“We Are the Muses”

It’s happened. The time has finally come. I have officially run out of things to blog about. I’m out of ideas!

Well, I’m going to hope that I come up with a few more ideas later, but you know.

That got me thinking about a discussion I’ve had with people about where ideas come from. My ideas usually come from dreams or ridiculous questions that no one really wants the answer to. Some people, however blame the ‘creativity genie’ or the muses. (You know the ones, from Greek mythology. They make an appearance in Disney’s Hercules as well, and those girls can SING.)

Back on topic, the idea here is that the muses give you ideas when you’re ready for them, and if they haven’t given you ideas it’s not your fault, but the muses. I kind of like this, just because it takes some pressure off those of us who try to be creative all the time.

My muses are working overtime at the moment. However, they’re working overtime on what I would usually consider the wrong ideas. I have been more creative in the last month than I have in a long time, and yet I can’t use anything I’ve created because of reasons. (Sometimes it’s because I know the writing isn’t great, but I do it anyway for fun. Other times it’s more for copyright reasons, like someone already did that, and so on…) So the question that leaves me with is; is that really such a bad thing?

And I’ve thought about this and I’ve decided that no, it’s not all that bad. I still get to practice writing, even if it’s not going to be published, and I use it as an opportunity to practice the things I’m not so great at. (Dialogue, I’m looking at you.) I have complete faith that if I ride this out and work on what my muse is telling me to, we’ll return to the stuff I’m meant to be working on eventually, but with more practice at the writing part. Maybe it will lead me to a place of more writing less planning. (I plan too much, I think.) And who knows, maybe the muses will give me something different to blog about in the future.

So if I’ve gone quiet recently, it’s not because I’ve stopped creating. If anything, I’m more creative than ever right now, just not in the way I’m really supposed to be. But I’m not complaining – I’ve been doing a lot of study and work lately, so it’s nice to know that I can create something for the sheer enjoyment of it, regardless of whether someone else gets to read it or not.

Scenes make Chapters make Stories

Whew, it’s been a long week! The good news (at least for me) is that I’ve got some work holidays coming up, so it’ll be a but calmer for a couple of weeks at least. But that also means I’m going to be nailing down and doing some writing.

But I have the attention span of a four year old, so that brings us to the question – what am I actually going to write? I’ve got two solid stories going on right now, each of which have been planned out into chapters, and then again into scenes. So I’m going to be at least writing a bunch of scenes.

Here’s why I do it that way; everything has building blocks. For example, a house starts out with its foundation, then you add the structure, and so on until the house is built. Now just for a second, imagine that we built the roof of a house first. Yeah.

So I start with the plot and the characters (I’ve talked about planning both, I believe). After that comes the rough outline for each chapter, and then I delve into the scenes. But I actually write the scenes first.

The reason for this is simple – a number of scenes (a sequence, if you like) builds up to become a chapter. But I don’t actually know for certain where the chapters changes are going to occur. I have an idea of what will happen in each chapter, but when I write it I’m searching for a particular moment to end off the chapter. I like to refer to it as the ad break. You know how when you’re watching a good TV show it’s always at the most intense moment that the ad break comes? That’s the moment I want to end a chapter at. I can’t know exactly what moment is going to be the best to do that until I write it.

And of course, a number of chapters makes up the entire story or book. So what do I plan to do over the next fortnight or so? Write as many scenes as possible. Because if I get enough done, that will become chapters, and if I get enough of those done, well, I think you can work out what happens next.

With my attention span, I can’t guarantee all the scenes will be from the same story. I can’t even tell you if they’ll be from the same section of the story, sometimes I just get so keen to write a particular scene from half way through the book that I can’t help but write that scene. But all of those building blocks are going to come together to make a story in the end.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have at least a hundred scenes to write. See – erm – write to you next fortnight!

Albums for Writing

Albums for WritingWell hello there! It’s been a long couple of weeks. Winter has hit where I live, and I swear it’s twice as cold right now as it was last year. (Apparently that’s not actually true – I just seem to feel the cold a lot more than I ever used to. It sucks.)

