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Posts tagged ‘fantasy’

Last Word of the Week: Shelley Nolan

Today we welcome Shelley Nolan to Last Word of the Week. Shelley joined the authors at Odyssey Books in 2017. Her next novel will be published later this year.

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LWOTW: Welcome, Shelley! Tell us, when did you write your first story?

Shelley: I’m sure there were earlier pieces for school or fun but I started what I consider to be my first real story when I was sixteen, during computer class on a Wednesday afternoon. Intergalactic Heroine for Hire featured a teenage heroine who looked remarkably like my best friend at the time and she even had the same name. Sharon was accidentally transported to another world where she had to defeat a bunch of brain eating aliens before she was able to return home. It was another ten years before I finished that first draft and it was pretty bad, I must say. One day I hope to go back to it and see what my matured writer’s brain can do with the story.

LWOTW: I hope you do! It sounds like a great plot. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning, Shelley?

I am a perpetual dreamer, my head in the clouds most of the time as I explore what if scenarios. I think that is an essential part of being a fiction writer, especially when it comes to writing speculative fiction. I fuel my imagination by reading as widely and as often as I can, losing myself in other authors’ imaginary worlds. As for planning, I get an idea and start jotting down notes and then I get to a point where I feel reading to start writing. I have been trying to plan more but often find the story carries me away on a new tangent as I write it. Love it when that happens.

LWOTW: I agree, reading is very good food for writers. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

For me, holding my first book in my hands and knowing that I created it was a huge highlight. That a publisher had seen something in my story and been willing to release it to the world was an amazing feeling. I’d had plenty of family and friends tell me my stories were good, but the vindication of having a complete stranger, someone in the industry, tell me they thought I could write was a big confidence booster.

LWOTW: It’s a great feeling. So, what are you most busy with at the moment?

I’ve been working on a paranormal fantasy novella series and am currently revising the fourth in the series. I’m also eagerly waiting for the release of Dark Justice, my first book to be published with Odyssey Books, and jotting down notes for more books set in the same world.

LWOTW: If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

We have all been there. We all have ups and downs with our writing careers and experience moments of self-doubt and can benefit from advice from those who are further along than us. So find your tribe, writers you like and trust to join you on your writing journey. I have made friends with some amazing people at writing festivals and other events over the years. We now share our stories for critique, give help when needed and receive it in return. In my experience, authors love helping other authors, so get out of your writing cave and find people you admire, like and respect and you will become part of a wonderful community.

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour, Shelley?

RED. Bold and vibrant. I love the brightness and the way it captures the attention. Red is the ultimate extrovert, a contrast to my introverted nature. I have a red kettle, toaster, handbag and flask. Even my filing cabinet is red.

Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing, Shelley.

You can find Shelley and her wonderful books at the links below:
Shelley’s Website: https://shelleyrussellnolan.com/
Shelley on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShelleyRussellNolan/
Shelley on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShelleyRNolan
And you can buy Shelley’s work through the following links: https://www.amazon.com/Arcane-Awakenings-Books-Novella-Book-ebook/dp/B07DPBDVSP/
https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/arcane-awakenings-books-one-and-two
https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/arcane-awakenings-books-one-and-two/id1398785874
https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Shelley_Russell_Nolan_Arcane_Awakenings_Books_One?id=bOlhDwAAQBAJ

Last Word of the Week: Mat Larkin

This week LWOTW is very happy to welcome the intriguing Mat Larkin, author of the newly released middle grade novel The Orchard Underground. Mat has a very inventive imagination – as I know from working with him on a project in the past – so I’m expecting some unusual responses … Read on with caution and delight …

Last Word of the Week: Greetings, Mat! When did you write your first story?

Mat: When I was seven, I wrapped a small, brown, corduroy belt-loop in a note and left it on the kitchen counter. The note read: ‘Dear Mum, this piece fell off my pants. Can you fix it please? Love Mathew.’

That story was a lie. I cut it off with scissors. Don’t tell my mum.

The first honest fictions I wrote were little stories when I was around nine. They all had Doctor Who in them. I wrote them while wearing a duffel coat with a recorder in the pocket that I pretended was the sonic screwdriver.

I could tell you I got over that phase, but I now know someone who writes for Doctor Who and the envy is scalding.

LWOTW: What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

Mat: A really good therapist once told me, ‘enjoy your dreams, survive your nightmares, wake up, walk away and leave them be. Your subconscious is out of your reach for a reason. Keep it that way.’

