Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Women in Horror Month- SCP Feb eZine, Free Download!

Siren's Call Publications are celebrating Women in Horror Month by dedicating their February issue to the event, and only featuring female writers (men get their turn next time).  What's more, its free to download! Go and check it out now! :)

(My poem "Fey Shaper" is featured this month- thank you, SCP!)

Sunday, 10 February 2013

What's Happening in February?

Hello February!

Hello everyone! Like the picture? You can make one too, using the PULP-O-MIZER- just select what backgrounds, colours and characters you'd like, change the text and you'll have your own vintage-style science-fiction magazine cover!  They're great fun to play with, and I thought this would make a nifty and eye-catching header/introduction to my blog! Think I'll start the important ones like this from now on!

I also really love this style of artwork- its beautiful aesthetic, and I've really been into it ever since Bioshock (although they take a darker twist on that look!).

Isn't February usually the most depressing of months?  I've often found it to to be the worst month of the year for me...the weather is miserable, money isn't usually good, and you can't seem to get around like you normally would.  Anyone who's read my End-of-2012 blog entries will know last February was an awful time of the year for me, and I wasn't really expecting anything different for this year.  However, I am pleased to say that this month isn't really going too badly right now!  There seems to be a lot of really good things going on at the moment, which I will share with you momentarily. I'm also working on some new projects, and there just seems to be a really positive energy about that I usually don't see this time of the year

Upcoming Publications
I have mentioned these before, but I have some upcoming publications just around the corner.  Coming soon from Siren's Call Publications is the Bellows of the Bone Box anthology- an eerie collection of Steampunk-Horror.  My contribution is a short story called "Clockwork Doll", which was a real joy to write, and I also hope will be a joy to read- but I should warn you, its creepy!

Coming this month, Siren's Call Publication's bi-monthly eZine celebrates Women in Horror month (don't worry, the men get their turn next time!), and my poem "Fey Shaper" will be featured.  If you were the sort of child who stubbornly watched creepy movies and read scary books in spite of the nightmares they were giving you, you'll certainly get what this poem is about.

Also upcoming, Hic Dragones will be releasing their Impossible Spaces Anthology, which features many short stories from a range of dark genres.  My short story "Skin" was accepted into this anthology, much to my delight, as I really fell in love with the characters as I was writing this- this was a short story that I became very emotionally invested in, so I am so pleased by its acceptance.  "Skin" is a tragic romance within a dystopian science-fiction setting- but its no Romeo and Juliet, think more a twisted take on the Gift of the Magi.  More details to follow, as I recieve them!

New Projects
I am currently working on two more short stories, with the intention of submitting them by the end of March.  One might be influenced by the horror genre, but both are definitely fantasy.  For one, I am currently doing a lot of research into mythology (a subject I feel I have a decent amount of knowledge in already, but its a great subject, and one you can't learn too much about, I feel!), but the other one is still at the trickier part of planning.  With the acceptance of Skin into Impossible Spaces, I am also determined to revisit the story and expand upon it; there were a lot of possibilities left to explore but as it was a short story with a word count limit, I had to put that aside.  I am excited at the prospect of returning to this story in a more indepth manner at some point soon.

I am also working on some artwork projects at the moment, including tattoo artwork, and also some illustrations for novels I want to work on.

Speaking of novels...

Secrets Revealed...?
I am a very secretive writer by nature, for various reasons ranging from sheer paranoia to a lack of confidence, but for the most part, I dislike divulging information about works in progress.  However, during my last post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, I decided to take a little step and announced the name of what will be my first novel.

The novel will be called "Night Gods", and I have been working on it for some time- a long time in fact.  I'm not entirely sure when I began writing it, but I think I may have been writing it for about four years or so, which has prompted a running joke between my brother and I (anyone who has seen the ongoing banter between Stewie and Brian Griffin in Family Guy, regarding how slow Brian is in writing his own novel, will probably be able to guess how it pans out!).  Its been a tricky one, as it has a huge amount of personal content, and has been frequently plagued by the Dreaded Writer's Block.  It started as a dream I had some years ago, a very vivid one that I can still remember clearly to this day.  However, as a story emerged from the dream, it took on a lot of emotion and sometimes has been a struggle to continue.  There have been several long periods where I have been unable to touch it at all, which then abruptly end with a flurry of pages almost writing themselves.  I have learned to let myself have breaks from Night Gods, or to let it have a break from me, and only push it in the right places- its been a very organic writing processed, influenced very strongly on my feelings at the time. 

