Tony’s Thinking…Might as well face it, you’re addicted to writing

Today I was waiting for a very slow (It was still going 8 hours after I started it…) progress bar to finish. I’m used to this; working in computers is often a slow and patient business, and luckily I’m a slow and patient guy, or I wouldn’t be in the job I’m in.

Anyway, while I waited, I thought I’d write something off the top of my head, just to pass the time. Came out with a pretty good 1100 word story which I might publish somewhere.

The subject of the story is a bored housewife who takes up writing to pass the time, and on a whim sends her novel away to an agent. I won’t tell you the ending, but it got me thinking:

Is writing addictive? Is there a compulsion to write? I was twiddling my thumbs, and the first thing I thought of was: I’ll write something.

I’d just finished a seven month project to write a 35k novel (Update: That turned into Eight Mile Island), and here I was again: writing.

Here am I writing about writing, for heavens sake.

At least if I’m addicted – or obsessed – it’s quite a benign addiction; can’t see myself knocking over a fast food restaurant so I can find the money for more pens, for instance. But I would like to have some sort of life apart from hitting keys all day!

It’s fun ‘teaching’ it to people, and seeing their work and sharing it, but isn’t that just feeding my addiction?

I know I should be out there doing other things. I think there’s something called…ummm…’Fresh Air’, is it? I’d like to try that one day, just to see what it’s like. I think it comes with a side dish of ‘Exercise’, which sounds awfully strenous.

There are benefits to this addiction as well, I know. There aren’t many addictions where you earn money rather than spend it, and the more time you spend on your addiction, the more it earns you.

I’d love to earn enough to pay my mortgage, even if that wasn’t enough to take up writing full time (At the minute, I’m working on buying a new fridge!), but I can’t really imagine myself writing full time…what would that be like? How strict would you have to be with yourself to think of what you do as ‘your job: writer’, and not goof around on the internet all day. (Speaking of which, how are my sales doing on Amazon…).

So, in conclusion: Am I addicted to writing? Is there a cure? Would I want to take it if there was?

Now I have another story idea…an injection that stops creativity…

See what I mean?

Mel’s Thinking…Christmas Tidings and Busy Times

Noel

Hope everyone has been enjoying the holiday period with friends, family, books… All that time off from work, but it still seems busy!

I have to apologise for the haphazard postings in the last few weeks – I’ve been attempting to finalise my second book and unfortunately putting together blog posts and pulling together the interviews etc. is quite time consuming and so I’ve not been able to do both. Having taken a little break from posting those – they will be back up in the new year when I get some time back again.

2012 has been an interesting and busy year – we’re approaching the first birthday of the blog (January) – and it’s surprising how much has happened when you look back over the twelve months.

The Indie Author Event in May was great, and will perhaps feature again in 2013 with some little changes. My favourite features are the guest posts – when authors and readers talk to us about something a little different, perhaps more openly than a straight interview allows. I’ve also really enjoyed meeting the other bloggers who contribute to Aside From Writing, which has changed from the ‘real world’ friends that started the blog in January (and disappeared quite quickly after a couple of months) to the ‘book world’ friends that I’ve met in the last twelve months through Goodreads: Emily, Tony, Stephanie and Jade.

So…what now for 2012? I’m going to have to think about that…but I am looking forward to getting some new features up and running, and posting a little more regularly! 🙂 See you in 2013 – Mel x

———————————

Aside from Writing’s Year in Numbers

10,300 Hits, 215 Posts, 259 Comments

1 Blogger surviving the whole first year

3 Bloggers evapourating (metaphorically, not literally)

3 New Bloggers appearing

98 Facebook Friends

907 Tweets, 153 Followers

0 People on Pinterest (I just can’t figure it out!)

———————————–

Tony’s Rambles: The Curious Curse of the Cellular Phone

Sherlock Holmes lit his foul briar pipe and settled back into his chair, staring moodily out at the London fog.

“It has made your life much harder, Watson.”

Watson, startled out of examining his latest ApplePlum phone, looked up. “Sorry, old boy?”

“Cellular phones, Watson, cellular phones.”

“Not following old boy.”

