Would You Trade Your Writer’s Block?

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I promise that it was there… until I woke up. Didn’t you see it when you arrived? Maybe it departed on wings of… well take your pick, on Gossamer, feather, metal, wood or leather.

Time to be honest. I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Maybe I have an antigen in my makeup, or my muse works overtime.  Whichever it is, I have too many ideas, therefore too many first drafts that need editing.  I just need to find the one idea that fits the moment.

However, I admit with Multiple Sclerosis that I am always losing thoughts as I write. This post is a typical example as I lost my train of thought many times. Whether the thought ever came back, I don’t remember. Yes, it’s that bad.

As for my block it’s over editing, but more of that later.

Let’s continue with my primary antigens to Writer’s Block. Not all of them work all of the time, but at least one might yield something that I can use. Maybe even something that helps you.

  1. DREAMS: We all dream, although we often forget most of them. I don’t always have inspiring dreams, but there are a few that offer something of worth. When I wake up, I either write the dream down or work through the idea that it inspires, for later use as either a scene, a short story, or a novel.

 

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

  1. PHOTOS: Although I used to take photographs as an equestrian journalist, it tends to be other people’s photos that yield the best inspiration. On Pinterest I have gradually collated images to inspire new ideas. See my Pinterest file here.

 

  1. OUTDOORS: When I was more mobile, I found that getting out into natural surroundings would inspire me. That included observing people in the street or park. I once got the idea for a Haiku about a kite from a summer wander – or was it a Senyru? Nowadays I have to rely more on my immediate surroundings for inspiration – like “Black with Secrets, Adorned with Silver”, my Blog Post on Monday, which was inspired by dawn sounds that woke me up. One advantage is gazing at Snowdon every day.

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  1. GAMING: Okay playing online games – MMORPGs – is one of my ways to chill… a reward like chocolate, but gaming is a source of inspiration. I have two draft novels set against a gaming world, in fact a fictional gaming world based on my short story saga “Gossamer Flames”. I’m not sure what the inspiration for the first novella that became “Gossamer Flames” was, but gaming has built more of the world. Ironically, the novella –Weave of the Sister Skein – appeared while I was recovering from my first MS attack in 1999.

I’m sure that you can suggest other sources of inspiration, and you are welcome to add them in your comments.

So to My Block and Insecurity – Editing. I am churning out first drafts faster than I can edit them. My mind can no longer deal with focusing on finding the faults. Yes I can trudge through the manuscript – not MS, please, as I live with a MonSter already. Trawling word by word, I aim for perfection. I search for plot holes and character flaws. But I need months, even years. Time is not on my side.

Perhaps I need an editor partner. Maybe someone that can take my words then polish the idea into something worth reading. All offers considered.

Maybe that’s another Writing Unblock antigen. Anyone want to trade?

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, when we talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs, perhaps offering a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

This is my monthly IWSG post and there are many more words of wisdom out in cyber-space. I’m only a single blip among 290 other amazing bloggers rocking the neurotic writing world. If you click here there are links to all of them and you can visit as many as you want.

All thanks to Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh and his awesome co-hosts Sarah Foster, Joylene Nowell Butler, Lily Eva, and Rhonda Albom!

News Worth Sharing

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2   For the first three of my monthly posts in the Insecure Writers Support Group I expressed my insecurities, concerns and general fears about my writing. Today I want to be positive as our monthly posts are also supposed to be offering encouragement. There are usually some excellent words of wisdom out there. I’m only number 207 among 320 other great bloggers. If you click here there are links to all of them and you can visit as many as you want. After months of prevarication, I have drafted my first newsletter and taken the first step on the MailChimp route – and I don’t regret it. This won’t be a MailChimp Guide since there are excellent ones available, like Jeri Walker-Bickett’s post “How to use MailChimp – From Sign-up To Send”. All I’m attempting to do today is to explain why I decided to go down the newsletter path and what I hope to find. Letter writing was not something that came easily to me, whether writing Thank You letters as a child, or staying in touch with friends as I grew older. However, during my career as an equestrian journalist I produced a 12-24 page quarterly newsletter for a carriage driving club. An interesting challenge as I had to master design software and PDF production. So no excuse when it comes to a simple one page newsletter in MailChimp.

Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners at Brighton Driving Trials

Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners at Brighton Driving Trials

The design options are more basic than Publisher but I can see the potential to offer readers the following – in no particular order:

  1. Links to recent Blog posts
  2. Updates on published novels, like “Spiral of Hooves”
  3. Research thoughts and Links relating to my Worlds & Work In Progress
  4. Books read, reading and recommended
  5. Interviews with authors I follow
  6. News about my current writing projects
  7. Other people’s Tweets, Blogs and thoughts that have inspired me

Most of these don’t make interesting blog posts and yet they can be very useful to followers, when phrased right. The Gossamer Wings Newsletter will allow me to keep in touch better with you… better than sporadic posts that give a snapshot of my life. I want to make this work and I believe that having a newsletter is part of the way forward, not just for me but also for other authors. What would you expect to see in my newsletter? Would you be interested in receiving a copy? How often would you want to be sent one?

It might take a week or two perfecting a newsletter that is worthy of being sent but, if you are interested, please sign up below. [I tried adding a Widget to the site but it seems that MailChimp and WordPress haven’t sorted out a compatible code.]

But I have now found the solution and you can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/V3mq5

My Main Character

Snowdon Night ~ by Juanita Clarke

Snowdon Night ~ by Juanita Clarke

This is one of those blog themes doing the rounds and it was Ailsa Abraham, after blogging about her Main character, that asked for volunteers as so many of us had already taken part. 🙂 I was hesitant to step forward but Facebook writer friend David W Robinson encouraged me to have a go  – although I had to confess that it might be another means to put off my outstanding editing. In fact that’s been outstanding for eleven months.

First I should say that David is the opposite of me, as a visit to his ‘My Writing Process’ post at http://www.dwrob.com/2014/05/my-writing-process/ should make clear. He’s also a very prolific writer and one of the awesome Crooked Cat authors, which is in contrast to my single novel in print. Or can I count all those magazine and newspaper articles… guess not.

However, we share a passion for crime, even if his novels see the world outside his productive mind. Please check out his site and enjoy his writing.

Beyond the words ‘sporadic’ and ‘erratic’ there is a pattern to my writing. At specific times of the year, mainly during November and NaNoWriMo, I focus on getting a first draft down on paper. I usually aim to plot this novel out in detail during previous months, leaving room for the characters to introduce their own direction to the tale. Sometimes I manage to fit the draft for another novel into a year, and write that in the same way – outline and fast first draft.

That means that it’s tough to choose a main character, especially as I’ve also been working on the various shorts set in my “Gossamer Flames” world.

Enough prevaricating, time to talk about about My Main Character. But I need to answer the ‘set questions’ about the draft most likely to be read by my devoted fans 😉 – “Fates Maelstrom”.

Snowdonia ~ Juanita Clarke

Snowdonia ~ Juanita Clarke

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Although there are two POVs in “Fates Maelstrom”, the plot revolves around Twyla Locke, a fictional young woman in her last year of college in North Wales. Although she is a creation of my imagination, I am sure that I have taken some traits from people I know.

