Friday 28 January 2011

Pic of the Week . . . Christophe Vacher . . .

This week, continuing on with last week's theme of 'dreamscapes', comes a newly discovered artist to my gallery. Christophe Vacher . . .

Christophe Vacher is a French artist who's works remind me of something from dreams. He has also worked on backgrounds for animated films such as 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame' and 'Fantazia 2000', and has been in talks with Director Shane Acker about the new up and coming film '9' - (as stated on his website).

The piece I've chosen for this week's Pic of the Week is titled 'The Gate'. Does it inspire you as much as it does me?

Ahh, the endless story possibilities . . .

'The Gate . . .' by Christophe Vacher

Monday 24 January 2011

Creating 'Awesome' Characters . . .

One word and one word alone inspired today's post. That word?


Why? Okay, allow me to explain. Who out there has heard and ever watched the sitcom `How I Met Your Mother`? For those who don't know, this sitcom is based around a group of five friends in New York City. Each differ from the next and each have their own little habits and problems. One word they always use is AWESOME, and it fits their character's dialogue well.

However, I tried it the other day. I used that one word in a sentence when talking to a friend, and suddenly I felt very silly. The word just didn't have the same effect. It didn't sound right. It wasn't in my character to say such a thing, and I realised that I should never use that word in conversation again. But this made me think.

How well do you know your characters, and are you making them say things that are causing them to feel just damn-right silly?

Dialogue is an important tool when writing a story. It breaths life to your character and helps to show the sort of person they really are. It's also a great way to give them independence and individuality. There's nothing worse than reading a story where every single character appears the same.

Let me give you an example: Imagine that before you stands two little girls of approximately ten years old. Each share the same golden ringlets, the same blue eyes, the same pretty blue dress, and the same cheeky but innocent little grin. You realise then that you are either seeing double or they are identical twins. They are the same. How are you ever to tell them apart?

In writing, that's easy. You give them both a complete different voice. One could be an optimistic, the other could be a pessimistic. One could be very well spoken, the other could be full of slang and sarcasm. One could be normal, the other could have a slight stammer.

The idea is that if you took all the narrative away so that all remained was dialogue, you would still know who was talking. You would be able to pick out accents and little differences in speech. You would know that the little girl on the left said this, and the girl on the right said that.

This makes characters come alive. It gives them individuality and keeps them interesting for the reader. No one wants to read something where everyone is the same. That can be very boring and monotonous.

Likewise if you give someone something to say that is completely out of their character. You can't put a Medieval Knight upon a daring steed, readying to do battle with a blood-thirsty prince in order to save the throne and the beautiful princess in a situation like this. . .

"My liege," says the Medieval Knight as he steadys his excited steed. "The enemy is waiting upon the brow of the hill. Shall we ride to battle?" His eyes beneath his armour glint in the moonlight as they look upon the beauty of the princess.

The King gives a nod. "Indeed, brave Knight. Ride with the wind, and fight strong!"

The princess places her token, a handkerchief of the finest white silk, on the end of the Knight's staff. "And may a thousand of the lord's pure white doves fly above you and watch over you, and may they bring you swiftly from harm and back into my arms before the rising of the sun. For then you will be gallant and noble enough to win my hand in marriage."

Despite the threat of the battle looming on the horizon, and of the slim chances of him making it back unscathed, the Knight smiles. "Awesome!"

(Actually, in certain circumstances, that could work . . .)

Friday 21 January 2011

Pic of the Week . . . Dreamscape . . .

I originally saw this picture on a blog that I follow, and I instantly fell in love with it. It's available to download as a wallpaper but I don't know the artist.

For me, it's a wonderful, relaxing dreamscape that harbours mysterious enchantment. It also breaths life to endless story possibilities, and this made me wonder.

For all you fantasy writers out there, how much dreamscape does your world have? Is it home to enchanting places like this? I feel that by adding enchantment adds history and depth to a world, bringing it more to life and making you feel like you'd rather live there than here. I love it, its possibilities, and its...well...entire dreaminess...

Monday 17 January 2011

Opening Chapter . . .

Hi everyone.

As promised, here is the first draft of the opening chapter for my new novel. Feel free to leave feedback if you want (every little helps) but mostly...enjoy.

Lady of the Seas
Opening Chapter

“GET those god-damn sails in!”

The Captain’s yell struggled to be heard over the constant roar of the seas. He fought to keep his grip on the ship’s wheel, his hands trying to hold on to the wet wood. A force kept yanking at it, wanting to turn it to port and he put in all his strength to keep it from going.

