Archive for the ‘Personal Ramblings’ Category

Why Did I Write a Werewolf Novel?

I have been asked this. More than once. Sometimes by people who don’t know why I “waste” time writing speculative fiction anyway. Sometimes by people who think the genre isn’t popular). Sometimes by people who are genuinely curious.

There are two answers to this question.

The first answer is: I wanted to and an idea came to me and I acted on it.

In fact, through there are of course many changes from the initial draft of Black Marks to the final production, the guts of the story remained the same: a man with a problem whose desire to be good makes life worse for him and for someone he cares about.

There were also the details such as the silver allergy, and the curse hitting the sufferer on three nights a month rather than one (so we could have more werewolf action and more complexity than just that one night). When you have something as clear as I had it then, you have to write it. Or at least, try.

The second answer is: I could not find a werewolf novel I enjoyed.

As a youngster, I enjoyed several werewolf movies, comics and also a TV show. But everything I read as a “mature” adult left me either pissed off or bored. Where was the thrill? Where was the polished prose? Where were the interesting characters and the subtle menace and the human being wrestling against his demon?

I started and stopped so many MANY books after the first sixty or sixteen or six pages (and sometimes after the first page).

Because I could not find what I loved, I wrote it instead. And while it’ll never win me a Booker or Pulitzer, Black Marks became and is that thing that I love. I’m proud of it and I’m glad it’s brought pleasure to so many others.

Since writing it, I’ve fortunately discovered several shifter/werewolf novels I truly enjoyed cover to cover. You can find my list of completed reads here. There’s not many books on it. And each one is VERY different from the ones around it.

In conclusion, I am always ALWAYS fascinated by the wrestle between our inner selves and outer selves and I think it’s this that I look for in a wolf novel. How about you? What do you look for?

How will the End come? (And why Post-Apocalypse is an evergreen genre)

As a writer (and a reader), I’m facinated by what humans do and how humans think. Reading about people thrust into dire situations through no fault of their own, making ethical decisions, getting in touch with their true natures (good, evil, flawed)…these things continue to drive me toward fiction that examines them.
My story S is for Silence is out this coming week in the anthology A is for Apocalypse. Of course, I’m going to say nice things about the anthology —  my story’s in it. But having read just the first page of a dozen of the stories (I want to read the whole thing when I have the paperback copy in my hands), I am amazed at both the variety and the high quality of the tales.
And I’m encouraged by the evergreen nature of this genre.
The idea of Apocalypse (or the collapse of civilisation/worlds/environments) continues to fascinate a wide readership. I saw a Goodreads reviewer this week saying that zombie novels were a cluttered and overcrowded genre. I disagree. People will continue to write all sorts of apocalyptic novels/shorts for decades as will writers of police procedural stories and epic fantasies (which are all variations on a narrow theme) and other people will continue buying and enjoying them.

Because we are drawn to what we are drawn to. And many of us are drawn to the idea of the world ending.

Ideas of the collapse of our civilisation or our ecology inspire strong feelings, largely I think because we sense it could all happen so easily (maybe not the zombie infection scenario, but other scenarios certainly — global pandemics, world war, environmental disaster, nuclear disasters leading to other disasters, etc). And I suspect that the cycle of rise and fall of civilisation is strongly remembered by our historical hive mind.

My story is about what is revealed in a man’s psyche when the veneer of civilisation is stripped away.

So. How will the End come? That’s a more interesting subject to discuss.

In my opinion, one of two ways: As a Christian, I am a believer in the New Testament revelation (which is actually what the word apocalypse means) of the End of time.

But I’m also aware of that cycle of rise and fall we’ve been subject to for millenia. It may well be that we’re on the road to another fall and I’d be unsurprised if the environment turns on us for a few centuries due to the fallout from the recent Japanese reactor disaster combined with our penchant as a species for inflicting damage on our planet.

Feel free to disagree with me. In fact, throw a comment at me with your thoughts on the End below. Go on. I dare ya.

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This represents my entry in the A is for Apocalypse blog train. Please read the posts that come before and after mine at the following locations (great writers, these two):

What Good is Speculative Fiction?

 

RANT ALERT.

