Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Book Review: 500 More Ways To Be A Better Writer

500 More Ways To Be A Better Writer - Chuck Wendig - 2012

First off, something you should know; I am a big Chuck Wendig fan. I've been mooching around his blog, Terrible Minds, for over a year now and I'm consistently impressed/amused/educated, in equal measure. This means that anything I read of Chuck's is going to be in light of how much I love his site, especially when the book in question is made up of stuff that he posts on the websphere. Combined with enjoying his fiction, I have a big ol' soft spot for him and his works - he's doing a lot of this on his own and is taking the time to share his thoughts with the world. And very useful thoughts they are too. HOWEVER (said in deep booming voice) if you are in any way;
  • Sensitive
  • Easily offended
  • Disapprove of swearing
  • Think that "zany" is overrated
  • Don't like being shouted at
Walk away. Stop reading. This book (and pretty much most of Mr. Wendigs wordage) will not be your thing. Chuck uses wacky imagery, often, goes off on tandems that have nothing to do with what he's saying, and swears an awful lot. This is why I love his stuff. This is why others hate it. Each to their own. But this review will be based on the notion that you, dear reader, also like these things.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Those Wheels Keep on Turning

Today I received a confirmation email for my story submission with "that anthology" I've mentioned on these here blog spots and it was very exciting to see my name in the list of "contributing authors". Squeal! I now have a confirmed date so I feel like I can share some firm details with you; the anthology is published by Sirens Call Publications, and is entitled "Twisted Realities: Of Myth and Monstrosity", with a release date of May 26th for both eBook and paperback versions. Double squeal!

I still can't quite believe I'm going to be published - in a paying medium no less - but I'm keen to work on that success and look for the "next thing". I've never been a believer in sitting on laurels; if nothing else the same view gets a bit dull after a while. To that end I've been playing with short story ideas, which has in turn slowed down novel writing. But it's turning out to be a good thing. Why? Because I'm seeing faults with my novel that I would never have seen without working on this short story for Sirens Call. Their editor was super and gave really helpful feedback in the copy-edits. If I'm honest I think I learnt more from those few pages of notes than I've learnt from writing 100,000 words of the novel. As a result I bought myself a proper moleskin notebook and have recorded tonnes of improvements I can make. Rather than depress me, I'm finding it's energising me to keep going - the results are going to be worth it.

So the plan at the moment is; keep on trucking with the novel - I believe I've got a cool story there and the characters won't leave me alone now so I don't have a choice. While doing that I'm going to aim to have another short story finished in the next two months and submit it to paying magazines/e-zines. It's amazing how many are out there if you look around enough - and they don't all pay in badger breath! Some give you actual money! The latest I've found is Lightspeed Magazine, who have open submissions for short fiction, at 5 cents a word - so I may work on something for them, assuming my ideas are in the right genre. I'm also planning on rejigging these blog pages - I feel that there's too much going on and it needs to reflect, well, me a bit more. No date on that but it will happen. You have been warned...

In other news, I've just finished yet another genius eBook of writing advice from the swearing, ranting, and inebriated Chuck Wendig. I will be reviewing it here in due course but have to say it was rather good, and fired off a few of my synapses to keep me on this crazy writer path I find myself on. I also watched Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (ugh... don't expect a review. It was bad enough having to watch it once without having to think about it in detail), and the first series of Game of Thrones. Which I will be reviewing. Because it was stupendous. So much so I'm going to end this post with a picture of Karl Drogo. Because I can never get enough Karl Drogo.

Peace out.

