Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 4)

Guest Post: Planning for Pantsers

Today I’ve got a special guest post written on the HIGHLY controversial topic of planning vs. pantsing/gardening vs. architecture. Basically, some people (like me) tend to take a more structured, outlined approach to novels, while others prefer to sit down and let the story flow as they write.

Let’s be clear: it’s impossible to say which of the two is better. Some people insist that pantsing allows for more creativity, while others believe that planning leads to a more cohesive story. I’m firmly in the second camp but recognize that pantsing has its benefits.

But my guest author, Justine Alley Dowsett, found a way to put the two together in a way that seems to be highly effective for her story. Read about her method below:

Planning for Pantsers by Justine Alley Dowsett

I’m a pantser. What does that mean? It means that I’d rather ‘write by the seat of my pants’ than plan anything beforehand. However, with my latest book Uncharted, written with my co-writer Murandy Damodred, we did more planning than I’m used to and I think it helped us.

Making Notes:

Since Murandy and I co-write, we use Google Drive to keep everything straight. If you’re not familiar with Google Drive or Google Docs, it’s an open platform where you can share your documents and multiple accounts can work on the same document at the same time. It also serves as a cloud drive, so your work is saved and backed up automatically and anyone you give access to the files can open them up and work on them. This helped us with planning because while writing we always had access to our notes file, which became a living document, changing as the story expanded.

Setting and Worldbuilding:

Usually I do a lot of the world building in my own head, but since Uncharted is an adventure story that takes place in a variety of settings and cultures, I made a point of writing down a handful of things to keep in mind about the settings, so I would make sure to include them.

Characters:

This is where the planning really came in handy. Before we started writing, Murandy and I wrote out detailed backstories for each of our main characters and at least a sentence or two about our minor characters as we invented them. This helped to flesh everyone out and make sure we knew where they had come from and what was important to them because of that.

Plot:

This is where our best of intentions sort of fell apart, but in a good way. Before we started writing, we formed a point form list of plot points then we proceeded to ignore them. As we wrote, we went back and added new plot points to our list and kept adding to that list to stay a few steps ahead of the story, but ultimately this was a form of pantsing more than planning.

Editing:

Where the notes really came in handy was when I went to write the second draft. All throughout the first draft, instead of going back and fixing things that needed changing, I took notes instead. Then, when I went over the finished first draft, I applied the changes or checked for the problems I’d indicated. It saved me a ton of time and it also meant that Murandy and I could write quickly, without feeling like we were making a mess of things.
All in all, if you’re a pantser, like me, I suggest trying to apply some planning to your process just to see what you can learn. And if you’re a planner, take a risk and try a little pantsing!

 

Justine actually has a new book, released April 17th:

Uncharted

Fated to be a Priestess of Saegard, Meredith dreams of leading a normal life with a family and a home of her own, something she’ll never have if she swears her life to the Order.  A chance encounter with a stranger in the sacred Celestial Chamber sends her previously well-ordered life into a tailspin of adventure and mayhem as she is blamed for the theft of a legendary artifact.

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Now a fugitive, Meredith must join forces with Captain Reginald Lawrence, the son of the man who initially brought her to the Temple, and his enigmatic business partner, the charming yet at times infuriating, Grey Rhodes, to find the Celestial Bowl and clear her name. From the cosmopolitan capital of Saegard to the coast of Ismera and back again, Meredith’s journey will reveal the true nature of her past, present, and ultimately, her future.

Here’s a Taste:

The door to her ‘room’ on The Clover was just as she remembered it, although it seemed much smaller now that she was older. No larger than a water closet, the addition on the backside of the Captain’s Quarters that had been built for her was still there as though, after all this time, it was waiting for her return.

Reaching for the small brass ring that served as a handle, Meredith pulled the half-sized door open and was dismayed to find that there was no way she’d fit inside the small space. It was filled to the brim with all manner of junk. Tackle boxes, rope, a crate filled with empty bottles, and a pile of soiled linen; her ‘bedroom’ had been repurposed into the ship’s dumping ground.

This is my room. For no reason that she could fully articulate, Meredith felt indignant. Even if it’s been more than ten years, it was built for me and I’m taking it back! The irrational desire to re-stake her claim on something that hadn’t been hers for a decade took over and she grabbed the nearest thing to her and turned with purpose, ready to hoist a crate filled with empty liquor bottles over the railing and into the water below.

“Whoa, hold on just a minute!” Captain Laurent’s son grabbed hold of her arm before she could gain the height she needed to throw the crate overboard.

His noble friend, minus his navy suit jacket now, stood just behind him, almost as if staying out of her range. His white shirt was nearly clean, though she could see where brownish grey stew coloured the frills of his collar. Meredith felt only slightly guilty about her little ‘outburst’. He deserved it…he’s a jerk.

“No,” she stated, imploring him to listen, “you destroyed my room and I’m taking it back. It’s the only home I ever really had.”

“Your…room?” A light went on behind the young Captain’s eyes. “That’s why it had a bed in there…I always thought it was a dog house. Didn’t know why my dad would’ve wanted a dog aboard a ship, but he was always doing all sorts of foolish things.”

“Like taking in strays?” Meredith demanded, arching a brow disdainfully in his direction. “Is that what you’re implying?”

“Ah, no!” Reginald’s eyes went wide, his hands going up in a defensive fashion. “No, of course not! My dad was always winning strange sorts of stuff in poker tournaments. He was gambler.”

“Are you now implying that I was bought or won in a card game, like some sort of…child slave?”

His eyes bugged even further out of his head, if that was possible, and his cheeks flushed. “Ah…no…I mean…you weren’t, were you?”

“Of course not!”

“So now that we’ve established that you aren’t a stray dog or a child slave,” the noble interjected in a no-nonsense tone of voice, his grey eyes dark, “do you mind telling us who you are and what you’re doing here?”

Meredith fought the urge to laugh because the bit of mushy carrot in his hair was so at odds with his expression.

“I am here because I need passage out of Saegard. I fell in the water, got drenched, then walked here during the night. I was cold, wet, and badly bruised…from my fall. No one was around on deck, so I thought I would warm up inside. I took my clothes off to dry so I wouldn’t catch a cold and I used the silks because they were all I could find. That’s when I fell asleep. And I would have told you all of that, if you weren’t being such a jerk!”

About the Authors:

Justine Alley Dowsett

From obtaining her BA in Drama at the University of Windsor to becoming an entrepreneur in video game production and later, publishing, Justine Alley Dowsett’s unswerving ambition has always led her to pursue her dreams. She lives in Windsor, Ontario and dedicates her time to writing and publishing fiction novels. When not focusing on growing her business, she enjoys role-playing with friends and developing new ideas to write about.