Holmes leaned forward, his thin face harsh angles in the firelight. “No, of course not Watson, of course not. Now, observe and note.”

He leaned back again and ticked off points on his fingers.

“Firstly, description of character. I had to rely on hearsay and exaggeration. Now you bring that thing -,” (he waved towards Watson’s phone) ” – press a button, and bring me a precise image.”

“True, Holmes, true.”

“Secondly, and I use the vernacular, Watson, you understand, the vernacular. Backup.”

“Backup?”

“How can we be in any peril when you merely bring out your magic device and call for assistance?”

“Impeccably put, Holmes, but what’s your point?”

“As chronicler of my narratives, Watson, you must realise the problem?”

“No, afraid not, Holmes.”

“I will provide you examples then. Take the Hound of the Baskervilles. Someone snaps a photograph on that machine of yours, and the mystery is solved. A mysterious ghostly hound? No, obviously just a dog painted with phosphor. Add a Geotag, and tell us exactly where and when.”

“Ah, yes. That would spoil the mystery somewhat.”

“And are we in peril, Watson, when Lestrade and London’s finest can be called at any time?”

“By Lor Holmes! You’re right!” There was a pause while Watson considered. “What am I to do, Holmes? As a writer of fiction, my readers demand suspense. They demand drama.”

“There are few options, Watson. Break it. Let the potential energy run down, the battery as you would say. Leave it at home. Have it stolen.”

Watson spluttered. “What about my RSS? My Twitter updates?”

“Sorry, old friend. They have to be forfeited. You cannot write tension and drama into a story while that thing is in your pocket.”

Watson considered the slab of plastic and rare earth metals in his hand for a long moment, then placed it on the table beside him.

Holmes slapped his thighs and cocked his head to one side. “Excellent, Watson, excellent! Now if I’m not mistaken, that’s Mrs Hudson on the stairs and a woman with size four feet following. Your tension and drama are restored, and  the game is afoot, my friend…”

Tony’s Thoughts: Do I need a webpage?

This is a little involved, but bear with me for a moment while I tell you a story. I’m good at that, so my reviewers say. 😉

I’ve been playing with the settings on my webpage recently, trying to iron out some random noisy statistics.

For those who don’t know, there are automated ‘spiders’ and ‘bots’ that index webpages for search engines. They crawl through the entire site, picking out keywords and then report back to their makers. Or something like that.

Anyway, I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from random places like China and South America, and as much as it inflates my ego to think that my fame spreads across the globe, looking closer tells me another story. There are bots and spiders out there that steal images and content from your site and eat up your bandwidth. In webpage terms, more bandwidth = more cost, and these bots can get bad enough to eat it all if you don’t stop them, with the result that the people hosting my webpage will turn it off.

I think the steps I’m taking to combat these bots are working, and when I look at my statistics for my webpage, I know by the traffic drop-off that they seemed to have stopped. And so does everyone else, for that matter: zero visitors yesterday. Compared to Facebook, which had thirty or so visits.

Another thing on my mind is that my webpage is ‘rented’ by me from a hosting company, and the renewal is up in December. It’s quite cheap, but money is money at the end of the day.

So here’s the thing: The sudden drop in statistics, the renewal thing have all got me thinking:

Do I need a webpage at all?

It’s in all the how-to-become-an-internet-successful-author books, right there at the top: Get a webpage, get on Facebook, get on Twitter, get yourself virtually out there and networking.

And the webpage is the least successful of all of those. My webpage sits there, passively, in a kind of Zen state. Nothing changes, except when I write another book (and I am!).

I could tweak it and put in a blog, download some applications to do that. But why? That’s what WordPress is for. I drop in links to where my books are sold…again, WordPress.

I could tweak it and put in a forum, do some social networking. But why? That’s what Facebook and Twitter are for.

I could drop in a secure store, but I’m happy to link back to my booksellers on Amazon and Smashwords.

So my point is that everything on my webpage I could spend weeks doing myself (or a small fortune paying someone else), I can do somewhere else. Simpler, faster, cheaper, more interactive. So why do I have a webpage? For instance, I’m posting this on two blogs – not my webpage.

