On writing fantasy, choosing pseudonyms, tips for new writers and the inspiration behind her books, here you will find the recent interview from Sword and Laser with one of my favourite author’s of all time, the very talented Robin Hobb.
On writing fantasy, choosing pseudonyms, tips for new writers and the inspiration behind her books, here you will find the recent interview from Sword and Laser with one of my favourite author’s of all time, the very talented Robin Hobb.
A month ago today I submitted the first four chapters of my novel to the university for assessment. For those of you who aren’t up to date, I’ve just begun my Masters of Creative Writing, and after years of procrastinating my brilliant (to me anyway) idea, I’m finally putting words to paper and actually writing the damn thing.
I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a tough few months. With deadlines and large wordcounts and a new job, not to mention the fact that writing a novel is HARD, other elements of my life pre-novel-writing have suffered – most notably my blog (as you’ve probably noticed) and any semblance of a social life.
I’m not one to complain. Let’s be honest, for an introverted book nerd such as myself, a life of quiet solitude is what one aspires to. Being able to write daily and having an actual reason to stay at home and get on with it is hardly a burden. I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do.
But sometimes, just sometimes, the project seems far too big for my own little self to manage. I’ve often caught myself thinking what’s the point, when I’ll never be half as talented as the Dickens or Rowlings of the world. Sometimes the words on paper just won’t match the scene in my head, and I’m certain I’m destined for a life of solitary mediocrity.
Sometimes I just want to go out and do something other than sit at home and write a novel.
And then, just when I’m ready to pack it all in and run away with fairies, something happens.
This week, I collected my first four chapters, as marked by Vogel award winning author Rohan Wilson, and I smiled. I smiled, because even though the last few months have been hard, I knew, as I’ve known all along, that it would all be worth it.
Assignment One: 15,000 words
Result: High Distinction
Whilst I realise I’ve still got a long, long way to go, not least of all being to write the rest of the story, it’s nice to know that I’m on the right track, that I’m doing something right, and that someone else thinks my writing is actually not bad. It’s a good feeling.
That said, while I’m happy with the results, even those chapters still need a lot of reworking and, more importantly, four chapters do not a novel make! A long road awaits me, but I’m afraid the blog shall once again suffer as Semester Two begins and I focus on the next few chapters. I hope you’ll forgive me for that.
In exchange for your understanding, I’m going to offer you a sneak peek of some extracts of what I’ve written so far, AS LONG AS you promise to keep in mind that these are early days and there is much work still to be done. Deal?
Click on “The Novel” at the top of the page, or here to have read. The Prologue is up and ready for perusal.
As always, your feedback is invaluable, and I look forward to hearing what you think.
Happy weekend all.
If you’ve read C is for Castles then you already know what an impression Edinburgh made on me. It had me writing poetry. Me. Poetry. Wonders never cease.
The journey began by train. Now, I’m usually not too eager to participate in long train journeys. While the idea of being able to sit quietly watching scenery fly by, reading a book, or listening to music, is of course very appealing, I rarely get to enjoy such leisurely activities when it comes to actually being on the train.
You see, I lack what I have been told is known as a ‘fuck off face’, if you’ll excuse my French.
What this means is, that if there is one weirdo, crazy person, creepy man, talkative eccentric, drug addict looking for someone to look after her child while she shoots up in the loo (true story), then that person will without fail come and sit next to or opposite me.
As such, I usually lack the enthusiasm that many show for long train rides. THANKFULLY, the four and a half hour London-Edinburgh train trip was nothing less than absolutely delightful.
My friend, Hayley, and I were seated opposite each other across a rather agreeable little table, which we agreed was the most civilised we had been since we’d begun our journey. The carriage was peaceful, we had free wifi (a luxury when travelling o/s, I tell you), and as we passed through the English and Scottish countryside, I could do little but admire the stunning scenery.
And that was the beginning of what soon became my favourite leg of the entire trip.
For a writer (or an aspiring one at least), there is nothing more satisfying than visiting a place that embraces literature with (wide and very) open arms. Edinburgh is the world’s first UNESCO city of literature, so they take the whole business of writing and reading very seriously and you can see evidence of it everywhere. From writer’s museums, storytelling centres, author tributes and pavements quoting famous writers, the city is absolutely brimming with creative energy.
The Writers Museum pays tribute to three notable writers, each who at one time lived in Edinburgh: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. The museum houses a permanent exhibition to the three writers, displaying rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and original tools of the trade. Like many of the places I visited in Edinburgh, the museum was interactive, which meant that walking into a room could set off an audio reading of one of the writer’s works. Admission was also free, so no excuses not to get your literary nerd on.
Outside the museum, the courtyard, streets and stairs leading to the museum are paved with quoted flagstones, citing famous Scottish writers.
Another place in Edinburgh worthy of literary note is The Elephant House cafe. This cafe, where yours truly just three weeks ago could be found sipping hot chocolate, was where the literary genius of none other than J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the Harry Potter novels.
And who could blame her?
The back room of the cafe offers spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle (yes the same one I doted on in C is for Castles), and the hot chocolates ‘aint bad either. It has also played regular host to Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith. They quite clearly put something in the coffee there, and I’m hoping whatever it is they put in the hot chocolate too. Perhaps I left with a little extra writers luck?
But it isn’t just one funky cafe that is fuel for the imagination in this city. There’s a story in every nook and cranny, and you don’t even have to be looking for it. It is hard to say whether writers have found their inspiration in the architecture of Edinburgh, or rather, if Edinburgh was in fact built in faithful reproduction of the fairy tales and romantic stories of old. All you have to do is look up to see Cinderella’s castle or Rapunzel’s tower.
What fascinated me most about this city however, was just that. That it’s a city. And I still loved it. I mentioned in an earlier post that big cities often make me anxious, but thoughts of anxiety were far from my mind when I was there. Whilst it is obviously a tourist attraction, I didn’t get the feeling that I was surrounded by in-a-hurry tourists. The locals were doing their grocery shopping and the students were on their way to classes. The lovers were walking hand in hand and friends were having a laugh at the pub. All this, right in the heart of Edinburgh, amongst the medieval buildings and before the castle’s towering gaze.