So what can I tell you about Night Gods?  Well, firstly, I can tell you that when I imagine scenes from the story, or even when I'm physically writing it, I have to be listening to the music of my favourite band, The Birthday Massacre, which makes up the majority of its secret "soundtrack".  I can also tell you that Night Gods is written entirely by hand; Night Gods began at a time when I was convinced I had "forgotten" how to write and was profoundly unhappy with anything I produced.  However, I found that writing it out by hand gives it a raw, emotional feeling that I couldn't seem to achieve by typing alone, and it has stuck that way (this of course has contributed to delay in finishing it- I have typed up everything that I've written on paper, editing and embellishing on the way, and of course, I suffer from tendonitis which can make writing by hand for long periods painful).  Also, I like to consider the story as influenced by a weird combination of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, the Labyrinth, and the creepy video game series, Silent Hill

I can also tell you that Night Gods will be finished this year.  It was my first New Years resolution in years, but, encouraged by getting published for the first time ever in the autumn, I realised that really, I can do this! I am now in the final part of the novel, moving very steadily towards the climax of the tale, and so I hope that by the summer I will have also moved onto the editing and revising process.  This is a little daunting for me, as last summer I had no idea how to edit, but I have picked up some good habits and knowledge already since then.  Writing short stories has taught me some helpful things that I'm sure will be very useful when editing a novel. 

I am also starting a little work on another novel (I wish they would they would just be patient and wait their turn, but ideas can be sooo demanding!), as its starting to nudge me with good ideas.

More Secrets and Things?
I doubt it'll be a surprise to anyone who's been reading this blog since it started last autumn, but I am not very adept with social networking, blogging and online publicity in general- not very good for an author and an online-magazine writer!  But that isn't for a lack of trying, and Blogspot and Twitter are slowly becoming less alien to me as I attempt to keep everyone updated.

This hasn't been a fruitless endeavour, but I would like to try and draw a larger audience, and I've decided one thing I might like to do is try giving any readers of this blog a snippet of some of my fiction writing that they don't need to buy or download (wow, I'm being brave, divulging information about my novel and sharing writing?! *gasp*).  I have a short story I wrote last summer that I'm going to be revisiting at a later date, but for the time being, it is just collecting figurative dust.  I believe people may find it enjoyable to read, even in its current form, however, and I think it might be worth sharing with people.

Its called "Moriko", and if you are a fan of Japanese mythology and folktales, this maybe right up your alley.  So if you would like to read some snippets from Moriko, please leave a comment and let me know!

Stuff and Oddments
You know, its funny how February is such a naff month, yet also has a lot going on in it.  We've had Imbolc and Setsubun already, then its Chinese New Year (that's today, Year of the Snake, doncha know?), then the beginning of Lent, Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Valentine's Day...despite it being the most miserable month of the calendar, there are a lot of events and dates going on!  Regardless of what nation or culture those celebrations might originate from, I like to acknowledge them all in my own way; I just like to take advantage of all that positive energy.  This time of the year, there is no harm in a little self-indulgence to help you get through the soggy, gloomy days.  This is something that I've been doing, even little things like treating myself to little cosmetic products while shopping or buying a nice hot chocolate from Costa when its cold.  So everyone, don't feel bad about treating yourself, and just hang on in there- spring is on the way! (Although it would be lovely if she could hurry up!)

So as you can see, I have finally gotten around to proudly posing with my copy of FEAR Anthology Volume 2, in which my short story "Candlelight" appears.  This book will always have a special place in my heart (and on my bookshelf!) as it is the first time my work has ever been published in a printed book!  I just can't believe that it won't be long before I appear in two more!  Candlelight is based on a nightmare I had about my younger brother being haunted by ghostly orphans- perfect for a stormy night.
If you are interested in any of my other fiction works, click the following links:

-"Alone in the Dark", Siren's Call Publications eZine issue #4, August issue, Dark and Edgy Horror

-"Candlelight", Crooked Cat Publishing, FEAR Anthology Volume 2 (proceeds go to charity)

-"Oiran" Siren's Call Publications eZine, issue #6, December issue, Frozen

And of course, I still write articles on Gothic and Alternative lifestyle and culture for EGL Magazine under my pen name, "Blackavar".

