Saturday, 22 April 2017

Review - Conflagration by Adam Quinn

I was excited to have the chance to review a novella written by the son of one one of my fav authors Susan Kaye Quinn. It took a little longer than I would have liked, due to the painkillers knocking me around, but I've finished the book and posted the review up on Amazon.

www.amazon.com/Adam-Quinn/e/B01K5FQLY8
I am new to the worlds of Adam Quinn, and his novella, Conflagration, was the perfect platform to jump right into the midst of things. There was no real disadvantage for readers, like myself, that are not familiar with the Drive Maker series, as Adam has provided just enough background information to keep newbies in the loop, while providing enough intrigue that I definitely need to read the other books in the series to find out more. Fast paced, with a few twists and turns, I didn't want to put the book down. I honestly don't recall being drawn this much to a Space Opera since Anne McCaffrey's "The Ship Who Sang" series. On another note, the cover is outstanding; too many covers have a cookie cutter look to them, which is a pet peeve of mine, but this one stands out. I look forward to reading more of the Driver Maker series. 



Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Day 18 - Evolution of a poem

you have brought so much magick to my life. i crave your touch, your arms, your voice. your kiss is intoxicating and i'm hooked. tell me how to stop loving you and wanting you. because you are a part of me now - and cutting you out of my life is like cutting off a part of my body.
This is an excerpt that has been sitting in my files since November 2015. At that time I was taking part in #nanowrimo, and I had jotted down these lines thinking that they could be suitable for one of the scenes that I was working on. The book was "This is NOT a Fairy Tale", and it was for a scene for chapter 16 "The Lone Wolf". I recently pulled the files out to work on them for #campnanowrimo, and I realised that the lines would probably be more suited to a poem, but I wasn't entirely convinced that they needed to be a poem; it's not like I have a shortage of poems that I am working on after all. :)  I thought that I would use them in a letter in that chapter. But each time I have read that chapter the idea that these lines they should be a poem wouldn't leave me. I remember what inspired this scene, these words; and tonight I decided to have a play around with them. And thus my latest poem was born. 


As you can see, the two pieces are similar, and also completely different. At this stage I haven't finished writing this chapter, so it's quite possible that I will still use the original lines in that same scene, and I will more than likely keep with the idea of them appearing in a letter in that scene. 

Over this past few months I have been intrigued with how my poems evolve. Some started life as nothing more than a one word reminder written at 3 am. Some were rough bits jotted down 15 years ago and finally given their final form this year. And occasionally I will create 2 slightly different versions of the same poem, if I am undecided as to which version works better. I am still a little shy about sharing so much of my process but below is an example I shared a while back, on my Facebook Page: Bron Rauk-Mitchell: My Words; the piece in pink is the original version from 2015. But it always felt incomplete. I had looked at it dozens of times, to see how I could complete it, and finally earlier this year the words came to me. As you can see I've taken the essence of the first and used it in the second to make something new. 



It seems at this stage I'm sharing more here about the process of writing This is NOT a Fairy Tale than I am about pr-aA sAt, so perhaps it would have been a more sensible idea on one hand to use This is NOT a Fairy Tale for both challenges. However, I had already made a lot of progress with This is NOT a Fairy Tale in 2015, and pr-aA sAt has spent far too long sitting in my head waiting for one day so I'm sticking with my decision to work on both books this month. I may not be making the same kind of progress that I am with This is NOT a Fairy Tale, but pr-aA sAt is taking shape nicely. There is still a lot of research to undertake but I have knotted out some of the problems that have kept me stalled in the past. I'm definitely keen to add a few more historical events, so I'm aiming for 16 chapters now, and I've decided to have the main, human, character turn amateur detective in between the stories set in the past. It will give those stories a bit more cohesion, and there's nothing like a good mystery :)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Day 12 - chip chip chipping away at the pile