Authors

Murandy Damodred

With a background in Drama and Communications from the University of Windsor, Murandy Damodred enjoys fantasy fiction with strong romantic subplots. She is an avid role-player and is happiest when living vicariously through her characters. Though she’d rather think of herself as the heroine of her next novel, in the real world she is an expert in sales and management living in Windsor, Ontario.

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Welcome B2BCyCon Blog Hoppers!

I’m glad you bounced your way over here!

Who am I?

I, Andy Peloquin, am, first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist–words are my palette. Fantasy is my genre of choice, and I love to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. I’m also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about my fascination for the worlds I encounter in the pages of fantasy novels.

Fantasy provides us with an escape, a way to forget about our mundane problems and step into worlds where anything is possible. It transcends age, gender, religion, race, or lifestyle–it is our way of believing what cannot be, delving into the unknowable, and discovering hidden truths about ourselves and our world in a brand new way. Fiction at its very best!

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I write the darker themes, delving into the darker side of human nature and dealing with the monsters in our heads, rather than the ones under our beds. I get to write all the FUN stuff, too: murder, mayhem, violence, death, loss, sorrow, betrayal, intrigue, thieves, assassins…and demons!

Here are the books I write:

The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer

Bucelarii - CopyThe Hunter of Voramis is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Yet he is haunted by lost memories, bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power yet denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.

When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?

Find it on Amazon…

The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen

Bucelarii 2 SmallThe Hunter of Voramis is no more.

Alone with the bloodthirsty voices in his head, fleeing the pain of loss, he has one objective: travel north to find Her, the mystery woman who plagues his dreams and haunts his memories.

When he stumbles upon a bandit attack, something within urges him to help. His actions set him at odds with the warrior priests commanded to hunt down the Bucelarii.

Left for dead, the Hunter must travel to Malandria to recover his stolen birthright. There, he is inexorably drawn into direct conflict with the Order of Midas, the faceless, nameless group of magicians that holds the city in a grip of terror. All while struggling to silence the ever-louder voice in his mind that drives him to kill.

From feared assassin to wretched outcast, the Hunter’s journey leads him to truths about his forgotten past and the Abiarazi he has pledged to hunt. His discoveries will shed light on who he really is…what he really is.

Fans of Joe Abercrombie and Brandon Sanderson will love the Hunter…

Find it on Amazon…

The Last Bucelarii (Book 3): Gateway to the Past

Bucelarii 3 SmallThe Hunter, legendary assassin of Voramis, has a purpose: protect Hailen, the boy he rescued from a demon in Malandria.

He joins a caravan in the hope of safe passage across the Advanat Desert. Yet he cannot outrun his enemies: the Illusionist Cleric on a holy mission to capture him, the bloodthirsty raiders out for blood and gold, and the Abiarazi, demons who masquerade as humans.

Every step north reveals who he was before becoming the Hunter, unlocking the truth about the woman who haunts his memories.

Find it on Amazon…

Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 1)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00060]“They killed my parents. They took my name. They imprisoned me in darkness. I would not be broken.”

Viola, a child sold to pay her father’s debts, has lost everything: her mother, her home, and her identity. Thrown into a life among criminals, she has no time for grief as she endures the brutal training of an apprentice thief. The Night Guild molds an innocent waif into a cunning, agile outlaw skilled in the thieves’ trade. She has only one choice: steal enough to pay her debts.

The cutthroat streets of Praamis will test her mettle, and she must learn to dodge the City Guards or swing from a hangman’s rope. But a more dangerous foe lurks within the guild walls. A sadistic rival apprentice, threatened by her strength, is out for blood.

What hope does one girl have in a world of ruthless men?

Fans of Sarah J. Maas, Scott Lynch, and Brent Weeks will love Queen of Thieves…

10 Things You Need to Know About Me:

  1. Hot wings, ALWAYS!
  2. I never forget a face, but rarely remember a name.
  3. I’m a head taller than the average person (I’m 6′ 6″)
  4. Marvel > DC
  5. I was born in Japan, and lived there until the age of 14.
  6. Selena Gomez, Skrillex, Simon & Garfunkel, Celine Dion, and Five Finger Death Punch are all in my writing playlist.
  7. Aliens are real, but it’s self-centered of us to believe that they would come to visit Earth.
  8. Watching sports: suck. Playing sports: EPIC!
  9. I earned a purple belt in Karate/Hapkido/Taekwondo.
  10. I dislike most Christmas music, aside from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Join My Newsletter List!

You will:

  1. Receive a free ebook–who doesn’t love FREE stuff?
  2. Receive updates of the latest book news, launches, reviews, and recommendations.
  3. Receive short stories that flesh out the world of Einan (for both The Last Bucelarii and Queen of Thieves)

(Your information is kept strictly private, and your email will NEVER be sent to anyone else!)

See where it all began on the B2BCyCon Blog Hop Page

Where to next? Pop on over to Angel M.’s website to keep the party going!

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Join in on Books to Brains Cyber Convention 2017

This year I’m fortunate enough to take part in the Brain to Books Cyber Convention—or B2BCyCon, as it’s affectionately called.

What is the Brain to Books Cyber Convention? Basically it’s a virtual version of a book or comic convention. There are all sorts of awesome activities (see below) for readers and authors to take part in—everything from a Blog Hop to LIVE events to  prizes and raffles. You’ll find it’s a whole lot of fun and a great way to discover awesome authors in every genre under the sun.

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Here are a few of the events I’ll be participating in:

Author Showcase: The Author Showcase features hundreds of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, paranormal, romance, thriller, mystery, and other genres. Here is my Author Showcase, and you can explore the various authors and their books by visiting the Showcase main page…

Giveaways: There are literally HUNDREDS of books being given away in the event. The Giveaway Page lists all the various prizes offered, divided according to genre. Blade of the Destroyer is in with the fantasy books to win by joining in on the fun!

Fantasy Book Showcase: If you’re a die-hard fantasy reader like me, you can explore the selection of fantasy novels available on the Book Showcase page. Some pretty epic titles in there, including both Queen of Thieves and The Last Bucelarii books!

 

See it All: On this page is a list of all the events that will be taking place next weekend. It’s going to be a whole lot of fun, and a way to discover more authors and their books.

Save the Date! If you click on this link and sign up to Save the Date of the event, you have a chance to win a $100 gift card.

 

 

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The Day Has Finally Arrived!!