What’s more, the locals seem to appreciate their city, something people often lose sight of when surrounded by beautiful things every day. Everyone was cheerful, despite the cold, and there were no signs of the graffiti or vandalism that I’ve seen lining the canals of Venice or the streets of London. It’s a beautiful city, and those that live there obviously do not take that for granted.
Whilst the train trip home was just as pleasant as the incoming journey as I watched the sun rise over Scottish seas, I can’t deny I was sad to leave that place. Even now I long to return to Edinburgh.
One day soon…
NB: Edinburgh also had me delving right out of my comfort zone and trying something new to eat – Haggis, otherwise known as sheep’s offal (entrails and internal organs), served with ‘neeps and tatties’, or, turnips and potatoes. I’m happy to announce that it wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.
Whilst I absolutely love living in Australia, the laid back way of life, the climate, the land and the people, it is a sad fact that for all this we, as a relatively ‘new’ country, miss out on the history that countries in Europe have to offer.
One of the perks of said history is the castles.
Big or small, new and old, crumbling or unspoiled, extravagant and simple. I don’t care how they come, but boy oh boy do I like a good castle.
The idea of secret passageways, miniature doorways and hidden rooms just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Of course, this all stems from my love of fantasy stories, naturally. But what amazes me most is that no matter how many castles I see I still feel as if I am being transported back in time to a moment when castles were alive with nobility, scandal and intrigue. The feeling is so overwhelming that I’m certain were I to close my eyes, I could see the nobles wandering the castle grounds and the stable boys attending to the horses.
Like I said, I do love a good castle.
The first castle that caught my eye was in Krakow, Poland. We visited Wawel Castle at night when all was a bit eerie, but it was still perfectly beautiful, made even more so by the fact that it sits on the hill that hosts the Dragon’s Den, a limestone cave said to have been inhabited by the legendary Wawel Dragon.
Whilst the cave is closed during the winter months, the appeal of a city and a castle built upon the ashes of a dragon was all quite extraordinary to this impressionable young mind.
Now to England, where we find ourselves in the ancient town of Rye, which happens to be where my father grew up, his father before him and, some many years later, where I also did some growing up of my own. But more about that in another post.
Ypres Castle was built in 1250 and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Rye. Once used as a prison, it now hosts the Rye town museum.
It’s a small fortress, but I love it all the same, especially after hearing of my grandfather’s part in the making of the canons that now sit outside the castle, as well as my father’s accident falling off one of the castle walls. Boys will be boys.
When I was 16, I went on a student exchange to Italy where I stayed with a host family for three months in the small town of Ferrara, about an hour south of Venice. The following year I went back to visit my host family. About three years later I moved there to study for a year. A few years after that I returned again for a visit. And this year, just over a decade after my first visit at the ripe age of 16, I returned once more to my host family, host town and host country.
Needless to say, Ferrara and Italy both hold a place close to my heart.
Did I mention Ferrara has a castle? And a moat? AND a drawbridge?
Yep, The Estense Castle is pretty impressive. Smack bang in the centre of the city, this moated medieval fortress has bared witness to every stage of the city’s colourful history since its foundations were laid in 1385. Whilst some amazing stories about the castle have been told to me in Italian over the years, I’d be well pressed to do them justice with a poor translation and my dreadful memory, but I would nonetheless recommend a visit to this beautiful castle if you’re ever on your way North to Venice.
The last castle I’d like to share with you is the gem of them all.
Having never before been to Edinburgh, I was absolutely taken aback by its beauty. The streets, the buildings, the architecture – it was all nothing short of amazing. Of course Edinburgh will get its own post, but its castle, well, it made such an impression that it probably deserves its own post too. Alas…
When I first spotted this magnificent structure, I was being taken on a tour through the streets by my dear Italian friend who now studies in Edinburgh. The irony of an Italian showing around the British born Australian was not lost on us, although it was even more prevalent when I found myself cooking her my Italian host-mother’s pasta sauce recipe. But I digress.
We were walking down the cobbled stone streets of the Grassmarket, admiring the beautiful bookshops, architecture and quaint little narrow passageways between buildings, when one of the wider side streets opened to reveal a towering rock cliff face, which literally morphed into the castle perched atop it.
I was absolutely speechless. Without getting all melodramatic on you, it was for me so overwhelmingly magnificent that I actually felt a bit choked-up.
Truly, this is the moment and the place that will stick with me as the absolute highlight of the entire trip. I was completely enamoured. I felt like I was standing before a castle from a fantasy story, in Westeros or in Middle Earth.
It made such an impression that I was compelled to write a poem about it. As I’ve said before, poetry is far from my forte and this is certainly no prize winner. But raw as it is, the meaning is clear: I love you Edinburgh Castle!
A Kingly Embrace
I walk cobbled streets
You hide behind stone
But with each passing crossroad
I catch glimpse of your throne
As cliff becomes castle
Turrets touching the skies
All turn to your fortress
With passionate sighs
You observe from above
The tenderness of others
The embrace of a friend
Brushing lips of two lovers
But when friends have long gone
And love starts to wither
The distance between us
Brings a tremble, a shiver
For in heart and in soul
I belong in your towers
Perched upon rock face
Dreaming for hours
And though distance remains
Between me and your grace
Please await my return
To your kingly embrace
While this would certainly be news enough for this aspiring author, what’s even more wonderful is that all proceeds from the sales of this ebook will be going to children’s aid organisation, UNICEF, who work so very hard to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path.
Needless to say, I’m thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of such a great cause this Christmas.
While The Dragon and the Moon is more of a whimsical fantasy, the other stories featured are predominantly horror/thriller based, so hopefully there will be something to appeal to your reading tastes.
Download your ebook straight to your Kindle (or any device where you can download the free Kindle app) by searching for my name, Katy Hulme, or the book’s title, Scream for Charity. Alternatively, visit the amazon page here:
Before I go, I must share with you something else that made me smile this week.
When writing The Dragon and the Moon, I found myself working with an alarmingly imminent deadline. When I was done editing, it was 1am and I needed to send it off but feared doing so without a fresh set of eyes giving it a once over and a thumbs up.
