The Write Side of Life: A New Project & A New Approach.

In my last post I talked briefly about a new story I was working on and how I was going to try and document how it goes, chapter by chapter. Well, here we go.

The new story that I’m working on is one that I’ve had floating around my head for years. It’s one that I always imagined writing as a novel and after trying it out as a short story, a previous attempt at a novel and even at one time a seriously misguided attempt at a graphic novel – don’t worry the pages of that monstrosity have long been destroyed – but finally after gaining some more experience of writing and life, I think that I’ve finally cracked how to make it work.

You see, I’ve always believed in the old adage that if you’re a writer, you should write the story you want to read, if you’re a film maker (which I’m not), then you should make the film you want to watch and so on and so fore. The problem is that there isn’t just one story that I want to read, they’re are hundreds; sci-fi ones, fantasy ones and action and adventure ones.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, when I was trying to work out what I was going to write next, I came across the story I mentioned before as well as some similar stories that were in various states of disrepair. Looking through various notes, outlines and drafts, I figured out that why not write all the stories I want to read. With some jiggery-pokery and intense head scratching, I fleshed out the main characters to make a crew who you will hopefully want to follow on an action packed adventure across a war-torn galaxy and develop a back story and legend that combines my favourite space opera and fantasy elements into hopefully an exciting universe for this crew to inhabit and it all started to come together as a coherent, workable plot.

Just as I was working on this outline, I came across this video:

In it fantasy author Jon Skovron shows how he writes his first drafts in fountain pen. I won’t go into his process here, watch the video it’s well worth it, but I can tell you it inspired me to try a new approach to my writing.

So, I went and got a shiny new Moleskine notepad and a left handed fountain pen (for your information it’s a Lamy Safari pen and it’s lovely to write with) and I got scribbling. I found this method, writing my first draft out in pen, is really working for me. I finished my first chapter last week and transcribed into it Word in a few hours, making corrections to the first draft as I went. By doing this chapter by chapter, I’ve found I’m simultaneously writing my first and second drafts, with corrections and ammendments thus making me work much quicker and completeinn one round of edits as I go, result!

So, the first chapter is done and I’ve started with the second. I’ll update you on that when it’s transcribed. I’ll also post a more detailed post about the first chapter later this week. In the meantime, here’s a short blurb on what the new story is:

Starblade (working title) tells the story of a crew of scavengers working aboard their ship, The Fury, scratching out a living by selling junk they find on wrecks of old starships. When they come across a mysterious old derelict that could finally be their big score, they unwittingly unleash an evil that spreads across the galaxy. Years, later in a bid to make amends, the crew of the Fury, undertake a mission to deliver a weapon that could destroy this evil force and end years of war. However, there are other parties that want the weapon, some for revenge, some to rule and they will stop at nothing to get it.

How does that sound? Like something you would want to read, let me know in the comments below or tweet or facebook me.

I look forward to hearing what you think. Also let me know how you approach new projects, be they writing, film making, art, anything.

Also be sure to check out the books of Jon Skovron. They’re pretty damn good.

Once again, thanks for reading!

Tim

 

The Write Side of Life: Harper Lee, A Tribute

‘Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.’ To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Ask any writer, reader or lover of books and I bet they will be able to reel off a list of authors and books that have shaped their lives.

I am no exception. My parents tell me that from a very young age, I devoured books. Quite literally at first as I was only a toddler and my first instinct was to pick up a book – usually upside down – and stick it in my mouth.

As I got older and realised exactly what books were for, my love affair intensified.  At school I worked my way through the wonders of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. When my reading ability grew I moved away from these and started finding myself getting into trouble for reading the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz (apparently, these books were too old for me and I shouldn’t have been reading them but that’s another blog post for another time). They are all authors who I still love. You’ll always find me first in line when at the book shop when there’s a new Stephen King book released.

But when I started my first year of GCSE English, I was presented with a book which – I say wholly without exaggeration – changed my life. It was the story of two young children living in America’s South in the 1930’s and their perspective on the case of a black man being tried for the rape of a white girl; the black man’s lawyer is their father.

I don’t need to tell you of  course, that the book was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Like me, most people’s first exposure to the book was during English at secondary school. I know that because of this, because of being forced to read it at school, a lot of people have bad memories of the book. But for me there are only good memories.

