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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

I don’t normally subscribe to using dreams as a basis for book ideas.  I mean, that’s what Stephenie Meyer did with Twilight, and look how that turned out.  I mean, she’s a millionaire and all, but… actually, maybe that was a bad comparison.  Let me start again.

I don’t normally subscribe to using dreams as a basis for book ideas.  Most of my dreams are nonsensical at best, with the occasional cinematic narrative type dream that seems to make sense for about ten minutes after I wake up, and then I realize how silly it actually was.  But once in a great while I have a dream that can plant the seeds of interesting ideas.

I have a journal I sometimes use (meaning that I should be using it much more) to write down ideas for my works-in-progress.  There are two entries in there with dreams I had that I thought might be interesting to use.  The last one I wrote down was in 2008.  And that one wasn’t really that great.  The one before it was pretty cool, though.  I’d tell you, but I don’t want you to steal it.  It’s copyrighted by my brain.

The one I had last night was so vivid and narratively interesting that I had to capture it on paper.  And my brain continued to come up with ideas and explanations for things that happened.  Chances are, it’ll be more than a year or two before I even get around to actively thinking about using it, but it’s there.

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t ever waste an idea.  Whether it’s a dream, a question, a newspaper article, a joke, or whatever, write it down and save it.  Maybe you’ll use it, maybe you won’t.  Maybe you’ll look at it in a year and think, “That’s garbage.”  And then you’ll look at it again in another year and realize that it’s brilliant.

Somewhere in the pile of boxes in my living room is a file folder labeled “Inspiration”, where I saved many a clipping or note that would aid me in my future writing.  I haven’t opened it in years, but it might be time to sift through it.

Maybe it’ll stir up more dreams to write down, continuing the cycle for years to come.

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It’s always funny how the muse strikes me when I’m least expecting it. I’ve recently been schvitzing about Blood of the Father because I haven’t had time to work on it. When I don’t have time to work on a story, I tend to fall into the trap of telling myself negative things about it.

“You’re using too much exposition and not enough action.”

“Plot, man! Where’s the plot??”

“Seriously, why did you think this story was a good idea?”

I don’t know if this is something other writers can attest to, but I’m least worried about my writing when I’m actually writing. When I’m left to stew about it, that’s when the negativity monster rakes me with its deadly claws of self-doubt. Which is good when I’ve finished a story and I want to go back and edit it, but not when I’m 1/4 of the way into the story.

But sometimes I get lucky and my muse will step in front of the negativity monster, and she’ll slap him around a bit. She paid me a visit yesterday, and rather than wading in a pool of self-deprecation, I had flashes of inspiration. One led to another, that led to another, and so on. And then I found myself energized and excited to work on the story again. Which is good, because I have a writers retreat this weekend and I need to keep that ball rolling so I can take advantage of the writing time.

I wish I knew how to thank my muse, other than to continue writing that is. Do muses like gift cards?

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This post will not be an overly positive one, but that’s the point of it – life is not always positive. So, if you don’t want to look down the barrel of a negative, albeit realistic, post, you might want to wait until I do my next album review post later in the week.

I grew up hearing the age old axioms “If you try enough at something, you’ll succeed” and “If you want it bad enough, you’ll get it.” And I fell into the trap of believing that for a long time. But when you boil it down to its essence, it’s just words.

Now, I’m not saying don’t try. I’m not saying you shouldn’t want something with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. I’m not saying that you’ll never achieve your goal or succeed at something important to you. I’m telling you that much of what gets tossed around as inspiration pep-talking is not infallible doctrine, so don’t build up yourself on that foundation.

I’m only thirty-four. I understand that I have many years to try to become to a successful writer. But it’s hard to maintain that positive outlook when I’ve been writing non-stop since I was fifteen or sixteen, working my butt off at publishing my own stuff, and sacrificing so many things to do both, and I still feel like I’m treading water. And guess what? There’s the distinct possibility that I might never reach that success point that I’m aiming for.

My realizing that doesn’t make it a forgone conclusion. My realizing that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. What it means is that I’m not blindly running forward going, “I’m going to win, I’m going to win, I’m going to win…” I might never reach that finish line. Then again, I might. But I can’t be sure.

I know people who believe in the power of positive thinking. And I do try to stay positive. But as a writer, I’m aware of reality and what life really is, and what it can do to someone. I can’t turn a blind eye to that; I have to accept it, but at the same time I have to keep up the fight. Why? Because the possibility is still there.