I know some authors treat the launch day of their new book with solemnity and dignity. I am not one of those authors! I have a hard time containing my excitement when my latest “book baby” comes to life (is published). There’s just something magical about seeing all those hours of hard work, research, and editing come to fruition.

So I’m going to be a little excited and say THE LAST BUCELARII (BOOK 3): GATEWAY TO THE PAST IS LIVE! With this book, I’m halfway through the six-book series. I’m having way too much fun writing the bad-ass half-demon assassin known only as “the Hunter of Voramis” (spoiler: you find out his name at the end of Book 5). I present to you, the latest of my creations:

The Last Bucelarii (Book 3): Gateway to the Past

Bucelarii 3 SmallThe Hunter, legendary assassin of Voramis, has a purpose: protect Hailen, the boy he rescued from a demon in Malandria.

 

He joins a caravan in the hope of safe passage across the Advanat Desert. Yet he cannot outrun his enemies: the Illusionist Cleric on a holy mission to capture him, the bloodthirsty raiders out for blood and gold, and the Abiarazi, demons who masquerade as humans.

Every step north reveals who he was before becoming the Hunter, unlocking the truth about the woman who haunts his memories.

Fans of Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, and Brent Weeks will love the Hunter…

Find it on Amazon

In Case You Missed It…

I posted the first chapter of the book yesterday—click here to read the action-packed, emotionally-charged Chapter 1

Stop By and Say Hello!

All this weekend, I’ll be hosting a Facebook Launch Party for the new book. I’ll be posting updates, doing a LIVE video (at a time TBD), and enjoying talking with people. I’ve invited about 40 of my good author friends to entertain with competitions, prizes, giveaways, new books, swag, puzzles, games, and so much more.

Stop in on the event: CLICK HERE

Don’t Miss It

If you haven’t read either The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer or (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen, don’t sweat it! Blade of the Destroyer will be FREE all weekend long (until April 2nd), and Lament of the Fallen is just $0.99 Friday and Saturday (March 31st and April 1st). Pick up all three books this weekend—but be warned: it’s a highly addictive read!

Blade of the Destroyer (FREE)

Lament of the Fallen ($0.99 Fri-Sat, $2.99 Sun)

 

May your Friday be as epic as mine!

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Guest Post: When Writing Erotica Gets… Weird

Let’s be clear: erotica is NOT my thing. Never written it well, and don’t know if I ever will. For some authors, it’s everything. One author friend, Jessica Collins, has an interesting perspective on writing erotica…

When Writing Erotica Gets… Weird

I’m known as the no-holds-barred, open to anything, if-you-ask-I’ve-probably-tried-it-once, family member. Sex is no big deal to me. I have it, I love it, I have fun with it. I even had a stint a few years back of working as a consultant for Pure Romance (I highly recommend their products by the way – any questions you’re embarrassed to ask, send them my way!).

My family is mostly the same. The women in my immediate family (including my sisters-in-law) read erotic romance. We share books, favorite authors; my mother and I even watched 50 Shades together. We’re that family. While it would seem (being as open as we are) it was easy to give them each a copy of my novel and tell them to “have at it”; it simply wasn’t the case.

My family all knew I had shifted from the “casual reader” of erotic romance into the “I have a great idea for a story and am going to try and write my own book” mindset about a year ago when I first started the novel. As the book progressed, they would ask how it was going, what my inspiration was, and of course, send the “I can’t believe you’re writing erotica” jokes my way. Throughout the process, they all completely supported me.

As the story progressed and I began writing steamier scenes, I had a moment of uncertainty about the idea of certain people reading my work. It strangely started with my husband. He would come into the office while I was typing away and I suddenly became so embarrassed of what I had written I shut the laptop. On my husband. Who I’ve actually preformed the acts I had written about on.

What the hell? 

Writing the erotic scenes suddenly became very personal. It was almost as if people I loved were judging me regarding sex; not just my husband, but my family and friends. Would it be good enough for them? Would they read it and find it arousing or boring? Would it be weird if they became aroused by what I wrote? I even found myself wondering if my mother-in-law would wonder how many of the scenes were “straight from real life”; and this is a woman who was there when I bought a sex-swing for her son and I.

Constantly being asked to read it, and knowing my novel was finished and on it’s way to publishing, I gave in and allowed one of my sisters-in-law to have a copy. It was incredibly difficult. I sent it in an email, pressed the send button, and had a moment of “oh my gosh, can I take it back” panic. Then something amazing happened. She texted me early the  next morning telling me how far she had gotten and had loved it.

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I was ecstatic. Not just because she loved it so far (that part was awesome), but because it suddenly wasn’t weird. It took her a week to read the book, and she would update me with thoughts, insights, and questions regarding what was going to happen. She let me know what she thought of different scenes in the “this is really realistic” or “I can’t believe he said that!” way. It was as if we were both reading the same book – from another author – and discussing it like we normally would.

It was then I realized while *I* wrote the book, and we all knew I wrote the book, it became just a book. It was the biggest hurdle I had to cross, allowing family to read what came from this imagination (and yes, some real-life inspiration), yet once I crossed the barrier I felt free.

I can’t lie and say I’ve given copies to each family member without any hint of resignation – and definitely can’t promise the idea of the men in the family reading what I wrote doesn’t still scare the crap out of me – yet it’s not as bad as it once was.

Hopefully, the more I write the less awkward it will be, yet I’m prepared for always having the small, lingering, feeling of embarrassment regarding certain people. From what I’ve heard from fellow authors, this feeling is normal. I remind myself I’m still the bad-ass, sex-loving chick I used to be; I just get a little red in the face sometimes now.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even let my husband read it.

About the Author:

Jessica Collins is a new contemporary erotic romance author currently living in New Jersey along with her incredibly supportive husband (let’s be honest, he enjoys the *ahem* research *ahem* he gets to assist with) and the love of their life – their pitbull, she. In her free time, she enjoys watching horror movies, taking baths, playing old-school Nintendo on her computer, and appreciating life.

Combining classic characters and erotica, Jessica has created a world the reader wishes they were a part of. Alpha males, confident heroines, amazing friendships, and fan-worthy sex combine with enough tension to keep you on the edge of your panty-soaked seat all night long in the new Fairy Tales After Dark series. Discover how each tale is rewritten into today’s world as the characters search for their happy ending – in more ways than one!