At it’s most basic, To Kill A Mockingbird is quite simply a wonderful story of the experiences growing up and being confronted with adult situations at a young age. For me however, there was something more. The way Lee wrote of all the characters- from the boisterous, ever curious, Scout Finch to her stoic, Everyman, hero, Atticus Finch- made them all feel completely alive and real to me. The way she uses descriptions of the hot stuffy weather in Alabama to emphasise the growing tensions in the town made me believe that I was actually reading something more than just a fiction, that this could have been a real place.Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention how Lee perfectly bolts on a ghost story to the proceedings with the sub-plot of the mysterious local town legend, Boo Radley.

Into all of this she deftly interweaves life lessons that are relevant to all children growing up around the world today, not just in the 30’s. This is beautifully illustrated in the quote at the top of this post, about how we should preserve things of beauty, not spoil them in any way.

It was all of this and so much more, from Lee’s poetic prose to the the way book shifts effortlessly from  a being a heart-warming coming of age tale, to shocking thriller to uncompromising look of the state of a nation divided and back again, that lead me to the decision that more than anything else in the world I wanted to be a writer.

Now, I know that the stuff I write, Sci-fi and Fantasy could not be further removed from Lee’s work but it was all things I have mentioned above that made me want to give it a go. I strive to write as well as Lee did and I constantly find myself going back to my now very dog-eared copy when I am in desperate need of inspiration. Something that happens quite often.

The other thing that I am grateful to Harper Lee for is that because To Kill A Mockingbird was so different to what I usually read that I went out seeking other works in a similar vein. I found I wanted to learn more about that time period and so started researching which led me to a love of history and, in a round about way, blues music.

As I write this, I feel guilty. I feel guilty for a number of reasons. One is that I still have Go Set A Watchman on my ‘to be read’ pile (I’m going to rectify this over the coming weekend).

Another reason is that even though I love this book so much and believe it is such an important book, I don’t feel I have ever championed To Kill A Mockingbird enough. I should be shouting about it from the rooftops, handing out copies to complete strangers in the street.

If you’ve never read it, I implore to go and get a copy and spend some serious time with it. If you read it at school and hated it because you had to write essays about it (something I loved doing BTW, but then again I’m a huge nerd), I beg you to revisit it. Read it without burden and through fresh eyes. It may change your life.

I shall be going back to it tonight and raising a glass in memory of Harper Lee, in thanks for the effect she’s had on my life. I hope you enjoy it to.

REST IN PEACE, Harper Lee (1926 -2016).

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Tim

 

The Stories So Far 2015: January and February

On twitter you may have noticed that I have been posting short book reviews under the hashtag #booksreadin2015. To coincide with that, welcome to The Stories So Far. This is a two-monthly round up of all the books I’m reading this year and it’s where I will be placing more detailed reviews of each of those books. So without any further ado, let’s get down to business:

nb. These aren’t meant to be in-depth critiques or anything, just my general musings on what I’ve been reading. Hopefully you might be inspired to try some of these books yourself, if you haven’t already. 

JANUARY

Revival – Stephen King

revival As we all know, when it comes to horror writing, there aren’t many in the business who can top Mr King for chills and thrills. After taking a break from horror to bring out his detective novel, Mr Mercedes (which is also brilliant, check it out), King has returned in fine form to bring about a fable like tale of a friendship takes some very dark twists and turns. It starts with a young boy who befriends his local pastor and family. As time progresses, tragedy strikes the pastor and he and the boy grow apart. In later years they meet again when the boy, now a drug addicted musician, meet again. What follows is an unsettling and unnerving look at what death and the afterlife hold for us.

This book is King at his best; taking everyday folk and their everyday lives and weaving them into something genuinely menacing, scary and (with the last few chapters of this book) shocking. The way King builds up to the events of the climax means that your constantly  guessing what’s going on and what’s about to happen. By the time I made it to the end I was left shaken to my core. As any horror novel should do, Revival left me with a few sleepless nights but boy was it worth it. This book is emotional, nerve-racking, terrifying and beautifully written. I highly recommend it.

The Copper Promise – Jen Williams

the-copper-promise The best way I can think to describe this book is to paraphrase the tagline for the film Stardust; It’s a fantasy novel that won’t behave.

What I mean is that this book takes some of the classic tropes of the fantasy genre and completely turns them on their head. And thank goodness it does. The big draw to this tale of Dragons, fledgling mages and tomb raiders is the three main characters: Wydrin, a wise cracking mercenary who is always looking out for her next big score; Sebastian, a disgraced knight of an ancient order and Lord Frith, a disposed ruler who is looking to take back his reign and will stop at nothing to get revenge on those who took it from him.  The chemistry between the three is brilliant, cracking dialogue and some fun interaction, along with some surprising actions by some of the characters, this is most fun you’ll have with a fantasy novel for a very long time. Can’t wait to read the follow up, The Iron Ghost. Oh and if Wydrin doesn’t immediately become your new favourite female fantasy character, you haven’t read it properly.

Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart_cover A superhero novel with a difference. Instead of following someone learning to use their superpowers to fight evil and save the world, Steelheart takes us to a future where those with Superpowers are known as epics and they have used their powers to enslave humanity. The book follows a young resistant fighter who holds the key to bringing down one of the most powerful epics, Steelheart.

What’s great about this book, apart from the unique take on a well trodden genre, is its relentless pace. Nearly every chapter is filled with action but in such a way that it propels the narrative and builds the world and the characters. There is nothing that is surplus to the telling of the story and the exposition is scattered throughout, giving us clues to what Steelheart’s weakness as the story unfolds. If you’re looking for something a bit different that’s exciting but not shallow, Steelheart is the book for you.

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

name-of-the-windd1  Another fantasy novel and another original take on the genre. You see, what makes The Name of the Wind unique is its structure. Instead of one straightforward fantasy you get two fantasy stories!

Allow me to explain. It all kicks off with an Innkeeper with a mysterious past. At first he seems perfectly normal but as his village is attacked by giant spiderlike creatures he is revealed to be a living legend and the giant spiders maybe just be after him. Once this is revealed he starts to tell his life story from his days growing up with a troupe of travelling entertainers to his teenage years as a student of magic at the university. The two narratives tie into each both throwing up and answering various mysteries. And, while it is a great story and by the end of it you’re really eager to jump into its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, I did find myself struggling with this book slightly.

You see. It has one of the finest openings of a book I’ve ever read; the tension built is palpable and really raises the hairs on the back of the neck. After that when we get into the Innkeepers story, it rolls nicely through his childhood and the tragedy he has to endure and you really feel for him during his time as a homeless street urchin. When he arrives at the university things slow down a bit and sometimes get a bit repetitive. I found myself getting slightly bored with descriptions of the admissions process and the MC worrying about how he would pay his tuition, but once he sets out on a quest to find out what happened at a wedding that seemingly left no survivors, the story picks up pace again and I was once again enthralled in this world and the story unfolding.

Mayhem & Murder – Sarah Pinborough

These are two seperate books but I read them one after the other and I really feel that that is the best way to read them, to get the full chilling effect but here I do look at them separately.

Mayhem

Mayhem_JK1.jpg.size-2301 Mayhem is set during the time of the Jack the Ripper murders and tells the story of a Dr working with the police to uncover the culprit behind another horrific set of murders that are happening at the same time. What Sarah Pinborough has so brilliantly done with this book is to combine a classical murder mystery, that could’ve come from Sherlock Holmes casebook and blended it with a supernatural horror story, so well that you can’t see the joins at all. By the time the killer is revealed you’re nerves are shot and then as the story heads towards our heroes confrontation with said killer, the thrills and terrors come at a relentless pace.

The books other huge draw is the characters. There isn’t any cut and dry, black and white good guys and bad guys in this one. The good Dr’s motives towards the end are sometimes questionable and through the killer’s diary entries we find ourselves sympathising with him somewhat and not sure if he got the fate he deserved. This is something that is expanded one and played with even more in its sequel:

Murder

61XBZxFWBCL Murder picks up some years after the first novel and once again follows the Dr from Mayhem. This time we join him after he is recovering from the events of the first book but soon fate finds him on the other side of the coin, will he be able to free himself and retain his sanity.

Murder is less of a mystery novel than Mayhem. Here the protagonist isn’t on the hunt for a killer. This time he is trying to bury his past and move on with his life but when the demon comes for him, there is no escape. This time around we get a flat out horror story. And man, what a horror story it is. As well as vividly drawing us into the Dr’s descent into madness, Murder deftly intertwines the themes of grief, fear and love. By making the hero of the tale do some truly questionable things you soon wonder if there is any goodness in the world at all. And the more the Dr succumbs to his ‘sometimes literal’ demons, the scarier things become until we come to a truly nail biting, nerve shredding climax. I defy anyone not to look wearily at the next river they come across and to also be cautious next time they look in a mirror. But most of all, I defy anyone not to read these two books and be utterly captivated. I strongly recommend reading them one after the other as it makes for one the best horror stories you’ll ever read.

Thanks for reading.