Really, all I ever want to do in winter is curl up under my blanket with a big mug of hot chocolate and read a good book while listening to some good music. Yes, I read and listen to music at the same time. Complete silence bothers me.

Of course, I have favourite things to listen to while reading. Usually instrumental music or ambient stuff. (If you haven’t already, check out http://www.ambient-mixer.com. It’s a free library of ambient sound and is fantastic for working, studying or reading a book. The ‘Hufflepuff Common Room’ is a particular favourite of mine.)

But, there are certain things I love to listen to while writing as well. Yep, ambient stuff is great, but I also search high and low for songs that relate to what I’m writing about. On rare occasions, however, I find something remarkable. And entire album that works for the book I’m working on. Those albums are often played while I’m writing. So I thought, for this weeks blog post, I would share with you 5 of the albums which are currently on my rotation. Let’s see what we can find…

Kamelot – Haven

Kamelot is one of my favourite symphonic metal bands, and they have a lot of songs which make it into my writing playlist. This album stands out for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I actually own the CD, so I listened to it quite a bit in the car when I first got it. (Yep, I still buy CDs. There’s just something about holding a physical copy of my music, you know?) But secondly, almost every song on this relates in some way to one of the stories I’m working on. I can’t actually say much on that until said story is released, but you know…

Within Temptation – Mother Earth

This is another symphonic metal album, but a completely different era. This album, as the title suggests, has a lot of nature-related lyrics, but it also has a real fantasy feel about it. Because of that, I love to use this when writing fantasy. This is also an album that relates quite well to another of my stories – which I can’t tell you about yet. Sorry. (Well, not really.)

Michael Giacchino – Doctor Strange (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I love movie soundtracks. I really do. And I love to write to them, because there’s no words and sometimes that’s really useful. This is my current go-to instrumental album at the moment. There’s a bit of everything on this soundtrack, there’s the nice pretty stuff, the epic orchestral pieces, and then there’s that piece A Long Strange Trip which just makes me feel really uneasy. Which is kind of the point of that piece, so I can’t help but admire that.

Hidden Citizens – Reawakenings

This album is, in my opinion, just plain cool. Hidden Citizens have taken a bunch of pop hits and turned them into ‘epic trailer versions’. Which really, is a lot of fun. It’s also extremely creative – taking a song like Hungry Like the Wolf and making it, well, epic, takes some skill. And I love to listen to this in scenes where I’m trying to create tension or build up to something.

Firefight – Innova

You know, I was planning on using a pop album for this last spot. But apparently I don’t really listen to pop when writing – go figure. (I don’t actually have any sort of genre preferences, but apparently when writing I do.) So what shall we have instead? Christian Rock. Because why not? (Side note: I’m not Christian, this stuff can be listened to by anyone of any religion. It just happens to be the genre.) This is an album that just generally makes me feel good – it’s overall quite positive and uplifting, and many of the songs have a really good beat. So when I’m on a roll and just want a good beat in the background, this is one of the albums I go to.

So there you have it! The titles of each album should (if I’ve set this up correctly) link you to the spotify page of each album, so if you feel like checking any of the albums out, just give it a click. And if you have any albums that you think would be great to write to, definitely let me know! I’m always on the hunt for new great music. And who knows, maybe there’ll be another instalment with some very different music…

Time Out

Okay, so I’ve been playing around with this whole ‘productivity’ thing for a while now. Planning my days, setting goals for each week, sticking to routines…

But here’s the thing. You can overdo it. And I’m certainly guilty of that. Part of it is just finding the right productivity routine for me – every person is different, after all, so I can’t jump on someone else’s routine and expect it to work. It’s going to take some Trial and error. And do you know what I’ve discovered? Sometimes I need a break, too.

I know, it’s shocking. A revelation. (Yes, that last bit was sarcasm. Seriously, we need a dedicated sarcasm font or something for the internet.) I got so in depth with needing to produce so much stuff everyday that I forgot sometimes slowing down is important. In fact, it can add to productivity.

It’s not all about writing stuff. Sometimes learning is productive – and I have no time for that if every hour is dedicated to writing or working. And you know how sometimes you have so much to do that you just get burnt out or overwhelmed? I’m pretty sure that neither of those things are good for productivity.