https://openclipart.org/detail/28410/balloons
I know that it seems as if I'm making a bit of noise over small, writing-related achievements, but I've spent so long beating myself up for what I haven't achieved over the years that I decided to try a new tact. I am chipping away at my writing projects, every day; I'm moving forward. It all adds up, it's all steps towards completion. I feel that this warrants making some noise over it; for myself, and for others that may find themselves in a similar position. It's too easy to look over our shoulders and see those rejections, those discarded projects, missed opportunities etc and miss that we are actually "chip chip chipping away" at the pile. So for now I'll make a little noise when I add a few words to my total, when i complete another poem, when I have spent some time plotting and planning. It all counts in the end; it's all a part of the journey, a part of the process. Because beating myself up every day doesn't achieve anything positive; doesn't achieve anything worth celebrating. 


http://campnanowrimo.org
#Campnanowrimo update: I began afresh on mapping out the stories within the book, and the characters already involved, so that I could identify where stories and characters can intersect more. I need at least 6 more characters for the stories that I already have; not background characters but main, or at least significant, characters. I realised that two separate story ideas could be combined into one story; and I realised that a couple of semi-important characters should be major players in other stories. All of this may sound confusing, and muddled, but the end result will be a stronger cohesive story (or stories with a story as the case is).  Over time I may add a few more stories, but for today I'll be moving forward with what I have.

I know that I said that I wouldn't get caught up with word totals; that the most important thing for me is to just move forward with the story, even if it was just a few words each day, and I mean that. But I'm also happy to note that over this last 12 days I have written 1700 words; bringing the total for the manuscript to over 20 000 words, and bringing me closer to my goal for this challenge. 

https://openclipart.org/detail/232976/woman-with-letter
#BYBin30 update: I didn't make as much progress with this story today as I would have liked, but I did note down a few realisations that could cause problems for my story, and for pr-aA sAt herself. I have worked out a temporary solution that will allow me to move forward with the story. I've also realised that I'm allowing fear to halt my progress on this book. It's something that I do with every book, every challenge. I permit the ghosts of the past to question my abilities; my abilities to write, to research and to complete the projects. I second guess myself, even though I know deep down that I am not out of my depth. All I can do is just keep chip chip chipping away, and try to drown out those voices; if I have to I can always turn up the volume and blast those voices away, at least for a while. But when you've been told constantly that you are stupid, when you are constantly made to prove yourself, it affects you in unexpected ways. Just the thought of making a mistake, of being called out for being a fraud, can make you freeze up. And trying to explain that to others that haven;t been there is challenging. They try to brush it off as something all writers go through; but this is linked to ghosts of the past, this is linked to bullying, to toxic former partners. Now that I have put this fear into words I can try to work around it, but it's going to take time, and it's going to require me to be a little more patient with myself. And we are back to where we started tonight; acknowledging the progress. Celebrating the small breakthroughs. 


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Day 11 - back in the groove


After an introductory session with a new pysch today, especially coming on the heels of a small down swing, I felt emotionally and physically wiped. It is often the result of sessions like this, where I am asked to recount my history, etc etc. Band aids are ripped off, scars are opened and it's raw and messy. By the time I left the session I was on the verge of tears and I was completely scattered. All of those experiences and emotions were churning around in my head for a large part of the day. I couldn't focus enough to write things out, so I sat down and watched DVDs with my daughter, keeping my notebook and pencil close by so that I could jot down random ideas.

http://campnanowrimo.org
Once I could sit down calmly at the computer, I was determined to finish any editing that remained for "This is NOT a Fairy Tale"; but as I began the process of editing the documents, words flooded out and I ran with them. It didn't matter how rough they were, or how cliched, I just had to get them out of my head. That was my method with this manuscript for nanowrimo 2015; I would pour out what was buzzing around in my head, and then I would go back later to make sense of it all. And that seems to be the best method for this particular manuscript. That burst of writing sent me over the 1000 word mark for #campnanowrimo, and has brought the total word count, for the manuscript, closer to 20 000 words. I know I said that the point of signing up for this challenge wasn't about word counts, but seeing the word counter tick over a little more every day reminds me that I am making progress. This is NOT a Fairy Tale has been a work in progress for a few years or more, even if I didn't start the actual physical writing until 2015.

