Tag Archives: novel

Book Launching – Arboretum

Last night I had the privilege of launching a friend’s debut science fiction novel, Arboretum. I’ve known Ian for almost twenty years, first as a lecturer, then as a minister and pastor. 

Back in 2012 he had taken some long service leave and in that time punched out a novel; one that would be the first of a trilogy. He sent me a message asking if I could have a look over it. I duly did. And sent back twelve pages of notes. Despite the honesty of the critique, he diligently went to work and sent me back another version for edits. Again, I took the Red Pen of Correction, Revision, Alteration and Punctuation (C.R.A.P. for short) and sent it back again for revisions and rewrites.

Long story very short, Arboretum was picked up by Stone Table Books (an imprint of Morning Star) and is now out into the world.

It is the second book I have my name in the Acknowledgements section (think I have a new aim here: get into as many Acknowledgements as I can) before my first novel comes out in 2019.

Ready to launch “Arboretum”.

Ian about to do a reading from “Arboretum.”

Ian (left) with Kevin (right) Kevin has been a supporter and coach for Ian for the past couple of years, getting this novel to publication amongst other non-fiction titles.

Check out the blurb:

Timothy Martin is a respected lecturer in Astronomy who has spent most of his life trying to put behind him the trauma of a childhood dominated by ‘visions’. But the visions have returned, more real than ever. Not only does he see other places, but he is now able to step into them. When he becomes fixated on the star Delta Crucis in the Southern Cross constellation, he sees a vision of a world orbiting it and impulsively takes a step – two hundred and forty-five light years into space. He did not expect to survive. Nor did he expect to land in the midst of an alien city. And he certainly did not expect to threaten the well-being of another world, one that he finds disturbingly – at peace. At stake is not only his own destiny, but that of an entire world.

Links below:

Ian Miller

Stone Table Books – Arboretum

Advertisements

Book Versus Movie

I’ve seen this image floating around the interwebz lately and initially agreed with it. 

Book Versus Movie Iceberg

The obvious suggestion is that a book offers the reader more complexity and depth than a movie; that a movie is a passive activity without detailed narrative, skipping over the juiciest and meatiest parts of a novel.

However, the more I saw it popping up in my social media feeds the more I questioned it.

The image implies a superiority of the printed word over the celluloid film, that a novel trumps film for storytelling and attention to detail. It’s a simplistic interpretation; it’s elitist and fails to embrace the complexity of film as art.

I, for one, have been disappointed in book-to-film adaptations (The Hobbit) yet also greatly impressed by book-to-film adaptations (The Lord of the Rings). I read intently the hue and cry from LOTR fans who bemoaned the excising of large swathes of narrative e.g. Tom Bombadil for the movie adaptation. Peter Jackson’s reasoning was simple: does this section move Frodo closer to Mount Doom or take him away from it?

I tell my students that film narrative is different to book narrative; each has their own language and vocabulary required to tell the story. Great film making is an art requiring a control of language more than simply words: framing, movement, lighting, sound, music, symbolism, colour, allusions, editing. 

We learn to read the shorthand of film to understand the emotional depth conveyed (dialogue, camera angles, music, sound etc) whereas in the novel we rely on the author’s words to bring us into the interior world of the character or situation.

Auteurs are adept at constructing a narrative for the audience that doesn’t rely on words alone, building their narrative through their medium. This does not make it inferior to a novel. Nor is a novel superior to a film because it requires only the imagination to create a world for the reader.

There are great novels and great films. There are rubbish novels and rubbish films. There are flaws and weaknesses in each when it comes to the power of the narrative arc but we must learn to read them differently, with a different eye and ear, with a different vocabulary and language. We must be conversant with both.

We cannot be snobbish and declare, “The book was better” if we are not conversant with the language of the other medium. True communication comes through understanding and appreciation.

Expressing What’s Inside You Creatively

Some say there is a novel in every one of us, trying to get out, waiting to be written.

I say that’s wrong.

Not everyone is a writer, nor is everyone a musician, nor is everyone an artist.