I once had a counsellor tell me that humans were like batteries. We could work for so long, but eventually we need recharging. That’s what things like having fun, hobbies and hanging out with friends are for. It’s important not to feel bad for taking time out every now and again, because if we use this time to recharge, than our productivity will be boosted later.

So, that’s what I’m doing today – basically nothing. I’ll admit, that’s mostly because of the cold that’s been flying around my workplace. I actually held it off for a month or so, but eventually when half the people you work with are sick, you’re bound to get it. So now it’s me with a bunch of tissues, a mug of hot lemon & honey water and a living hot water bottle in the form of my dog.

There’s two advantages to this. I actually get to rest for an entire day. I mean, I did a load of washing and took the dog for a walk, and I’m writing this blog post, but relatively? Not doing a whole lot today. Hopefully this will result in one; my body healing much quicker and two; a relaxed mind ready to take on a lot more work this next week. But, well, who can say? One can only hope.

But now, I’m going to get back to the resting thing. Bye for now!

Let’s Talk Villains

Alright, I have an admission to make – I am a Marvel nerd.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not the sort of nerd that can tell you what happened in issue #497 of The Amazing Spider-Man. However, I can tell you that there were more than 497 issues of said comic. So I place myself somewhere in the middle of the nerdiness scale. But I suspect the majority of people don’t care how nerdy I am, so let’s call that irrelevant information.

So why is this relevant to my writing?

Well, today I saw Infinity War for the second time (side note: I would totally go again), and I realised two things about my writing.

1. At some point in time, a group of people sat in a room and said ‘let’s make a whole bunch of different superhero movies, and then later put all of those superheroes in the same movie.’ They then proceeded to spend ten years working to make this a reality. Ten years is a long time to work on (or towards) anything, so I have a huge amount of respect for that. If it takes me 10 years to release my next book, I’m okay with that providing the result is as awesome as that movie.

2. My villains need work.

For this blog post, I’m going to focus on number 2. Thanos has become my personal goal for a villain. But why? Let me tell you.

Note: The following blog post does contain spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War. I have sectioned it into ‘minor’ and ‘major’ spoiler sections – with a spoiler free conclusion at the end. Stop reading whenever you feel the need.

So, Thanos has a few things that make him a pretty damn great villain. Let’s list them:

  • Goal
  • Motivation
  • Inner conflict / vulnerability

***Minor Spoilers Begin Here***

Goal

Firstly, let’s talk about his goal – he intends to save the universe.

Normally, that wouldn’t be so bad. It’s the how that’s the problem. Thanos has noticed that over-population is a universal issue. There are more mouths to feed than recourses to feed them with. So Thanos has offered a solution; let’s just randomly kill of 50% of the people in the universe.

See, ethically, that’s a bit of an issue. But this is the first thing I love about this guy as a villain; he genuinely believes he’s doing the right thing, no matter how controversial.

Motivation

So why does Thanos decide to wipe out half the universe? Because he’s nuts, right?

Well, no. Not exactly.

Thanos lived on Titan, which was once a prospering planet (or moon, if you want to be particular). However, they faced the problem of over-population. Thanos offered a solution; kill half the people. Again, ethically that’s not the best idea. So they didn’t do it. The result? Titan burned itself out. Thanos lost his entire planet. His goal is not just to wipe out half the universe; it’s to stop this from happening on other planets – to prevent others from losing their homes.

*** Major Spoilers Begin Here ***

Inner Conflict

So this is the big bit for me: the inner conflict. By this point we’ve established that Thanos is a madman with a reason – but there’s more to it than that.

First, let’s talk about the scene in which he meets Gamora. Sure, he trained her up to be a deadly assassin (probably not a great act as a father), but something stood out to me here; he took her aside and distracted this child – and made sure she didn’t watch his army murder half her people. He could have just let her watch, but he didn’t.

Then there’s the part where he kidnaps her, but still brings her food because he thought she might be hungry. This was in the same day- he was not feeding her to simply keep her alive. He wanted to keep her comfortable.