Another magnificent blogger, the lovely Joakim, offered to read it over for me and all was right in the world.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The next morning I awoke to a Tweet from Joakim, who, after reading my story was inspired to sketch what can only qualify as my very first piece of fan art (although he assures me his 4 year old holds claim to the title after he read the story to him).
I think it’s extraordinary and all I can say, is thank you Joakim!
Merry Christmas all and happy reading!
In the past week it has turned eerily quiet on the blogosphere. With Christmas, New Years and Holidays around the figurative corner I’m guessing you’re all enjoying a bit of good cheer, spending time with family, friends and loved ones, and taking a well-deserved break.
I’m not far behind you.
But before I wrap things up for 2011, I feel an end-of-year blog round up is warranted; 2011 was, after all, my maiden voyage as a blogger.
Storytelling Nomad began on the 20th May. I had seen a couple of friends on Facebook with blogs and thought ‘hey, I can do that. I have something to say’, and so with little more knowledge of blogging than that, my online journey began.
7 months, 119 posts, 1 blog revamp, 194 followers, 1,583 comments, 16,218 hits, 3 published articles, 1 guest post, 1 short story featured in an ebook (more about this soon) and many new friends later, here we are.
I don’t think I can truly articulate how valuable this blog has been to my creative practice. Apart from being a great place to share my thoughts and be involved in this wonderful online writing community, it has most significantly boosted the confidence I have in my own writing, which has in turned encouraged me to work harder at improving my craft.
Each and every one of your comments, feedback, ‘likes’, shares and subscriptions have played a part in this. A very, very large part. For that I thank you.
The highlights of my year included:
It was a year of firsts.
As for 2012, I have just been accepted into the Masters of Creative Writing program at the University of Tasmania, where I hope to further improve my writing and complete a large work of polished fiction under the teaching prowess of Vogel award winning author Rohan Wilson. I cannot wait!
In the meantime, I will be spending the next week not only making merry and eating far too much holiday food, but packing my suitcase.
You see, a nomad wouldn’t be a nomad without a noteworthy trip to end the year with. On Dec 30th I leave Sydney for a month in Europe, where I will have the pleasure of visiting my little brother in Hamburg, Germany who I haven’t seen since he left Australia over a year ago. Other items on the itinerary include a weekend in Krakow, Poland, checking out the town and visiting Auschwitz, which I can only imagine will be a life-changing and emotional journey into the horrors of WWII. Then, a week in London, England where a particular highlight will be meeting up with my childhood best friend, who I haven’t seen since leaving England over 16 years ago. A quick trip to Edinburgh, Scotland will see me catching up with a school friend from Italy who I haven’t seen in many years and a new Scottish friend I met at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year. The trip finishes in in the beautiful Northern town of Ferrara, Italy where I will visit my host families from past student exchanges before departing from Milan at the end of January. All this I get to share with one of my best friends, Hayley.
I’m going to need a holiday to recover from my holiday I’m sure.
With all these adventures planned, I predict an absence of posts in January, however, I will be active on Twitter, @katyhulme, when internet access is available.
With all that said, I leave you with my ‘Year in Review’ and again thank you kindly for your support and encouragement in 2011. I look forward to sharing my writing journey with you again in 2012.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
Stay tuned for more about “The Dragon and the Moon” and the Ebook for charity.
A Year in Review
I eliminated negative influences/people. Forgive me for quoting Oprah Winfrey, but she wasn’t wrong when she said “Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher”.
I reduced my (already pathetically low) intake of alcohol to zero. For no other reason than it feels amazing.
I stopped making excuses for not writing.
I lost my inhibitions.
I enhanced my editing skills through my Professional Book Editing, Proofreading & Publishing course. My inner nerd knows no bounds.
I started a novel.
I created my blog, Storytelling Nomad.
I loved and lost.
I was embarrassed by sharing my work and thoughts with the world.
I was frustrated by universally incorrect grammar, spelling and punctuation.
I felt crazy when I read messages of hate from those opposed to equality for all.
I regret not entering the Blogosphere sooner.
I needed more time for reading. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
I missed my friends and family that live across oceans and in faraway lands.
I went to places far and near, including Melbourne for the Melbourne Writers Festival, Sydney for Supanova Pop Culture Expo, and Gunnedah where I shot my first gun. Watch out!
I relaxed when on November 27th, I knew I was going to finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words.
I would use a magic wand to bring Hogwarts to life.
I felt gratitude when you all ‘liked’ my entry in the Facebook Short Story competition. I’m coming 10th by the way, still time to vote!
Time flew when I met James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) at Supanova.
I want to repeat this year. It had its ups and downs but for the most part it was extraordinary.
I should have done more exercise. I am terribly unmotivated.
I don’t know why I never joined a writers group before.
I felt most alive when I was creating new worlds, new characters and new stories to share with the world.
The best gift I received was an email from my favourite author Robin Hobb, with invaluable writing advice.
Physically, the biggest difference since last December is slightly shorter hair.
Psychologically, the biggest difference since last December is the focus on my writing.
Emotionally, the biggest difference since last December is my contentment and pride in all I have achieved this year.
Environmentally, the biggest difference since last December is I exchanged the sandy shores of Newcastle for idyllic Tasmania.
Socially, the biggest difference since last December is I have a whole new group of online writer friends.
My biggest ‘win’ was NaNoWriMo. Or maybe it was having an article published. No, wait. Having my short story published. No, wait! Receiving the email from Robin Hobb. Or, being accepted into my Masters course. And, graduating from my Writing course. And, and, and…!
I want more books. Gimme gimme!
The best thing I did for someone else was read as many books as I could in a month to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis.
The best thing someone did for me was sketch me a picture based on my short story.
The best thing I did for myself was believe in myself.
The one thing I learned this year is I am the master of my own destiny. I will only receive of life what I put into it.
I am most grateful for my friends and family and their unwavering support.
I look forward to 2012 being different by writing more stories and becoming a better writer.
Questions taken from Lynn Scheurel at http://secretsofhersuccess.com/articles/your-year-in-review-questions/
With the new year just around the corner, what better time to give the blog a bit of a spruce up?