Author Links:

Facebook Profile https://www.facebook.com/jessica.collins.author.75054

Facebook Fan Page:  https://www.facebook.com/authorjessicacollins/

Facebook Group (Fairy Tales After Dark): https://www.facebook.com/groups/1393011250760671/

Twitter: @AuthJessCollins (https://twitter.com/AuthJessCollins)

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cqDCP5

Website: www.jessicacollinsauthor.com

 

Jessica has a brand new “Fairy Tales After Dark” novel titled Stealing Beauty. If you’re an erotica fan and love the dark and paranormal, you’ll want to check it out:

Stealing Beauty (Fairy Tales After Dark Book 1)

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Book Review: FERTS by Grace Hudson

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’ve got a book I found myself enjoying a lot more than I expected! I found it a sort of cross between The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Equilibrium. Dystopian fiction worth reading indeed.

FERTS

FERTScoverThe war is over. Resources are scarce. The population is dwindling in the Forkstream Territories.

Pinnacle Officer Wilcox has created FERTS amidst the chaos, a facility designed to protect the female population from raiding hordes.

Beth 259201, a newly-demoted Epsilon Internee, suspects that there is something more that lurks beneath the carefully constructed order of the facility.

 

She has a gift, one that could brand her a defective. A novice fighter, she must use her intellect to survive. Her own life, and the lives of many more may be at risk. Will she succumb to the plans in store for her or will she conceal her secret long enough to discover her own path?

My Review: 4 Stars

While it took me a chapter or two to get into the book, by page 30 I was fascinated. I found myself curious to find out more about these “Beths” (each with their own unique number) and the horrible “breeding world” in which they lived. I LOVED the way the girls were ranked according to the various factors (attractiveness, musculature, personality, etc.). It was a fascinating look at what would happen if modern society broke down “being a woman” into numbers and formulas.

The story overall was pretty good, though I found myself enjoying the first 2/3 more than the last part. The climax was good (satisfying ending), but there was quite a bit that felt dangerously close to Deus Ex Machina.

SPOILER: DO NOT READ IF YOU HATE SPOILERS!! The character develops a sort of telepathy or precognition, but I didn’t catch the explanation of how or why. Unique powers like that need explanation or a reason why. END SPOILERS

A lot of details were also left vague, unclear, or unexplained. While the initial world-building was excellent, too many questions were left unanswered. Not the least of which was what made the main Beth so different from all the other Beths around her.

But, all in all, a good book, and one I’d highly recommend to any dystopian fans!

Here’s a Taste:

Cerberus strode out through the rear of the observation tower, leaving Quinton to his track and surveillance duties. The console zoomed in through trees to show the clear, glowing bright red outline of a young Internee, bent at the waist, visibly panting. Her hand gripped the tree beside her as she crouched, other hand planted firmly on her right knee to steady herself. She had lasted all of two minutes, the Ward Beacon surely must be having some kind of effect on her Implant Marker by now. Quinton looked more closely through the cracked monitor, admiring the sharp outline of her jaw, the defiant spread of her shoulders, as she leaned back against the tree, resisting the call.

“Go back,” he whispered.

She raised her head, as if sensing something.

He checked her file in the logs, Epsilon Circuit, three years trained, two years fight duty. Beth 259251. They were all marked as Beth, only the numbers would change between Internees. She was assigned to Epsilon Circuit due to a hormonal imbalance at fourteen. She had contracted a common autoimmune disorder, causing her fertility rating to drop to a 5.6, but it was her muscle mass that relegated her to the betting Circuit of Epsilon. Her muscle mass was far above regulation and despite her condition she was physically strong, testing high on agility. Her fight record was exemplary, a formidable opponent for any challenger from the Epsilon Internee fight pool.

The endurance monitor blipped. Her heart had begun to stutter. She had five, maybe six minutes to get back within the ward zone before her time ran down.

“Back, come on,” he muttered.

It was none of his concern, certainly nothing he would voice in front of the other Operators for fear of derision. The Internees were plentiful, and the common Epsilon fellows were worth far less than the price of a basic ration.

The endurance monitor spiked, displaying elevated cortisol and increased respiration. She clung to the bark under her fingers, scrabbling for equilibrium. He had seen this routine so many times before and had grown tired of the spectacle. He could do without another demonstration tonight.

Before long, Beth 259251 stood to her full height, appearing to move towards the ward zone. Quinton exhaled, shifting back in his seat, ready to log her return. She hesitated, then turned to face the sparse plains of the suspension zone. Each small step was heavy, but she persevered, dragging her body further from the tower reach. The beacon’s steady hum permeated the forest. Her hands crept up to cover her ears, routinely dropping back down in futility. One minute and forty-five seconds later she dropped to her knees, heart rate spiking, shuddering. The endurance monitor blipped once last time as her form faded to a dull green on the console.

“Recovery detail, suspension zone border.” He called out the coordinates into his radio, ignoring the crackle, repeating the details to ensure they had been received.

“Confirmed, Quinton. Log response time at 18:16.”

“Proceed as logged,” Quinton replied. He hissed a breath out through his teeth. The Epsilon fellow was no longer his concern.

About the Author:

Grace Hudson lives in Melbourne, Australia, land of sun, surf and drop bears!

She spends a lot of time in her writing cave but can be tempted to come out to check social media from time to time.

Her debut dystopian novel, “FERTS” was released in June 2015. Open Doors, an Aussie urban fantasy was released in Feb 2016. The Rogue Thread (Book 2 of FERTS) and Alpha Field (Book 3 of FERTS) are the latest releases for 2017.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/FERTS-Book-1-Grace-Hudson-ebook/dp/B010II21DW/

Read Grace’s thoughts on her website: http://www.gracehudson.net

Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GraceHudsonAuthor/

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/GraceHudsonAU

 

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Guest Post: What We Learn When We Rewrite

Today, I’m fortunate enough to have a guest post written by an awesome editor and friend, the epic Michael Dellert. His post: the nitty gritty of re-writing!

What We Learn When We Rewrite

The only truly creative aspect of novel-writing is the first draft. That’s when the story comes straight from head and your heart, a direct tap into the subconscious. After that, the rest of it—the rewrite—is grunt work. But it’s grunt work that has to be done, and work from which we can learn.

When I first sat down in 2014 to write my first book (Heron’s Cry), I was essentially teaching myself to write all over again. I jokingly referred to the whole undertaking as, “the first thing I’ve written since my college Creative Writing workshop that’s more complicated than a grocery list.”

As the author of Fear of Flying so succinctly put it:

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.” – Erica Jong

That was my experience as a writer for many years as well. I was so adamant about writing well (grammatically) that I never got to the end. I was “that guy,” the writer who keeps polishing the first three chapters—but doesn’t finish the work.

