Wednesday 25 April 2012

Getting A Life . . .

A writer's life is often quite dull and recluse.  I say dull in the context that they often shut themselves away rather than going out and being social.  They'd rather have an evening with words than a night on the town.  Or they prefer the company of their characters more than their friends (for the moment anyway).

I'm in a rut.  I work from home therefore see nobody during the day unless my colleague or boss skypes me.  My husband is a long distance lorry driver which means he's away most of the week, and all my friends are too busy with their work life during the week to even contemplate being social (weekends are saved for hubby time).

This means from Tuesday (I make a point of going out on Monday to my Writers' Circle just to get out the house) to Friday, it's just me and the cat.  I don't actually mind this.  I like my cat's company, and it does give me lots of free time to write, draw, watch what I want to watch on TV, but there's a down side.

Without going and being sociable, with nothing interesting or exciting going on in your life, you can lose that creative spark.  It becomes dull.  When I worked in our old office and before I started driving, it used to take me 40 minutes to walk to the bus stop, 20 minutes on the bus to the office, and then repeat the whole process coming home.  And when I did get home, my evenings were spent writing, writing, writing.  I got loads done.  Now I find myself with all this spare time and words fail me.

I'm not a full time writer, but I understand that to be so takes a huge amount of discipline.  If you were home all day with all that spare time to write, would you be as creative as the person who has to squeeze an hour or so in everyday during their busy schedule?  It's tough.  And proves that writers still need a life to be able to work to their full potential.

Friday 20 April 2012

Pic of the Week . . . The Sky's The Limit . . .

It's been a typical April here this year. April showers galore.

I don't know about you guys but I love watching the sky. When there's a thunderstorm going on you'll usually find me with my face stuck to the window watching. I love a good thunderstorm and I love watching the clouds develop. Yesterday was of no exception.

Yesterday greeted us with our first thunderstorm of the year. It wasn't a major one - in fact, we rarely get good thunderstorms - but I couldn't help but sit here and watch the skies through my window. I haven't seen them turn that black in a long while. I even took a piccy on my phone (unfortunately it doesn't really do it justice, but I'm sure you can imagine).

So, for this week's Pic of the Week, I thought I'd go for something a little different. I'm just in total awe at what mother nature can throw at you.

Enjoy and have a grand weekend. I'm still waiting for the storms... :)

Tuesday 17 April 2012

What's In A Main Title . . .

I've been thinking about my current WIP. It's a fantasy series yet not. It's a collection of stand-alone stories that can be read in no particular order, that rarely share same characters (except for the more legendary ones such as Sorcerers who may wander from novel to novel...) but set in one fantastical, mystery rich kingdom. Each story has it's own title and is independent from the last or the next - however, one thing keeps them joined together. One thing makes it a series.

The main title.

With all the works scattered out there, its the main title that keeps them all under the wing.

I've posted before about 'what makes a series' and even though most people see that a series of books should contain the same characters, this doesn't always have to be the case. Whereas it's great for the likes of Crime Thrillers and detective novels, it doesn't always work with other genres.

Anne Rice is a classic example. Her Vampire Chronicles is a series, yet many of those books are stand-alone with different characters.

Anyway, I'm not liking the main title I have at the moment. I knew it was a working one, but it stuck, and four novels later it still hasn't changed. I'm thinking it's about time I gave it nudge out the door, but I just need some inspiration first so I can replace it.

Some Examples:

1: The Dark Tower, by Stephen King (7 books in total, all with individual titles but same characters)

2: The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice

3: Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (with the Fellowship, the Two Towers and The Return of the King)

4: The Demi-Monde by Rod Rees (With Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall)

Etc Etc...

So, throw some inspiration this way so I can finally give my working title the boot. What other series comes to your mind?

Friday 13 April 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Anita Shue

Sticking with the Arthurian legend that I spoke about in my last post, I thought I'd go with a piece of artwork based on the Lady of the Lake.

It's unsure what specific role she played in Arthurian legend. Writers and authors have her connected to at least three.

1st role was a woman named Vivian who bewitched Merlin, promising her love after he taught her all his magic, and then sealing him beneath a tree or rock.

2nd is another woman who nurtured the infant Lancelot after the death of his father.