It has occurred to me lately that I need a few more characters, and I need the characters and stories to overlap a little more than they do already. Having the Bookshop as a central point is a start, but this would be stronger, overall, if the stories intersected more. But it could become a messy jumble if I don't plan this out carefully; I have plotted out the characters and their stories so that I can see at a glance which characters could naturally match up story wise, but I want to try something different, something a little more visual. I'd like to map this out onto a whiteboard or large piece of cardboard so that I can hang it up in my office, to have it in front of me as I write. I think this could be a more effective way to keep everyone straight.


#BYBin30: I have made a little more progress with pr-aA sAt; that is BOTH the book and the character. I can see her more clearly now; not only her physical appearance but how she is as a character. Yes she is an Egyptian Mau but she is much more than an ordinary moggy, not than any cat is ordinary :) She was lacking depth; if kids are going to follow her adventures there needed to be more to her than I had noted down. She needed a much more defined personality and a clear purpose beyond being a cat; and of course being a Cat is enough of a purpose in some ways but for the sake of this book she needs a bit more purpose than simply existing. I don't want this book to be a dozen rehashed historical events, loosely tied up together by two dimensional characters; it needs to be an adventure against historical backdrops. It needs a sense of magick and mystery, and I'm on my way to achieving that now. 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Another small celebration :)



A portion of the poems that I have completed this year.
collage made at www.photovisi.com

Today marks #100days of consistent, daily writing. In that time I have completed 64 poems (some were started over 20 years ago, but most have been from 2017), written many more draft poems (the number is well over 200 at this stage), resumed blogging and writing reviews, started sharing my writer's process with others, made a dent in organising over 20 years of writing files and more. 


On January 1, 2017, I started a new personal writing challenge, #anideaperday2017. Ideas are very rarely a problem for me, but I like the thought of creating ideas deliberately, and taking more pains to record my numerous ideas. In 2015 this started out as a story a day, but that faded. In 2016 I changed it to an idea per day, and made it through most of the year, but the ideas were mostly disorganised. For 2017 I expanded on the idea to include the photos and scribbles that I often use as notes to myself. I've still got a ways to go before I am organised with the record keeping but it's already far more organised than in previous years. The ideas include new characters for projects that I'm working on, ideas for blog posts, courses, articles, names and more. The treasure chest of ideas is bursting, ready to explode. The catch is to actually use them and not just hoard them away.

From January 4, 2017, I have begun to throw myself into poetry, and I have already surpassed my most prolific time from years ago. The dream of releasing a book of my poetry is looking far more possible this year (finances aside) and now I'm looking at releases VOLUMES of poetry. The response has been fairly positive so far. I'm still cautious about sharing my poetry as it is very intimate; this is showing everyone who I really am behind the facades, It's easier for me to strip in front of strangers than it is to share my poetry.

When I first began to share it online in 1999, with an international audience, the response was positive but over time I lost my confidence with my writing and went into a black hole. Writing has always been a way for me to make sense of the world around me. Writing is something that I do constantly, even if it doesn't always make it out of my head. Writing kept me company when I felt at my loneliest, and my darkest. And poetry has always been far more effective than a journal ever was at recording my life's experiences. I love poetry in all it's forms, but my personal favourite is free-form or realistic poetry. I've always written from the heart, so it's often raw, and can be confronting. To find that my words resonate with others is a bonus; I write for myself, but I share my writing with others in the hope that they realise that they are not alone. I know it sounds corny and clichéd but at times I tend to be a walking cliché, so there we are. The reason that the words are pouring more freely this year is because I just stopped caring what people's reactions could be and I just wrote. And that has given me a freedom that is very addictive. And can only lead to some interesting experiences.