It’s profound, wise advice, and I absolutely never follow it. Dreams don’t make sense — that’s not what they’re for — but they’re so damn compelling, so tantalisingly just a fingertip beyond our reach that our big, twitchy, far-too-curious human brains don’t stand a chance to resist.

I still can’t make sense of them, though. Why would Daryl Somers even want me to have orang-utan arms for legs?

Imagination is play, and I lost the habit of play until my son was born. He taught me to write by asking me to get down on the floor and stare for hours at a spinning top, to clamber into a cardboard box with him, to draw wings on that box and fly in it with him to Neptune, to stare at Venus together until the actual real photons that bounced off another planet were lodged forever in our retinas. Space travellers we welcomed.

My son taught me to play, and to write.

Planning is creative. I plan a novel by playing with my characters, writing their backstories, wondering what’s around the corner of the last street of the world I just invented, writing all my plot points on system cards then shuffling them to look for better patterns.

I mean it’s also a load of financial, professional and record-keeping tediousness, but it’s easy to forget in all that to keep a creative element in the more mechanical parts of your creative practice.

LWOTW: System cards! Wow, I’m impressed. They obviously work well. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

Adults have been very nice about The Orchard Underground, and that’s very nice. But I’ve been visiting a lot of the middle-grade book clubs run by Melbourne bookshops, and there is no substitute, as a middle-grade writer, for sliding politely past the adults and talking to kids.

The kids I’ve met have been incredible. They’re engaged, thoughtful, creative, rowdy and very much full of their own ideas about my story and characters. It’s been exciting to hear girls tell me they love my female protagonists Attica Stone and Slotcar, but almost more exciting to hear boys tell me the same thing. Boys finding non-male heroes is a big deal for me.

So the highlight of my writing career so far is this drawing of Attica Stone, which was done on the spot for me at a book club. I can’t begin to describe what it’s like to see my character appear like magic on the notepad page of a ten year-old girl who loves her.

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LWOTW: That’s wonderful! (I love Attica too – apologies for being an adult. I’m sure my child-self would have adored her, but I had to make do with A Little Bush Maid, who could at least ride horses, muster cattle, and fight bushfires as well as cook…) What are you most busy with at the moment?

Here’s my list

  1. A prequel to The Orchard Underground, working title: The Chameleon Thief
  2. Visiting schools, book clubs and anyone else who’ll have me to meet kids, talk about stories and hear their sensational ideas about double-decker ladders and rocket trees
  3. Reminding people that The Orchard Underground exists, is a cracking read, has a sloth in it and is available in good bookshops everywhere at a very reasonable price
  4. Writing on mental health for SANE Australia, a fantastic organisation that supports people affected by complex mental illness.

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LWOTW: If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Two years ago I was uncertain whether I could make this career work. I kept going. Don’t give up.

Ten years ago I wrote an entire novel that never got published, and thought that was pretty much it for me. It wasn’t. Don’t give up.

Even with a book on shelves I frequently have moments when I feel like I’m not as good as proper writers. I don’t listen. Don’t give up.

I got a contract for my first novel eleven years into my writing career, at age 42. It’s never too late. Don’t give up.

The first draft of The Orchard Underground was extremely ropey, and so is the first draft I’m working on now. Publishers expect this. It’s okay. Don’t give up.

I absolutely bloody love this job and never want to do anything else. Don’t give up.

Don’t. Give. Up.

LWOTW: Fabulous advice! And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

I’m reading Terry Pratchett with my son at the moment, so: octarine.

LINKS
You can follow Mat at matlarkin.com

Mat tweets  @matchtrick

And you can read my review of Mat’s book The Orchard Underground on Goodreads.

Last Word of The Week: Vacen Taylor

In LWOTW, writers share their thoughts about the craft and business of writing, with tips for aspiring writers and inspiration for all booklovers.

Today I am pleased to introduce you to the imaginative, inspirational and thoughtful Vacen Taylor, author of the Starchild series.

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LWOTW: When did you write your first story?

Vacen: I imagine that would be in grade one but perhaps not my best work. My first published story was written in 2009. It was a sci-fi flash fiction story written for an American e-zine.

LWOTW: What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

In the stages of sleep, I love the fact that dreams are involuntary. Dreams today are still not entirely understood but they have been the subject for many writers, both scientific and academic. They have also been the stimulus for many famous stories. However, if I’m talking about hopes and dreams, having a yearning for something to manifest into reality, then I believe cherishing ambition from our imagination is vital for writers. But fantasising about the future won’t help us unless we work hard to fulfil those dreams. Of course, not all dreams come true, well, not always the way our visions might have created them in our imagination.

