Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Creative Writing 101: Writer's Block aka The Big Dead End

Imagine, you’re walking down the road minding your own business, clutching your ‘to-do list’ like the map to buried treasure. The sun is out, the birds are singing, it’s not one of those dreams where you’ve forgotten to wear trousers, everyone is smiling and waving at you...there’s not a cloud in the sky. It’s hot enough that you quite fancy yourself an ice cream. Then-


You get run over by a stolen ice cream truck.

Ironically, you got your ice cream.

Welcome to lesson numero deux on creative writing. Today we’re going to talk about Writer’s Block (no, not ice cream – that was just me being a smart ass).

Writer’s block is like that though. It strikes when you least expect it, and it can be hard to beat. I’ve used the above introduction to try and show you something. Basically, when everything seems to be going write, even when you have it all planned out...writers block can elbow its way into your head.

Everyone has different ways of countering writers block, but here’s some of mine:

Get Outside
You heard me. Get outside. Sure, we’re writers, stereotyped to dark corners and mother’s basements. Quiet places where we can get into our own heads. Now, I don’t know about you, but getting outside can clear your head pretty quickly (if it’s windy it might even blow a bit of fresh air between your ears!). Everything can seem so much easier after a walk :D

Yes, that’s right, you heard me. I’m lucky that my job requires me to maintain a decent level of fitness and that I am allocated said time to do so. It’s amazing how an hour in the gym can burn off the stress of writers block.

Mind Map
Write it all down. EVERYTHING. Get it out of your head when you can forget having to think about it and refer back to it on paper, later.

Read - Research
Read everything. I mean it. Read everything in sight. The newspaper is good, particularly if you read something you have heard of before. It’ll get the gears going in your head, get you thinking. Don’t just read YOUR genre, reads others too. And big thing – read your idols. Remind yourself who you want to write like (that is, if you want to write like someone else).

Research is another tag I’ve added to reading, as this is how I view it (it’s a matter of opinion). I’m a big history fan, particularly Roman, Persian, Nordic and Celtic. Research any given topic, you never know, you might end up using it!

Watch - Listen
As with reading the same can be said for both watching and listening. It’s the ability to take something away from a program, a film, an advert, a song, an audio book – different receptors pick up different things. Listening is a big one, as in my eyes, you can write something a thousand different ways dependant on what background noise you have, though I’ll talk about this at another time in my blog.

Change Story / Scene / Genre
Jump a chapter ahead, go back and edit (be careful of this second one! Don’t get sucked in!), go to a different story in the same ‘world’ (if you have one – for example I have several books concept’ed for different times in my fantasy world).

Change in genre is a little different. Primarily, at the moment, my focus is heroic-fantasy. I do however dabble in horror, sci-fi, crime, romance, thriller and yes, shame though I admit it, ‘adult’ stories (the girlfriend never seems to complain about this one – I guess it’s like having your own personal ’50 Shades of Grey’ on tap? Babe, if you’re reading this, the secret is out. Oh, and I know you have probably shared a story or two at work. THE CHEEK OF IT!).

Similar to mind map, but the idea here is to plan something that you want to write. It’ll give you a goal to aim for, a juicy chapter that you can’t wait to knock out!

Seriously, just write. Put pen to paper, finger to key (giggidy). Get on with it. Not every day is going to be a good writer day. Nor will every week or month. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and your story won’t be written in a year if you don’t start somewhere. After all, you can always come back and edit later...or even delete and re-start if you’re really brave.

Now, what’s your excuse for not giving it a shot even when you have writer’s block?


Sunday, 29 July 2012

Review: Heroes Die

Heroes Die
Heroes Die by Matthew Stover

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Heroes Die' is the first book in Matthew Woodring Stover's series, combining sci-fi and fantasy. In a futuristic earth, caste-based society dictates the status quo, separating labourers, administrators, leisurefolk and more. Hari Michaelson, an entertainer, is a superstar whose audience spans the social order. The job of an entertainer is plain and simple – to entertain. But, rather than bedazzle fans via the conventional means as we know them in reality, Hari is an Actor that allows his audience to experience his performance with his own eyes. In the future, entertainers are able to go 'online' in a different world, in this case the land of Ankhana, a fantasy realm of sword and sorcery. Hari, known as Caine in Ankhana, has his Adventures recorded by the Studio he works for, who supply premier first-hand seats to the action, as well as second hand 'Cubes' and rentals… Blockbuster eat your heart out.

The concept alone is fascinating, and this is before the plot has really gotten under way. Hari's estranged wife, also an Actor, has gone missing on Ankhana, and it's down to him to bring her back to Earth before her connection between the two worlds takes an ugly turn.