But…

I say there’s a story within every one of us.

That story can be expressed:

  • as a novel
  • in a poem
  • through photography
  • in film
  • in music
  • via singing
  • performing a dance
  • with paint and brushes on a canvas
  • by creating a sculpture
  • cooking new meals
  • by designing a garden
  • creating a website
  • giving someone a new look with a haircut
  • on a fashion catwalk
  • in politics
  • in philosophy
  • in a scientific environment
  • through the skills of oratory…

The possibilities are endless.

You need to know your story.

You need to know how to best express your story.

Tell your story…

…your way.

 

 

Why Shouldn’t I Continue to Read Your Novel?

Why Shouldn’t I Continue To Read Your Novel?

Coming across a couple of posts recently about when a writer/reader gives up reading a novel, I noticed a trend when a writer/reader will stop:  

  • when there’s little or no action to propel the narrative
  • lingering descriptions of ennui or minutiae (or the weather)
  • back story or info dumping (yes, I agree with this)
  • bad writing (yes, I’ll stop reading too)

The current literary aesthetic favours action over reflection, sacrificing the evocative power of language for a fast-food mentality of plot and writing.

Why not let language and words evoke scene, history and character idiosyncrasies, rather than simply pushing a plot along?

Literature is about plot and character and narrative tension, but it’s also about exploring the ennui of life, and why they are important, and the macro aspects of grand overarching themes in minute detail.

I want to read a fast-paced action story and I want to read a story that lingers on the little, unimportant things. I can have both. Trends be damned.

I want to enter the world the author has created, to see how they see the world and enjoy their word play, not consigned to reading a novel written within an artificial and constricted set of literary rules.

Writing is as much about observing and recording life’s details and universal abstract concepts as it is in participating and communicating, being involved with others, doing the action, and reading should be the same.

Create Because It Counts

We create not for fame.

Not for money.

Not for recognition.

Not for glory.

Not for the praise of others.

We create because it counts.

This principle came out of an article on pianist James Rhoades, “Find What You Love and Let It Kill You” from The Guardian newspaper in the UK.

Create because it counts.

James put himself through an extreme, almost ascetic regime: “no income for five years, six hours a day of intense practice, monthly four-day long lessons with a brilliant and psychopathic teacher in Verona, a hunger for something that was so necessary it cost me my marriage, nine months in a mental hospital, most of my dignity and about 35lbs in weight.”

I do not connect with the extremism (yet I can see the validity in it if you want to take something as far as you can go) but I do connect with the emotional response he has when he has put in the time and practice to learn and master a new piece of music; I apply it to writing.

“And yet. The indescribable reward of taking a bunch of ink on paper from the shelf … Tubing it home, setting the score, pencil, coffee and ashtray on the piano and emerging a few days, weeks or months later able to perform something … A piece of music that will always baffle the greatest minds in the world, that simply cannot be made sense of, that is still living and floating in the ether and will do so for yet more centuries to come. That is extraordinary. And I did that. I do it, to my continual astonishment, all the time.”

This is what counts: the emotional connection in creating, and in mastering a skill.

It is about the experience of joy in any creative endeavour. The joy in folding an origami crane for the first time; completing a short story; learning a new chord for guitar; finishing a water colour painting.

Doing it because it brings you a sense of completeness and wholeness as a person.

We do not have to go to the same extremities as James but his encouragement goes further to explore the “What if’s…?”

What if we used our time more wisely? Spent less time wasted on social media and engage in a creative activity? Spent a little bit of money to start a creative pastime like painting or photography? Knit? Crochet? Took our phone, shot some footage and made a short film? Used our time to engage with others in a writers’ circle? Wrote the story or novel we have been aching to tell for decades?

What if…?

So many possibilities. So many options.

And we create because it counts for something.

It counts for the children whose father draws a new picture on their lunch bag EVERY SINGLE DAY.

It counts for the short story writer, novelist or picture book writer creating worlds for others to inhabit.

It counts for the musician sitting in a cafe playing her guitar to six people.

It counts for the grandmother making a quilt as an heirloom for her grandchild.