After these actions, I have to believe that he legitimately cares for Gamora.

So when he sacrifices her to gain the soul stone, that’s when everything changed about him for me. He sees – and loves – Gamora as a daughter. So throwing her off a cliff? That hurts. A lot. But he believes in his mission so much that he is willing to give up everything in order to accomplish it. Even if it means killing his daughter. And I guess that’s kind of admirable, in a really dark, sadistic way. Again; he legitimately believes he is saving the universe. He will sacrifice anything to make it happen.

So at the end of the movie, I can almost be happy for him when he’s sitting there watching his sunrise. I probably would be, if it wasn’t his fault that all my favourite characters are now dead. (Well, there’s speculation about the death thing, but I’m going to stay out of those dark corners of the internet for now. Let’s just agree that they’re gone.)

*** Spoiler Free Section!***

So what does this mean for my next novel? Well, firstly, it could take a while, because I’m suddenly committed to spending as much time as needed on it.

But I want my villain to have every single one of those things – the goal, motivation, and conflict that’s going to make people understand that villain. Hopefully the way I kind of get where Thanos is coming from.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to re-evaluate the way I’m writing my characters right now. Until next time!

Copyright Note: Thanos & all other characters mentioned in this blog post belong to Marvel. And if you enjoyed this post, you should totally go and see Infinity war. Also, I totally stole the header image off the internet, so if that needs to be removed or credited please tell me.

My Bookshelf

It is time for a brief tour of my bookshelf! Specifically, what I like to call the ‘reference’ section – all the books which I grab out when I’m not sure of something, or when I want some more information on a particular topic. I like to base my fiction on legends, ideas and facts, (as much as one can when writing paranormal fiction) so these help to build up the world in which my stories take place. So, let’s have a look!

The Crystal Bible (Judy Hall)

I use this mainly as a reference book for when we’re bringing crystals into the mix of magic and spells. It’s basically a bunch of crystals with their meanings and uses.

Divine Magic: The World of the Supernatural (Andre & Lynette Singer)

This one is an investigation into different areas of the mystical. Everything from angels to demonology to horoscopes. It’s most useful when I get writers block or run out of ideas.

A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits (Carol K. Mack, Dinah Mack)

I’m going to be completely honest – I haven’t read this yet. I can’t tell what it’s useful for – I don’t even know if it will be useful. But it cost me $3, so I figured I may as well add it to my collection. Hopefully it will be useful once I’ve read it.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Psychic Awareness (Lynn A. Robertson, Katherine A. Gleason)

I think it’s pretty clear what this book is – a discussion on how to wake your latent psychic abilities. This is used the most when I have a character with psychic abilities. It gives a good run down on how different techniques work, which is really important when writing those scenes. Even if it’s not explicit in the novel, I need to know exactly what each character is going through. This helps.

Into the Unknown (Reader’s Digest)

This one is similar to Divine Magic, but I find this has a slightly more scientific approach to its investigations. This is another one I use for background ideas more than specific details.

The Reiki Bible: The Definitive Guide to Healing With Energy (Eleanor McKenzie)

This is a perfect little book for when I need the basics of reiki. It has a lot of information on how the practice works – useful for when characters are using it.

The Signs and Symbols Bible: The Definitive Guide to Mysterious Markings (Madonna Gauding)

This one is pretty much exactly how it sounds. It’s a huge list of different symbols and their meanings. It hasn’t proved too useful in my work yet, but I am hoping to bring a few more symbols into the mix, so this will definitely help.

Wiccapedia: A Modern White Witch’s Guide (Shawn Robbins, Leanna Greenaway)

Whenever you can spot witchcraft in one of my books, this book has usually had something to do with it. This is a basic guide to witchcraft, which has been very useful in creating rituals, spells and just general magic.

A Witch’s Guide to Ghosts and the Supernatural (Gerina Dunwich)

When you’ve got a couple of characters who are demon hunting witches, a book which teaches witches to hunt demons can be quite useful. I also based a lot of my demonology on the information in this book.

Of course, my bookshelf is a lot larger than these books – these are just the ones that tend to come out when I’m writing, or have inspired something in my books. Who knows, maybe soon I’ll have a whole other stack of books for research purposes. But for now, these are great!