3rd is the Lady who bestowed an enchanted sword to King Arthur - Excalibur.

Other stories have her as a replacement for Merlin; a woman who advised King Arthur and his knights on their quests; as an evil villain or a beautiful heroine. Either way, she's as much part of Arthurian Legend as Arthur is himself.

So this week, we introduce Anita Shue - or Imagothica as she is known on DeviantART. Out of all the pieces I looked at, I liked her depiction the most. The Lady of the Lake here looks neither trustworthy nor innocent. She has that air of mystery that constantly surrounds the legend. Is she the evil seductress who has Merlin trapped, or is she the faithful advisor that helps Arthur on his quests? You decide . . .

Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

The Dark Ages In Fantasy . . .

When people talk about works of fantasy, for many their minds are drawn to images from history - the Dark Ages and medieval periods. There are exceptions to the fantasy genre, but the majority of work does fall under this category, and because of this fantasy has been stereotyped.

Most settings have a medieval backdrop to it with castles, rolling plains and kingdoms that need defending from dragons and armies of darkness. And who better to protect the kingdom than gallant knights with brilliant steeds, or little elves that believe they're not worthy when in fact they are the 'chosen one'. I'm not saying this is what all fantasy works comprise of. I write fantasy and this is nothing like mine, but it has that classic epic feel to it that has made the genre famous in the past, and a lot of work does tend to lean toward the dark age era.

So why do many fantasy writers like the thought of their tale being set in the Dark Ages? What makes it so appealing?

Well, to begin with lets take a brief look at the time when England was in its Dark Age. Unfortunately for those with elaborate imaginations, this wasn't a time when evil roamed, when villages were constantly on guard of the threat of fire-breathing dragons, or when you found tattered maps with markers stating 'there be beasties 'ere'. It was a time when the country was divided into separate kingdoms, was ruled by separate leaders, and when war often broke out over territories. Some years, however, managed to pass with peace across the entire land. Then came the Roman invasion in the first century with the intention of replacing pagan and Celtic beliefs with Christianity and taming us barbarians, followed by the Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans. All this happened within the space a thousand years, shaping the country that we know today - but it left the country unstable and vulnerable.

There are very few historical records from back then, therefore historians know little about it compared to what we know about more recent monarchs such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Because of this, the era has been dubbed 'the dark ages'.

However, the era does hold one story that has gripped the entire world for centuries; that of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. To this day they have found no evidence to prove that he ever existed, and yet no evidence to say that he didn't either. His story about Camelot, Guenevere, Sir Lancelot and, of course, Merlin, the Sword in the Stone, and the Lady of the Lake, is filled to the brim with mystery, magic, bravery and all things fantastical. Maybe he did rule a fine kingdom with his Knights, or maybe this was the very first fantasy story dreamed up. When comparing it to historical facts, Merlin the Sorcerer definitely sounds like a character from a work of fiction. But people love it and have continued to share the tale throughout generations. And, of course, it was set in a time when people didn't inherit the throne, rather they gained it through other means and deeds.

Maybe, with the story of King Arthur so deeply embedded in our minds, the fantasy genre grew and evolved from here; that the dark ages, because so little is known about it, was a haven for all things mystical and unexplained; that there could have been dragons roaming and sorcerers casting evil spells; that anything was possible. And maybe writers subconsciously want to create a fantasy story so big and fantastical that it will be remembered for thousands of years in the future.

You can't deny it, and as stereotypical as it is, the Dark Ages and Fantasy fit so well together...

Friday 6 April 2012

Pic of the Week . . . Donnie Darko

I can't believe it!! I thought I'd set blogger up to publish automatically on Friday as I was away for the weekend, and did it do it? No, it didn't! So a belated Happy Easter everyone. Here's Good Friday's post...


I was trying to find something with an Easter feel to it, so I thought I'd go with the Easter Bunny theme. But how can you find something dark and twisted that revolves around sweet little bunnies?

Then I remembered the film 'Donnie Darko'. How freaky looking is Frank the Bunny from that film? As soon as this thought come to mind, I was hooked on the idea of Donnie Darko, and looked further into it.