2. When and where is the story set?

Set in or just before the present. In the first draft of “Fates Maelstrom” the story was set predominantly in and around the fictional village of Hawktrewen on the edge of Dartmoor, with some climactic scenes around Lake Como in Italy. However, I am relocating the Dartmoor scenes to Snowdonia where I now live. The setting plays a key role as the story unfolds, with ancient standing stones and 18th century follies as well as natural landscape weaving into the plot, along with the rich legends of the area.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Twyla was just a baby when her parents died in a boating accident on Lake Como, so she has been brought up by her mother’s sister Ruby Horn in the Romani community of Horn’s Furrow, which has earned a place in the village, despite prejudices about ‘travellers’. However, her father was born into the local English landowning family, the Lockes, themselves seen as interlopers by the native Welsh.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The murder of Twyla’s grandfather Aubrey Locke exposes the deceptions that lie behind the prejudices of a divided village. Twyla becomes the prime suspect not only because she is seen as a ‘typical gypsy’ but because there are witnesses to her being at the murder scene at the right time. Either someone is impersonating her, or she has a split personality. The latter becoming more likely as she suffers blackouts, and fears that she is becoming like her ancestor Mad Geffron Locke, whose spirit haunts her. American journalist, Brogan Keyes gives her an alibi but his relationship with her cousin Yazzi Locke arouses her suspicions and drives her closer to a breakdown. .

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Before she was accused of murder, Twyla was aiming to obtain her degree and help her aunt Ruby with the horticultural business that keeps the Romani community thriving. However, beyond clearing her name, Twyla now needs to ensure that Horn’s Furrow survives the threat to its existence that is caused by the death of Aubrey Locke. Also, are her health problems a sign that she is going mad? Or has someone framed her for murder?

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The working title is “Fates Maelstrom” and I will keep my followers informed of its progress on this website. When I have revised the first draft to reflect the new setting of Snowdonia, I will probably add another page, as I did with “Spiral of Hooves” and “Gossamer Flames”.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

I have to work around my health problems, and my inclination to distract myself, so it will probably be some time in 2015… and that will also depend on a publisher.

Anyway, whatever I do to prevaricate, you all know what I intend to work on – as well as the “Gossamer Flames” shorts. Suppose that means that I have no excuse now. Tomorrow I must start on revising something – or maybe next week.

Please can I also ask for volunteers to take on the “My Main Character” torch – thanks and good scribbling.

Blogging a Dead Horse or an Ex-Parrot

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How do you keep blogging when you lack motivation and satisfaction? Do you ask yourself, why am I writing a blog? Who is out there waiting for the next captivating post?

Okay your blog will probably show how many people are following you and also how many times a page is viewed. I have 768 followers and I have got at the most 197 views – on one day in August 2013. But those followers include all those who follow my blog, plus my Facebook followers, those on Twitter and others. And the views include the times that I check my old posts when I’m not logged in. Do they include the times when I am logged in?

So it’s probably valuable information and stats – if you know how to read them correctly, and don’t get confused by false figures created by your own pingbacks. I don’t understand the minute detail and just get depressed looking at all the figures. They make we wonder if my blog is a dead horse or maybe an ex-parrot. [For those that understand, the answer is probably it’s “pining for the fjords” or simply “stunned”. Except it’s not Norwegian.]

I can see some pattern emerging as to which posts are viewed most – mainly the ones during the Indie Blog Party August 19-30 2013, plus a few posts referencing marketing strategies and my insecurities. My interviews with the characters of my first novel, Spiral of Hooves stirred some interest. But my posts during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge last month had a dozen views each, at most, with very few comments – some days none.

Does this mean that you want more insecure ramblings interspersed with the strategies of an unqualified novice? I’m not an expert on anything. My special subject is writing about other people after they have won some equestrian competition.

Maybe this blog needs to be put out to grass or stuffed – it would mean I’d have more time for writing fiction or gaming.

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Comments might be a guide to the blog’s health, if I can ignore the pingbacks again – each time I reference an old post, it becomes a comment – great. So this post is minimal with just one reference to another of my posts. But are comments relevant? I’ve read great posts with none, entertaining posts with numerous ones, and obscure weird minimalist posts with dozens. Mine just average two or three. Is there a magic formula?

Reading other blogs, I see that a specific theme can work, like book reviews, author interviews, or observations on the world outside.

Over to you readers and followers. How do you want to see this Blog evolve? What do you enjoy reading? I explored the options initially in Two Futures: Facts or Fiction back on January 18, with no conclusive suggestions.