Behind the Books: Symbols

Let’s be clear about something here; when I say ‘symbols’ I don’t mean symbolism. Like when you’re in English class and your teacher asks “What do the blue curtains symbolise?” Leaving you debating whether the curtains represent the character’s sadness or whether he/she just likes the colour blue.

No, in this particular case I am talking about religious symbols. Which there are a lot of. And I mean a lot. I own an entire book dedicated to explaining different symbols- which actually comes in handy a lot more often than you might think. But for the purpose of this blog, we are going to focus on the two symbols that have shown up in my books so far.

The Latin Cross

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The first symbol we come across is the latin cross. This is pretty common in the western world, at least. Chances are, you know about this one – it’s the universal symbol of Christianity. What you might not know is that the cross actually come

s in a few different variations – the latin version is the one we see most often. It’s a symbolic reference to the cross that Christ was crucified on. Of course, you also find this symbol with Jesus on the cross – this is more often used by Catholics.

There are many variations on this cross (well, actually, this one is pre-dated by the greek one, but I’m not going to go too far down that p

articular rabbit hole), but this one is by far the most common.

The Inverted Cross

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Here’s a fun one. Theinverted cross is exactly what you might think – it’s the same as the Latin cross, but upside down. Now, depending on who you ask, this can have many different meanings.

A particularly popular believe is that when you turn a religious symbol upside down, the new symb

ol represents the opposite of the original. So if you turn the cross

upside down, it’s a Satanic symbol. Personally, I don’t exactly buy into this, but I sure take advantage of it. The demons in my novels like to mock people, so if turning across upside down is going to make someone uncomfortable, then of course they’re going to do it.

But here’s the main reason I don’t buy into it; it’s also used as a symbol in Christianity and Catholicism – it’s referred to as St Peter’s Cross. St. Peter decided to be crucified upside down, as he was not worthy to be crucified the same way Christ was.

So if you see someone wearing this, it could mean any of the following;

  • They’re Christian
  • They’re Catholic
  • They’re trying to annoy people who are Christian or Catholic
  • They just liked the look of the symbol when they bought it

The Pentacle

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The pentacle (also referred to as the pentangle). Completely misunderstood after Hollywood started using it as a demonic symbol. Yes, it is used by witches, just not the ‘summon the devil and take over the world ones’.

What we’re looking at here is a five pointed star. Each point represents an element – earth, air, fire and water. The uppermost point represents spirit. The outer circle is sometimes thought to represent the binding of these elements together.

Here’s another common mistake – the pentacle is not actually the pentagram. The pentagram has no circle – it’s just a five pointed star. As far as I’m aware, the points still represent the elements. Perhaps someone can correct me on that if I’m wrong.

The Inverted Pentacle

Okay, but the inverted pentacle is a symbol of Satanism, right?

Actually, no. The inverted one is used by second degree witches – it shows that they have a deeper understanding of the craft.

The Hidden Pentacle

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Neither the hidden pentacle nor the inverted pentacle has made an appearance in my books, but I thought I’d add them both, because we’ve discussed the inverted cross, and I find the hidden pentacle really interesting.

You see, the pentacle actually was and is used by witches. (And here I’m talking witches in more of a religious sense – I’ve never seen someone successfully turn someone into a toad.) Bu

t remember that whole thing where all the witches were gathered and burned at the stake? Yes, some of them were actual witches. Of course, if you could be burnt at the stake for showing your religion, you probably wouldn’t wear the symbol of said religion, right? But the Pagans in question wanted others of their faith to be able to identify them, so they started wearing hidden pentacles.

So, when it wasn’t appropriate to flaunt your pentacle, you would hide it. These pentacles are hidden in intricate designs – those who practice the craft are likely to be able to identify it, but it’s a lot less obvious. There are many different designs, some make it much easier to see the pentacle than others. These symbols are still used today by those who don’t wish to be easily identified as Pagan or Neopagan.

So there you go, a brief look at some of the symbols which have made their way into my books. There will probably be more at a later date, but we’ll leave that for when it happens.