Following the leader:

August 7, 2010 at 5:44 am (drafting) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

This is mostly in response to Carol Kilgore’s post earlier in the week on the blinking cursor.  Afterward I was having trouble typing without staring at the cursor on the screen and that was seriously derailing my ability to type. It really does just sit and blink at you when your fingers hesitate on the keys. It is almost as if it is angry and impatient, dying to get moving and hating you because you need to stop and think.

I probably shouldn’t personify computer blips but there we have it.

As I mentioned in the comments, I don’t sit in front of my screen when I’m thinking. I either move or turn the screen off. The glare and the blinking and just the hum of the computer is all very impersonal and it all feels very demanding. As if you have to get things done right now and that kind of pressure is never good for my creative process. I move away and find more pleasant surrounds, or at least different surrounds.

That said, I like the cursor when I’m on a roll. I see it gliding effortlessly across the screen, a straight and powerful line driving before the flock of words that follow in its wake – and there is probably a mangled metaphor if ever there was one. I see it as a guide and as encouragement. I see the words play out behind it and feel that something is being accomplished. When the story is flowing, the cursor can be your very best of friends and one of your greatest supporters.

Is it that the cursor is in fact two faced or is it that when things go well we see the positive in things but when they go poorly…

Maybe its just the fact that it blinks. Blinking lights always seem impatient and angry. Or alarmed. Concerned. None of these things are what you emotionally want when trying to write so why won’t the cursor stop blinking.

As I hesitated before writing this line I watched the cursor sit and blink at me. Maybe it is just reminding us it is there and trying to keep us from falling asleep at the screen.

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Photo Story – Blog Fest

August 6, 2010 at 6:08 am (fiction) (, , , , , , , , )

Today Melissa from the Undeveloped Story is hosting a blogfest. The idea:

I can remember being told this many times in my life: “Every photo has a great  story behind it.” And they’re right. So, for this fest, I want you to find a photo, any photo, and make up a short story (or poem for all the poets out there) about it. It doesn’t have to be very long. Make it as long as you want, just as long as you tell your story. I know that many of you have other writing projects to do, so I don’t want this to take up too much of your time. Just write however much you want to. The length is up to you this time!

I decided given I have just recently taken a million photos, surely one of them could inspire me to write a short story. So here we go – the photo I chose is one I took in the British Museum – I think I was in the section on Enlightenment at the time but I went through so many exhibits it is hard to remember. Anyway, this photo just continues my thing of taking photos of feet and shoes.

However after staring at said photo for a long time and having a lot on my mind I’ve come up with many ideas and rejected them so I think maybe my part of this blog fest will be every photo inspires a thousand rejections.

Rejected – any notion of weaving greek and or roman gods into a modern setting (mostly because it’s been done and because I wasn’t really in the mood to get historical).

Rejected  – statues coming to life either as discovery or as horror (mostly because its been done. In point of fact, I’ve done it before in a short story).

Rejected – a fallen civilisation being rediscovered with far reaching impact (mostly because this isn’t the start of a short story, but an entire work).

Rejected – a story told from the perspective of an abused platform (mostly because I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to figure out what an abused platform’s voice would sound like).

And on it went.

There is my photo. What would you have done with it?

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Blog Tour

August 3, 2010 at 5:30 am (September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This schedule might move a bit yet but here is the tour schedule for September. I’m asking the owners of the blogs I am visiting to check the links (I’ll have checked them but mistakes happen) before the tour and let me know if there is anything wrong (date, topic, link).

September 1: Guest post on Eric’s blog (Working my Muse) about character.

September 2: Guest post on Geoffrey’s blog (Misanthropology101) about the writing life.

September 4: Guest post on Lua Fowles blog (Like a Bowl of Oranges) about the need for quiet confidence.

September 7: interview on Sonia  Clark’s blog (Sonya Clark).

September 9: Guest post on Alex Willging’s blog (The Rhapsodist) about writing fantasy.

September 12: Guest post on Laura Diamond’s blog (Diamond – Yup, Like the Stone) about females in fantasy.

September 13: Guest post on Alex J Cavanugh’s blog (Alex J Cavanaugh) about visuals that help the writing process.