In short, don’t be a fool and leap blindly, trusting for the best. Check to make sure your parachute is fully functioning and jump with knowledge that you might hit the ground hard.

I warned you this wasn’t a lighthearted post.

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Like many writers, I have my little routines and habits that I have to adhere to when I write. For example, just as I was about to write this entry, I realized that I didn’t have a hot cup of coffee next to me. I like to drink coffee while I’m writing, not because of the caffeine or anything, but because it’s something that puts me in the writing mood. Occasionally at night I’ll swap the joe with a glass of bourbon or scotch, but that’s neither here nor there.

One of the major things I need to have while writing, though, is music. I like to have something playing in the background while I dig into a story or a blog post or whatever. Music has been a passion of mine for a long, long time. My taste in music changes from time to time, but my acceptance of different genres is extremely broad. I listen to everything from classic rock to 90s alternative to punk to progressive metal to jazz to new age to… well, I could keep going on and on.

I used to listen to just about anything when I’d write. Sometimes I can still get into that zone. More often these days, though, I have to listen to stuff that doesn’t have lyrics. And I prefer something with complex or experimental melodies. For a long time I’d listen to Orbital (and I still do) because their music is mellow and rhythmic with a lot of complexity to it. And after learning about him through the animated series The Venture Brothers, I would rotate in J.G. Thirwell’s experimental music.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered a slew of musicians that do lyric-less metal in a variety of sub-genres – progressive metal, djent*, jazz metal, and stuff that kind of defies labeling. I like stuff like this because it’s heavy enough to keep my juices flowing, but complex enough to keep the wheels in my head turning.

I know the word “metal” makes a lot of people turn away, thinking of things like screaming bearded guys and screeching guitars.  That’s not what this stuff is, I assure you.  If you’re interested in checking any of it out for your own writing needs (or whatever), here’s a list of stuff available on YouTube for you to listen to. Many of these musicians are also on Bandcamp, so if you like their music, please consider actually purchasing their albums (I’ve purchased a handful already and have plans to binge a little bit more).

Sithu Aye: A musician from Scotland whose metal is “happy”. Seriously, it’s amazing – and, at times, heavy – music that doesn’t sound dark or ominous. I suggest starting with Invent the Universe, one of my personal favorites.

Wide Eyes: These guys put out an amazing amount of music in each album. Much more metal than Sithu Aye, but with great complex riffs and solos. Their album Volume is great if you like a little bit of electronic mixed in with your metal, and Samsara is great if you like a slightly softer edge.

Plini: Less metal, more progressive rock, but awesome nonetheless. Superb guitar playing and songs that you’ll be happy to have stuck in your head. Took me a little bit to get into them, but the album Sweet Nothings is one of my staples now.

Anup Sastry: The drummer from the band Intervals (which is another great band with lyric-less music) has a sound that I’ve never heard anywhere else. It’s heavy, it’s fast, and it’s great if you need an adrenaline rush while you’re writing. The album Titan is amazing (though far too short).

Modern Day Babylon: Heavy, ambient, driving, and melodic all at once. Travelers is one of my favorite albums to put on when I’m not sure which sub-genre to listen to.

God Is An Astronaut: A recent find for me, these guys are not metal at all. They’re labeled as post-rock, but I just consider them ambient rock. It’s… ethereal I guess would be the best way to put it. I love it, and the more I listen to them, the more I love it. Start with the album All is Violent, All is Bright.

Deathmole: Anyone who has read the webcomic Questionable Content should at least have a passing familiarity with this “band”. In reality, it’s just one person – QC artist Jeph Jacques. His death metal/post-rock sound is perfect background music (as well as great music to listen to in the car). I suggest the album Permanence (not available on YouTube, but you can listen to it on Bandcamp).

*I am aware from hearing many metalheads argue the point that “djent” is not an actual genre, but more of a style of playing.  For the sake of my post, though, I am leaving my statement as is.

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I really don’t like people telling me what to do. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that here and there before, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Unfortunately, this sometimes extends to people kindly giving me advice, and sometimes that’s detrimental to me.  But not always.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I was blatantly not writing because of the heat. When it gets too hot hot outside, my energy and brain power gets sapped. And all I could think of was all those writers out there who say things to the effect of, “Just sit down and write, and don’t worry if it comes out bad, you can fix it later.” But the problem is that’s not how I’m wired; if I know I’m not going to do a decent job – not a perfect one or even a great one – then I can’t bring myself to do it at all. And you know what? Despite what all those rah-rah writers say, that’s okay.