Is it a dead horse or an ex-parrot? [Other animals bereft of life perhaps]

Or do I need more interviews with characters, or other writers, even riders? [Badminton winner, if I can reach him/her after the weekend.]

Or rant more about my insecurities and health? [Doing a backflip in my wheelchair on the front ramp.]

Should I be more selective in what I say, research less and save my words? [Small is beautiful.]

What do you think?

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This is my monthly post in the Insecure Writers Support Group day and I’m supposed to be offering encouragement. Maybe there will be some words of wisdom out there. I’m only number 207 among 320 other great bloggers. If you click here there are links to all of them and you can visit as many as you want.

A to Z Challenge ~ Is the truth out there?

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014] (1)

Tomorrow I start the A to Z Challenge, the brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out. (Although this was written in February just before we lost our Internet). 

The A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. We can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. 

As my theme I have chosen ‘The World of Gossamer Steel’, which is the SF-fantasy setting for a series of short stories and novellas, that portray the tales behind the MMORPG that is central to my crime novel ,Wyrm Bait’. Some of the tales are fantasy, while others have steampunk elements. However, this is a post-apocalyptic world where survival depends on taking the remains of consumer society and rebuilding with a new vision. Alongside this green or solar punk, there are areas where myths have come alive.

Beware though, the central theme of my crime novel ‘Wyrm Bait’ is deception. Do you really know who you are interacting with online? Who are you? Who am I? What am I?  Can you believe anything you read?

ITHAKA: THE TAPESTRY

PenelopeSuitors

The concept of “Ithaka: The Tapestry” was devised with my wife and gaming partner. My wife contributed her knowledge as an experienced gamer and beta tester, while I brought my expertise as an author, photographer and film producer.

Our extensive contact with gaming company Prinaka in Bangalore, India, will ensure that the concept is progressed. Prinaka are the publishers of the fantasy-SciFi MMORPG “Gossamer Steel”.

The game is a remediation of Constantine P. Cavafy’s poem “Ithaca”, which itself echoes “The Odyssey” one of the two major Ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. While the poem addresses the goals that the reader sets in their own life, the focus of the game ‘narrative’ is on the more archetypal aspects of this “marvellous journey”. However the player also chooses to embark on a quest, with their avatar, or character. The gaming medium allows the player to weave anew, creating the tapestry of their character’s quest, and echoing a form of art that dates back to Hellenistic Greece.

GENRE: “Ithaka: The Tapestry” is envisaged as a single player, role-playing game. However, it would have the potential to evolve into an MMORPG, once established.

CHARACTER CREATION: In the beginning, the player has to create a character of either gender and with a customised appearance. There are no races or classes, and all this new characters abilities derive from their initial Stats. Following in the tradition of “Dungeons & Dragons”, and most recently seen in “Neverwinter”, the player rolls, and maybe re-rolls, a computer dice to establish their six basic stats for Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Constitution (CON), Intelligence (INT), Wisdom (WIS), and Charisma (CHA).

GAMEWORLD: However rolling to prepare just for combat might be unwise, even though the character starts in a game world that resembles Ancient Greece just after The Trojan War. The player emerges on a dock in a burning city. The three options presented are: (i) to scavenge in the ruins for anything of use, from valuables to weapons; or (ii) to set sail for new adventures and perhaps encounter “the Laestrygones, the Cyclopes, the frothing Poseidon” and other foes; or (iii) to “linger in Phoenician markets so that you may acquire the finest goods”, perhaps opening up trade routes or unlocking knowledge.

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NARRATIVE: As Cavafy says of the monsters, you will not encounter them “as long as you don’t carry them within you, as long as your soul refuses to set them in your path”. However, if the player is foolish enough to choose the wrong abilities – stats – for their character, or embark on the wrong ship, then those monsters may well arise. But in fact there is no such thing as a wrong choice as all decisions lead to a journey on which you will gain “so much wisdom and experience” as Cavafy says. And this journey will lead to Ithaka, or death.

