Authors Note: Just a little sample from a work in progress.
"I have seen the stars and the wonders of a billion, billion galaxies. I have seen the birth of beginnings and the death of the end, the two forces that control us in their endless dance. In that place where light and darkness sweep each other away in opposing comforts, I have seen that which no other can imagine. Yet, in all of these miracles and more, I have never seen such as you. I have are two words spoken with ease, two I have used too readily, but until you, my love, I have never known have not."
It began as a tingling that I quickly dismissed as nothing. The tingling continued, so I brushed myself down and carried on typing. A little later, I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. ‘Pft!’ I huffed, must be going crazy. It happened again. Something black was moving. Ordinarily, I’d have jumped up and wrestled the lion or whatever it was, but I’ve had trouble with my eyes this last week, so dismissed it as wobbly-vision.
When I felt something crawling up my shorts, I took more decisive action. I placed my iPad to one side, cool as a cucumber, honest, then leapt up. A spider fell out of my shorts and legged it under my writing chair before I could get him. I was not pleased. I like my writing chair and didn’t/don’t want to move. So, the waiting game is on. Who’ll blink first? Who’ll win this war of attrition? And most of all, should I put my trousers on? These are just some of the questions I shall try to answer when I next update you on THE CREEPING TERROR!
Disclaimer: The above Pixabay.com image may or may not be an accurate representation of my foe.
Now, you may think me a competent person… What do you mean, you don’t? Goddamn! Anyhow, I have an inbuilt mechanism that makes me rather robotic. I can and prefer to do things a set way — it’s just the way I am.
As luck would have it, most things I do, I usually do right straightaway. If I do, I shall always do them right. I can write something, put that writing away, then come back a year later and continue with an exact same sentence that if I’d checked a few lines further on is already there. Freak!
In real life, I was and still am good at sport — I’m good at editing, too, because that was almost ‘sprot’ — particularly anything that involved balance. I loved football, rugby, cricket, running and the list goes on, and I’m lucky to say I was good at them all without ever really trying. I write this to illustrate that I am not a bumbler.
So, why tell you all these personal details and eccentricities? Answer: to highlight my failings. I’ve found my nemesis: reading glasses.
About six months ago, I bought my first pair of reading glasses. It never bothered me having to wear them and still doesn’t. If ever given the chance to wear sunglasses, I’ve always jumped at it, as the pinching effect on my nose and general lessening of glare helps me avoid the headaches that wreck my life. This has continued with reading glasses. However, and referring back to earlier, I do things a certain way. I also like things to be just so. I can’t stand my glasses being dirty, smudged, breathed on, or any other such impairment of vision. Unfortunately, from the very first time I touched them and because of my aforementioned foibles, I can’t stop putting fingerprints on them. I’ve done it wrong once and always shall. It drives me mad!
I can hold my glasses at their furthest points and slip them on my head from distance: they’ll be smudged. I can wipe away all forms of residue and have them breathed upon before they even get near me. I can use the softest cloths, the best wipes or even wear gloves and still my glasses will be smudged. It is failing I have. I am ashamed of this inability.
One day, I hope to correct this truly irritating quirk. I will approach my glasses case, unzip them, remove my specs and place them on my head to a view of crystal clarity and smile at my aceness (I just made that word up). ‘Tis a dream I have. Ah, one day.
I’m sorry if this baring of self has disappointed anyone, really, I am. If you view me any less, I apologise. But know this, by the time you’ve finished reading this story, I’ve already smudged my glasses enough times to make me red with rage. Yet still, I write. Yet still, I try.
Author’s Note: This is my latest post on Medium. Please feel free to click the link and join me there.
Today, my wife showed me a video clip of a Jack Russell terrier playing with a balloon. The little fellow jumped up and down in sheer unadulterated joy without a care for who watched, who recorded, or who would discuss his outburst. This dog reminded me of why I gave up everything to write: I had to. Just like my canine sensei who had eyes only for that orange balloon drifting through a cerulean sky, I had eyes only for telling stories. A simple reason easily forgotten.
It is easy to lose track of ourselves in a world where we now see everything, know everything — so we think — or, as so many do, follow the crowd. We lose our own identities in the fabric of life that popular thought stitches together. I liken this to Genre Writing; we are stamped with a badge that says author of Fantasy, Horror, Romance or any number of others. In times where companies like Amazon have sub-categories of sub-categories ad infinitum, this is only exacerbated. I say NO!
What can we do about it?
Well, we can buckle to pressure and repeat ourselves for the rest of our writing lives, or, and here’s the thing, we can use the skills we develop every time we tap on that keyboard or write in that pad to twist things to suit. This takes me back to that lively Jack Russell terrier.
Fantasy: If I’d told you I’d seen a dragon jumping up and down trying to catch a ballon, you would have thought very differently about this post — mainly that I was mad, but that’s beside the point.