Most of his crew were on deck, fighting and trying to prevent the ship from being turned by the wind. Men were climbing up the shrouds of the masts to help bring in the sails. Without them catching the wind, the pressure on the ship would be reduced but it was proving a difficult task. The storm was battering them. The Captain’s heart jolted each time he saw one of his men slip from their footings around the mast. They yelled orders and encouragement to each other as they gathered the material up, suffering the onslaught of rain and gales. They worked as a team, fighting the winds that wanted to turn them into the vicious waves. If that happened the Scarlet Sail would then become vulnerable to whatever the storm threw at them. They had to keep her straight.

The Captain groaned, baring his teeth as he pushed against the wheel, trying to keep it from going its own way. The deck around him was slippery, and as the ship veered over, his feet slid. He yelled as he fell, clinging on to the wheel for support. The wheel turned in the direction he didn’t want it to go. His legs scrambled, his feet searching for the grip he needed to push himself back up, and just as he found it, a torrent of water engulfed him.

He fell back down, his fingers just hooking the wheel. Catching his breath, he gave another yell.

The ship was turning.

As the wave subsided, the water draining back to where it came from, the Captain found his footing again and heaved himself up. His eyes stung and his throat throbbed with the amount of seawater he had swallowed, but he couldn’t care about that now. He had to get the ship back on course. Standing up against the wind and rain, he pushed himself against the wheel. It didn’t want to move. The force was too great for one man. The ship veered again, rolling with the giant waves, and he could see the ocean’s surface over the edge of the deck. The ship was leaning too much. He had to win her back.

His continuous yells were lost amid the crashing thunder. A streak of fork lightning illuminated the black seas, and the Captain’s eyes opened wide with horror at the sight of the surrounding waves. If he didn’t turn the wheel soon they would crush the Scarlet Sail as if she were made of paper. They would smash her apart, taking the lives of everyone on board.

“Turn, you bitch!” he screamed into the storm.

A second pair of hands joined his, gripping the slippery wood and heaving. The Captain looked at the Master’s Mate. His gaze spoke of his gratitude, and as both men pulled on the wheel, it began to turn. The Scarlet Sail struggled against the onslaught, twisting and groaning with the force of the storm, but despite everything, she obeyed. The Captain laughed with triumph as his control over the vessel came back. They weren’t beaten yet.

Another wave crashed over the deck, pounding down on both men, but they kept control. The ship leaned with another wave. A crew member screamed as he slipped across the deck to the other side. The Captain watched, powerless to help, but was glad to see him crash against the ballast railing instead of slipping overboard. Another member grabbed him, pulled him to his feet and slipped a rope around to secure him.

His crew were strong, but the storm was stronger. They were struggling and weakening quick. He didn’t know how much more they would be able to tolerate. They had been battling this storm for the best part for three days, but today was by far the worst. The winds had changed direction and the waves were now taller than the Scarlet Sail herself. Little sleep had been had and there was no time for eating. The galley fires had to be extinguished incase it spread, and no food was cooked.

A few injured men lay huddled below decks, unable to assist in the battle and unable to get comfortable with the constant movement. They had no choice but to look after themselves, to tend to their own wounds, and pray that the storm would soon subside.

Below them more yells echoed about the hull as men worked the bilge pumps, but as quick as they were removing the floodwaters, more was replacing it. It was a continuous battle that they couldn’t win. And about them, others scuttled around, repairing any damage that the Scarlet Sail sustained. It had to be done quick, make-shift, if necessary. If a split was left for too long at sea, it could rip the ship apart. It needed to be fixed as soon as it appeared.

The Captain could feel his crew’s pain. They were exhausted, but they couldn’t stop. If they did, they knew their lives would be handed to the seas. They refused to go without a fight, and they refused to let the ship give them up. She had been battered, broken, repaired, broken again, but still she sailed on, crashing against the waves, rolling with the winds and fighting her way through. The Scarlet Sail was as strong as the crew who sailed her, but even she had her weaknesses, and the Captain wept for her. He didn’t know how long she could fight, didn’t know how much strength she had left in her, but he had to hope that she had enough to see them through the storm. She had come too far to give up.

The cracking sound was one that the Captain had dreaded to hear. It was louder than the thunder that exploded overhead and louder than the crash of the surrounding waves. It was the sound of the Scarlet Sail breaking. Another flash of lightning illuminated the sight of the Foremast as it split half way down. His men screamed in panic and horror as the beam toppled forward, pulling sails and ropes with it. They scuttled out of its way as it crushed the deck where it landed. Screams of agony came from those who had been pulled down with it, along with those who hadn’t managed to run in time.

One voice in particular struck the Captain as he heard it fall overboard and be engulfed by the seas, lost forever. He wanted to mourn the loss but it spurred on his determination to survive this and to bring the Scarlet Sail and her crew to safety.

He gripped the wheel tighter as another wave pounded him.