Almost, the personal webpage is becoming redundant. The links on it point to other pages where people can at least interact with me – I’m having a fun debate on Facebook on making up some futuristic profanity for my work-in-progress at the minute.

I’m not planning to dump it tomorrow – for one thing, I get free email hosting tony-talbot@tony-talbot.co.uk, which I like.

I’ll keep you updated when the site comes up for renewal in December 2013. And where will that update be?

Not on my webpage, that’s for sure.

Are personal webpages irrelevant? What do you think?

Tony’s Thinking…Making a World from Scratch

Whenever I write a story – any story, short or otherwise – the first thing I have to do is make a world for the characters to live in. It’s perhaps the easiest part of the process, but still one which needs some thinking over before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

For a start, it’s important to think logically and sensibly about the world your character is going to find themselves in, and to adapt either your characters or your world to suit your story. If your character is in a wheelchair for example, you’re going to need some way of getting them upstairs without breaking up the story, or else confine them to one floor.

Let’s take a solid example: The haunted house. And by that, I also mean the haunted town (See Stephen King’s IT for example) or even the haunted spaceship (which is essentially the plot of Alien).

Let’s walk through those examples and see what we can do with the worlds they need.

So your character – let’s call him Joe – has found themselves in your haunted house. You want Joe to stay there, at least until the story is finished…or until Joe is…

First question about this world: Why doesn’t Joe simply leave?

I know if I was in a haunted house, logically, sensibly, I’d head for a door. But I need some walls for the story…can’t have Joe wandering off without finishing what I’ve got him here for!

The door is locked? Fine. What about a window? Bars across them?

Hmm…okay. Now I’ve got Joe looking round the little haunted house I’ve just made and interacting with it.

Can he smash the glass and shout through the window for help? No, the house is on an island. Now I’m expanding the house to the local area around it.

Can he use his cell phone to call for help? Flat battery. No signal.

The point is, whatever Joe chooses to do at this point, the little world I’ve made won’t let him until he finishes the story. Joe is going to get increasingly desperate to get out, and at some point in his wandering through the haunted house, he’s going to meet the bogeyman and one of them won’t make it out alive.

In Stephen King’s IT, he has the main characters trapped by the fact that they’re children, and only children can see the Big Bad. Where else could they go? They can’t leave exactly leave town at the age of twelve. In Alien, the crew of the spaceship are trapped inside a literal vacuum of space while the monster stalks them.

And walls don’t always have to be physical. Joe could hear his little sister screaming upstairs, and there’s no way he’s going to walk away from that. Even if he gets out of the house, he’s going to go right back in there and rescue her like a good brother.

This is a simple example, but you can hopefully see how the world has adapted as I’ve needed it to. A character who can easily walk out of a story isn’t going to make an interesting read.

So when you create a story, think about how the world you create will shape that story, and think – logically and sensibly, no matter what the genre – how you can keep your characters there until the end. Keep bouncing them against the walls you’ve made for them until they break through.

Tony’s Thinking…Why Stephen King Missed His Calling

I’ve read quite a few Stephen King books. Not all of them by any means – I believe the list is now up to sixty two, – but I’ve read enough of them to know his writing pretty well.

We all know the genre: Joe Average (who has a habit of being a writer) finds himself in a supernatural situation, gets himself out of it – though doesn’t always survive mentally.

And fair enough, some of them are gruesome to the max – I believe all aspiring writers should read Misery, just as an object lesson to run from anyone who tells you, ‘I’m your Number One Fan’, and as a delve into the writing process.

But I digress, and back to my point.

I put it to the world: He missed his calling. The man was born to write YA.

I came across the review Em posted on here for The Long Walk, and flicking through my shelves of King today, it occurred to me that the works I think are his best are all, at heart YAs: IT. The Long Walk. The Body (Stand by Me, for those who only know the film). The Talisman. Christine. Carrie.

But what about the horror? What about the profanity? Some might ask. I’d ask if they’d read any YA recently. I’d pick up a Bali Rai and point out the profanity in there. I’d pick up a Darren Shan and show you the gore inside. He’s not written anything in the books I’ve mentioned above that couldn’t be handled by a teenager.