Up until now, I’ve had a photo of a beach from my previous home town, Newcastle Australia, as my blog banner. I chose it to represent my love of travel, my nomadic lifestyle and of course my adopted home country, Australia.
Since that time, however, I’ve had a growing feeling that it no longer reflected the direction the blog was taking. What I first thought might be a platform to vent a few thoughts and share a few stories, has since turned into a forum for readers, writers, book lovers and nerds alike, to share our tales and lay bear our vices, all in the name of becoming better writers, more perceptive readers and to have a bit of a gander about what makes us tick.
While I still consider myself the nomad this blog was partly named for and despite the enormous influence these escapades have on my writing, my travel adventures represent only a small share of the content of this blog.
In conclusion, new banner, new theme – new and improved blog!
My sincere thanks to New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ilona Andrews, for giving me permission to use her amazing fantasy wallpaper art for my banner. I like to think that from stories comes magic, which is exactly what I see in Ilona’s image.
You’ll also see that my featured posts can now be viewed from the carousel at the top of the page.
Hope you love it as much as I do.
I not long ago discovered this wonderful and charming little website for short stories, called Shortbread Stories.
Whilst browsing through the stories, I came across this beautiful fantasy/fable story/poem and loved it so much I had to share it with the world, with the author’s permission of course.
Head over to the site to leave the author, Steve Douglas, a comment or to read more stories by him and other writers.
The Giant And The Leprechaun by Steve Douglas
The giant and the leprechaun were walking by the sea,
The giant towered ten feet tall; the leprechaun but three,
He crossed the sand quite easily in mighty giant strides;
The leprechaun ran breathlessly along right by his side,
But both were quite oblivious to the turning of the tide.
They talked of great philosophers, the power of the mind,
Of which belief could be the greatest use for all mankind.
They both agreed that true salvation always lay within,
That there was no such thing as God, or Judgement Day, or sin,
And all the while along the shore the tide came pounding in…
The leprechaun said every living thing had equal worth;
The giant thought the strongest should be rulers of the Earth.
He said that giants everywhere should rise and take command;
The leprechaun disputed that one race should own the land,
And both were too absorbed to spot the softening of the sand…
The minutes passed, the sea swept close, but on went their debate,
And when they thought of turning back they found it was too late,
The giant found that he was trapped, the sand around his knees,
And from nearby he heard his small companion’s desperate pleas -
The leprechaun and he were at the mercy of the seas…
They struggled with the sucking sand and tried to stay their fears,
And being good philosophers exchanged their best ideas.
“I’m powerful and strong! I will survive!” the giant said,
The leprechaun replied, “the sea is almost at my head!
And if you don’t act quickly then you know we’ll both be dead.”
The giant’s weight had carried him too deep into the sand,
So he was glad to hear his smaller friend had something planned.
He crouched beside the leprechaun and faced the rushing sea,
Then using every ounce of strength he slowly pulled him free,
And held him high above his head, so powerful was he!
The sea now at his waist, the giant’s plight was really grim,
He knew that he was fortunate the leprechaun could swim,
That he could swim to land and find whatever help lay there,
But also knew that there was not a moment left to spare,
And all that he could do till then was face the sea and stare.
Just when he thought that death had come, submerged beneath the sea,
He heard the sounds of giants, who had come to winch him free -
He heard the sounds of cheering crowds above the ocean’s roar,
And saw that all the leprechauns were lined up on the shore,
And knew he’d owe a debt to leprechauns forever more.
Although it is only a week since NaNoWriMo ended, it feels like an eternity ago that I typed “THE END” to my 50,000 word novel.
My first attempt at anything of the sort, I feel rather proud that I completed the challenge. After starting a day late, spending the majority of the month below ‘the line’, and being conscious of the fact that most of what I was writing was, well, rubbish, I nonetheless pulled through and stuck it out til the end. I even finished a day early. Who would’ve thought?
So, the month began with me, no plot, and a blank page. I wanted to write a fantasy novel, epic in nature, with the typical premise of chosen one, kingdom in peril, battle of evil. I had a pretty interesting character and some good world building going on, but 35,000 words in I realised something.
I was bored.
Now, I may not be a bestselling author or an acclaimed literary critic, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if the writer is bored, that’s not a good sign. If I can’t find it interesting, then how the hell is anybody else supposed to?
At this point I was still falling way behind the daily word limit goal and my motivation was wavering. I knew I had to do something drastic to get on track in order to reach my 50,000 word goal or I would find myself curled in a ball of despair come November 30th, never daring to try write a novel again.
What did I do? I started writing another story.
It came to me one moment, and the next I had all these ideas, a plot and before I knew it I’d written 7,000 words. I had been struggling to churn out the daily 1,667 words until that point, and here I was, 7,000 words in a day!
I abandoned the original story and continued with the new one until I fondly greeted that 50,000th word. Granted, I ended up with one unfinished story and one 15,000 word short story rather than one 50,000 word novella, but I like to think the point was that I finished.
I signed up for NaNo with one expectation: To write 50,000 words in a month. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be disciplined enough to write regularly over a longer period of time, and to break down my fear that it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time round. I told myself that if one good idea, paragraph, character or sentence came out of it, then I would be happy. As it turns out, in that I was successful.
There are also a few things I learned over the month of November:
Congrats to everyone out there who participated in NaNo this year. Even if you didn’t reach the big five oh, I think you’re all winners. If the month of November saw you writing something, then you’re ahead of those who have not yet found the courage to write anything.
I leave you with the wise words of Chris Cleave, who was kind enough to give us Wrimos a mid-month pep talk:
It doesn’t matter what genre you write in. All literature is transformative. To make people laugh; to tell a light-hearted romantic story; to let intelligent readers forget their troubles for an hour in the absence of the politicians and the money men who make our lives hell – these are some of the hardest feats to accomplish as a writer, and some of the most serious political acts you can perform. You don’t have to be a Serious Writer to be a serious writer. I once read a beautiful paragraph about teenage vampires – teenage vampires, for goodness’ sake – that moved me more than all of Hemingway. You don’t need to be trying to change the world in order to change someone’s world. What you need is to be seriously committed to your work.