Throughout the commotion of the breaking mast, the Captain refused to acknowledge how much damage it had caused at the bow. As he fought to keep control, he was unaware of the anchor stay being shattered and of the anchor falling from the ship. It plunged into the black waters, sinking deep, and pulling the anchor rope with it. The weight carried the anchor through the murky water straight to the seabed where it collided with the submerged rocks.

The storm forced the Scarlet Sail onwards, her anchor dragging. She lurched on the waves, one minute anchored, the next free. The Captain could feel the jerking movements on the wheel and applied more pressure in fighting to keep her steady, unaware of what was happening below the surface.

The anchor continued to drag and then came up against a large boulder that it hooked on. The boulder leered back, its shape resembling the form of the King of the Seas, with the torso of a man and the tendrils of an octopus. The anchor gripped firm, refusing to let go, and the boulder rocked with the pressure. As the Captain continued to struggle at the helm above, the boulder gave and toppled on its side. The seabed stirred, sending a cloud of sand rising up into the whirling tides, and from beneath the boulder something emerged that resembled a large bubble. It cut through the dust cloud, ascending through the stormy waters and up towards the Scarlet Sail.

The anchor stayed fast to the mysterious carved boulder, pulling the anchor rope taught, and no matter how much effort the Captain put into holding the wheel, he couldn’t stop the ship from turning.

Friday 14 January 2011

Pic of the Week And My New Novel . . .

Last night I took the plunge. I sat down to a blank Word screen and I wrote just over 1,300 words to my brand new novel. The opening chapter is complete.

I finished my last novel, Kiss of the Gypsy, on New Years day. I've since then gone through with a first, brief edit. I've corrected any spelling and grammer, added things that I originally missed but later thought could be useful, and taken things out that weren't needed.

The thing is, when I write I write as if this is my final draft. Spelling and grammer is something that I try to correct as I go (Spell-Check in Word is a god-send). I write as if there can't be any edits after. Everything has to be spot on - or as close as I can get it - in the hope that when it's finally finished there isn't much to do. I'm dreaming, of course. There's always edits, but writing this way seems to help me.

Anyway, so I'm soon to send Kiss of the Gypsy out to the big wide world of critique, (I think she's ready) and anything that is brought up, I can then correct. But I can't go that long without writing, so I've planned and started my next novel.

'Lady of the Seas'

It's a cheesy title, could be a working title, but this is the name of the huge galleon ship that plays a vital role to the story. If the name should change at a later date, then so will the title. Until then, this is it.

I've had to do a lot of research on galleon ships so that I sound like I know what I'm talking about in the story. It has to sound real but not overpowering. You can't blind readers with your new-found knowledge, and I think that so far it's gone rather well.

Next week I'm going to do something that I've never done. I'm going to publish my first chapter on the blog. Feel free to leave feedback if you wish, but most of all I just wanted to finally share a piece of my actual writing with you.

Because I'm all about Galleon ships at the moment, I thought this weeks Pic of the Week should go with the tidal flow . . .


Friday 7 January 2011

Overcoming The Opposite Of Writer's Block . . .

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Now is the time to get back into the routine of life and blogging.

A friend of mine asked me for some advice the other day, and I have to say it's the first time I've ever considered this. She asked how to overcome the opposite of Writer's Block. She said she has so many ideas racing through her mind, how can she possibly know which one to choose?


Writer's block is a horrible thing and can affect any writer at any time. I've always had a novel on the go since I was a kid, and rarely suffer with it, but I have to confess these last few months have been harsh for me. I don't know why, and I have no idea where it came from. One minute my fingers were steaming across the keyboard, the next they refused to work. The words I needed just no longer come. It's hard to explain. I still had the enthusiasm for the story. I knew exactly where I was going (I'm a planner), I was nearing the end (the time when writing normally speeds up) and I was really excited about finishing it (even designed a front cover).

So why couldn't I write?

I soldiered on though, and I'm glad to say that I worked through the block and finished my novel, Kiss of the Gypsy, on New Years Day. 87,000 words. And the last 10,000 words steamed out so fast it was like they no longer wanted to be contained. I have no excuse for why I struggled, but happily things are back to normal.

Now I'm suffering with the opposite of writer's block. Because I'm a planner, I'm always planning my next piece while I'm writing the current piece. This way when one is finished, I can jump straight into the next. It's how I've always worked. However, because I wasn't writing I was looking for inspiration, and now I have so many ideas floating about in that big, wide space between my ears. I just can't decide which one to go for next. Luckily I'm editing so I still have time to decide, but I'm not too keen on the feeling of not knowing where I'm going.

I couldn't offer my friend any valuable advice other than just weighing up the pros and cons of each and picking. That's what I have to do.

If you've ever suffered with Writer's Block, how have you coped? Or if you suffer with the opposite of Writer's Block, how have you decided what path to take? Would be interesting to hear thoughts . . .