It counts for the child who discovers the joy of the world through the lens of a camera and documents his journey to and from school every day.

It counts for the dancer at the bar, perfecting a pirouette.

It counts because we need stories and art and music and film and theatre and dance.

Creativity liberates your spirit. It enriches who you are, and the people who engage with your work.

Creativity is a mentality of giving; giving to yourself and others.

Creativity costs in terms of commitment, of sacrifice, of dedication.

You create because it counts.

On The Last Day of Being Something Other than Writer

On The Last Day of Being Something Other than Writer…

A Guest Interview with Jodi Cleghorn.

Jodi and I have been writing partners since January when we began Post Marked: Piper’s Reach.

On the eve of June 1, Jodi and I are standing on the precipice of a new adventure, doing something neither of us have done before: write a novel. I must say part of the feeling is pure dread and fear, like throwing yourself from a cliff and hoping you miss the ground. Another part of it is excitement at trying something new.

Glad to say I’m wearing clean underwear.

For Jodi writing a novel is also about claiming her position as a writer, not just as editor and publisher.

We are swapping blogs to preview our respective works in progress. I asked Jodi a few questions about her forthcoming novel. You can click on the link at the bottom to find out about my novel.

Tell us a little about your novel eagerly waiting in the wings? Can you give a blurb of your novel and it’s genre?

BYRTHED is a birthpunk* novel set in a ‘medicratic’, semi-futuristic New York City. Reproduction, considered the founding principle of society, has become a Government controlled process, beginning with microchip contraceptive implants and ending in a surgical production line of compulsory Caesarean Sections.

Outlawed in raft of draconian laws a decade earlier, natural birth is consider the festering wound of society and the few advocates and practioners left alive, exist as a secret, semi-militant deme in the bowels of the City. They serve, at risk of death, the women who refuse to hand their lives, and the lives of their babies, over to Government control.

In The Dead Zone (the former Central Park) survivors of a biological massacre thirty years earlier, plot revenge on the City’s residents and officials, spurred on by a prophecy that “a baby will be born to heal the past”.

Caught between worlds disconnected and at loggerheads with each other, five people stand on the cusp of social upheaval, each with their own part to play, each with their own demons to face.

Will Brian capture the City’s most feared terrorist? Will Joseph protect his wife? Will Sylvie navigate hell and gain her freedom? Will Marcus betray those who place their trust in him? Will Taleia unleash her biological fury on the city?

How would you encapsulate each major character in your novel in a single sentence?

BYRTHED follows five major characters.

SYLVIE: a feisty young midwife, living in The Underground, yearning for her freedom and a different life.

TALEIA: an embittered former activist and haematologist, living in The Dead Zone, plotting retribution for a massacre the rest of the city has forgotten.

JOSEPH: a powerful systems analyst, willing to do anything to save his pregnant wife from dying.

MARCUS: a supernatural being unable to succumb to his fate because of a blood bond with a mortal.

BRIAN: relentless head of a secret Government task force, obsessed with achieving his dead mentor, Gustave White’s, goal of eradicating natural birth.

How did you prepare for this novel? Do you have a particular word count or goal you’re aiming for?

Preparation

How long has this idea been kicking around your head?

I’m lucky in some ways. BYRTHED came out of an unfinished novella from 2009, so I already had the core of Marcus and Sylvie’s story… with a peripheral understanding of where and how Taleia, Brian and Joseph fitted into the picture.

What I’ve done, using the start of Karen Weisner’s First Draft in 30 Day is isolate and tease apart all the potential narrative threads then expand each. I’ve beefed up each character, focusing especially on understanding their motivations. And while I did my skeletal plotting, I scribed all the research questions pertaining to the novel—everything from knowing what’s in a basement in New York (and if you could live temporarily in one during winter) to how you might perform blood magic!

At this moment, I have pages and pages of scrawled notes, colour coded, in an A4 spiral bound exercise book—my first effort at conscious plotting!