We’re all wired differently. Some of us can bring a laptop and write in a coffee shop. Some of us need a quite office space. Some of us need a hot cup of coffee at arm’s length. Some of us need glass of scotch. Some of us can write thousands of words without stopping. Some of us can only do a few paragraphs at a time. But the defining thing between us all is the need to keep writing. How we do it isn’t an equation that can be solved by plugging in the same factors each time. We all have our own ways of doing things. Just because one writer is able to sit down and power through even though the temperature is 150 degrees outside, it doesn’t mean that I can do it.

Don’t let your writing routine be defined by another writer. Try things that are suggested, sure, but don’t feel that you need to conform your way of doing things to a specific person’s way, regardless of how successful he or she is. Remember – that success was due to a number of things, not just what software program they used to write their book.

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Since 2012, my wife and I have hosting a New Year’s Eve writers retreat at my aunt’s cottage on Lake Ontario. The last few years have been really good, both productivity-wise and creativity-wise. This year, unfortunately, it wasn’t as good.

Although we weathered a series of unfortunate circumstances to get everyone together again, there was one that we just couldn’t fight – the weather. Our friends got trapped by the snow at the last minute, leaving just me, Katie, and my son at the cottage. And while that sounds great because it means less distractions (beyond our son, that is), we were actually less productive.

There’s something about having other creative types around. I wrote about this the first year we did the retreat, so I won’t rehash it. But I will say that the environment in which you try to be creative is crucial to your productivity. Some people thrive on being alone, and sometimes that’s true for me. But it seems that my most productive days are when I’m around other writers and creative types, and we’re all working hard. Maybe it’s the inspiration I feel at watching other people, or maybe there’s some sort of energy that forms around us, but whatever it is we were missing it this year. Still, it was nice to get away from our usual surroundings and work in a more relaxing one.

All that having been said, I did manage to get my first round of rewrites/edits done on the Bardsworth novel. There are a few more spots I want to go back and fix, and then Katie will give it another run-through. And I’ve been in contact with a potential illustrator for the cover, so that’s happening! If all goes well, I may hit my deadline of April for the release of the book.

Oh, and happy belated New Year everyone!

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David_Eddings_portrait

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Today is the birthday of one of one of my favorite authors, the late David Eddings. Born in 1931, he passed away in 2009 after a successful (in my opinion) life as writer of fantasy. He penned the famous series The Belgariad and its sequel series The Mallorean, as well as several other series and stand-alone books.

When I say I’m a fan of his, you have to understand that I don’t mean that I’ve read every single one of his books. As a reader, I’ve always wanted to read a diverse number of things, even when there are authors that I love. This means I tend to jump around from author to author and from series to series.  I think this has helped me in my own writing because I’ve been exposed to a number of styles and ideas. But I digress.

While I haven’t read everything Eddings put out, I have read The Belgariad numerous times. In fact, I would make it a point to read the entire series once a year in order to inspire me and put me in the right frame of mind for writing (haven’t in a while, though, because my copies have been packed up due to multiple moves from place to place). That series has been one of the single largest inspirations to me, most especially in terms of dialogue. Eddings’ dialogue was brilliant; it was fun, it was to the point, and it was simple. It made the characters seem real and made you care about them more. When I write dialogue for my own characters, I do my best to channel what I learned from Eddings.

In addition, I admired his world-building skills. He took real cultures and ways of life, and adapted them into fictional ones, giving his fantasy world a feeling of believability. I would have loved to have seen his notes on said fictional cultures, because I’ll guarantee that there were things that he never actually put into the stories.

I regret never contacting him to thank him for being an inspiration to me. In fact, I didn’t know he had passed away until a year or so after the fact. I was pretty devastated by that and ashamed that I hadn’t known. But he still lives on for me in his books and my own writing. I feel, a little sheepishly maybe, that Blood of the Mother was almost my “thank you” letter to him. The first draft of a letter, anyway. I have many more to write.


 

Other books worth checking out by David Eddings:

Polgara the Sorceress and Belgarath the Sorcerer – Two tie-in books that take a more in-depth look at two crucial characters to the world started in The Belgariad.

The Redemption of Althalus – a stand-alone novel centered around a jovial thief name Althalus who become entangled in affairs of the gods. (Note: The book echoes many aspects of The Belgariad, and has received mixed reviews to that end, but I’m a big fan of it).

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