The simple fact is Stephen King works best when he’s writing about teenagers and children.

He knows on a fundamental level how they tick, the elemental fears that move and shake them. He knows how a dark cellar scares the lunch out of them, how sunlight gleaming from the ankle bracelet of the first girl you ever love melts your heart.

And he knows the value of childhood friendships (The Body: I never had any friends later on like I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did anyone?), the easy pain cruel parents inflict on their children – and not always physically.

That’s why his horror works so well…he knows the fears of childhood and knows we’ve all been there. Who’s never been frightened by a clown like Pennywise in IT? Personally, I don’t remember a time I didn’t find clowns scary.

Even Christine, which is perhaps a borderline case for YA, is all about the losers in high school, full of teenage angst and anger. Breaking the rules for the first time to get what you want, breaking away from your parents.

Stephen King missed his calling. He’s wasted on all those adults! YA’s should take him as one of their own!

So I put it to the world: Start a campaign. Stephen King should write YA!


Tony’s Thinking…Starting a work in progress

I finished my fourth novel, Eight Mile Island, back in June 2012, but what with holidays and a trip to the USA this summer and feeling pretty burned out, I took a break before I started something new. I think you have to do that, give yourself a chance to recover and give your imagination a chance to reset.

I started thinking about Book Five (No title yet!) just about as I was finishing Eight Mile, and I was working on ending the world in grey-goo nanotechnology (I was going to ramp up the pacing so it happened in maybe a week…). I did a little research around nanotech, some background reading…but I kept bumping into nothing when I started writing. Nothing was coming out and screaming, “Write me!”

For a few weeks, I had only a first chapter that wasn’t going anywhere…a good first chapter, with some interesting characters, but nothing else.

Let me tell you, writers block is bad; writers block before you start is even worse. I was going nowhere.

I’m a regular subscriber to a science and technology magazine, and the August 2012 edition had an article about a company (Project Blue Seed, if you want to Google it), planning to build a business community offshore of the coast of California in 2014. There was some speculative artwork about building whole cities, maybe whole nations out there in the deep seas…

…and bang, new idea for Book Five! Something that definitely screamed “Write me!” It’s Waterworld, I thought, except it won’t be when I’m finished with it…

About a week later, I was dozing in the back garden on a Saturday afternoon, thinking about not much, when Muse threw up an image of a girl on a jet ski heading towards one of those cities, and then a dozen more ideas followed, then more and more. Suddenly, everything started to feel right, and I started to feel like this is a book I should write next.

So Book Five is off and running now, and I thought I’d share some early thought processes with y’all.

I’ve read a few books on writing novels, the ones that tell you to plan every chapter and every scene, create every character and describe them in detail, but my head doesn’t work like that; I like to be surprised by my characters and I think visually anyway. Starting with Eight Mile Island, I use a mind map, brainstorm, spider diagram, whatever they’re calling them this week.

I stick pictures I snag off the internet next to the ideas I have flying around, then post them to my work in progress board in my ‘office’ where I write.

Here’s the apparently messy result:

Thought Board

First thing to note is there are a LOT of things going on there, and not all of these ideas will end up in the final story, but it’s a place to start.

My WIP board is something I walk past at least twice a day (I keep my work ties on the back of the door in the same room), so I catch the images and words peripherally and let my subconscious work on them, ready for writing when I’ve finished the Day Job. I’ve found it’s a way for me to think about the story all day without working on it consciously.

The quote in the top left is from SF author James Blish. “Who does it hurt? That’s who the story is about.” It might seem obvious, but it’s a fundamental aspect of probably every story you’ve ever read, and every story you should write as well. The designs in the top right are what got me started, a concept for a “lily pad” floating city. I’m thinking of having a deserted London in there, that’s bottom left, and middle and bottom right are concepts for the inside of some of the cities and my “superboat” that’s an integral part of the story.

So that’s the start of my journey into Book Five. It’s going to be interesting to see how many ideas survive and how many die out by the time I finish and get everything edited!