Have I ever told you what a good looking bunch you are? No, really. A fine collection of fetching individuals. And the intellect, oh! the intellect! Never before have I witnessed such collective brilliance. One can only marvel.
Are you buttered up yet?
The thing is, I need your help. Yesterday I entered a short story competition on Facebook. A 420 character short story competition. Yes, you heard me; characters, not words. To give you an idea, 420 characters looks like this:
you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you
Positively microscopic, no?
In any case, this is less a competition of merit and more a popularity contest. You see, it is judged by how many ‘likes’ readers give each entry. I know, look at me go, whoring myself out to the masses. I’m cheap. Nasty even. And yet, I’d really like to win anyway.
You’ve seen the story before, albeit a somewhat *longer* version, of my 100 words of revenge. I confess, it’s not the finest piece of literature you’ll ever read (especially after cutting it down to fit the character limit), but surely it’s gotta beat the entry below mine detailing a park bench. A park bench, I tell you!
And yet, that entry is still beating mine. Sob!
All you have to do to rectify this tragedy is head to this page:
and click the ‘like’ button on my story, which at this stage is the second to last entry (before bench boy). You don’t have to ‘like’ the Facebook page or sign up to any garbage. In fact you don’t even have to like my story, but I’d appreciate it if you clicked the ‘like’ button anyway, because I love you…and karma…and rainbows…and stuff. RAINBOWS.
In return, I bestow upon you my everlasting gratitude and send forth much cyber karma to use at your earliest convenience.
Your faithful servant/blogger/master,
So it’s Day 10 of the NaNoWriMo challenge and I feel it as good a time as any to provide an update on my progress.
With a rocky start and a healthy handful of every day life issues going on, I have pleasantly surprised myself with my perseverance. I’m the first to admit that when things start getting too hard or I see myself falling behind, I have an unflattering tendency to stand down and look to something else to succeed at.
Strangely this has not been the case, despite being behind in my word count since day one. I can only attribute this to the following:
So yes, I am behind, but I feel like I’m still winning.
The actual writing? It’s not brilliant, but it’s not awful either. Okay, so there are some pretty awful bits, and a lot of it is more stream-of-consciousness writing, but it’s moving forward nonetheless.
Now it’s time for some NaNoWriMo fun facts!
Words Remaining: 39,981
Days Remaining: 21
Words Per Day To Finish On Time: 1,904 (eek!)
Name of Protagonist: Arrow
Other Characters’ Names: Old Man Cracker, Eliad the Dragon, Prince Xander, Manacor, Dual, Lani
Places of Interest: The Kingdom of Dragarthion, Winter Hollow, The Forest of Whispers
Magic: The Mace (Defined by the abilities of Manipulation, Alteration, Communication & Evocation) once ran strong through the royal blood line, with each new generation of royals being trained as Wielders of the Mace to protect their kingdom and help it prosper. But with the slow extinction of dragons along with infidelity within the monarchy, the Mace has become weak within the royal bloodline and a bastardised strain of it now runs through the common folk, untamed and undisciplined. A true, full strength Wielder of the Mace has not been seen in many generations.
Animals: Are rare and seen as a symbol of wealth and power. Mace Wielders once had the power to communicate with all animals.
The Story So Far:
When Arrow loses her parents in a horrifying accident, she is appointed to serve as a maid in the castle with the other orphans of the city. When one day the prince’s cat, Manacor, talks to her, Arrow fears she has some skill for the Mace, and maneuvers to wait on the prince during his training sessions in the hope that she might uncover what her ability might mean. Meanwhile, a threat grows in the South, and the truce that the royals once made with the Dragons of Dragarthion is threatened by corruption.
Extract: The Forest of Whispers
Once upon a time the trees whispered to each other. They cared more than they’d like us to know about the troubles of man. Sway they would, to encourage the voices of mortals to wander close with the breeze, passing from leaf to leaf, speaking softly until the words faded to a just a sigh. They loved especially to hear stories of friendship, tales of courage, and words of love, for in those words was a nourishment that brought colour to their leaves and strength to their branches. They fed off man’s desires and grew tall with their dreams.
Then came a time of great darkness, when whispers of love, courage and merriment became scarce. The trees shook desperately, yearning for the breeze to bear the pleasant tales of old, but instead the gentle winds brought them only grim tidings. Stories of war and death delivered a coldness that made their branches brittle and their leaves withered. They drooped heavily with the sadness that overcame them and the leaves fell from their limbs, forlorn and heartbroken.
Over the years they ceased whispering to one another, all hope lost at ever hearing again the happy voices of men. It is of common belief that in that time of darkness the trees lost their voices and their lives with the happiness of mortals.
How are you guys keeping motivated? And how are my fellow first timers finding the NaNo experience?
A while back I posted about the absence of females in fantasy fiction, an ongoing debate, which provoked quite a heated discussion recently at Tara Moss’s The Book Post. The comments there are something to behold and worthy of a read.
In any case, I reworked my original post and submitted it to Lip, a magazine for girls who “think, feel, create, speak out and live. Girls who aren’t afraid to be themselves.”
As luck would have it, they accepted my submission and this week published my article on their website. Hoorah!
If you’d like to have a read, it’s at: http://lipmag.com/arts/books-arts/heroes-and-heroines-females-in-fantasy/
I have been waiting in high anticipation to embark on my very first NaNoWriMo, counting down the days until November 1st and jotting down potential ideas for my pantster approach to the 50,000 words in 30 days challenge. The excitement was building, as were the nerves, and the thought of ending the month of November with 50,000 words was electrifying.
Of course it was bound to happen. You know that thing, where life falls apart right before something really important.
As it turned out, November 1st came and passed sadly by as I wallowed in my sorrows and indulged in a mental health day involving lots of chocolate and reading and sleeping (and staring at walls), and not one word of writing goodness. Sigh.
So there I was this morning, November 2nd, 207 unread emails in my inbox, a suitcase to unpack and already behind on my daily wordcount.
But life goes on, and all that jazz, so today I read and responded to all those emails and soldiered through my first 1,712 words. JOY! My suitcase remains unpacked, but it’s at the very least placed neatly in the corner of my room. Who needs clean clothes to write anyway?