I have poured this new literary freedom into other areas of writing; blogging a little more, sharing more over on Patreon and my Facebook writer's page, and sharing sneak peeks into my drafts here. But all of this writing, this stirring up of emotions, this stepping outside of my comfort zone does occasionally set off my anxiety and I spend a few days here and there hating my words and ideas. I am just coming out of the latest cycle; I did keep writing in that time (though my blog posts for #BYBin30 and #campnanowrimo are in draft form at the moment), but I was gentle with myself, I recognised that taking it a little slower was fine as long as I kept going in some way.

 Today I was still coming out of this pit, but I did make some more progress with "pr-aA sAt";  it just a couple of key background points but it will help move the story along and give it a bit more magick. I can't get into it too much as I want to keep as much of the mystery as I can at this stage but it helps me to get past a few stumbling blocks in the storyline, and that is more important than having excerpts to share.

I have continued with the editing and tidying up of "This is NOT a Fairy Tale"; I've written an additional800 words since #campnanowrimo started, which isn't a lot, but my focus is still on editing and organising what I have from 2015. I will share an excerpt from what I was playing with; it's from Chapter 4 and some people may find it a little confrontational.

The mother-fucking beast lunged out of the dark at him. Hunter had no warning it was coming. This was an unexpected attack. Hunter had been having a great day; a rare thing lately. He felt better than he had in a very long time. These unexpected attacks were the worst. There was no way to prepare at all. The beast would leap out of nowhere. Duck and cover seemed to be the best method to dodge the worst of the attack. The beast’s razor claws were slashing; left, right, up, down… Claws were gripping at any available bit of Hunter’s skin. The beast tore through his clothing as if like a hot knife through butter (great, he was resorting to using clichés). He felt raw. Tired. Drunk. Everything around him began to slow down. He felt as if he was jogging through molasses; with weights on his wrists, and on his ankles. His feet wouldn’t move. The ankle weights turned to lead boots. His arms were unresponsive. His head was full of cotton wool – he could not think. He could not keep a train of thought in his head. The attack was savage; it was brutal. He forgot how to breathe. “Breathe!” he reminded himself. The adrenaline rushed through his veins and he finally remembered how to use his feet. They were still heavy but no longer did they feel as if they were encased in lead boots. Running as if intoxicated, he stumbled around, trying to get free of the beast. But the beast was winning this round. The beast was stronger than ever. How had it crept up on him unawares this time? He felt no sense of warning at all. And his guard was down. So the black dog was able to take him for all that he was worth.

Hunter was not sure he could make it through this attack. It had been some time since the beast had put him through the wringer to this extent. He was feeling dizzy and he was not sure he could keep going. Suddenly the beast dropped him and slunk off. Hunter was not going to question this lucky stroke. He sat up to gather his thoughts, assess the damage and grab a breath. He could see he’d need stitches and some medical treatment so he did not get infected. Whump!!!!! The beast came in from behind and knocked him on to his face. He’d lost track of what the beast was up to and had let his guard down again. His ribs cracked, with a sound to rival that of thunder. The pain took his breath away. The beast was determined to kill him this time, Hunter thought. Could he crawl away in time or would he end up defeated in a pile as his last breathes were squeezed from his lungs?