If I had to marry a barbarian, this is one I wouldn't mind so much.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Deja Vu Films

Ever seen a film and thought, "This is strangely familiar but not what I expected?" Or maybe you've looked at the cover of a DVD or Blu-ray and wondered if it's the same film that you've seen the trailers for. The one that was recently in Cinemas. Chances are it isn't the same film, it's instead what I call a "Deja Vu Film"; a film that has been inspired (heavily) by another movie, normally one that's been a huge blockbuster. Why they do this is pretty obvious - to make money. Lots of it. But it can be a bit unfair on the unsuspecting viewer who may not know that the film they're buying/renting is not actually the one they wanted to see. I see this a lot in my day job, and am amazed at the brashness of some studios to make a buck. So here are some of my favourite Deja Vu Films from recent years;

John Carter

When the Disney film hadn't even been released in cinemas yet I saw a film listed in release schedules for a March release, called "John Carter of Mars". It's since disappeared from those schedules and from every retail site in the UK; I suspect Disney may have had something to do with that. You can see the title on the IMDB page, originally titled "Princess of Mars", which wouldn't have given them the same search engine results (or, if we're less generous, wouldn't have tricked people into buying it). Anyone paying attention would see it isn't the Disney version, but on a quick scan, especially of search results, a person may not have noticed and made a purchase.

The Three Musketeers


Now, I know what you're thinking; there are loads of Three Musketeer versions. But there is only one that came out a few months before the recent Matthew MacFadyen iteration. And even better, the cover looks like it's set in the same era but it isn't; the first few sentences of the synopsis put paid to that mistaken notion, "When Alexandra D'Artagnan, junior National Security Agency officer, uncovers a plot to assassinate the President of the United States..." Sounds awful doesn't it? I wonder how many people read the synopsis though before they make a purchase...

Happy Feet

This isn't as bad as some of the others, more amusing than deceitful. And there are three of them (at least). I only saw this recently and it made me chuckle. One film is about a penguin and his friends who meet a human for the first time and the other is about a penguin who can tap dance. How many more will they make with Happy Feet 2 coming out?

Sherlock Holmes

Asylum films have a reputation for churning out knock-offs of blockbusters. They're biggest "hit" was an original-ish concept, Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus but that hasn't stopped them continuing with the copy-cat films. My favourite is probably their Sherlock Holmes; the cover is a very similar colour as the Robert Downey Jr. version, and on a quick glance looks similar. Until you notice the octopus. And the Tyrannosaurus Rex. And the dragons.

Puss in Boots

Another animation, and another one where there has been more than one attempt to create a Deja Vu Film. One tries to be a little more obvious by adding "A Furry Tail" at the end of the original title, but it's still pretty clear that they hope to cash-in on the success of the Dreamworks films.


And finally another cartoon and one I saw a lot of complaints about when the non-Disney version was released. Despite the (slightly) different name, a number of people got confused about these two films. But no doubt as far as the people behind the Deja Vu Film are concerned it made more money then it would have done if it hadn't been called "Tangled Up", so where's the bad?

So watch out when you see a film listed on a website or sitting in a shop with a similar name to a film you're waiting for; it might not be what you expected...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Book Review: Servant of the Underworld

Servant of the Underworld (Obsidian & Blood) (Obsidian and Blood) - Aliette de Bodard - 2010 - 432 pages

Fantasy can be a bit stale at times; nothing but ethereal elves, wizened old wizards and enough chosen ones to make up a football team (or ten). Servant of the Underworld is a very different fantasy tale. Set in the ancient Aztec lands, it has deities, spirits and strange creatures galore. And not an elf in sight. It's also different in that the plot has more in common with a murder mystery like The Killing, than traditional fantasy story arcs. Think Cadfael in South America. With a lot more blood.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

20 Tips on Mugging Your Muse

After my success last week I've been trying to come up with some more short story ideas. The hope is to have a couple finished in the coming months and then send them out to earn their keep, or at the very least get a rejection slip with some constructive feedback. This confronted me with the bane of many a writer's life; coming up with ideas. One of the most common questions for storytellers is "where do you get your ideas," which is actually a coded way of asking "how can I get me some of those ideas?" It's a very hard question to answer, and I don't think there are many people who do anything creative who can honestly explain where or how they get their ideas. They just seem to happen. But I do know there are some techniques I use to get and develop inspiration so thought I'd share them below, along with some truths about the idea process. They may help, they may not. But they're worth a go if your muse is being particularly stubborn. Please to enjoy.