Then I heard the phrase, “Perfect is the enemy of done.” I realized I wasn’t helping myself as a writer by being such a perfectionist. And so I adopted a new approach to my work and started writing Heron’s Cry.

The Matter of Manred

Forward!

First, I gave myself a strict deadline: Thirteen weeks. And I put a hell of a consequence on that deadline. If I didn’t type, “The End” by 5pm on the 91st day of the project, I wouldn’t ever call myself a writer again. After 30 years of self-identifying that way, I didn’t know what else I would call myself, so it meant a lot to me to keep that goal.

By not backtracking each day, I was always moving forward, getting closer and closer to the last page where I could finally type, “The End.” By writing that first draft all the way through without looking back, I got my internal editor off my shoulder. The first draft was all creative stuff that just “came to me,” often as a surprise. Reading what I wrote afterward, I often mumbled, “Wow. I wrote that!” I let my stream of consciousness flow, and the words appeared on the monitor. And I was amazed at how damn good they were. Or at least, how damn good I thought they were.

Backward!

But not surprisingly, that first draft was a huge, unwieldy thing. I had aimed for just 65000 words, the minimum word-count for what I considered “a novel,” but I came in at more than 120k words.

And as amazingly good as I thought the words were, there was no doubt they needed major revisions before I could even think about publication.

But I wasn’t discouraged. Hell, I had just done what for thirty years had been impossible for me: I’d finished the first draft of a novel. A whole new world had opened up to me. I could finish a story. The world hadn’t ended. No nuns with wooden rulers came around to rap me on the knuckles. The sun still rose in the east every morning.

So since then, I’ve been editing Heron’s Cry. I’m not in a rush. I don’t have a deadline, I enjoy the process, and I’m a stubborn person. When many other writers might have shoved that manuscript under the bed or buried it deep within a desk drawer after the fifth or sixth edit, I continue to comb through it with renewed enthusiasm. My protagonist is becoming more proactive, the plot more tightly woven. I’m embedding subtle clues and red herrings through the narrative as I become more adept at plotting.

The Rewrite Process

So how do I do it?

My earliest edits in Heron’s Cry consisted of cutting, and this is a practice I’ve kept up through my subsequent works. I’ve learned to embrace that oft-repeated mantra that every scene must move the story forward or, at the very least, define character. If I can’t justify a scene, it’s gone. I got over the trauma of cutting—words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and even (yelp!) whole chapters. And I applied those lessons to my other books, creating lean but complicated fantasies.

Needless to say, this hasn’t been easy. But I discovered a way that made it less painful: I created a “Cuts” document. Everything I cut went into that separate file, “for posterity.” Nothing was ever truly gone. If I changed my mind, I could reinsert it with the click of a button. The “Cuts” document for Heron’s Cry is 190 double-spaced pages (about 47000 words).

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And what I found was that a lot of those cuts were backstory and exposition, not relevant to the story at hand. So I started book number two, Hedge King in Winter, as an excuse to tell that backstory and repurpose that exposition. And then I went on to book three, A Merchant’s Tale, and then my first published full-length novel, The Romance of Eowain, and now my forthcoming new novel, The Wedding of Eithne.

As I mature as a writer, the “Cuts” document for each book is shrinking because I’m learning to evaluate scenes before I write them. For The Wedding of Eithne, the “Cuts” file is just seven pages.

No Rest for the Wicked?

I’ve probably edited Heron’s Cry more than twenty times already. I can flip open the manuscript, glance at a line or two, and know exactly which scene I’m looking at. Around edit number ten of Heron’s Cry, I realized I needed to do a major story revamp, so I copied the entire manuscript into another document for safekeeping. This freed me to be as bold and daring as I liked. If I mess something up in the revision, I still have that earlier version to fall back on. This is a nice strategy for short stories, too.

But when will it be done? I’m not sure yet. Keeping in mind that perfect is the enemy of done, I’ve set deadlines on my other four books, and told the story that leads up to the events in Heron’s Cry. Now that those books are finished and almost all out of the nest, maybe 2017 is the year to bring Heron’s Cry to the world? Or maybe I’ll keep myself guessing.

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About the Author:

Michael E. Dellert is a writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 20 years. His blog, Adventures in Indie Publishing, is a resource for creative writers of all kinds. He is the author of three books in the heroic fantasy Matter of Manred Saga, and his latest book in the series, The Wedding of Eithne, will publish on 28 March, 2017.

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Just for Fun…A Bit of Reading

So I was going over old emails and I stumbled upon the original version of Blade of the Destroyer. This was pre-edits, so there were a lot of things very different.

One very different element was the intro scene! Instead of it starting with Lord Damuria falling from the cliffside to die on the forest floor, there was an actual chase scene with multiple POV characters and multiple deaths. Though it got chopped out in the published version, I thought I’d have some fun and post it here:

(WARNING: 2,400 words, all pre-editing so VERY rough)

 

He is coming. The Hunter is coming.

Lord Damuria’s mind raced as his booted feet crashed through the Forest of Souls, south of the great city of Voramis.

The sounds of forest life around him stilled as he raced past, and the scent of loamy earth filled his nostrils. Pain flared as tree branches whipped at his face, but he had no time to register the sensations. Exhaustion seeped into his muscles, but still he ran, desperate to escape the inexorable bringer of death hounding his trail.

Gods damned Hunter. The image of the Hunter’s last victim–Count Arendus of the House of Damasc–still lingered in Damuria’s mind. What a horrible way to die, hanging by your own entrails, eyes cut out. I refuse to die that way. 

Smoke hung in the air, filling his lungs and setting him coughing. His ruined carriage blazed behind him, the bodies of his guards smoldering among the wreckage. He could taste death on the air.

Behind him, struggling to match his inhuman speed, a trio of men he had hired as heavy muscle followed. They moved through the forest with all the grace of stampeding wildebeests, but Lord Damuria knew the noise of their passage would distract the Hunter. Perhaps even long enough for me to reach the city. Panic rose within him, and he fought to control his panting as he raced.

“My Lord Damuria!” a voice called out from behind him. “Where are you, my lord?”

He could not remember the fool’s name, but he didn’t care. The three would be dead before long. If I don’t move faster, he thought, I may very well share their fate.

 

* * *

 

Elwig’s scream echoed loud in the silence of the forest. He fell to the floor, his leg caught in an exposed root.

“Fuck!” he bellowed in his pain. “My leg!”

