? I examine the feelings and emotions of my main character, her companions and even her enemy.

So, where my sister walks the beach and tries to empty her thoughts, I walk the beach with scenes playing on my inner wide screen.

Meditation is a reluctant part of my life. Its something I feel better having done it, but I have a constant battle with my inner voices. I confess I ended up terrified when I tried a guided meditation to send me deep into the tranquil mind. Its too quiet! I feel as if somebody has killed off my friends.

Maybe one day I’ll enjoy a peaceful mind, but it hasn’t happened yet!

Did you see Gielgud’s Bottom?

geilgud_Sounds smutty and a bit ‘carry on’, doesn’t it. A typical response might be, ‘No, but his King Lear was divine.’

Even the bard’s attempts to write fantasy and humour are often perceived as lesser works compared to his serious writing.

My first attempt to write full length novel was a parody of the fantasy genre. Dissatisfied with the derivative offerings (crap) being sold as “high fantasy” I wanted to poke fun at it.

At the time I was regularly travelling on the train and spent my journey giggling like an idiot at the scenes unfolding on my computer. This also meant I never had to share a table with anybody.

The best way to avoid the nutter on the train is to be the nutter!

Of course when I asked other people’s opinions, my efforts took a hammering. I now understand the writing was flawed, but the main feedback was people just didn’t get it. Scenes where I was being ridiculously over the top sexist were criticised as … being sexist! (Doh) I decided that if I had to scream, ‘It’s a parody!’ then I was failing.

Many people say it and I have to agree; humour is the hardest form of writing. Where people accept they don’t like a specific genre such as Romance or Detective, they don’t appear to consider there could be forms of humour they don’t get – a story is simply wrong.
Even those who enjoy humorous books are often apologetic, because their reading matter isn’t sufficiently weighty in meaning.

That is why I have a great respect for the Sir Terry Pratchett (STP) and Douglas Adams (DA). They wrote magnificent works, but will never be regarded amongst of the great literary minds, purely because they made us smile.

So many times people will quote from Hitch Hiker’s Guide, possibly no longer knowing where it came from. DA was taken far too soon.

pratchett_As well as contributing a huge canon of work to British Literature, STP contributed to my writing with the simple statement (Writers and Artist Yearbook):

‘Make your world work.’

By this he meant, when you create a fantasy world, you still have to think out how trade and money flow. Without doing so, a world is simply a matte background rendering everything in it unreal.

As a learner fantasy writer, I hated the idea of spending time not just thinking up backdrops and action, but also needing to plan how the various countries functioned.

Was it necessary?

In my mind it proved essential. Even if I don’t mention Serenia trades wool as well as warriors, or Bara sell spices and minerals. Knowing how my world works shapes my thinking of how my characters move around.

Will I ever attempt humour again? Never say never. I still chuckle on the train.

My artwork – Gemma

gemma_smallBattling against my limitations and using autodesk sketchbook on an ipad, I’ve been working through a few of the characters and scenes from Shudalandia.

I’d love to see what other people with real ability can produce. If anybody out there wants to submit, I’d be pleased to show it on the website.

Never going to be famous

I doubt one of my books will ever be discussed on Mariella Frostrup’s open book programme on radio four. I’m often in the car when this is on and listen to the books celebrities choose as their favourite reads.

I honestly have to say, ‘Why?’

“Of course the tale of the vagrant nose-flute player is a metaphor. I felt the descriptions posed a delightful juxta-position to the protagonist’s past life as a Hungarian sex worker.”

Do people really enjoy this stuff, or are they ashamed to admit to what they usually read? I don’t think anybody has ever chosen a book I have even heard of, let alone considered reading.

So, I’m resigned in my writing style. The best I can hope to do is offer an enjoyable read and leave lofty literary ideals to those obviously more intelligent than I am!
Okay, anybody who knows me would spot the lie. I rarely acknowledge the possibility of there being a greater intellect than mine. Thankfully, we can all be different. When it comes to reading, I have a relatively wide range.

My reading rules:

Rule one: I want my books to take me to foreign worlds. Give me monsters, space ships, or dragons. Don’t give me misery on Morecambe bay.

Rule two: the story has to move. If I’m still wondering what’s happening by page 60, I give up. I suspect this eliminates finer literature. I have occasionally broken this rule. Usually when I am on holiday and have run out of things to read, I invariably regret it.

Rule three: surprise me! Nothing worse than everything happening in the order I expect it to occur.

A simple set of rules, but I suspect these are the reason I find most prize-winning novels a chore.

Good job we can be different, isn’t it?

Addicted to drawing

I came up with the idea that I’d love to see some fan art from the Amara books and started talking on the forums over at Deviantart. The problem is that a lot of the people on there don’t read.

stella1I had to buy an ipad recently and it has been sitting around waiting for the work project to move.

I started using Adobe Draw and loved the vector graphics. The ability to zoom in and still use lines rather than pixels is great. However, the toolset is limited.

I then tried Autodesk Express. This is a more traditional drawing app, but I quickly decided I had to have the professional tools … a whole 3 quid!

After a few late nights, I now have a sore index finger and think I need therapy to stop me. Val keeps finding me ‘just changing one line.’

This is Stella in Amara’s Legacy. I’ll have to work on backgrounds next.

Completely addictive!