Speaking of imagination and forming new ideas, I believe it is the most creative resource we can own. Nothing is more powerful than our imagination. I can’t remember who said this but, if we can imagine it we can create it. True on most counts. And usually that requires a plan.

Ah, planning is a two-edged sword for me. Gardener or architect? I’m a gardener when it comes to a lot of my writing and not so much of an architect. So, I receive the seeds through my imagination. I plant them. I water them and watch them grow. The exception to that is screenwriting. I plan the script using a beat sheet. This works well for me when writing a feature film or short film script.

However, if I’m writing an essay for university then it is most definitely planned. Poetry and novels I allow to flow creatively.

LWOTW: What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

I’ve had a few different highlights over my career so far. Signing my first publishing contract was a huge goal but the highlight of that came when I received my first box of books. #BoxOfBooksDay Yay!

Winning the 2016 Best Short Screenplay “Foiled” at The Good Dog International Film Festival was a highlight. Then receiving a commendation in the 2018 British International Film Festival was an amazing highlight.

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Another highlight was having my #8wordstory up on the GOA billboards around Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

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LWOTW: That’s a lot of great highlights already! What are you most busy with at the moment?

I balance my time between a few different forms of writing. Poetry. Novels. Screenwriting. Short stories. At the moment essay writing for a university is taking up a little more time than creative writing. However, I include my creative writing into my schedule each day.

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LWOTW: If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

The answer to this question keeps changing every time I’m asked it. And I’ll tell you the reason why.

A writer continues to grow and change psychologically, biologically, spiritually and socially throughout their life. Psychological change might include learning how to reflect on our personal experiences and successfully introducing change to our life. Of course, we don’t have control over biological change, but this change cannot be ignored because our body grows older. We are often challenged by that change. This change can affect how a writer might view his or her work, the subjects they write about and the way they write. Spiritual change is different for everyone. It happens to some early in their life and for others it comes as they mature or age. Over time our social and behavioural patterns change. Our culture and social norms might change, either involuntary or voluntary, but they do change.

So year by year my answer to this question changes because I’m changing.

The answer this year is…

  1. Don’t look sideways. By that I mean don’t compare your work to others.
  2. Write your way until you fall into your voice.
  3. Learn through experience. Nothing teaches you about life like experience.
  4. Become familiar with speaking about your work. This is often harder than you think.

 

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

PINK

 

You can follow Vacen on

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vacen-Taylor-Author-233611656699562/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vacentaylor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.au/vacentaylor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VacenTaylor

Website: www.vacentaylor.com

To read more about the Starchild Series: www.starchildseries.com

 

 

Last Word of the Week: Laura E Goodin

And so it begins! The first instalment of the Last Word of the Week project is here.

In LWOTW, writers share their thoughts about the craft and business of writing, with tips for aspiring writers and inspiration for all booklovers.

Today I am thrilled to welcome the dynamic, witty, redoubtable Laura E Goodin as my inaugural interviewee.

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LWOTW: When did you write your first story?

Laura: I may have been…seven? It was about…my stuffed animals? Something like that.

LWOTW: What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

That’s just about all I ever do think about: dreams, imagination, and planning. For me, the words are very nearly synonymous, and all three are as indispensible as breathing. My dreams and my imaginings are generally the first stages of planning for either my next real-life adventure or my next piece of writing. Or both.

LWOTW: What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

While I’ve been lucky to have had lots of amazing writing adventures in a startlingly short time, from my first sale (a story accepted in Antipodean SF, although no money changed hands) to my first paid sale (a story in the Canterbury 2100 anthology from the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild), from my six tempestuous weeks at Clarion South to entering the hall to receive my PhD in creative writing. But I think the highlight among many highlights has been the four-city launch tour I did when my first novel came out in 2016. Friends and family members from Melbourne, Canberra, Wollongong, and Sydney came to celebrate what they all knew was the dream of a lifetime for me, finally come true. I was particularly overwhelmed by the turnout in Wollongong: we’d recently moved away to Melbourne, and I’d sort of wondered if I might have gone out of sight and out of mind. But the room was PACKED with people I loved and missed, and their goodwill and pride filled my heart to bursting.

Goodin Wollongong launch Photo by Heather ONeill_larger

LWOTW: What are you most busy with at the moment?