Humour: If I’d told you I’d seen a Jack Russell jumping up and down in a snazzy pirate’s outfit whilst balancing a bone on his nose and trying to pop a balloon, you would have thought — Aww, little rascal! If you didn’t, what kind of monster are you?
Science Fiction: If I’d told you I’d seen a Jack Russell terrier jump up after a kid’s balloon, vanish, then reappear inside it, you’d have thought — Wow!
Horror: If I’d told you I’d seen a Jack Russell terrier jump up after a ballon that lurched instead for him and swallowed him whole, you might have felt sad or scared.
I could go on, but I think you get the gist.
There are many ways to write up the most mundane of events. It is up to the author to choose what words to use and how to place them to both satisfy himself and in so doing, his readers. A wordsmith should never tire of writing if they’re provided with limitless ways of doing so — YOUR WRITINGISLIMITLESS!
Like that little dog jumping on the grass with eyes only for a balloon, you, too, can play and skip and jump your way to success and be happy doing it. Stay strong. Stay creative.
This is my latest Medium.) post. Please feel free to click the link and join me there.
A friend recently asked me for advice on the submission process. It wasn’t until she cross-examined me with several pertinent questions regarding her work that I remembered just how frightening the whole business can be if you’ve never done it before.
For me, and many others, the writing itself is never an issue. I revel in the art of creation, but being your typical introverted writer absolutely dread others seeing it. On top of this, I hate being made a fool of which stems from doing things wrong and being reminded of it (you know who you are). This is my own personal nightmare. I can turn off to what people say in both pros and cons regarding my work, but not to my own incompetence. Hence, I made sure of several fail-safes when submitting work.
Here are a few tips I have gleaned over time. I genuinely hope they help. If even one makes life easier for you, then this has been worth the writing.
The Bio Business
Most authors hate talking about themselves and the ones that don’t never shut up. So, when a magazine or publisher asks for a simple bio to be attached with your submission, it can render a writer paralysed. There is no need for this to be the case. In most circumstances, all that is required are two or three sentences stating a little about yourself and your previously published work or highlights. If you have none, it doesn’t matter, the editors are reading what you’re sending them not what you’ve sent elsewhere. Here are two examples of what are acceptable. Always write them in third person.
John Smith is a British writer born and bred in Lancashire. His work has been published in such notable periodicals as Clarkesworld Magazine and The Guardian. John writes daily for his own self-titled website.
John Smith is a new British writer born and bred in Lancashire. A writer of speculative fiction, John loves all aspects of the written word and its distribution. John writes a daily blog with a substantial following.
Number one has many qualifications and number two has none. They both sound good though. Never be afraid to tell it as it is.
PS: As a Yorkshireman, I have no idea why I chose to use Lancashire for my example, but it pained me to type it.
Once you have a short bio you’re happy with SAVE IT. Copy the thing and keep it safe. My tip is to never retype your bio, but, instead, copy it into emails, websites, or whatever is required. This method guarantees it always being the same, always correct and requires less checking. You can update it as and when.
Standard Manuscript Format
THE WHAT! Yes, it does sound terrible, but it isn’t. A lot of sites and potential places to send work will quote the name William Shunn. The reason for this, is William was kind enough to create a submission ready template that anyone can download from his site. Get it HERE. By writing your stories in this template or transferring them to it, you are guaranteed a professional looking manuscript. The template is essentially for Microsoft Word but I have opened it in several other word processors notably Google Docs and Apple Pages and it has worked fine. Plus, once you know how it looks, you can always type your own.
One little addendum here is to always check what a site requires. Some editors hate one font and love another, like a certain spacing in documents etcetera, etcetera. That’s no problem just select all on your document and alter it to how they want. Easy.
A Few Basic Tips
Don’t mail your work with a stupid email name. I would suggest using a separate email account (Gmail allows you lots) to look more professional. Example: JohnSmithauthor@gmail.com as against Johnthebigman@gmail.com
As previously stated, always format your work as requested. At times, it can seem petty, very petty, but they ask for a reason and the writer should respect that reason.
I have mentioned before about having a Submittable account. Many writing outlets use Submittable to manage their submission process. Get one HERE. Submittable is a wonderfully easy site to use and also acts as a submission manager/database for you the writer.
Many sites you submit to offer email updates on when and what they require at any given time of the year. As a rule, you won’t get bombarded by emails so it’s well worth signing up to them. Plus, if they don’t help, you can always unsubscribe.
You will be one of possibly hundreds of people sending submissions to your sites of choice. No matter how good a story is a publisher can only print so many. NEVER be discouraged. If you keep at it, keep polishing your work and choose your destinations with appropriate care, you WILL be published. They say you always remember your first time although I’ve forgotten. Either way, it’s wonderful to see your brainchild enjoyed by others.
I hope this little list has helped unlock some of your submission process worries. Good luck. I hope you become the next J.K. Rowling.