What you have here is essentially, a pull-no-punches, sword and sorcery page-turner. At best it's a rip roaring tale, but at worst it can become disjointed in the early stages of play. Not only does the author switch from Earth to Ankhana via the POV of several characters, but he throws in the curveball of first and third person perspectives when dealing with Hari/Caine. Don't get me wrong, this technique works, and it works well, but when first introduced to it the reader will either sink or swim. Personally, after growing accustomed to it, I was sold. It adds to the reality that Hari is not only Caine, but the audience on earth is too.

At points, even though I dared not to, I couldn't help but compare this to the works of Steven Erikson. The scale of 'Heroes Die', although not as titanic as Erikson's Malazan works, is something that few authors toy with so easily. But, as with Erikson, intrigue if not followed correctly can degrade to inhibition as the reader raises an eyebrow at the latest throw of the dice. Coming up snake eyes in this case, the to-and-fro nature of 'who-knows-what' borders on the tiresome. At points, particularly during the lull towards the end of the first-third, I found myself wanting to skip ahead, to get to the good bits, because when it's good, it's damned good. My only other issue with comparing the book to Erikson, comes in the form of style. Erikson weaves prose that flows like poetry, and even though M-W-Stover has his moments in the sun, there's a minority of wording that comes across as jargon. The 'show-rather-than-tell' approach crops up here and there, as all authors are guilty of, as is the tendency to infodump large portions of text.

The tone of 'Heroes Die' is its grace. It's adult through and through; but not from overly-violent barbarianism or sexual nature, but through the maturity with which it's written. The book, first published in 1998, has aged well. The combat is visceral and carnal, yet at the same time handled with a keen choreographer's touch, knowing when too far is indeed too far. The notion of magic is given the same treatment, but the characters are given full reign to do as they please, which bodes well when their creator is a dab hand at composing their plot twists.

Overall, I liked the book. It's not going to reach my 'all time favourites' but neither will it sit as a tea coaster on my desk. It'll likely sit on my shelf, forgotten, until a rainy day. But, you know what? I'm glad I read it. It's odd, it's different. Sure, concepts of 'realities within realities' have been played with before, but I like this take on 'Entertainment' in the future. Matthew Woodring Stover, sir, you've certainly entertained me.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 26 July 2012

DeviantArtist Feature#1: RachelleFryatt

     So, here we are my friends and followers. It's been a good long while since I've done this for real, over a year ago to be exact. I've rolled out the red carpet (had to patch a few spots), cleaned the spotlight (new bulb and all!) and I've even put on my best shoes (these ones still have soles to them! :D). I've quite missed doing this, and I've only just realised it. Trolling my way through deviantart for another fellow artist (of sorts at least! I mean, there's only so many myspace-pic-semi-nude-galleries that a guy can look through in the pursuit of 'art') to feature in my journal. Back in the day, these features would generate a decent amount of interest in the artists, so without further ado, I hope you give a warm welcome to an old friend of mine, Rach!

     I featured Rachelle here last year, but under a different username. Since her account change, she has uploaded her old art as well as extending her gallery, hence her getting a full re-feature. I always contact my spotlight artists before featuring them, one out of common courtesy and two because I'd like to draw particular attention to any work that they themselves would like to highlight.

     First we have a costume design for a character known as 'Morrend'. Morrend is an Astarel, a race of nomads who are constantly mutating. Their armour is formed when their flesh calcifies over time to create living armour. Throughout their lives the armour continues to grow, until it completely locks them in place.

     Not only do I like the concept here, I love the artwork. Each costume variation is unique, but in my eyes they each portray the character as something of a wastelander, maybe a bit of an outcast, but that goes with the nomad theme behind it all! Good by me!

     Secondly we have a creature concept by the name of Wing. Rachelle used a different technique to her norm with this one, preferring larger areas of singular colour and shapes, something of a far cry to her usual attention to the minute detail. However, this approach has not lost any of Rachelle's usual 'art-charm' and to me Wing looks awesome!

      Last, but certainly not least, we have Sphinx, another creature. This deviation surmises what many other character (read:creature) images lack at the moment. Dynamic. The pose has been well thought out, and executed with an artisan's flair. I can't draw to save my life, but if I did attempt to draw a creature, the anatomy would baffle me. But, oh no, Rachelle has risen to the occasion and brought Sphinx to life not just in the finer detail of texturing, but in the way he stands on the page (read: screen) looking out at you, with what I think is a cheeky smile of 'hey, how you doin?'

     Well, that concludes this week's Artist Feature. Thank you for stopping by! Don't forget to check out my other journal posts from this week, and look forward to a Book review coming between tomorrow and Monday. If I don't speak to you before, have a fantastic weekend!

     Muchos love,

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Writing Update 1: 'What's he doing in there?'

     So, this blog thing...it's supposed to be something of a journal, but a public one? I said last week that I'd post an 'update' on my 'current project' as per Wednesday nights. Forgive me, as I'm a virgin-blogger in this sense. Be gentle, it's my first time.