In March I signed up for Year of the Novel. It started three weeks ago—and outside of doing a brief introduction and listening to the first tutorial, I’ve been too busy tying up editing projects to really dive in (though I think having written the answer to the first two questions I’ve just satisfied the first fortnight’s requirements).

When I wrote BIRTHED (the short story) I did it on a mental timeline of less than 12 hours—start to finish—and compiled a kick-arse playlist of high-octane songs to fuel the action (and me). So I’ve got a basic soundtrack to write, music being just as important to me, as knowing my characters.

I also accidentally secured a beta reader with books published by the publisher I have my eye on to submit BYRTHED to. I say accidentally because I hadn’t even started to think about that end of the writing process. It just happened.

Word Count

I’m kicking off the writing campaign of BYRTHED with a word explosion during The Rabbit Hole this week. The goal for The Rabbit Hole is 30,000 words but there is no way I’ll be able to write all of that for my novel. I’m aiming to write 10,000 for The Rabbit Hole—the opening chapters for each of the characters—bringing me nicely into the 10% word count zone for set up of the novel.  I’m angling somewhere toward 100,000 words (or 5 x 20,000 word narrative threads).

At the very minimum I will be spending 10 minutes everyday with my idea book (my very first Moleskin notebook – in gorgeous red!) as per Kim Wilkins’ (creator of the Year of the Novel) instructions. Outside of that I’m aiming to write a 1,000 words or half a chapter a day. Because the Year of the Novel lasts… for a year, I’m pacing myself. Having said that, if I’m in the zone, I’ll be putting down as many words that come to me.

Where will you be at this time in ten days?

I’ll be farther along than I am today, just as I am farther along today than I was 10 days ago.

I’ll be able to stare at (at least) five completed chapters, have a solid outline for each of the five narrative strains and better understand how I can use the Year of the Novel to get ahead. I’d also like to have secured a map of Central Park.

There is a temptation to come out hard, but for once time is on my side and rather than rally against it, I’m surrendering and going with the flow. Plus, I’m mindful I still have plenty of publishing projects pending completion, even if I do step away (officially) from editing tomorrow.

I hope I’m still just as excited, but less terrified having made the unknown slightly more known.

Birthpunk* is a sub-genre of urban fantasy I created to especially to categorise the novel I wanted to write.

Jodi Cleghorn is a writer, editor and publisher with a penchant for the dark and twisted undercurrents of humanity. Her stories have appeared in anthologies in Denmark, the USA, Canada and Australia. Follow Jodi as @jodicleghorn or via www.jodicleghorn.com.

The Writer and Fashion: Tracky Dacks

In late April I am taking long service leave from my job as a teacher. I am taking 10 glorious weeks of leave to write a novel or two.

If I am going to sit on my behind for that time, I want to be comfortable.

And the most comfortable accoutrement for that time is a pair of tracky dacks. Tracky dacks is what we in the southern hemisphere and The Antipodes is our term for sweat pants. Think of Sue Sylvester from Glee without the matching top and megaphone. Although, come to think of it, a matching track suit might be the way to go.

But I need your help. I need your corporate sponsorship for this pret-a-porter collection.

Here’s what I am proposing: during my time writing The Next Big Thing In Novels, I will wear your trakky daks and post a photo of me wearing them, accompanied by an update of the day’s progress. Send me your tired, worn out, holey tracky dacks; your pink fluffy numbers with “Juicy” written across the derriere; your forgotten MC Hammer pants.

Emblazon them with your novel, website address, picture of your kitten, band logo.

Free promotion: priceless.

Send me your tracky dacks.

I have even found tracky dacks for the more formal writing times: Dress Pant Tracky Dacks.

They will go lovely with a pair of suit pyjamas. Maybe I could find the Hamish and Andy track-xedo.

And if you could sling me a pair of ugg boots too, that would be glorious.

Addendum. Was thinking that if people really wanted to send me tracky dacks with their own promotional material, I would be more than happy. Then, once I have finished the novel, I can give them away to lucky readers with a copy of the book. (This will depend on how you define ‘lucky’ if you want to receive a pair of worn, but laundered, tracky dacks).