Last weekend, a good friend (during one of his frequent diatribes) looked me in the eye and said, “I’d prefer to read a good biography, because novels in the end are just fantasy, they’re not real and they don’t offer anything helpful.” In the context of his diatribe, he meant that fiction does no one any good except to switch their brain off for a while (as if that wasn’t worth something in itself). To be fair to my friend, he’d obviously forgotten what I write — he wasn’t attacking me, he was just being … honest … and a little oblivious…

Back in February, during coffee with another close mate of mine, he politely asked me how my writing was going and with glazed eyes and fixed smile he endured a couple of minutes of me telling him. It’s been obvious for several years that he just doesn’t “get” why I’m pursuing writing fiction. When I mentioned that I’d once tried to write a self-help book, he perked up and said, “Yeah? Would you concentrate on something worthwhile like that?”

Worthwhile, huh? Sigh…

So. Of course I’m a little irritated. But I’m also stirred to think through what good is speculative fiction? Am I wasting my time by the hours I spend writing it? Reading it? (Watching it?)

Ian Welke (author of The Whisperer in Dissonance) recently wrote:

John Shirley has been one of my favorites ever since his “Song Called Youth” trilogy came out in the 80s. “A Song Called Youth,” helped save me from depression then. Before I read it, I was depressed and angry. After I read it, I was still pretty much depressed and angry, but I at least felt like someone saw things the same way, and felt not so alone.

I want to say here that this nails one of the major “advantages” great sf/fantasy/horror (fiction) has over self-help or biographies — namely that teenagers actually read it!

Many many people have said similar things to me over the past few decades, about how a story has improved the quality of their life, gotten them through a hard time, helped them see the universe in a different light. Ian’s written comment here (used with permission) puts it beautifully.

Fiction also fleshes out values, concepts, ethical dilemmas, life stage issues and so on and so on. In ways that enable the reader to engage at a wholistic (right brain) level. And yes, I added a “w” to “holistic” — I meant to.  

In fiction, people get to do things we don’t have time to do in real life, namely focus 100% on the problem that’s confronting them. This can be enormously helpful to process our own painful feelings, tough decisions and general stresses.

Fiction can inspire the positive in us. Star Wars A New Hope inspired me at 11 years old to make my life significant, to affect the world. Grandiose at 11, sure. Thirty-whatever years later, I find I’ve worked hard to be of service to others and to refine myself to be the best me I can be. This yearning was captured and inspired by a “religious conversion” at 16, but it started at age 11 with a science-fantasy epic…and I believe God was behind me watching that movie too.

Rant over. Final word: fiction rocks.

…Maybe I should have written this as a story…

2013: The Year in Review

 

Welcome to another self-serving and narcissistic post from the desk of one Pete Aldin.

But hey, it’s my blog; I can introspect if I wish.

Looking back at this year, it’s been a good one writing-wise. And for the following reasons:

  • I sat on my first two author panels at a scifi con
  • I undertook mentoring and training from two great authors which have taught to me to both trust my ability to write and to stretch myself further in plotting … “which have“??? Perhaps they could have mentored me more on things like grammar and word choice…
  • I sold no less that seven short stories (some to be published next year): Mud, The Whipping Tree, No Good Deed, The Bridge (a resale), They Cling to Darkness, In Human, Hiding
  • I completed my third novel and though it’s had several rejections, I’m hopeful it will sell eventually. It’s well and truly my favourite so far. Thanks to those who helped it birth.
  • I have a working second draft of a new horror novel and the bones of a first draft for another medieval fantasy under way
  • I have a publisher currently considering my first two novels
  • I made (and retained!) the acquaintance of some terrific writers and human beings this year including Steve Cameron and Geoff Brown, people who remind me that writing and publishing is fun, an adventure

Also I have been blessed by meaningful labour in my working life, helping people without work rediscover their mojo and learn new skills to move on.

All in all, a bloody good year!

Hope yours was as good and that 2014 will see you safe and happy and having fun.

 

What’s in the Cupboard? (August 2013)

… in which I take three words from my Word Box and use them in a short piece of creative writing.

The words:

  • stout
  • kobold (ghoul)
  • cavalier

And now the writing:

“I wouldn’t worry,” Charles yawned and shuffled closer to the fireplace.

Casting about for something with which to defend them, Wilma could not believe Charles’ cavalier attitude. And at a time like this! Kobolds to the left of them. Stout little mini-trolls to the right. She snatched up a poker and brandished its glowing red end with a flourish.

“I guess it’s up to me, then,” she said.

 

 

What’s in the Cupboard? (May)

 

New “segment” … or thread perhaps. This ain’t television after all.

I plan each month to complete a post where I take 3 random words from my Word Box (more on that in a mo’) and work them into a paragraph. Good for the creative juices, good for developing the vocabulary. This is a lot like taking random ingredients from the cupboard and combining them into a workable meal.