Author’s Note: Today, I’m introducing a new section to my blog. I’m hoping people will find it interesting to read what has and still does influence my writing, as I’m pretty sure most of it will surprise you.
A little background: I have eclectic tastes in both literature and art. I like what I like. As I’m sure you can imagine, as a writer, both mediums feature highly on my list of influences. So, I thought I’d start with somewhere that incorporates both.
Today’s influence is JAPAN.
There’s always been something about Japan that’s stirred my soul. The country is different, elegant in a way the West is not. It’s probably no surprise then that several Japanese mediums rate right up there in my list of influences. Here are those stories, films, books etcetera that I will always be grateful for having seen or read. If any are new to you, I would recommend giving each a try.
On a side note, the characters of the Sunyin monks, the oldest holding particular significance in my books, would not have developed without my love for everything Japanese.
Film: Lost In Translation. My favourite film. If ever something was me this is. Not Japanese in the true sense of the word, but set there. A true exploration of a culture counter to our own. I love it’s understated brilliance.
Manga: If you love Japanese Graphic Novels, you’ll always love them. Ghost In The Shell, which is soon to be released as a major movie, was my introduction to such things. This was followed by Death Note a battle of wits that just keeps on going and finally Vampire Hunter D. All three were visual in both the art and the storytelling, so much so that I bought several Vampire Hunter D novels to essentially read without pictures. This leads me on nicely to my next subject.
Anime: I love Japanese animation and in particular the work of Studio Ghibli. Three of their films, even if some might claim them for children, would rate in my top ten: Spirited Away; My Neighbor Totoro; Howl’s Moving Castle (Based on the Diana Wynne Jones book of the same name). Ponyo would be up there too, but I never admit to it. The Japanese have a more subtle approach to animation than the West and their portrayal of children will always be superior in their perception and portrayal of innocence.
Art: Yoshitaka Amano. I so wish I knew if I could show his artwork here, so instead have created this link. Take a peak. Take a look. Take your time. Stunning! You won’t need me to explain why if you do.
Books: Last but not least comes the literary side. I own many translated Japanese works, but one author stands above all. Haruki Murakami is a master of his chosen art. I often think Murakami could write about the contents of a bin liner and make it a surreal masterpiece. Both Norwegian Wood and After Dark would rate in my top ten books and many more would rate not much higher still. I don’t think anyone can blur the transition of fantasy and reality like Murakami. He is unique. If I could be perceived in the future as even a quarter as good as he, I’d die happy knowing my work well done.
I hope you’ve found this interesting and that something might have caught your eye. It is a good thing to broaden one’s horizons, I think. The wider our range of input, the better the narrowed down output. At least, I hope so.
As I’m sure some of you will have noticed, I’ve been rather more absent from the blogging world of late than normal. The reason for this is my writing. I’m only really happy when I’m writing and due to external factors I don’t want to talk about, I’ve poured myself into it lately. The result is a lot of words. So, I apologise for not getting around to as many of your wonderful blogs as I would like and wanted you to know that it’s not that I don’t care. I do. However, due to the books that are now begging for my full attention, it’s only going to get worse. This is why:
Into Eternity the climax to The Eternals Trilogy has been submitted to my publisher TODAY. I would hope this will hit the shelves very soon. This is the culmination of almost five years work and a story I am very proud to call my own. You won’t ever have read anything like it. Not many people can say that in the world of Fantasy authors, but I can.
Britannia Unleashed is also almost ready to go. Britannia Unleashed started life as individual Steampunk/Alternate History short stories. Fortunately, due to having a terrible memory, I reused the same characters in multiple tales. All of these have now been collated and rewritten into one unfolding drama. There are a few finishing touches to be made but not many. Because I actually started with some of these shorts long before The Eternals, the characters have become quite dear to me. Hence, I found myself writing more, then more still and suddenly realised I’d thousands of pages of extra tales. So, I can now also say that Britannia Unleashed will spawn a second trilogy of Fantasy books tentatively titled The Theatre of the Moon Trilogy fronted by the Victorian investigator Mortimer Headlock and his good friend Miss Grace Grace.
The Snow Lily was the story that got me noticed but also almost killed me through exhaustion. I kid you not. I couldn’t bear to even look at it once it’d won me my Authonomy Gold Medal. However, the children in the book, Lily and Bobby, have slowly worked their magic on me. The Snow Lily is now being completely rewritten to the higher standards I have set myself and I’m pleased to say I’m enjoying it. Thank you all who told me to get on with it when I alluded to what the book had done to me some months ago. I wouldn’t have gone back to it without your encouragement.
Writing these stories makes me happier than anything I’ve ever done. I was born to write but just didn’t have the courage to do so for the longest time. I’m too old to mess about with regrets, plus I need to earn to eat, so from now on the writing will have to come first. I hope you all understand, and that I shall still do my utmost to see as many of your wonderful blogs as I can when I can.