If you think that might work for you, and you have room and a spare wall, having one of these boards might be for you – this one is magnetic and a whiteboard, so it’s twice the fun for half the price. For a size reference, the piece of paper in the middle is A3 (420 x 297mm, 16.5 x 11.7 in).

Have fun!

Random thoughts on Groupon

I know this has absolutely nothing to do with reading, writing or books – but hey-ho, I couldn’t find a decent discussion thread to pop my thoughts into. I’m not actually here to really moan about Groupon, or the range of companies that offer similar things – just really offering an observation on my own use of such sites. (If you don’t care, please feel free to come back tomorrow when there will be a book review!)

When I first discovered Groupon, like many people, I was caught up with the range of offers I could make use of: supercar driving, facials, haircuts and fancy food…lovely! I bought a fair few offers – not a ridiculous amount, but enough. It was a bit like visiting the shops in the sales – I felt like I was missing out because it was a bargain, without always thinking whether I actually needed it. I knew there were a few offers I’d bought and not used – one was a hotel break and Groupon refunded that in credits, so I was happy enough with that – but I hadn’t actually added up how much I’d paid but not used. (I did this today and found that I’d spent £200.00-ish on drift racing, facials, a haircut, days out, etc. that never happened because I didn’t get around to it – not quite the bargain I’d thought!)

This year, I’ve already been much more selective – I tend not to ‘give things a go’ now, because I know I won’t get round to using them, opting only for things I would have paid full price for. We’ve had a couple of terrible meals in places that even hard-up students would not eat (and their pictures looked so good on the website) and so I’ll only get offers from places I’ve heard are good. It’s exactly the same thing you learn about the sales: I’m only interested in offers on stuff that you’d pay full price for in the first place, at places you want to go. Otherwise it’s just a waste of money.

What about you? Are you a Groupon fan, or more Group-off?

Interview with…Author Tony Talbot

 Blog regular Tony Talbot’s latest book, Eight Mile Island, was released recently and to support its launch, we have a special author interview with Tony today, to help you learn a little bit more about him and his writing! 

Here’s Tony!

—————————————-

1. You have invented an operational time machine, where would you go?

I’d go back into the past…maybe 17th century Vienna, and see a Mozart or Beethoven symphony performed for the first time.

2. If you could invite any five people to dinner who would you choose?

Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, John Lennon, Ernest Shackleton and Ada Lovelace. I realise I have four men and one woman in that list!

3. You are stranded on a desert island; what three things would you want to have with you?

The Idiots guide to surviving on a desert island

A satellite phone with 4G Internet

Kelly Brook!

4. What is one book everyone should read?

Ooo…tricky. To Kill a Mockingbird.

5. If you could have any superpower what would you choose?

Flight, every time. Imagine the time I’d save at the airport.

6. What is your favourite flavor of ice cream?

Chocolate.

7. If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?

There’s an Antarctic explorer I’m fascinated with, Apsley Cherry-Garrard. I’d love to pick his brains about Antarctica.

8. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?

Leftover trifle.

9. Night owl, or early bird?

Neither! Mid morning from 11:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon.

10. Pet Peeves?

Driving while on the phone.

11. Do you have any other books in development at the moment? What are your goals for future projects? 

I started the first chapter of book five about the same time as I was finally wrapping up Eight Mile Island. I’d love to do a trilogy one day, but new ideas always pop into my head and I’m off on to something new.

12. Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

I had a reviewer for my first book – Over the Mountain –  say it made them cry…since it is a very sad and serious book, mission accomplished.

13. What’s your favourite season/weather?

I love autumn. The colours are just amazing, and there’s more of a sense that a day with good weather is something you should get outside and enjoy.

14. If you could jump inside the pages of a book, and live in that world.. which would it be?

It would have to be the Harry Potter universe. Wouldn’t a tour of Hogwarts or Diagon Alley be something else?

15. What was your favourite book when you were a child?

I loved Bedknob and Broomstick by Mary Norton. I read it and re-read it time and time again, and it’s one of the reasons I love reading and writing. It soaked into me.

16. Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

All of them have parts of me, and all of them have attributes I wish I had…more bravery, more street smarts. I have to say most of them are smarter than I am!