September 14: Guest post on Mason Canyon’s blog (Thoughts in Progress) about the origin of an idea.

September 15: Interview on Carol Kilgore’s blog (Under the Tiki Hut).

September 16: Interview on Susan Whitfield’s blog (Susan Whitfield’s blog).

September 18: Guest post on Jemi Faser’s blog (Jemi Fraser) about making fantasy unique.

September 20: Guest post on Nancy Allen’s blog (Nancy Kelly Allen – Writing Workshop) about reading.

September 22: Interview on Lee Robertson’s blog (Only Time Will Tell).

September 25: Guest post on Barb’s blog (The Creative Barbwire) about Death’s Daughter.

September 30: Guest post on Rosemary’s blog (Miss Rosemary’s Novel Ideas) about what happens after the manuscript is accepted.

And this one is not strictly in September but is definitely part of the tour:

October 3: Interview on Little Scribbler’s blog (Little Scribbler).

As you can see it is a busy month but there are still dates free if you would like to take part in the tour and host me for a day. Otherwise, I hope you come along on the tour.

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The Problem of the External Muse

July 27, 2010 at 5:44 am (Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve talked a bit about inspiration previously and where ideas come from but I usually avoid talking about my muse (I’m not saying I don’t use this turn of phrase but it isn’t my favourite way to put things). The reason for this is that by calling it a muse and personifying the idea of inspiration it makes it sound like it is something external to the writer and not part of them.

I don’t usually like this idea.

For me inspiration is definitely an internal process and the ideas from within. Certainly my mind draws in things it has seen and heard and smelled and used these in combination to form what might become a story idea but that process definitely takes place within. No mythic being bestows the ideas upon me, fully formed or otherwise. And because it is an internal and slow process of bits and pieces being slotted together, the ideas become very much apart of the writer. You’ve raised the idea from just a tiny spark or notion to a fully fleshed out plot line that might eventually get written down.

Maybe the problem is that by externalising the idea it feels like it is cheapening the process. That somehow writers just get ideas. That nothing goes on, they sit around with empty heads and wait for a magic muse to hit them with some fairy dust.

Then again, at other times it does feel like something else is happening. The ideas move seemingly overnight (which probably means my subconscious is at work) but suddenly something that seemed unworkable has fallen into place. A line of dialogue that isn’t working can suddenly be heard clearly. That little voice in the back of your mind nudges you in just the right direction at just the right moment.

If my muse exists she’s probably going to clobber me after writing this. And yes, she would be female.

I think that if it is about the muse then we shouldn’t be waiting for her, we should definitely be out there hunting her down and demanding information right now. Hopefully with more success than Elmer Fudd ever had hunting rabbits.

What do the other writers think? Muses or not. Cheapening the process or giving writers a way to talk about something they sometimes don’t fully understand – their creative processes?

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Back

July 10, 2010 at 10:11 pm (Author Info) (, , , , , )

Back from holidays and ready to jump back into work.

Paris and London were amazing and I had a fantastic time running around and seeing everything. I will be putting the pictures up on facebook soonish. What I loved most was how many ideas I came up with while I was travelling. I felt very much re-energised and focused toward writing.

Given I have a few things I need to do very quickly and I have a couple of things to deal with I’m probably only going to post a couple of times this week but I will be back to regular blogging next week and I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone. I really appreciated the comments you all left me while I was away.

Here I am in London, checking out the London Eye.

Incidentally, while I was away I was thinking about my current WIP and I realised what I dislike about it is the narration. So I am backtracking and going from third person back to first but for some reason have decided it is one of my male characters who will make the most interesting narrator for the story. This may all end in tears yet but once I get settled I am going to be rewriting the story from the beginning and seeing where this change takes me.

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My Writer’s Tool-Kit

July 1, 2010 at 5:30 am (Replay) (, , , , , , , , )

I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.


There are many tools writers need in their writing tool kits. Admittedly, mine has taken a battering recently and is threatening open rebellion. It probably goes without saying that a basic understanding of grammar and plot structure should be swimming somewhere amongst the collection of skills a writer has gathered in their time. I say probably because there are a few people who feel that this is an optional extra and as every tool kit is unique, you never know what you may, or may not, find in one.