I love Donnie Darko - and this isn't just because it stars a young Jake Gyllenhaal (*coughs and composes oneself again...). Despite not actually do that well on its release back in 2001, it soon became a cult movie and worshipped by millions - and with good reason.

I did, however, think that Donnie Darko was a bit dark for a nice happy, bouncy, fluffy Easter Bunny theme, but then I discovered something else. Did you know, according to IMDB, that there is an Easter Egg Hunt on the DVD of the film? I didn't know this. I'm not sure if this is on a limited edition DVD or on every one, but I may just have to get my own copy out and have a nose.

Here's what IMBD says:

*EASTER EGG: The DVD contains several Easter Eggs, or hidden items. Two are visible in the "Philosophy of Time Travel" book in the Special Features. On each of the appendix pages, press the up arrow on your remote and press enter. For Appendix A, the viewer gets a deleted scene about the flooding of the school, and Appendix B, the viewer gets a different trailer for the movie. Another can be found after selecting the "Cunning Visions" menu screen. At the bottom of the screen, highlight the Special Features menu entry, press the right arrow on your remote to highlight the icon, and press enter. This will allow you to enter a Web site gallery.

Because of this, I decided to stick with the Donnie Darko theme. This is by an artist on Deviant Art who deals with a lot of stencil work.

Happy Easter, folks. Have a wonderful weekend...

Tuesday 3 April 2012

And What A Grimm Season It Will Be Too. . .

The dawn of the Vampire is over. Goodbye Twilight and all the vampires you've inspired in the world of fiction. Now is time to greet the Brothers Grimm and all things Fairytale.

With the movie releases of both 'Mirror Mirror' and 'Snow White and The Huntsmen' so close to each other, and what with the TV series 'Once Upon a Time' having premiered on UK TV screens this weekend, it would seem the world is about to be swept into one big fairytale.

It would be interesting to see how these movies go. Were they intended to be released so close to each other? Are they hoping that each film would play off the other to drum up ratings? Judging from the trailers, Mirror Mirror is intended for the younger audience, and it's humour makes it great for the whole family to enjoy. But Snow White and Huntsmen has a darker side. The same tale of one princess is being told in different ways, and it would be interesting to see which Grimm tale is preferred, the sweet, good-conquers-evil fairytale that we were brought up with, or the darker, twisted take that the Grimm brothers actually intended it to be.

Snow White.

Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm travelled across Europe back the early 1800's, researching different cultures and their folklore. They gathered many stories and in 1812 their book, Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), was published. But the original tales they discovered were not so child-friendly.

The story of Snow White, when you look at it, consists of an evil step-mother who practised witchcraft, and who was jealous of the beauty and innocence of her step-daughter. In a bid to be rid of her and become the fairest, she ordered a huntsmen to take her into the forest, kill her and bring back her heart, intending to eat it and consume the beauty that they young girl possessed, but the huntsmen failed her and Snow White went on to seek sanctuary with seven dwarfs. Enraged, the step-mother sought to murder the young girl herself.

So far we have a gory story about envy, greed and murder, and the original version gets better. After surviving numerous murder attempts and finally meeting and marrying her prince charming, Snow White orders a pair of shoes to be made out of red-hot iron and forces the step-mother to wear them and dance until she drops down dead. Now we're adding revenge and torture into the scenario.

Grimm Fairy tales do indeed take after their authors. They are dark, grim and twisted, and many believe they even date back to the medieval ages. They are folklore that was intended to scare children from wandering into the wilderness where they could fall prey to the wilds. They were intended to spread warnings of dangers that inhabited the lands across Europe. But the Grimm Brothers fell in love with them and saw a potential in them that no one else had. They dulled the content, taking out any sexual references and adding Christian elements and turned them into household tales that children all over the world loved.

Then along come Disney.

The Grimm Brothers are responsible for some of the most famous fairy tales out there; The Pied Piper; Little Red Riding Hood; The Princess and the Frog; Sleeping Beauty; Rumpelstiltskin; Rapunzel; Hansel and Gretal - and many more. The instant you read of these titles, you are reminded of children's tales, tales that you may even remember from when you were young - but their origins come from a much darker corner of the earth.

As a fan of all things dark, I wouldn't mind seeing some of the original tales being brought back to life . . .