I realise I’m still behind, and obviously when such is the case it’s obligatory to procrastinate a great deal and instead write insignificant rambles on your blog rather than get on with the actual work, but hey, what can ya do?
So forwards and onwards with the task at hand. My fellow NaNo writing buddies have provided much inspiration with their impressive word counts so far; Stef at Dodging Commas has already reached 9,200 words. She is clearly a crazy person, but good to have around for motivational purposes.
How’s everyone else going after day 1?
My username is storytellingnomad, for the rest of you WriMos out there looking for writing buddies. In the meantime, happy writing!
N.B. I pinched the accompanying image from a fellow blogger some weeks ago now but can’t for the life of me remember who it was. I sincerely thank you for the laughs though.
Insanity I tell you.
And yet, I feel obligated to inform you that I have decided to participate in said bedlam and join the others at the loony bin. This year I’m going to pop my NaNoWriMo cherry and attempt the (seemingly) impossible.
For those of you unfamiliar with this annual phenomenon, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and every November writers are challenged to writing 50,000 words before the end of the month.
What do you win? You win a 50,000 word first draft is what! Along with what I’m guessing would be a new found love for time spent not writing, an envy of eight-handed aliens (think how much quicker you could type!), and of course the pride and absolute joy at having achieved the unachievable.
Being my first NaNo I have to admit to some nerves. Never have I ever written anything so monstously long in my life. Do I even know 50,000 words? What if I get writers’ block after day two? Will my fingers fall off if I type so much? God forbid, what if I FAIL?
All valid concerns, in my opinion. But none of them compare to the biggest issue of all; What if my story is rubbish and I realise that I’m not, in fact, a writer at all?
Cue teary break down. Pass the tissues will you?
I’ve been reading a lot about how people prepare for the challenge. Plotters and Pantsters, chapter outlines, character profiles, synopses, writing prompts, calendars, word counters, daily goals. The list goes on and yet what is resoundingly clear is that, like with any type of writing, no one way will work for everyone. You’ve got to find what works for you.
So, what am I going into this challenge with? How have I prepared for the ultimate writer’s test? Well, my plot goes something like this:
Kingdom in peril.
It doesn’t look like much, huh? That’s because it isn’t. Whilst I’ve got a few ideas lulling around my bizarre little brain, I’m going to take the ‘pantster’ approach, eg, write by the seat of my pants. I suppose you could say this is an experiment of sorts, seeing as those of you who have been here a while will know that I like to plot. I NEED to plot. But I’m not going to.
Mostly, it’s out of fear that I might realise it’s rubbish before I even get to November 1st and give up before I give myself a chance. But it’s also because the idea of NaNoWriMo is not to write the next best-seller or to start December with a polished piece of high literature ready too submit to publishers and competitions around the world. It’s to overcome inertia, to not over think it, to just WRITE and have something to work with once the month is over. The website explains that:
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
To build without tearing down. What a great strategy, who would’ve thought?
I’m going to have a decent go at ‘winning’, but if I finish November with just one page, one paragraph, one sentence even, of perfected prose, the root of an idea that will lead to a better one, or even 50,000 words showing how not to write a novel, then I will have gained something.
It’s certainly not for everyone, but I’m willing to give it a try.
Any other newbies out there giving it a crack? Want to hold hands and weep at the insanity of it all together? Please tell me I’m not alone here!
For anyone wanting advice on how to get through November with some semblance of sanity, head over to Terrible Minds where Chuck Wendig gives some writing advice to help you stay on target during NaNoWriMo.
If you’ve been feeling at all like something is amiss in your life of late, it is in all likelihood due to the absence of my Robin Hobb idolisation posts. Never fear, dear readers! Today I came across Jackie Morris’s cover art for City of Dragons, the soon to be released third volume in Robin Hobb’s Rainwild Chronicles.
And can I just say WOW.
I’ve mentioned before how much I love the cover art for the re-released editions of Hobb’s books. Jackie Morris is responsible for them all, and not only are they stunning, but they also look pretty damn good on my bookshelf. I would frame these covers and hang them on my wall if I could.
I’m a self confessed judge-a-book-by-its-cover person. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t help but be mesmerised by good cover art and be completely put off by the less appealing covers. When the excellent quality of a book matches its cover, my life is complete.
I’m currently restraining myself from purchasing some of the new Penguin Clothbound Classics, which I already own in other editions but which are soooo pretty! I was also lucky enough to work at Penguin with designer Daniel New when he was putting together Maggie Beer’s Maggie’s Harvest, an absolutely stunning cover.
Have you got any judge-a-book-by-its-cover moments? Favourite covers?
There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island. -Walt Disney
With the 30 Day Book Challenge now done and dusted, I find myself missing the daily mission of scouring my bookshelves and digging deep into the recesses of my mind in a hunt to find the appropriate book for each task. It was a literary treasure hunt for my book-lover mind, and I took great pleasure in reliving my reading history and rediscovering what books mean to me and the influence they’ve had on my life.
Throughout the challenge I contentedly reacquainted myself with some old favourites, relived memorable childhood reading moments, and crooned over some literary heartthrobs. I confessed some secrets, pledged my eternal allegiance to a certain author, and had many an inner battle in futile attempts to choose ‘favourites’.
Frankly, I found the whole challenge a wonderful exercise and am happy to see so many of you taking the challenge too.
Before I leave you to it, however, I thought I might share with you the top three things I’ve learned about myself and my reading habits from this literary pilgrimage.
So there it is. My lessons learned in a nutshell. Thanks to all of you who commented and participated in the challenge with me. I’m looking forward to *one day* getting to all the books you’ve recommended, and eagerly anticipate the posts of those of you who are now taking part in the 30 Day Book Challenge.
Happy reading fellow bloggers.
Well I certainly needed this kick up the backside today. Take heed fellow would-be-writers!
Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?