“Damn it, Elwig!” Trasik shouted. He could see Elwig’s leg bone protruding through the skin, and blood pooled beneath his fallen companion. Binding the leg will stop the bleeding, but the poor bastard won’t be running anywhere.

He whirled around, his panicking ears searching for the source of the sound he thought he had heard. The crackling of the burning carriage filtered through the silence, and his eyes darted in every direction.

“Alright, Elwig, get-” He stopped mid-sentence as he saw his companion. The tip of a crossbow bolt protruded from Elwig’s face, the man’s eyeball hanging from its socket by a thin strip of flesh.

Trasik’s blood turned to ice in his veins. The Hunter, he thought. Lady’s twisted teats!

Twigs cracked behind him. A strong hand grasped him arm.

“Shut the fuck up, Trasik you cowardly cunt.” Grannt’s harsh voice grated in Trasik’s ears. “You’re supposed to be protecting Lord Damuria, not cowering and hiding.”

“But Elwig-” Trasik whined.

“Is dead, you pig-fucking numbskull. We were hired to protect Lord Damuria, and that’s exactly what we are going to do. Do you want to end up like fat old Lord Drathos?”

Grannt hated being paired with Trasik. The fool is all muscle and no brains. He may be good in a street fight, but is utterly useless when it counted. He struggled to keep the revulsion from his face as he dragged Trasik along behind him. Gods damn the Third for sending him with us.

Terror spread on Trasik’s face. “Head on a spike, cock hanging out of my mouth?” he whispered. “Not a fucking chance!”

“Then run, dimwit!” Grannt shouted, following his words with a hard slap to Trasik’s face. “We have to reach Lord Damuria before the Hunter does the same to him!”

Dragging along a very reluctant, very terrified Trasik, Grannt resumed his sprint through the forest. His ears strained to catch any sound of his employer as he ran.

Where in the hells, he thought, did that pompous twist Damuria get off to now?

 

* * *

 

Lord Damuria’s breath came hard, but at least he had left the smoke behind. An odd thought flickered through his consciousness for a moment.

If only Lord Daavros could see me now…

His rich robes were the envy of Voramis, cut in the latest fashion and tailored to fit his body like a glove. What had once been costly silk was now little more than a hindrance, and he cast aside the heavy cloak in favor of greater freedom of movement.

Brightly colored fabrics worth a worker’s yearly wages ripped on branches. What I wouldn’t give for a drab cloak of a sensible color, instead of these garish clothes that stand out in the forest!

Soot from the burning carriage streaked his face and clothes, and mud caked both knees. His dark hair, once so coiffed and controlled, flew in the wind, sticks and leaves tangling in his locks with every step.

Never in his life had he run so far so fast, but desperation pumped through his veins as he pushed through the forest. His feet kept time with his racing pulse, and his heart felt like it would beat free of his chest.

He is hunting me, thought the fleeing lord. That merciless creature of death, that force of nature. The Hunter of Voramis. A wild, feral smile broke out on his face as he ran. He will find I am not so easy a kill.

 

* * *

 

Trasik’s terror had subsided, but Grannt could see the fool would go into shock if he stopped moving.

“Gods damn it, Trasik, run faster!” he said aloud, turning to find his companion. “We have to catch up with Lord Damuria before-”

He was alone in the forest. Trasik was nowhere in sight.

What the fuck? Grannt thought, sliding to a stop. He was just here…

His thoughts trailed off as he saw the headless corpse on the ground behind him. Trasik’s head rolled to a stop between two elder trees. Blood streaked the man’s blond hair, and the spreading stain of blood contrasted with the pristine white flowers in full bloom. The sweet scent of honeysuckle hung thick in the forest, but all Grannt could taste was the coppery tang of Trasik’s blood where it had spattered him.

“Keeper’s shriveled taint!” he cursed aloud. “Gods damn you, Hunter!”

He drew the pair of daggers he always carried hidden beneath his clothing, but knew they would do little against his merciless foe. Still, he thought, I will not meet The Watcher with empty hands.

 

* * *

 

Lord Damuria risked an anxious glance over his shoulder as he ran, and it almost cost him his head. Sheer luck allowed him to avoid a low-hanging branch, but he nearly lost his footing as he ducked. The forest flashed by in a mottled brown and green blur, but the aristocrat kept his eyes firmly focused ahead.

Fuck damned Hunter. I have to be outpacing Him.

No time to think, no time to look around. Just run, his panicking mind told him.

He had left his guards far behind in his hurry to escape. Their lives were his, bought and paid for, and he was happy to spend them in his escape from the Hunter.

They should slow Him down long enough for me to reach Voramis, and safety. The Bloody Hand will protect me from Him.

His optimism was little more than wishful thinking. Ever out of sight, deep in his subconscious, Lord Damuria knew He was there. The thick forest around him would not hide the terrified noble from the Hunter’s merciless blade.

The Hunter would follow him until his strength failed him, and the chase would culminate in death. But whose death, that remains to be seen.

As if the Hunter could penetrate his mind, a thought flickered through Lord Damuria’s mind: Run. I will find you. Run and, hide little mortal. Wherever you go, you cannot escape me.

Was it just his imagination?

 

* * *

 

“Come on, you bastard!” Grannt shouted at the silent forest. “You’ll not take me that easily!”

The familiar leather grips of his knives, worn smooth by years of use, comforted the man. A wicked smile spread on his face as he remembered the dozens of men and women who had met their end on the sharp steel.

I’ll not share the fate of Elwig and Trasik. His eyes flicked in every direction, searching for any sign of his hunter.

There! He had seen a flash of motion, the barest hint of something flickering in the shadows beneath the forest canopy. I see you now, you bastard.

The dark figure of the Hunter rushed towards him in a blur of motion, gliding through the trees at superhuman speed. Grannt’s face split into a feral grin, and he thrust forward with the knife in his right hand, expecting to impale the cloaked and hooded creature.

His knife found empty air and he stumbled forward, off balance. He tried to swing with his left hand, but his arms refused to move. His body felt numb, detached.

Looking down, Grannt saw blood spill down the front of his cloak. Bright red gushed from a gaping wound in his throat, turning the rich earth beneath him to ochre mud.

Odd. Grannt’s final thoughts came with startling clarity. The bastard didn’t even slow down…

 

* * *

 

Lord Damuria struggled to fill his lungs with air. The nagging pain in his side blossomed into agony, yet still he ran.

He struggled to clear his mind, to push the terror away. Fear would get him killed, like it had so many of the victims the Hunter had claimed in Voramis over the years.

If I don’t outrun Him, if He kills me, our plans will come to naught. All we have worked for, all our efforts, wasted.