Thanks everyone for reading; please leave a comment if you want to read excerpt of Moriko.  Have a lovely February and lets hope spring makes it here soon!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group- Acknowledging Inspiration, Nods and Influences?

I have no problems with finding inspiration; I'm exposed to a lot of it.  I read like a little addicted bookworm, I watch a fair amount of film and television (more of the former than the latter) and I am interested in various non-fictional subjects that I love to read up on and consume knowledge.  I listen to a various different music genres, which are probably one of the most stimulating things for me, creatively speaking, I admire many forms of artwork which sometimes compel me to creatre a story to reflect the images, and even the various video games I enjoy dabbling in will inspire me.  And if all those sources weren't enough for me, I also have what my fiance calls a "naturally occurring form of crack" that is found only in my brain, and gives me extremely vivid, bizarre and crazy dreams.  I have used them for inspiration in the past, and will continue to do so.

We are always influenced by someone else, and that is just a fact of life when it comes to anything creative.  Even if we produced something original, some of its soul will have come from elsewhere.  Even things that reflect on our childhoods usually also reflect on whatever media we absorbed at that age- movies, cartoons, storybooks, etc.  Some of my favourite things from childhood that I think influenced me creatively were movies such as Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal, and books by writers such as Roald Dahl and KA Applegate's Animorph series.  As an adult, my influences have extended to include authors auch as Neil Gaiman (naturally), Phillip Pullman and Clive Barker, among a myriad of others, and films, musicians and games.

But do you ever get to a point where you worry if your inspiration is becoming more than just a nod to something that spoke to you?  Do you ever worry that your work is fast becoming more than just a tribute and becoming a rip off?

When I was in my pre-teen years, I used to spend the summer holidays writing lots of stories.  Heck, in my teen years, I wrote stories all the time.  There are several that stand to mind that, frankly, despite my pride in writing them, were practically plagirised from whatever I was interested in at the time.  After reading James Herbert's "Fluke", I suddenly churned out lots of little stories about people being reincarnated into black labradors.  Sometimes, one would even be named "Fluke", just for extra lack of originality :P Shortly after Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was released, I began a short series of sci-fi stories about a Princess Amistable (not all that far off from "Amidala", not that I realised it for some time) fighting against some nasty space tyrants.  In fairness, that story had a certain amount of deviancy from the Star Wars universe that inspired it, but my following series, when I was in Year 10, was a blatant rip-off of the Dragonball Z Universe.  The first story basically was Final-Fantasy: The Spirits Within meets the Saiyan Saga.  What it spawned became slightly more creative, but picked huge elements from Akira Toriyama's creation. 

Of course, I was just a kid writing for fun at the time, and had no understanding even on the simplest level of how to get published.  However, despite my constant borrowing from other creative minds, my English teacher clearly saw the potential- he told me he fully expected to see my name on a book one day.  He also encouraged me to draw on my own experiences in my writing.

Some other stories have been attempted, and then trashed for lack of originality over the years, but my current stories, I do feel, are all my own.  All of the short stories I have submitted since the summer have been my own stories, even if they have had their influences (Moriko- Daughter of the Forest was definately heavily influenced by Princess Mononoke and Okami, but I still feel it was my own tale).  One of my short stories was definately my own - it was a retelling of a true event that happened to me after all! Another was inspired by a nightmare I had suffered.

Its mainly my novels I worry about.  I am nearly finishing the first draft of a novel I am titling "Night Gods" (this it the first time I have publically admitted the title, as I am so secretive* ), and on many occasion, I have wondered how to describe it.  Usually something along the following emerges: " a mixture of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Labyrinth, the Neverending Story and Silent Hill" (I love to put Silent Hill right at the end, just to interrupt the line of lovely, fantasy sources :P ).  A huge portion of Night Gods comes directly from my own dreams, but the other influences are there.  Music by my favourite band The Birthday Massacre also makes up the entire, secret soundtrack that I imagine when visualising the story. 

On a confident day, I know damn well that no one will have read anything quite like Night Gods before.  Despite all those influences, I know that the story comes very much from within me- it is a very personal tale, and reflects directly on personal emotions, experiences and observations.  On a not-so-confident day, I fear the story being compared unfavourably to the inspiration from which I cannot deny had coloured it.