I wish I could say it’s writing the next novel. But really, it’s keeping my editing business going and promoting my two existing novels. However, I’m taking steps to shift the balance back toward writing. I’ll never be less busy, but I’m getting to the point where, after a tough couple of years, I’ve got a bit of leeway to allocate my time in ways that favor the writing a little more. That said, I also maintain a complex program of extracurricular activities, some of which augment the editing business (I’m a professional fencing instructor and I teach writing whenever I get the chance) and some of which are necessary because they feed my soul a rich diet of magic and melodrama (that would be the bellringing), and some of which I do because I just plain like doing them (cooking and going to the gym would be examples).

LWOTW: If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, it would  be…?

I would sit them all down and I would stare at them until they began to shift uncomfortably. Then I would say in a hollow, sepulchral voice, “You will never be satisfied with what you write. You will always be convinced that everything you write is shit. You must write it anyway. You must. The shittiness is irrelevant.”

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

A rich, mossy, velvety green. The green of the soft, shaded carpet at the water’s edge. The green of contemplation and calm. The green I remember from the woods and mountains of my childhood.

LWOTW would like to thank Laura for her thoughtful answers, and also for being brave enough to go first! Love your work, Laura!

Links to Laura:

Laura’s web site: http://www.lauraegoodin.com

Laura blogs at: https://lauraegoodin.blogspot.com

You can find her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Laura.E.Goodin.Writer/

And Laura tweets @lauragoodin

Novels: Laura suggests that it’s best to search Amazon for After the Bloodwood Staff and Mud and Glass. Better yet, ask your local indie bookstore or library to get them in!

Image credit: The great photo of Laura signing her book was taken by Heather O’Neill.

 

Cover me, I’m going in…

Into bookshops, of course.

Scandinavian bookstores to be exact, some of which are worth the investment of several hours. Although all these shops have sections where English books are stacked and shelved in their dozens, I found myself drawn to the local language books. Here I confirmed that, for better or worse for us authors, potential readers DO judge a book by its cover.

The conventions of genre in imagery help us to distinguish crime from fantasy from romance from historical fiction from military memoirs from poetry, and so on. Classics with new, interesting covers (like those in the header image) live on the strength of their titles and authors. Newer fiction must usually play by the rules, although that doesn’t necessarily mean playing in the same well-worn rut.

For example, I like this new fantasy cover for the prolific (and wonderful) Brandon Sanderson‘s The Final Empire (first published 2006). This cover clearly references the genre but presents a more up to date, fresh, arty take on it. You could think that its first imprint was at least ten years later.

IMG_3288In a watercoloured, simplified way, all the genre markers appear. Fantasy city: check. Mysterious being: check. Spooky question to set up the fantasy premise: check. Weird misty atmosphere: check. Potential to adapt for the later books in the series: check. And is there a suspicion of snow on those towers … Jon Snow? GOT readers say: ‘my kind of book’, as do Harry Potter and LOTR folk. Probably, as do fantasy readers in general.

And here’s a novel clearly set in or around the time of the First World War. Clearly. It also features the poppy on the spine, so you know the genre even when it’s facing the wall.

follettIt’s Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants in Norwegian. Even if we hadn’t noticed the guns and the sepia-tinted photo, that poppy gives it away. Are those soldier-photos and poppies clichéd? I guess yes, but they also act as immediate identifiers for readers who are eager to read something similar to books they have already enjoyed.

Now what about family sagas and romance? Evidently (from my observations), a reader wants to see a woman on the cover, most often with her back to us, contemplating her situation. Her attitude and costume communicate the historical period covered in the novel:

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Many crime stories also feature women, usually with their backs turned to us, walking into danger. Women? Of course, I should say ‘girls’ for that genre 🙂

My own WWI novel will be published later this year, and I am agonising over what might make a good cover – to poppy, or not to poppy? – being the main question. Do I need a rising sun to mark it as Australian? And a woman in historical costume to signify that it is a family-based romance as well as a war story? My brains are on the rack.

If you have any brilliant ideas for what I could suggest to my publisher, please leave me a comment below!

PS All photos taken by me.

 

The buried genre

After a week or more’s musing, I think I have worked out what was so difficult for me in the reading of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, which I recently reviewed on Goodreads.