Start today. Write. Finish what you start. Submit what you finish. Repeat. Don’t get caught up in the ‘someday I’m going to do that’ trap. Don’t blog and tell yourself that it puts you on the road to being a published fiction writer. It just makes you a blogger. Get your stories down on paper now. Don’t wait. The stories that you can and would write today are irreplaceable. The story you will write at 15 can’t wait until you are 30. It won’t be the same story. It will be gone. Don’t write a lot of stuff in other people’s worlds. You are not a cookie press pushing out dough into a pre-set shape. You’re a writer. If you don’t write your own characters and worlds now, today, no one ever will.
If you don’t write them now, your characters will shrivel up and die, unknown, unread, unmourned, and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT!
(Isn’t guilt a wonderful motivator?)
Robin Hobb in an interview at Grinding to Valhalla
I realise that this is going to sound sort of bizarre, but I’m nothing if not eccentric in my ways.
I recently finished reading Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Errand (I know, I know, I’m still stuck in the Robin Hobb love bubble), and I was on a plane when I read this particular scene. Now, I’m not usually prone to public displays of relative instability and unsoundness, but I honest to God was crying like a baby when I read this scene. I mentioned I was on a plane at the time, right?
I then arrived at my destination, hopped in the shower and booed again. A week later I was walking through town with my mum, explaining how I had teared up on the plane AND in the shower, and as I related the scene to her I choked up again. Mum was a little concerned, but once I managed to get it out through the sobs, she understood.
So my favourite scene is one that has me wailing like a banshee? Yes, it is.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so emotionally connected to a character/s and his/their quest, as I have with Fitz and co. in both The Farseer Trilogy and now The Tawny Man Trilogy. I think the sheer fact that I got so upset by this scene is a testament to the author and her writing. When I’m reading these books, I’m there and the characters are real. I experience their joys and their sorrows, their desires and their concerns.
The scene in question is at the end of the book after the final battle, when the protagonist, Fitz, lays down by his wolf, Nighteyes, with whom he can communicate with and is essentially bonded to in mind, heart and soul. Those who have this ‘magic’ are known as Witted, or as having the Wit. In this book, Fitz and Nighteyes undertake a quest to save their Prince Dutiful from a band of Witted folk with evil intentions. Throughout the story it becomes apparent that Fitz and Nighteyes are not the youthful heroes they once were, with Nighteyes in particular showing signs of fatigue and aging. As they fall asleep after the final fight, exhausted, they share thoughts and dreams.
I could not sort out which thoughts were mine and which were the wolf’s. I didn’t need to. I sank into his dreams with him and we dreamed well together. Perhaps it was Dutiful’s loss that put us so much in mind of all we still possessed, and all we had had. We dreamed of a cub hunting mice beneath the rotting floor of an old outbuilding, and we dreamed of a man and a wolf pulling down a great boar between them. We dreamed of stalking one another in deep snow, tussling and yelping and shouting. Deer blood, hot in the mouth, and the rich soft liver to squabble over. And then we sank past those ancient memories into perfect rest and comfort. Healing begins in deep sleep such as that.
He stirred first. I nearly woke as he rose, gingerly shook himself, and then stretched more bravely. His superior sense of smell told me that the edge of dawn was in the air. The weak sun had just begun to touch the dew-wet grasses, waking the smells of the earth. Game would be stirring. The hunting would be good.
I’m so tired, I complained. I can’t believe you’re getting up. Rest for a while longer. We’ll hunt later.
You’re tired? I’m so tired that rest won’t ease me. Only the hunt. I felt his wet nose poke my cheek. It was cold. Aren’t you coming? I was sure you’d want to come with me.
I do. I do. But not just yet. Give me just a bit longer.
Very well, little brother. Just a bit longer. Follow me when you will.
But my mind rode with his, as it had so many times. We left the cave, thick with man-stink, and walked past the cat’s new cairn. We smelled her death, and the musk of a fox who had come to the scent, but turned aside at the smell of the campfire’s smoke. Swiftly we left the camp behind. Nighteyes chose the open hillside instead of the wooded vale. The sky overhead was blue and deep, and the last star fading in the sky. The night had been colder than I had realised. Frost tipped some of the grasses still, but as the rising sun touched it, it smoked briefly and was gone. The crisp edge of the air remained, each scent as sharp as a clean knife-edge. With a wolf’s nose, I scented all and knew all. The world was ours. The turning time, I said to him.
Exactly. Time to change, Changer.
There were fat mice hastily harvesting seedheads in the tall grass, but we passed them by. At the top of the hill we paused. We walked the spine of the hill, smelling the morning, tasting the lip of the day to come. There would be deer in the forested creek bottoms. They would be healthy and strong and fat, a challenge to any pack let alone a single wolf. He would need me at his side to hunt those. He would have to come back for them later. Nevertheless, he halted on top of the ridge. The morning wind riffled his fur and his ears were perked as he looked down to where we knew they must be.
Good hunting. I’m going now brother. He spoke with great determination.
Alone? You can’t bring a buck down alone! I sighed with resignation. Wait, I’ll get up and come with you.
Wait for you? Not likely! I’ve always had to run ahead of you and show you the way.
Swift as thought, he slipped away from me, running down the hillside like a cloud’s shadow when the wind blows. My connection to him frayed away as he went scattering and floating like dandelion fluff in the wind. Instead of small and secret, I felt our bond go wide and open, as if he had invited all the Witted creatures in the world in to share our joining. All the web of life on the whole hillside suddenly swelled within my heart, linked and meshed and woven through with one another. It was too glorious to contain. I had to go with him; a morning this wondrous must be shared.
‘Wait!’ I cried, and in shouting the word, I woke myself. Nearby, the Fool sat up, his hair tousled. I blinked. My mouth was full of salve and wolf-hair, my fingers buried deep in his coat. I clutched him to me, and my grip sighed his last stilled breath out of his lungs. But Nighteyes was gone.
Robin Hobb Fool’s Errand pp.604-606
And yes, typing this out had me in tears yet again! It’s so sad, and yet so beautiful. I think Robin Hobb is a truly wonderful writer.
This is so easy, for the simple reason that I have so often dreamed of living in this particular book. I cannot count the number of times I’ve read the series, but I do know I’ve done so not only in English, but also in the Italian and French translations. In fact, I account my knowing words such as ‘owls’ and ‘wands’ in languages other than English to these books.