The Word Box? I have a box in which I throw post it notes and index cards with cool words I hear/read. From this box, this morning I have drawn the following words and will endeavour to first-draft a paragraph using them (correctly if possible):

  • flounce
  • pleat
  • scabrous

The corpse reached for him in a desperate flounce that was one part spasmic dance, three parts animal savagery. He flinched from the bars, stepped out of reach and studied the deader: it had once been a him, now shirtless, floral tie knotted too tight around the turkey neck, pleated suit pants brown with undefinable muck, skin scabrous and wet with body fluids. The only question, he thought trying to get a look behind the corpse, is if the fluids were its own or someone else’s.

Instead of Writing, I Earned Myself a Chocolate Ula

I haven’t been able to write for nearly 3 months now. Oh, I’ve done a few pages of revision of my novel and submitted them to my writing group. But I haven’t written. I haven’t been able to immerse myself in any of my projects. It’s been immensely frustrating.

 

Today was the final day of a course I’ve run for 10 weeks now. Every weeknight for the past ten weeks (for three-four hours), I’ve been marking people’s papers (reading the same answers over and over), dog-earing pages where I needed them to add more information or rethink an answer, and writing reports on the course’s progress for my employer. Every Saturday, I’ve spent eight hours getting my head around the material for the week ahead (it’s the first time I’ve run this course).

 

Sundays I’ve been wasted, no good to anyone. I’ve been unable to write.

 

Today, my class completed their course. I was immensely proud of the work they had done, the progress they had made, and the God-given glory I saw shining in their eyes. These precious people have been unemployed for years. Some have physical disabilities and others mental illness (and don’t we all??). They had lost their mojo; they had lost their confidence. Over two and a half months, they courageously faced themselves, their “demons”, and even the hopes they had buried after years of knockbacks. Over two and half months, they have tried The New, engaged in The Confronting, embraced Work Placements and reflected on their performance. Yesterday and today, they made presentations to the room — and their talents and growth shone for all to see.

 

One played the chanter (the “flute” part of bagpipes), another spoke passionately about the young people he’s already started helping in our community. A lady put photos up around the room depicting her amazing philosophy of customer service. A young man gave us a lesson in pixel animation and self-publishing comic books…

 

It’s been my privilege to see several members of my class gain real live jobs, and others move on to further training (something they would never have considered before). But more so, to make friends who’ve shown me the incredible panorama of human expression and giftedness. The Samoan ula I’m wearing (think Hawaiian lei) is made from ribbon and HUGE chocoloate bonbons. It was presented to me by a Samoan member of the class and I can’t think of a prouder “award” that I’ve ever received…. And I get to eat it!!!

 

Knowing that my friends are back on their horses, putting themselves out there, living again – it makes all the writing time I’ve “lost” over the past 10 weeks more than worthwhile. It makes it an investment.

 

There will always be time to write; for three months, I’ve had the privilege of contributing.

 

(And…I got chocolates!) 🙂

 

 

 

Because Business is Personal: Why I Like Niteblade.

 

Sure Nightblade Fantasy and Horror Magazine is full of quality dark fiction. Sure they published one of my stories recently. Sure I’m a nice guy. But I’ve a far better reason to contribute to the Niteblade Blog Train.

 

Niteblade is edited by a wonderful human being who demonstrates respect for her readers and her writers.

 

As my working persona has travelled through the twisted turns of its bizarre career path, I’ve rubbed shoulders with a lot of “business people”, church people, business owners, managers, entrepreneurs, solo-operators…you name it. People out to blaze a trail, make a fortune, make their mark, (some of them) change the world. The ones who stick in my mind are the ones who (and you can tell) genuinely care about their customers and their colleagues (or staff). These are the people you want to deal with, the people you want to help if they ever need it, the ones to whom you are grateful for them colouring the world in bright shades and adding value to your life (even if it’s only for a moment.) Niteblade’s esteemed founder and editor Rhonda is one such person. (Do I sound like I’m writing her a job reference?? Sorry about that, chief.)

 

When some scifi/horror/fantasy writer-editors are genuinely too busy to interact and others have the people skills of Sheldon Cooper on a bad day, it means the world to short fiction authors like moi to interact with someone who’s not only passionate about fiction, but treats you like a fellow human being. Rhonda even dropped the price of the March edition because she’d inconvenienced a few people with a glitch of some sort. I didn’t think it was necessary; Rhonda cared about her customers enough to think it was.