The sticking point, for me, is the description of the novel as ‘fantasy’. Turns out that I have quite set expectations of ‘fantasy’ novels – that there will be a resolution to a specific problem being one of them. I can cope with an unusual fantasy protagonist – our hero/heroine/main interest character doesn’t need to fit the traditional handsome (and maybe hidden) prince model for me to read on happily. I can cope without romance, and in fact found the constant ‘princess’ tribute by Axl pretty annoying, though it was clear that he truly loved Beatrice. I don’t need dragons or witches or spooks, black cats or shape-shifting baddies.

What I do want in a fantasy novel is plot, character-driven plot for preference.

I now think that what made me so uncomfortable was the lack of resolution in The Buried Giant. I loved the writing, and I think that, had the novel been described differently, I may have been more relaxed with it.

Genre, genre. Ever since The Game of Thrones (ie George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire) killed off Ned Stark in Book 1, I’ve been floundering!

The Cruel Prince: dangerous fiction

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Maybe that should be ‘dangerous reality’. I’ve just finished reading Holly Black’s excellent fantasy novel The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1). I’ve rated it 5 stars on Goodreads, because I couldn’t put it down. It’s like George RR Martin, Juliet Marillier, and Paula Hawkins got together to write a completely captivating dark thriller set in Faerie.

By the way, I LOVE the cover.

*warning spoilers*

I became totally absorbed by this story, but also increasingly troubled. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m wondering if it’s the reflections of domestic violence that are worrying me? Let’s look at the story line:

Our protagonist Jude is kidnapped and taken to Faerie by a violent redcap general called Madoc. Madoc was married to Jude’s mother – she left him, taking their child. So Madoc murders both Jude’s mother and her new partner (Jude’s father), reclaims his own daughter, and takes Jude and her twin for good measure. The three girls are brought up in the dangerous, deceitful Faerie court.

So that’s problematic – being brought up by the man who killed your parents because your mother was once married to him, and failed to make a complete escape.

Then Jude, as a teenager, is bullied and despised by the Faerie court, in particular the friends of the beatutiful and very cruel Prince Cardan (who rips off a fairy’s wing the first time we meet him, for not a good enough reason). The bullying is vicious and relentless, and Jude is effectively isolated from any help – even her twin Taryn betrays her.

I was hoping against hope that this wouldn’t turn out to be a story where the girl falls for the violent, abusive love interest, who, you know, really loves her underneath it all. However as we discover that Cardan himself has been abused, I’m suspecting that he is being transformed from perpetrator to victim and that they may end up as a pair.

Scary. Too real.

What do you think?

A Novel Kidnap

They have cut me off at the pass. They won’t leave me alone. They arrive at all hours and demand to speak to me. I feel that way too much of my life is currently in ransom to them.

And they’re not even flesh and blood!

Before you call the zombie apocalypse team or the ghostbusters, I will confess that these pesky creatures are of my own creation. When I started writing The Pale, I had no notion of how much attention these folk would claim.

My plans for February were: send Pale #2 (‘Broad Plain Darkening‘, or BPD to those in the know) to my wonderful beta readers, and give the manuscript a rest from me for a while (and vice versa). In the meantime, I aimed to spend time spruiking The Pale and attending to the thousand and plenty follow-ups. I also created quite a few questions for my beta readers to address before I embarked upon the next book in the series. I thought that their answers would help inform the action and the character development that I had loosely mapped out.

However, I planned without the consent of my characters themselves. They have insisted, and I have complied – Pale #3 has begun. Yes, it has a working title – but that’s way too embryonic for any other gaze at the minute.

Oh, and my jotted mapping of Pale #3? It may just go out the window. Character X really doesn’t want to do Z, even though it’s what I planned for him. He says he doesn’t want to head in that direction, and I have to listen to him.

Especially at 4 am.

Mapmaking, worldmaking

There are a number of fantasy mapmaking programs available free on the internet – who knew?

I’m especially fond of boing boing – where you can generate your own random fantasy world, and there are a number of others. Wonderful fun. I can (and did) spend hours exploring quite a few of them.

However, I need a map of a fantasy world which is not random, but which conforms to all the particulars I have created for it. I’m currently working on a hand-drawn draft, which is totally out of scale*, but is helping to put shape into the world of The Pale. I’ve based the coastline of the continent on various stretches of Tasmania and New Zealand, by tracing actual maps.

It’s huge fun and a big project. Once I get it into more reasonable form, I’m also going to make myself a city map for the Pale itself.

And yes, there are random fantasy city map generators out there, such as the excellent one by Geeknative.

*Just how far can a tribesman walk in one day across the hostile terrain of Broad Plain? That is the question – or one of them, at least!