Dear Diary...

     ...Ok, I'm just playing up now, I'm sorry. You know how I get after a sugary drink and a packet of skittles (well, they weren't skittles, they were fruit gums, but now you're just being picky).

     I've been back on DeviantArt a little over a week now, and have only posted 2 short stories.
* The first is set in my usual fantasy world, and tells the tale of a prisoner at the gallows.
* http://d-e-m-emrys.deviantart.com/art/Back-In-The-Game-315030065 The second is also in my usual fantasy world, but with a known character that some of you might recognise. Few readers might even be able to place what sort of time frame this occurs.

     Over the past few days, weeks and months, I've been working on my voice and writing style. This has been tailored to a retelling of one of my old stories. I'm really excited about it as I've actually quite enjoyed producing this, although my girlfriend had to support me (read: Shotgun wedding style) through the teething period.

     Under the working title 'Fires', it's a novella length piece that I might look into self publishing on amazon's e-book service. I'll release further details as I finalise my decisions, but 'Fires' is the first 'part' to a multi-part series of novellas. But, I can't just leave you with a tid-bit of information, so I can confirm that I've been looking into selecting a 'one-shot page' or something to post here on DA. In the mean time, I'll let you in on the tag line for the first novella:
     'Live with a sword, or die without one?'

      The project is written in a similar time frame to a few of my old deviations (some of which I deleted to prevent spoilers), one in particular. It’s a very different style to this, but the new project features a few old faces. Deviation, First Raid on Hidann Village: http://d-e-m-emrys.deviantart.com/gallery/29557625#/d39qzqb
     As well as writing, I’ve been carving myself a little ‘social networking’ home-away-from-home. You can find me around the interwebz, here:
Email DEMEmrys@hotmail.co.uk

     Well readers, I hope to have something a little more concrete for you next week. Definitely going to look into that ‘one-shot page’, and who knows, if I do decide to self publish, I might even upload a sample chapter as a taster!

     You stay classy San-Diary-ego (see what I did there? Sad, I know.)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Creative Writing 101: The Idea aka The Eureka Moment

     So you want to write? I'm not here to preach, or teach in this first post, but I'm here to provide my insight. This point-venture will hopefully rally a little morale for you. get you back in your seat, pen in hand, book on desk.

     This is a first. I mean, I'm here to write about writing, but by all rights, I don't rightly know how to write...well, it's not that I don't rightly know how to write, it's that I've never truly learned to write right in the normal sense of right. Muddling, right?

     Bear with me. (I'll quit it, I swear!)

     I did study English at school. Up to the age of fifteen I was lectured in the rights and not-so-rights of writing (ok, I'll stop now, I promise!). I didn't enjoy classes on English Language or Literature. The prescribed syllabus drove me barmy (wow, that's not had a lasting effect) and I struggled to pen poems based on Shakespeare, or analyse a poem on a daffodil. I spent my days in class huddled over my workbook, scratching frantic notes in margins and on scraps of paper - not on the topic at hand, but my own stories.

     I wouldn't read until the age of eleven. Books bored me. They seemed childish, but looking back I see now that it wasn't books per say, but the type of books I was being given. At that age I preferred to play outside, watch tv or shoot things on the playstation.

     When I did start reading, I started with adult fantasy fiction. David Gemmell opened the door for me, and other authors invited themselves in. Reading the more mature works straight off the bat, I put this influence down as my 'education' rather than the classroom.

     So, you see, I've been nervous to handle a blog post like this. In my eyes, I'm an amateur. Untrained and unqualified (read: unpaid). What I do know, however, is what I looked for in a book. Hence, I am here today, rambling on about creative writing. This is drawn from my own experience, my ideals, and the current running of my projects. It's not gospel, but if you fancy joining the bandwagon you'll have to surrender all of your worldly possessions at the door and refer to me as 'Your Magnificence' from now on.

     Everyone has to start somewhere. It could be a question, it could be an answer. Either way it's an idea...and that's what I'm hear to talk about.

     Ideas ARE books. Books ARE ideas. Every thought that you have has the potential to spin a yarn. Never throw one of these away. Even if you start writing a story and get thirty pages deep only to run out of ideas...keep the story! You might pick it up again later.

     Ideas are never stupid. They're forward thinking. Even the stupid ones (didn't I just say there were no stupid ideas?) prove valuable, as they may contradict an earlier plot, develop it, or add that little twist that the reader won't suspect.

     Where do ideas come from? Everywhere. I take my ideas from everyday life, my friends, my family, history, the list goes on! But, with such an overactive factory of an imagination churning out ideas, I have to keep them somewhere! My advice to you? Get a notepad! Use your phone, scribble on a napkin in a restaurant, write on the back of your hand - I've even scratched notes onto a cig packet with a stick of charcoal before (beach BBQ).