Since its debut in 1997 when I was a wee 12 year old, the Harry Potter books have captured hearts around the world, uniting children and adults alike in a world where pictures move, magic is real and every flavour beans really are every flavour. I’m certain I’m not the only one who held a glimmer of hope that one day I, too, would receive a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Sadly, it never came (I blame Australia Post).
HOWEVER, if it had, here are some of the things that would have transpired:
I would have been in Gryffindor house, naturally. It’s where all the cool kids are at, especially our resident celebrity ‘The Boy Who Lived’ Harry Potter.
Ron and I would have had a lasting love, hindered by a brief estrangement caused by Ron’s jealousy. This was due to the time Harry tried his luck with me at the Yule Ball after a few too many Butterbeers. We all made up of course and Ron got over it when Harry started making goo goo eyes at Ginny. Now that, he had a harder time getting over.
Ginny wouldn’t have liked me because of aforementioned incident with Harry. Also, I’m prettier than her.
My best friend would have been Luna. We would have spent hours observing the Crumple-Horned Snorkack and skipping classes to fly the Thestrals. Together we would have had shared a belief in the existence of: Moon Frogs, Blibbering Humdingers, Heliopaths, Umgubular Slashkilters, Wrackspurts and Nargles, despite no-one else believing us. I would, however, shake my head at her when she yakked on about Aquavirius Maggots. A creature that resembles a brain? Now that’s just ridiculous.
I would have been an astute student of Flying, Transfiguration and Care of Magical Creatures, but absolutely rubbish at History of Magic, much to the dismay of Professor Binns. I would have had two muggle parents you see, like Hermione, and so knew nothing of magic (or the history of same) before starting at Hogwarts. That said, Hermione would have been a life saver with her abnormally sized brain, letting me copy her parchment on many occasions in exchange for a few vials of Amortentia, a love potion. You see, at first I think Hermione was a bit jealous when I started dating Ron, but she got over it when I offered to help her find a boyfriend of her own. That being, of course, an impossible task seeing as she is so bloody stuck up and a bit of a know-it-all, after many months of failed attempts I would have asked the Weasley brothers if they had any love potions to spare. They would’ve happily obliged, free of charge no less! This was partly because they thought I was totally awesome, but mostly because they thought I was way too good for their little brother. Hermione would have had her share of loved up wizards, and I would have gotten my homework done. Result.
My Patronus would have been a Lion. Take that Dementors! Peow peow!
As Harry had Hedwig, Hermione Crookshanks and Ron Scabbers, my Magical Familiar would have been a Cornish Pixie named Sly. We would get up to a lot of mischief together, including taunting the Fat Lady with lots of fat mumma jokes, such as “Your mumma so fat, she sat on a rainbow and skittles popped out.” Looking back, I suppose we were quite cruel, but Sly and I enjoyed our antics immensely. And the Fat Lady got her own back that time we snuck out late and she refused to let us back in, only to be discovered by Snape a short time later, who gave us the arduous task of polishing all the trophies in the trophy cabinet on the evening of the Gryffindor vs Slytherin Quidditch Finals. That bastard.
My wand would be a 12 inch Holly with a Dragon heartstring core. Apparently this makes it very effective for hexes.
For the end of year exams during my first year at Hogwarts, I would have successfully devised a potion to source and trap all of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. After doing so, the Ministry of Magic would have been able to destroy said Horcruxes on the advice of Professor Dumbledore. This would have in turn led to the true death of Voldemort, who apparently was still hanging around like a bad smell after his last rendezvous with the Potters all those years ago. I would have been commended for my achievements, awarded a medal by the Minister of Magic himself and become something of a celebrity for a brief time. That was probably the most exciting thing that would have happened during my seven years at Hogwarts. The rest of my time there would have been pretty boring, with nothing of particular interest happening.
Oh, wait a sec, Harry Potter did get kind of fat and there was that time he got an FUI for flying under the influence. He really did enjoy his butterbeers. Yeah, that was pretty exciting at the time I suppose…
Yep, I sure would’ve liked to live in the Harry Potter books…
Day 8 of National Young Writers’ Month and I thought one week in is as good as any for an update. My 3 goals, as detailed in my earlier post, Go Go Gadget, Write!, were to: Blog every day, join a writers’ group and outline the plot for my novel in preparation for this year’s NaNoWriMo. Blogging every day: Check. Join a writers’ group: First meeting tonight – Check. Outline plot: Big fat FAIL. I’m struggling something chronic with this goal, and although I’ve made ‘progress’, in a sense, it’s just not turning out how I’d like, which is ultimately discouraging and therefore counter-productive.
My problem is this. I have an idea. I think it’s a pretty good idea. I have my character, a special ‘ability’ and a world to create around her. But I have no plot. No rising action. No climax. No falling action. No conflict. I can see my character in this world and the things around her, I know she’s special, but I don’t know what she’s fighting for. Is this a sign I should give up now? Let it go? Start afresh with something new?
I understand the conventions of a good fantasy – characters going from ordinary to extraordinary, good vs evil, the anti hero, destinies, prophecies, isolation. And the fantasies I love most are the ones with multi layered plots, a universal theme, an underlying task to achieve as well as smaller tasks to carry the protagonist through, individual character agendas, secrets and surprises. I love endings, god how I love good endings. So, naturally, this is what I want my book to read like too. Did J.K. Rowling, she who ties everything together superbly over a massive seven books, did she work out these things before she began writing or just start with a boy finding out he’s a wizard, and work out the rest as she went?
Perhaps I could just start by writing my character in a scene and see where she takes me. Or do I need to have some resemblance of the nitty gritty figured out before I dive in? Do I need to know the evil, need to know my Voldemort before I can start writing? I’ve read that people will often scrap a large majority of their drafts before they get to the final masterpiece. Is this the reason why? Because they are fleshing out the story as they go and don’t really know where it will end up when they begin?
These are the questions I ask myself today. Perhaps they are also questions that I will ask at the writers’ group tonight. In the meantime, I’m going to sit here and panic, possibly bang my head against the wall a few times, and hope that my good idea will not be stuck inside my head forever without the plot to let it shine.