 

Somehow (and  I don’t think this is a coincidence), Rhonda continues to attract what I think is highly polished and innovative fiction which could easily be snapped up by other “markets” (ie., magazines/websites).

 

And so I hope fervently that Niteblade’s name and popularity continues to grow. So that writers like us can continue to ply our wares to readers of dark fiction. So that it can continue to provide an affordable vehicle for quality fiction. And so that a bright soul can continue to gift the world with her generosity and passion.

 

Anyone else think it’s ironic that I’m speaking about light and brightness in the context of dark fiction? 🙂

 

***

 

Please take a look at John Clewarth’s blog (his is the carriage before mine in this blogtrain) and tomorrow don’t forget to change carriages to Amber Stults’ carriage (the one hitched after mine).

 

Also, go spend a few bucks at Niteblade. Issue #19 for example is a mere 99 cents! (What’s that? It’s the issue Pete Aldin’s story is in? Fancy that).

 

Gulliver’s Pocketwatch

 

The Lilliputians in “Gulliver’s Travels”, remember those little guys?

 

At one stage of the story (the actual book, not the horrible Jack Black film version), they note that Gulliver’s pocket watch is probably a god. This is because he rarely does anything without consulting it. He calls it his oracle and says it appoints the time for every action of his life.

 

Travels” was written over 200 years ago. [Great book by the way!]. The Lilliputians’ observations about the watch were Jonathan Swift’s commentary about the “modern” preoccupation with time. And has anything changed in 200 years? Gulliver sure sounds like me sometimes: preoccupied with routines and deadlines.

 

Of course, life wouldn’t flow so well if we DIDN’T keep some kind of order to it and use time well. Still, our preoccupation with time is one of the factors contributing to our life of hurry hurry hurry. I like this quote from Carl Honore’s incredible book, In Praise of Slow:

 

“The toll taken by the Hurry-up Culture is well-rehearsed. We are driving the planet and ourselves toward burnout. We are so time-poor and time-sick that we neglect our friends, families and partners. We barely know how to enjoy things anymore because we are always looking ahead to the next thing…

 

“(E)ach of us should try to make room for Slowness. A good place to start is with reassessing our relationship with time … Try to think of time not as a finite resource that is always draining away, nor as a bully to be feared or conquered, but as the benign element we live in. Stop living every moment as if Frederick Taylor [inventor of the Time and Motion philosophy] were hovering nearby, checking his stopwatch and tut-tutting over his clipboard…”

 

Feeling hurried? Stressed? Take a deep breath. Let it out slow. Is your horizon the walls of your room? The computer screen in front of you? Go to a window and focus on something far away from where you are. If your horizon is the next office building 30 feet away from you, head out to a park in your lunch break and do “nothing”. Is your watch, your calendar, your deadlines a god to you, a cruel and demanding taskmaster? Rebel: smell a rose, marinate a steak, take a walk with your kids, read a short story for pleasure and not for learning the craft of writing…

 

May Time once again become our environment, our servant, our instrument and not our god.

 

 

1 August, 2012: The Month in Review

 

Well, that’s July done. Not a fantastic month in terms of output. But a satisfying one in terms of editing, polishing a whole 12 chapters of my fantasy murder mystery novel. On top of working fulltime and doing a bit of study, that is a heaven of a lot of editing for me, and I feel like this project (which stalled for two years) is flying ahead.

 

I deliberately didn’t count the number of rejections I had on the same two short stories (but I think it was 6 or 7 all up). I actually gained a Personal Best in rejection time: submitted and rejected all in under 4 hours! Ya just gotta check a few new markets, find one that the story will serve well and send it on back out there. Then turn away. Get on with other things.

 

Early in the month, I made the decision that I’d leave short story writing for the time being and focus on my two novel projects. One (the shiny new idea / first draft) is where I go to play when I get sick of editing. The other (the nose-to-the-grindstone second draft) is coming along reasonably nicely. I find that in a first draft the idea that it’s ok to write crap and fix it later works well for me. But when I get to Draft 2 and a couple of chapters still don’t work for me, it can be a little disheartening. Fortunately with my new purchase (Scrivener), I’m finding I’m editing faster and by editing faster I’m keeping a better big picture view of the book and feeling great about it. Those other pesky chapters will get fixed in the next polish run.

 

Bit of a patchy post but that’s the state of my brain at the moment. Bring on August…