Oh jeesus – did he have to sound so fucking corny in his dying moments? Oh come on, he had to have had some fight left in him surely. He was not going to roll over and let the beast have its wicked way with him. But it was tempting to lie down and just sleep. No fighting. Just rest. Just sleep. Hunter was weary. He could not keep on fighting. Not this time. The fight was gone out of him. He was so weary. Beyond weary. He was exhausted. Falling apart. He did not want to get back up. Just rest. It would be OK if he didn't fight this time. Everyone would understand that the fight was too much this time, wouldn’t they?
So all up I'm happy with how this 100 days has progressed, on the writing front. I'm sure I could have got more accomplished in that time, but that kind of thinking does lead me back down into that deep pit, so I'll stick with celebrating the small achievemnts for now.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Review: Homebased Comic

www.homebasedcomic.com
One of the plans that I had for for 2017 was to return to reviewing books and comics. That was delayed after a series of unfortunate events in my life, but now that I have a bit more time on my hands, I thought that I would take the plunge once more. I know that there is a lot of debate in the indie creative community as to whether there is any value in reviews, as some people can be incredibly petty and vindictive when leaving reviews, and that kind of review can cause more damage than 100 great reviews. But reviews do help with sales and ranking on sites such as Amazon, and many writers ask their readers for even a brief review to help them gain attention. I'm not the petty or vindictive type, and if I honestly cannot find something nice to say about a book, I just don't leave a review. It's that simple to me.

www.homebasedcomic.com
In 2015 I was accepted to regularly write reviews for www.mariannedepierres.com, but life took another unexpected crappy turn and I had to put writing reviews on hold; letting people down in the process. I have a large pile of books and comics that I will be writing reviews for but I thought I would edge back into it slowly with some thoughts on Homebased Comic

www.paulcaggegi.com/homebased
Homebased Comic is the work of one of my fav creative people Paul Caggegifreelancer extraordinaire and stay-at-home dad. It's no exaggeration to say that Homebased is my new fav web comic, and one that has lived up to my expectations from Day 1. Homebased shares the adventures of Carl, a homebased parent, his partner Jen, who works a hectic full-time job, and Fiona a.k.a The Kid. 

The comic is very elegant in its apparent "simplicity"; black & white, uncluttered, and domestic. I have always found the "mundane" to have its own magick, and Paul's quirky personality and almost self-depreciating humour shines through clearly, making this stand out from similar strips. While written from the perspective of a stay-at-home dad Homebased resonates deeply with me, and I suspect it will resonate with other parents too. I look forward to following Carl's future adventures.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Day 5 - Digging deep (Trigger Warning - Domestic Violence).


For as long as I can remember, writing has been very therapeutic for me, which can be seen clearly with my poetry. My poetry is emotional, raw and honest, and that is what appeals to a lot of people reading it. I always have a lot going on in my head, and pouring some of that onto paper or into a document can help to make sense of some of my world. A lot of my work has elements of myself in it, and it's part of who I am as a writer. Not to say that my work is auto-biographical; I'm a writer, so at lot of what I write about is purely from my imagination. But I do pour a lot of emotion and life experience into a lot of my work; which isn't usually a problem for me. However, as I've stated already this week, for #campnanowrimo I am working on something that I haven't looked at since #nanowrimo 2015. This week has involved mostly reading over what I had written back in 2015, polishing it up, removing anything that I inadvertently duplicated and so on. As previously stated, I have been surprised at the quality of the work for an early draft. But today, as I read through more chapters, it was an incredibly confronting experience. To see such raw emotion in black and white was not something that I was prepared for. Yes, it's my writing, but I hadn't remembered how much emotion I had actually poured onto those pages, and reading through every word brought up a lot of personal, and emotional, issues for me that I haven't finished dealing with. This is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of "This is NOT a Fairy Tale".