Better get back to writing … that’s an addiction I can control (yeah right)

Fan Art Request

I’d love to see what any of my talented readers can produce. Whilst I can manage a sketch, the fan art exhibited on sites such as Deviantart is quite amazing.

rhinaWhen I’m writing, I form an image of the person/ place in my head and occasionally I commit the image to paper. It helps me keep the person in perspective with the other characters, but probably just let’s me waste a little time when the writing juices have slowed down.

As I am the world’s most difficult person to buy Christmas presents for I acquired a wacom drawing tablet this year. This is my first attempt at using it.

This character is Rhina, from book three. I didn’t want her quite so animal-like and will probably modify the image over coming weeks, but I already kind of love her.

Famous Monsters of Filmland

I rarely pick up an autobiography, but Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is mentioned in just about everything I’ve ever read about becoming a writer.

‘Ask anybody who has been associated with the fantasy-horror-science fiction genres in the last thirty years and you’ll get a laugh, a flash of the eyes and a stream of bright memories – I practically guarantee it.’

(Quote Stephen King On Writing, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd)

My memory is:

Printed in the USA, only one newsagent in my area would ever stock it. Even then, they infrequently acquired copies and these were anything up to a year behind the American release date. I’d trail up there at least once a week, walking past a half dozen other magazine shops in the hope that they’d have an edition stuffed in the rotating metal magazine rack.

borisPossibly its naive, but I thought I was one of the few who still even remembered the magazine. A quick google revealed an entire world of fans. Will I plunge in to re-purchase long disposed of magazines at extortionate prices?

Nope.

I do recall a friend discovering that the cover made an excellent paper dart, far more robust than the typing paper we’d been using. I could now weep at the wanton destruction we carried out in our search for aeronautical excellence!

Besides nightmares, what did it give me?

aurora2Although I was too young to be allowed into the cinema to see the films it discussed, I read it from cover to cover, envious of our American cousins. Not only could they see these films, but also got all of the models to build and effects they could buy. Yes, I now now how tacky the items advertised in the magazine really were, but it was magical to a young me.

I certainly remember The Model Shop in Manchester starting to stock the Aurora range of monster models. I just never managed to build one that looked anything like as good as the box artwork did.

Does it still influence my writing?

I suspect a love of the older style horror story was born out of this magazine. I enjoy the James Whale style cinematography: Twisted angles, deep shadows, hands reaching into the camera. In my mind I see my scenes shot in this way.
More than the scenes in my head, I suspect it was the first time I’d been absorbed into another world. It was several years before I picked up a book to read for pleasure. Thanks to my teachers, I thought reading was a torture only inflicted under pain of death until I discovered Lord of the Rings.
So, the first absorbing read, plus a head full of special effects not created by CGI. Yes, I owe the magazine a debt.

What to read after Hunger Games – Does Shudalandia cut it?

mockingjayTHE HUNGER GAMES is set in a future world, often known as a dystopian world. We are told the districts were formed to control the masses and support the excesses of the the ruling classes. There has been a catclysmic event, almost certainly a nuclear war that has left Earth stripped of population and reshaped the landmasses.
It has teenager romance, sanitised for the American definition of young adult. Violence however in abundance because its okay for an American teen to wield a weapon, but they’re not supposed to see a naked body.
The weapons the Districts can use are primitive, but with futuristic twists. Guns, explosives and mutations sit alongside the swords and especially the bow.
We have a strong female lead. By choosing her path Katniss is merely trying to save her sister and survive, but finds her role becoming the symbol of freedom.

I found the set of three books in the Hunger Games readable and enjoyable.

Amara's Legacy Cover SMALL AVATARSHUDALANDIA is a fantasy world. It might be another planet, or it could be an alternate universe. Technology beyond the wheel hasn’t occurred. As well as humans, the entire expected species exist, dwarfs, elves, dragons etc. Where ever it is, it certainly isn’t America after the war.
It has romance, but less sanitised to match the publishing norms for the target ages. We also find violence in abundance. It is however somewhat less graphic than the Hunger Games.
We have strong female leads. In fact we have a nation full of them. Unlike Katniss, instead of standing alone as the only person with sufficient courage, Maryan begins as a mediocre warrior. Never achieving her goals purely by weapons, but needing to learn other life skills, such as negotiation, manipulation and even seduction. She is the glue holding the band of heroes together.

IS IT A WORTHY NEXT READ?

If you’re looking for strong female characters it scores. However, Shudalandia has more adult themes and scenes. Where most can accept the possibility of nuclear war, many find magic and dragons a step too far for their imagination.
It targets the top end of the same age group. If you can cope with dragons and magic, give it a try!

Amara’s Legacy Shudalandia book 2

Amara’s Legacy now live

Amara's Legacy Cover MEDIUM WEBAfter what feels like an age, I have now completed and released Amara’s legacy in paperback and ebook.

After the promotion of Amara’s Daughter took it to number two in the fantasy charts (free) sales have continued.

I hoped to give myself a break from Shudalandia, but the third book has already grabbed me and demanded to be written.

Maybe one day I’ll come up for air.

Amara’s Destiny is being written.

Amara’s Legacy Almost there

Another stunning cover from Jane!

Cover shotWaiting for the final proof of the printed version, but the Kindle is live on:  (UK Amazon)

Now the traumas of the publicity thing. Have to wait for the the final copies to arrive from USA. At least that is what I am telling myself.

Had good feedback from the test readers. Only gripe is that it needs the next book writing!

Amara’s Destiny

Is on its way