17. Can you write a Haiku about your book?

very creepy location

from which there is no escape

visit eight mile island

18. What is your favourite quote from a movie?

“Now….bring me that horizon.” Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

—————————————-

You can enter to win your very own copy of Eight Mile Island for Kindle / PDF in our giveaway!

**CLICK HERE**

Welcome to Eight Mile Island. 

Dylan James is used to boarding schools. He’s been thrown out of so many in the past two years, he’s lost count. So when an elite academy in Oregon offers him a place, he doesn’t think he’ll be there more than a week.
 
But Eight Mile Island isn’t like anywhere Dylan has been before. In the dense forests around the school, there are things that look human but aren’t.
 
Things that are hungry, and waiting.
 
But that’s just the start of the mysteries, mysteries that mean Dylan may never escape. Even if he wants to…

————————————–

Want to know more? Check out the links!

Website: http://www.tony-talbot.co.uk

Twitter: @authortony

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonytalbotwriter

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/tony-talbot

Tony’s Thinking…On Losing a Story

A few months ago, I’d just finished writing another novel, and was wondering (maybe dreaming would be a better word) what would happen if I was suddenly granted my wish…to be a full time writer and at that a famous full time writer. Kind of suddenly discovered like JK Rowling, people everywhere reading one of my books.

What would my life be like? Imagine that…never having to leave for work in the morning and never having to drive through snow or rain or rush hour traffic. To sit at my desk all day and (to quote Steven Spielberg) ‘to dream for a living’.

But it wouldn’t be all regular royalty cheques and a quiet home. I know I’d get easily distracted, sitting there in an empty house. I’d be forever checking my Goodreads reviews, my Facebook friends. There would be constant pressure to Tweet my every move. Not to mention the endless meetings and flying to Hollywood to meet with Mr Spielberg for the movie deal, and the endless parties and other things I’m sure I’d hate. Would be tough, I’m sure, having to fly to the Caribbean and lie on a beach.

I digress into my fantasy there, but thinking about how my life would change set me thinking about a story, as such things do. I imagined a housewife, bored with her life. She has everything she ever wanted: beautiful home, devoted husband and adorable kids. But still she’s bored. She’s always defined by how other people see how she relates to her family. She’s always a wife, or a mother…never just her.
Finally, she starts writing one day, just to slay the boredom and the incipient feeling that life has more to offer her. She writes, and she writes, telling no one – this is something just for her. Eventually she writes a novel and sends it to an agent, and they accept it, but still she tells no one what she’s doing.

Which is where the story starts: she’s sitting at her kitchen table, looking at an advance from an agent and a publication deal that would free her from her domestic life forever. All she has to do is cash the cheque and make it to the airport, and her life is her own. The story is about how trapped she feels, and whether she’d be more free if she was suddenly flung into the spotlight.

I loved that story. I really felt for that woman and what she was going through. It might have been realistic if she just told her family what she was doing when they came home, but I wasn’t interested in that; I wanted to go through what she was going through.

But here’s the really terrible thing: I lost that story.
I thought I had it saved on at least ONE of the computers I use, or the memory sticks that hold my work, but I can’t find it. I must have saved it somewhere because (being the tech guy I am) I always hit save before I print. And I printed two copies: one for me and one for a writing friend.
I can’t find my printed copy, and I NEVER throw my work away. I have hopes my writing friend can find it and I can re-type it. I’ve even tried a file recovery…but nothing.

Why not recreate it? You might ask. That’s a hard one to explain…stories are ephemeral, flighty things, gone with a breeze. If I re-write it, it won’t be the same story. I know I won’t be able to recreate the same…intimacy…with the woman in the story, I won’t get into her head the way I did when I wrote it on a whim. I won’t know who she is as well as I did before.

I’ve never lost a story before, and it’s gone as though it never existed. And I feel bereft. I’ve lost a story and it feels like I lost a friend as well, and they’re such hard things to grasp at the best of times. I know all the arguments: hit save, hit save, then hit save again. I did. I do.
But this time it wasn’t enough. Farewell, lonely housewife.

I’ll miss you.

(Stop Press 18th June 2012: My writing friend found my story! Thanks Portia! You can read it here)