But the choice is the player’s. You can adapt your approach at each stage, as long as your character has the abilities.  And your decisions will affect how the narrative unfolds, reflecting your own style of play. For instance, choosing to accept stats that enhance Dexterity increases ‘Cunning’, the ability that Odysseus was renowned for. This valuable trait could be used to trick some of the monsters or ensure a better deal with merchants.

Furthermore, a character with an enhanced ‘stat’ will have other quest choices unlocked as they progress, therefore ensuring that their journey is unique. “Star Wars: The Old Republic” has demonstrated the potential for player decisions to change the narrative. For instance, when some NPCs are spared, they still want to silence you. Even survivors can want to avenge their comrades. Talk your way out of that scenario. Personal digressions from the narrow path enhance the narrative, growing organically.

QUESTS: The path that your character treads will be paved with quests that enlarge on the events and places mentioned in Cavafy’s poem from “the Laestrygones” to “an Egyptian city” and beyond. Success will yield rewards including experience, gold and more important, ‘points’ that can be allocated to individual stats, either compensating for weak ones or strengthening ones already developed.

Your character can continue down a path of pure exploration, or one of martial adventure, or they could even settle down as a renowned culinary master, or into a life of academia taking quests to find rare artefacts or scrolls. But cooking delicacies or trying to “to learn, and learn more, from those who know”, doesn’t guarantee a peaceful life, because your stats are still at work weaving your destiny in the shadows.

Raiders may come and torch your home, or fire ravage your ancient library in Alexandria. Collecting herbs, artefacts or rare metals can unleash hostile gatherers, as in “Age of Conan”, where the foes materialise beside you and match your level. The crafter still needs his sword as much as the warrior needs his wits and charisma. You need to have been “enriched by all you’ve obtained along the way”, if you are to reach Ithaka and escape death. In the journey is the learning, as many wise people have said.

SPATIAL DIMENSIONS: As the game journey is single-player the world map will be made up of zones. Each zone can be explored and the challenges/quests there faced to acquire experience, knowledge and valuables. When the game evolves into multi-player, some of the quests will be Instances restricted to either just the player or their party, depending on the quest’s value to the player.

DESTINY & CLIMAX: On the journey there will be setbacks, but if you recognise what your character needs to be a whole person, there should be few loose ends, or threads, before the player faces the final challenge.

TelemachusPenelope

Cavafy writes, “If you find Ithaca wanting, it’s not that she’s deceived you.” But your character does reach Ithaka in the footsteps of Odysseus and like that cunning hero you are faced with deception. With Odysseus out of the way, unscrupulous men want to marry his wife Penelope and take his wealth. But Penelope had been keeping them at bay by weaving a tapestry, saying once she was finished that she would marry one of the suitors. Penelope weaved during the day, but secretly undid her work at night, still faithful to her husband. However her cunning has been exposed and the suitors are threatening to destroy her world.

What will you do? You have perfected your abilities and now have the ultimate choice, dictated by all your previous adventures. Will you, like Odysseus, kill all the suitors? Or is there another way to punish them and still earn respect? And how do you reward the dutiful Penelope, and her son Telemachus?

How will Odysseus respond to your decision when he returns? Will you have to face the hero of the Odyssey? Has your Tapestry been woven into his?

REFERENCES:

Excellent article on “Ithaca” and link to Sean Connery reading, with music by Vangelis:

http://ninaalvarez.net/2008/08/09/poem-video-of-the-day-ithaca/

Extract from “The Odyssey” re Wily Penelope: http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa103100b.htm

Tapestry reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapestry

Game Guide: The Complete Guide to Game Development, Art & Design – David McCarthy, Ste Curran and Simon Bryan. www.ilex-press.com

Translation of “Ithaca” used: Stratis Haviaras http://www.cavafy.com/poems/content.asp?id=286&cat=1