I have to remind myself that this is NOT a bad thing.  This is not the same thing as copying.  Every writer does the same thing- some of the greats have admitted as much, time and time again.  Perhaps, its just because at this point in time, I remain unpublished as a novelist, and doubt my work.  Perhaps when it is completed and people have the opportunity to go on that adventure, I will see that I have sold myself short?  I certainly hope so. 

Most of the inspirations have become mostly aesthetic at any rate.  I have two more novel ideas, waiting in the wings after Night Gods, and both I used to worry were "copies".  The one that will follow was originally sparked into life by watchng the extended teaser trailer for The Devil's Carnival- the story that now follows barely resembles TDC in any form, but the imagery of that teaser trailer remains a strong element in my idea.  The other, the full-length version of my short story Skin is more original, but also has huge aesthetic influence from last year's blockbuster, Prometheus (although the stories resemble each other in no way!).  Obviously, I am very much visually stimulated- certain pictures and images spark off ideas that carry off on their own, and will go a very different path, even if they share the same colours.

So, the question I pose, is when you know full well you have drawn influence from another artist, what is the best way to handle that?  If you are confident that you have not ripped off someone else, merely accepted the influence and crafted something of your own, how do you appropriately nod towards the inspiration? 

I recently had a poem accepted, in which I reference two things- in the submitting email, I made a point of pointing those out, as I was unsure of whether or not it could be "allowed".  One reference was "Say your right words", a line taken directly from Labyrinth ("'Say your right words,' the goblins said"  as the line in the movie goes).  Another was a nod towards the film adaptation of Coraline- by mentioning that stones with holes are "good for lost things sometimes".  Now, I should mention the poem is about scary films influencing children when they go to sleep and see shadows on the walls, so it wasn't a case of me just ripping off dialogue, but clearly referencing something else :P. 

What is the correct way to acknowledge the inspiration or artist who influenced you and came before you?  Is there a particular way of going about it? 

So that's whats been on my mind recently.  I have to say, there is one thing that does come to mind that does set my mind a little bit at ease; I recently finished reading Clive Barker's Weaveworld.  Its an absolutely beautiful book, and at the end, little prickles of tears stung my eyes.  I was struck how some of the themes and elements remined me of Night Gods- however, I certainly can't have "ripped" Weaveworld off- Weaveworld has been knocking about for years, I only started reading it last year, and have been writing Night Gods for about three or four years now (yes, I am slow).  So I guess perhaps that a lot of authors and writers are simply wired in the same way- we think on similar wave lengths and certain subjects and possibilities occur to us, no matter how different from one another we try to be :)

(* I think being secretive is one of my problems.  I am nervous of sharing my work for various reasons, so without other people to take a look at it, I can't always be sure of just HOW original my ideas are).

Hope you all had a good January (mine turned out alright after I recovered- thanks for all the comments, and apologies again for the whiny-ness of that last post!) and happy February to you all :)

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Belated Happy Imbolc/Setsubun!

Spring is coming!!!!

In my strange pagan-but-not-pagan way, I've acknowledged the more traditional Imbolc (Saturday) and Japanese Setsubun (arguably Sunday or Monday)- no wonder putting my religion down on the census is a tricky endeavour!

Whatever you celebrate, hope you had a good one!

I have to say if the end of January is the way the rest of the year is going to go, I am totally ok with that!  And the beginning of February hasn't been too shabby either!  Within the space of of 2 weeks, I have had two submissions accepted- last week, Hic Dragones accepted my short story "Skin" for their Impossible Spaces anthology.  The other day, Siren's Call Publications accepted my quirky little poem "Fey Shaper" for their February issue of their bi-monthly eZine, coming soon!  I was particularly keen to get it included, as February is Women in Horror month! :)

And of course, also coming soon, my story "Clockwork Doll" will be featured in SCP's steampunk anthology, but more on that when I have more details!

So I have other ideas to get working on as well, so I best be off.  On a slightly random note I also need to go to a fabric store to pick up material for a costume- I'm going to be dressing up as Inanna, Sumerian Goddess of Love, Sex and Warfare.  The normal life for me, eh? ^^;;