     Just sit down for five minutes, and think. Or try not to think. Let your mind work on its own...write the first thing that comes to mind. Then the next, the one after that, and the one after that too. You'll be surprised how many ideas can come flowing out of your head. Once you've got enough...sit back and read the ideas. One day, maybe not today, maybe not today, but one day you'll have a Eureka moment. The idea for a story will spring to mind, and then it's time to let your pen go to work for real.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Book Review: 'Legend' - David Gemmell

     A Legend. A living, breathing, Legend. He had carved his bloody name in history with nought but an axe.  Deathwalker the Nadir called him.  But that was a long time ago.  Druss feels a legend in his own rights, or at least as old as one.  The only silver he sees in his retirement is the grey in his hair, not the treasures of youthful victory in battle.  Death waits for Druss, he knows this, and Death is patient.  It taunts him with senility as his health fades.

     The Nadir horde march for Drenai.  Dros Delnoch, a garrison of ten thousand, stands before half a million bloodthirsty tribesmen.  If the garrison falls, the Nadir will swam through the pass it guards and slaughter a nation.

     Druss is summoner by the dying Earl of Delnoch.  Death has summoned him to battle.  Axe in hand, Death at his shoulder, Druss answers the call to war.  He knows this is his end, but he lived a Legend and Legend's turn the tide.

     The Nadir will know the Legend one last time.  Deathwalker comes.

     It's no mystery that I'm an avid fan of David Gemmell.  He is my idol.  The man is big-daddy-of-heroic-fantasy if you ask me.  Legend was the first novel that I truly read.  I could not read until I was eleven.  No, that's wrong. I did not want to read.  Gemmell changed that for me, and he started with Legend.

     Sure, the book is an 'adult' story, and I was little more than a spotty pre-teen.  There's violence, there's love...there's passion.  I laughed and I cried.  I read about men who stood against death and life itself.  I wanted to be one of those men.

     ...Or women for that matter! (Gemmell caters to the strong female archetype in a fully realised nature.)

     Gemmell writes 'lightly'.  Don't take this the wrong way.  He doesn't skim on detail nor does he info-dump pages of history on you in a oner.  His voice is light as it's easy to read, so easy in fact that eleven-year-old-me who didn't-want-to-read-EVER finished Legend in a single night.  My mum wasn't impressed with the bags under my eyes, but she was gob smacked by the fact that I had actually read a book, let alone in a few hours.

     I cared for the characters.  I laughed when they laughed, cried when they cried, and cursed when things went awry for them.  They are all human.  Not just human in the typical fantasy trope (there's no elves or dwarves here, back to Middle Earth for you high fantasy lovers!) but human in their emotion.  Gemmell fully realises his characters so much so that they are real.

     Sure, the basic plot is pretty norm.  Small army versus bigger army, oh noes!  But it's the characters, their lives and the subtle plot twists that make this book...well, a classic.  It's these differences that turn Legend from an everyday fantasy novel, into a heroic-fantasy-legend.

     Legend has something for everyone.  It was Gemmell's first novel, my first read, my first choice of book to review, and it will be the first choice if anyone asks me to recommend them a book.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The First Step...

...to tackling a problem...
...is to smile as if you know what the answer is!

Ok, in all seriousness, I'm going to give you the 'low down' on how this blog is going to run.

Friday-Monday I hope to post a review of the current book I'm reading, as and when I finish it.

On Tuesdays I'll be blogging my take on creative writing, from setting the scene to staving off writer's block.

Each Wednesday I'll give you an update on my current writing project - the one I plan to publish in the future, be that traditionally or self published.

As of now, I'm generating an online presence to introduce myself to the reading and writing community. Other ways to find me on the internet:

  • DeviantArt  http://d-e-m-emrys.deviantart.com/
  • Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/D_E_M_Emrys
  • Facebook http://www.facebook.com/dememrys
  • Twitter https://twitter.com/DEMEmrys
  • Email DEMEmrys@hotmail.co.uk 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Everyone has to start somewhere

     It's always thrown around that everyone has to start somewhere, start with the small work up to the big, one step at a time...you get the idea.

     This is my start. Let me introduce myself to you.  I'm David, recognisable under my pen name 'David E. M. Emrys' or 'D. E. M. Emrys'.  I'm an aspring author, dabbling in heroic-fantasy novels.  I'm inspired by such greats as Michael J Sullivan, James Barclay, Brent Weeks, Peter V Brett and the big-daddy-of-heroic-fantasy-himself David Gemmell.

     Via this blog I will deliver reader reviews, my take on writing stories (the do's don't's etc.), and news on my own work as it develops.

     Thanks for stopping by, you'll be hearing from me soon!