*** Content warning - domestic violence - trigger warning.***
Turning the key in the lock, Amy paused, took a deep breath and steeled her nerves. Which version of her husband would great her inside the house? Would she be greeted by her sweet and charming Prince, or would she be greeted by his nastier alter-ego?  Amy listened carefully, but she could not hear any sounds coming from the house. That wasn’t necessarily a good sign either. She took another deep breath, steadied her hands, grabbed the knob and gave it a cautious turn. Once Amy was through the door, she looked around for some clue as to whether Eric was home, and what his mood was like. It was better to be prepared, before she came face-to-face with him. Those extra few seconds could sometimes be enough to prepare herself for which version she would be facing. It was exhausting to live this way, but she did not have many other options at this stage. 
Whump! Amy screamed as Eric’s fist met with the right side of her face. Her head snapped back with an almighty crack, her legs buckling under the force of the impact, and an indescribable pain seared through her face. “You fucking skank!” Eric spat on her face, grabbing her hair and yanking up hard back on to her feet. Blood was trickling from her nose into her open mouth, and she gasped for air. He pulled her roughly through to the lounge room, and threw her down on the floor. She was in shock. He had never punched her in the face before. Before she had a chance to run with that thought his foot thumped into her ribs, hard. She screamed again. The crack that her ribs made, combined with the immense pain informed her that her ribs were most likely broken. She began to panic. She needed to get out of here until Eric calmed down, or at least distract him.
She tried to roll away from him as his foot swung back again, gathering momentum to kick her again. She pleaded with him, “Eric, no! Please stop it”, but from the murderous look on his face, he was too far gone to hear her. She took as deep a breath as her ribs would allow and screamed for help as loudly as she could; preying, hoping, that the neighbours would hear her screams. But that only enraged him further. His foot made contact with her ribs in the exact spot as before, and she almost passed out with the blinding heat of pain that racked her torso. 
Would he kill her? He’d never hurt her this much before; he had hit her before but not like this. This was savage. This was brutal. This was hell. She tried to see her sweet prince but Eric was not to be seen – in his place was a monster, something from a nightmare. An ogre. Who would save her? Who would come to the rescue?

I have never experienced anything quite like this scene that I have described; I have been attacked over the years, in different situations, but not like this. However, I was able to channel some very powerful emotions that I have experienced over a lot of years, from some really screwed up traumatic experiences, and pour it into the scene. Which, for someone with an encyclopedia of issues, is a way of dealing with the mess as much as possible. But, it is also my hope that my words resonate with others; i.e they can see the world from a different perspective, or they can recognise themselves in my characters and realise that they are NOT alone in their experiences. 

"This is NOT a Fairy Tale" was a book that kicking around in my head through some really fucking horrible years; I wrote several scenes in my head as I struggled to make sense of what I was living. Emotional and verbal abuse, neglect and isolation. The professionals that should have been listening to me weren't, and I didn't want to burden others, but I often felt as if I was on the verge of insanity. During #nanowrimo 2015 I was finally able to deal a little with the past, and as I opened up emotional scars I poured what I was feeling, what I was reliving, into this manuscript. I had only just been diagnosed with C.P.T.S.D and I wasn't just remembering events; I was reliving them through a series of non-stop flashbacks. So to re-read these chapters today, when I have been having flashbacks for much of this year, it was a shock that I wasn't expecting to deal with. Perhaps it won't have the same impact on others that will be reading this book. I guess only time will tell.
source: www.publicdomainpictures.net/browse-author.php?a=43261
#BYBin30 - Things were definitely not as confronting with P.C.T.A. Today was another easy day of reading and research on pertinent subjects; I went a little deeper with reading up on Egyptian Mau's, trying to have the correct information needed for our Mau, Pr-aA sAt. She is NOT a modern descendant of the original Egyptian Mau's; she IS one of the original Mau's. She is distinctive, but at the same time I want her appearance to be believable, so I'm reading up on information from breeding and show sites, as well as from sites that are dealing with Egyptian history. Yes I am playing with elements of history within the story, but I need there to be enough fact to make this work. I am already dealing with a version of our world where magick exists, but that aside, almost everything else needs to be as realistic and accurate as I can. I'm having fun with this stage; scribbling down ideas, reading up on subjects and working out how to piece it all together before I begin to throw myself into the actual writing. I haven't come up against any real obstacles yet, although I will able to use artistic licence to get me out of any real bind; but I prefer to save that for a major obstacle, and count on plausibility to get me through wherever possible.