His mind cast about for a way of escape, and a sudden thought struck him.

The cliffs. If I can reach the cliffs, I have a chance. I can outpace Him, and the only way He’ll follow is if the bastard sprouts wings. A feral smile spread across his face.

“You’ve not caught me yet, Hunter!” Lord Damuria panted aloud.

 

* * *

 

The craggy cliff face rose ahead of him, towering high above the tops of the forest. Almost there! I just need to climb the damn thing, and I’ll be-

The thick head of a crossbow bolt embedded itself into his right shoulder with an agonizing “thunk”, plowing destruction through his upper body and sending him stumbling.

Lord Damuria grimaced as he fell to one knee, the hard bone of his kneecap encountering a sharp rock buried beneath the soft loam of the forest floor.

He barely managed to stop himself from falling to his face, throwing out his right hand to arrest his forward motion. Waves of agony radiated from his broken shoulder, and muscles torn by the crossbow bolt refused to hold him.

Can’t stop!  the animal within him screamed. Lord Damuria knew that if he stopped running, he would never escape.

He pushed himself to his feet, struggling to ignore the sensation radiating through his upper body. A glance at the head of the bolt protruding from his shoulder showed him what he feared most: argam.

The thick black tar was highly toxic, and he could see the sticky poison turning his blood a sickly green. He knew he was already dead, but refused to give in.

Lord Damuria felt hot wetness on his back. His blood. He could smell the poison, the putrid stench of blood turned rotten by the argam.

And still he refused to yield to his certain fate. The argam’s venom clouded his brain, but he fought for clarity.

If I can reach the top of that cliff, I can escape. He would have to endure the pain of his shattered shoulder if he was to outrun the Hunter.

His was a maniacal, desperate laugh, bellowing forth with the futility of the situation. I will not die so easily, Hunter.

Lord Damuria stumbled forward, picking up speed as he ran towards the cliff face. Throwing himself as high into the air as he could, he slammed into the rock wall. The impact knocked the breath from him, but he was beyond caring.

He hung from the cliff, the ache in his arm spreading with the argam. The pain of his shattered shoulder cut through the mind-numbing effects of the poison like a knife; a very dull knife.

Hand over hand, the stubborn lord pulled himself towards the top of the cliff. His parched throat begged for water, but he focused on one thought: reach the top.

Time slowed to a crawl as Damuria climbed. Thoughts of the Hunter faded, even though a part of him knew the bastard was right behind him. He struggled through the pain, fighting to reach the top of the cliff.

He could see the top, could almost feel the breezes of the plains above whispering across his face. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself rushing across the plain towards his city, Voramis. Only there would he be safe.

His hand reached for the lip of the cliff, shaking with exhaustion. You’ll never catch me now, Hunter, Lord Damuria thought. I’ve escaped your-

A scream ripped from Lord Damuria’s throat as the crossbow bolt slammed into his leg. The tip of the bolt buried itself into the cliff face, pinning him to the rock.

Green oozed from his leg. This bolt too had been coated with the venomous argam. Damuria’s body became sluggish, the poison spreading quickly through his body. Thick green blood stained the rock wall. My blood.

His fingers cramped, stiffened. He felt his hold on the cliff wall weakening.

It is inevitable.

Another bolt streaked towards him from below. The broad head of the bolt severed his hand at the wrist. Blood spurted for a long second before dwindling to a trickle. His pain and poison-numbed mind registered that he had little blood left to lose.

Lord Damuria knew it was the end.  I refuse to meet the Long Keeper like a butterfly mounted for display.

With a final gasp of agony, he thrust himself away from the cliff face. The bolt in his leg held him suspended for a long moment, but the force of his fall ripped it from the rock.

The wind seemed to hold his body up as he fell, and he experienced a moment of weightlessness. Then, after what seemed like a pain-filled lifetime, his body was released into the clutches of gravity and he plummeted towards the forest floor.

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The Hardest Thing About Character Development

Today, I’m fortunate to have a guest post by the awesome L.E. Fitzpatrick, author of The Reacher series. It’s on a topic near and dear to my heart: character development…

The Hardest Thing About Character Development

I’m a character writer, which basically means the characters always come first. Before I have a plot, a setting, even an idea, I have a character. In The Reacher series the first characters that came to me were the two brothers; John and Charlie. I knew that one of them would be serious and almost robotic, while the other would be tormented and broken. They were created in a split second while I was getting out of the shower and, at that moment, I knew who both men where, what they felt and thought, what they would do in any situation. I guess I probably know them better than I know myself.

From that concept you’d think character development would be easy right? Well it wasn’t. I had these characters at a present moment, the moment the book would be set and I had them in epic detail. What I didn’t have was a back story. Why was John so serious? Why was Charlie broken? I had the dynamic of their relationship but no idea why John supported his effectively useless brother (and at the early stages they weren’t even brothers). So it was time to scratch my head and think for a while.

The back story was like an archaeological dig. I had to take these two men and brush back the layers of dirt to reveal things about them I hadn’t discovered yet. For instance, I started to see that Charlie was broken because he blamed himself for his wife’s death. And that discovery then posed more questions. I had to peel back the story of how his family was torn apart. How he tried to be the perfect husband but failed. Why he failed at a normal life.

Each question expanded the character and for me that expansion always had to be realistic and credible, otherwise it just didn’t work. The character needs to be developed until there can be no more questions. There has to be history and reason behind everything.

It takes time and it can often go in directions you don’t want to go in. When I started The Running Game I was actually going to set it in an alternate past but these characters just didn’t fit there so the setting had to change. And as the setting changed, the world around them grew so quickly it was like it had been there all along.

But that’s the easy bit. The characters, John and Charlie, did all the work for me on the back story. What comes next is where do I take them? How can I change them? How can I fix Charlie and let him forgive himself? How can I make John more human? This is the hardest part for me because there are so many options and I have to pick the best one.

In The Running Game I got to work on fixing Charlie. He needed something to kick his life back on the straight and narrow and in the sequel, Border Lines, you get to see Charlie return to his former self. Now it’s John’s turn. Book three is going to start his journey, but it also is going to start a spiral for other characters too. The thing is life doesn’t stop, it evolves, it erodes, it heals. Plots are the same. My characters age, they make mistakes, they have successes but they never stop spiralling and as an author the biggest challenge is keeping that spiral going.

 

About the Author:

L E Fitzpatrick is a writer of dark adventure stories and thrillers. Under the watchful eye of her beloved rescue Staffordshire Bull Terrier, she leaps from trains and climbs down buildings, all from the front room of a tiny cottage in the middle of the Welsh countryside.