Below is a list of things I’ve added to my tool kit that I have found invaluable.

  • Binary Oppositions – I’m a fantasy writer. At the heart of so many fantasy stories, there is a duel between opposing elements (usually good and evil). I try to avoid this, as I have always found the world to be a far more complex place, however a basic understanding of the principle of opposing ideas is something I think every writer needs. As far as creating conflict, and giving people motivation, binary oppositions are useful in almost every genre.
  • Bookmarks – This is one I will always kick myself for not utilising earlier. I never used to bookmark websites. If I found a really good one I would manually record the site, but that was as far as it went. I probably lost a lot of really informative sites that way. Now, bookmarking is something I couldn’t work without. And using folders correctly to file my bookmarks, so I remember what the site is about and why I bookmarked it. Saves me hours in search time trying to find information I already located.
  • Trivia – Similar to bookmarks. It is amazing what some of your characters can know, if only you know it first. Besides, I find that small details add to the believability of characters and settings as a whole, so random facts can sometimes come in very handy. Unfortunately, when writing in a fantasy setting most of the trivia needs to be made up for the specific world, and you need to record it in someway so you don’t end up contradicting yourself.
  • Time Management – A definite necessity for any writer. Particularly the yet to be published writer who is probably working in a different profession and is not yet really being taken seriously by family and friends so making time to write can be tricky. (Note that I said making time to write, not finding.) Using a diary, setting out blocks of writing time, and prioritising activities are all absolute essentials for writers and need to be a skill added to the tool kit.
  • Speed/Skim Reading – Not necessarily an essential, but if I was working on a project and have since abandoned it, and then suddenly been completely inspired, returning to the project can be quite difficult. Particularly if I don’t recall all of the nitty-gritty details, and particularly if – like most of my projects – the outline I wrote at the beginning was rendered useless by my creative diversions in the plot. Reading the entire project could take days and by them whatever flash of inspiration will probably have withered with neglect and died, so skim reading to get myself up to speed within about twenty minutes is essential. Get the inspiration down, then skim through again to see if it fits.
  • Dictionaries of everything – Actual dictionaries, dictionary of first names, dictionary of place names, dictionary of popular foods, dictionary of obscure herbs, dictionary of religious terminology… On and on the list goes. Collect and store for future use. My favourite at the moment is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, but the Claremont’s Dictionary of First Names (pocket sized) has a permanent place on the shelf under my computer desk. Dictionaries are the best, quick reference tool for any writer and the more you have, the easier life can be.
  • Friends and Family – Remember what I said before about friends and family taking time, so worth it. Even if it does eat in to writing time, friends and family are an invaluable part of the tool kit. They give you inspiration, encouragement, at times outlines for characters, dialogue, reasons to get away from the computer and into the world, editing assistance, audience assistance, sound boarding, etc, etc…

That was a peek in my tool kit. I would really love to know what is in yours.

And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.

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5 Ways To Gain Inspiration While Shopping

January 25, 2010 at 5:38 am (Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , )

Grocery shopping that is. How can writers use this mundane experience to inspire themselves?

1.  Looking at all products. Normally when you shop you only look at the items you intend to buy but sometimes you can find the strangest things just by looking a little to the left of the item you were going to buy. Then you start to wonder who is buying it and what they are using it for and it can really help get you thinking.

2.  Conversation. While buying meat at the deli or asking for assistance, and certainly while waiting to pay, there are lots of people you can strike up a conversation with fairly quickly.

3.  Setting. Everyone (almost) has to go to the grocery shop at some stage (assuming your story is set in the real world). What could happen in the grocery shop that would be interesting enough to end up in your story?

4.  Advertising. Advertising is always inspiring, even if it isn’t inspiring you to buy. Seeing language used for deliberate purposes (successfully or not) in bright colours can really start your brain moving.

5.  Car park encounters. If the grocery shop didn’t inspire your writing then any number of incidents in the car park might. Did someone steal “your” spot? Did you steal someone else’s? Did someone bump your car and not leave a note? Is the child really throwing a fit in the middle of the drive way? All sorts of incidents that might inspire you.

How do you use your trip to the local store to inspire your writing?

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