Inspired by cult film and TV, L E Fitzpatrick’s fiction is a collection of twisted worlds and realities, broken characters, and high action. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of her imagination and creating hugely entertaining stories.

THE RUNNING GAME, is the first in her paranormal thriller series, set in dystopia London under the Creativia label and now BORDER LINES is the second instalment of the Reachers series.

 

L.E. has actually just launched a new book, one I’d highly recommend checking out:

BORDER LINES

When the perfect job comes up, Charlie doesn’t think twice about taking it. This is the break he’s been looking for and nobody, not even the rest of his team, can persuade him otherwise.

Border Lines Complete
The job means working for an old enemy and crossing the border into London. Both are risky, but Charlie has no idea how high the stakes really are. The team will have to confront their past, each other and a killer who is closer than they realize. But can they all make it out of the city alive?

“We all remember that kid in Piccadilly. That determined look he had on his face as he willed all those people to him. Just using his mind, he pulled them close then blew them all to pieces. It could be anyone. Your neighbour, your friend, your lover. Remain vigilant. Reachers are everywhere.”

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/L-E-Fitzpatrick/e/B005DD5CE8
Connect via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lefitzpatrickbooks/

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/L_E_Fitzpatrick

Read her thoughts on her website: www.lefitzpatrick.com

 

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Guest Post: Looking Up

Today, I have the pleasure of posting not my own thoughts, but someone else’s. The post below is written by Michael Bolan, the author of The Devil’s Bible series. I thought it was quite an intriguing one, and definitely worth sharing:

Looking Up:

When I was seventeen, I crashed my car. I had passed my driving test a few months before and I lost control, and pretty much destroyed the car. Luckily, I walked away, physically unscathed, but with the most vivid memories of the experience: the fencepost stabbing through the roof beside me; the windscreen frosting with cracks but never quite shattering; the seatbelt-defined bruise on my chest that made breathing an agonising ecstasy. People talk about hyperawareness in times of stress: it’s true.

Since that day, I have often thought about how much information the human brain can (and does) process on a daily basis. The internet suggests we have up to 600,000 thoughts per day, but we give no conscious attention to over 98% of them. Imagine what we are missing. We tune out so many stimuli to prevent our minds from being overloaded that the world’s beauty often goes unnoticed. Being able to focus and concentrate on one thought, one idea, at a time, without being distracted by outside influences, is something which takes patience and focus.

My wife is always espousing the benefits of mindfulness, not just in her yoga practice, but in her day-to-day life. Mindfullness can be noticing and experiencing each footfall as you walk down the street, hearing a lone bird singing over the noise of the traffic, or simply being aware of the individual elements of your environment, and the way they interact.  The more you pay attention, using each sense to listen, feel, see and experience your surroundings, the more you can understand and, ultimately, describe it to your readers.

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I always found it hard to really come to grips with the concept, but a friend explained it to me in a way that I could understand. She recently spent some time in London, and on her return asked my opinion of the city. When I explained my dislike, she asked if I had remembered to look up.

Try it the next time you are in London. Above the neon hoardings and household brands there are a thousand stories told in the buildings’ facades: the gung-ho adventurous beginnings of the insurance industry; the international traders circumnavigating the globe hundreds of years ago; or the families where generation after generation carried their company through good times and bad.

But the principle isn’t just valid in Piccadilly Circus. And it has a lot (everything?) to do with being an author. Most authors write from their own experiences; their stories are shaped by what they have gone through, who they have met, etc. The gift is to process and record those experiences such that they can be used at a later date. But they also need to describe things that they haven’t experienced, that can only be learned through close, careful and undistracted observation. A storyteller must connect deeply with his characters, must stand in their shoes and experience their lives for himself, even if it is within the confines of his own mind.

When I was researching The Devil’s Bible, I had to stand on the Charles Bridge, imagining what it would have been to hold the bridge against an enemy, muskets firing, fires burning, men and horses screaming. That was the easy part. To ponder the quiet chill of the air or the stiffness of leather armour; to remember that smoke stinks and blood smells sweet and metallic at the same time, that’s what brings prose to life.

So here are my five tips for bringing mindfulness into your practice as an author. But before paying attention to the outside world, it is important first to turn your attention inwards and observe what is happening within yourself. Simply finding a quiet moment to close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, calm the mind, balance emotions and encourage rational, clear thinking, whether you’re facing a blank page or an unsympathetic audience.

  1. Feel

Watch how a child experiences the world and try to copy that. Feeling is both physical and emotional, be it the rough surface of a freshly-cut log or the harshness of a parent’s words. It can be a joyous or an uncomfortable experience, but the key is to keep an open and inquisitive mind at all times, and a rich vocabulary to describe it.

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  1. Think/ Don’t think.

Sometimes you need to think, to focus on a problem and grind out a solution. But creativity often calls for people to let go. Think of that cool moment just before you go to sleep when your frontal cortex slows down and stops trying to process all of the day’s stimuli and other parts of the brain run amok. Some writers use alcohol or narcotics to reproduce this effect, but you can do the same through mindfulness. Which is guaranteed hangover-free.

3. Listen

It’s amazing how often we fill in people’s sentences before they have finished speaking, hearing what we want to hear, not what is actually being said. Actively listening means that you hear and process what is being said, and what it means. And don’t just listen to people’s words – hear the timbre and inflections of their voice, notice their gestures and expressions. After all, words make up less than 10% of communication.

  1. Don’t rush.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and even God took a rest on Sunday. Learning to become mindful takes time. Removing distractions, being aware of our surroundings, filtering out background noise, experiencing completely – these things are tiring and take time to master. Be patient and practice a little every day, and soon the art of clear observation will become habit.

5. Begin

Try this now. Put down your laptop or smartphone. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. Slowly open your eyes and spend one minute fully experiencing your immediate environment. What can you hear, see, feel, taste, smell? Try to put your experiences into words. Write them down if it helps. Then take your new sense of connection to your environment into the world, and reflect that in your writing.

I first realised that something had changed in my thinking process when one of my lead characters surprised me by plucking his own eyes out. I had been purposely thinking about other things to clear my mind, when he upped and mutilated himself. When I complained to fellow authors, they pointed out that the author’s role is not to force characters to do what he or she wants them to; it’s to record the story that is happening.

So the next time you find a character not playing ball, or a storyline trailing off into nowhere, stop, listen and observe. The answer is there, you just have to find it. And hopefully it won’t take a car crash to shift your thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

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