Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Lady on the Train

A lady was smiling on the train the other morning. If you have caught a peak hour train in Melbourne recently you would know that this is not a common occurrence. Connex makes it difficult to smile.

The woman was reading. With six more stations before my stop I pondered this. What made the woman smile?

On the platform, reading by moriza, 2006 Creative Commons Copyleft Licence

That's the thing about reading - it's personal. Although there are a lot of forms of communication that are as personal, reading is quite unique. The message is conveyed silently, without anyone else being able to receive the same message at the same time. It's not broadcast.

Reading gives the reader control. The reader decides upon the speed, the time of reading and the amount. I think this sort of control allows for a reader to form a bond with a book. Think about how we describe the act of reading: 'We curl up with a good book.' The phrase has connotations of intimacy.

Reading Time by adwriter, 2006 Creative Commons Licence

So why was the lady smiling? Perhaps what she was reading was funny. That would be the simplest answer. But I think it was probably more than that. Often when I am reading good literature, I am reminded of things I had forgotten. In a fashion akin to deja vu, an old feeling is rekindled. The essence of an emotion is distilled in a way that makes it recognisable in a most specific way. At that moment of recognition we smile. We see ourselves reflected in the book.

In many ways books are mirrors. Sometimes we may even see aspects of ourselves that do not make us smile but it is through these instances that connections are made and the book becomes more than just a collection of pages.

So if good books often reflect aspects of the reader, where do we stand with fantasy?

I have quite a clear view on this. Fantasy should, in my humble opinion, reveal as much about humanity as any other book. In fact, it has the potential to reveal more as it is not shackled to conventions that may restrict the exploration. Fantasy allows us to explore what ifs? What if I had the power to change things? What if I had the resources at my command to punish, avenge, alter, influence...

In some ways, this is what I have tried to do in Akin to Pity - explore the human condition by placing my characters in extraordinary situations. It is my hope that as people read the book, they consider themselves, imagine what they would do if placed in a comparable position? Akin to Pity focuses a lot more on the characters than What Lies Beneath. Whereas the first book had a fair amount of back-story to detail as it set up the premise of the story, Akin to Pity has the luxury of peeling back the skin of each character to reveal what lies beneath (forgive the gratuitous pun).

It is no coincidence that the title has an emotion as its focus. Akin to Pity is a much more emotional book. Over the past year, I have come to know these characters intimately, and when some of them met an unsavoury end, I felt it. It is my hope that my readers also feel the book acutely, in times of triumph as well as sadness .

I'll end this post with some happy news. After six months of feeling totally disenfranchised by Lulu.com as a result of their disgraceful shipping charges, I am pleased to say that things have now changed. I just ordered five copies of my first book at a paltry shipping cost of (US)$11.99 in total. So now, I feel motivated to put the final coat of polish on Akin to Pity and unleash it upon the world. There are still quite a few corrections to be made which have been uncovered by my editors (i.e. family) so I'll spend a couple of weeks sorting through these and then release it (hopefully in time for an Australian summertime read). Sorry it's taken so long, but - to be brutally honest - Lulu's shipping prices sapped me of any motivation to finish the drafting process. Now that problem has been attended to (and the exchange rate is good) I'm keen to wrap this project up and put a big bow on it. That seems the thing to do at Christmas time.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Caliban's End

I'm happy to post that last word in the story of Caliban's End has been written. Last week I put the finishing touches on Akin to Pity, the second (and last) book in the Caliban's End saga. The book has since been sent off to the US publisher, printed and delivered back to me! (See goofy picture below)


It's a funny feeling to finish. There were lots of times I didn't think I would. But bucket loads of encouragement and interest got me over the line. And it feels brilliant. I feel like I've just eaten a massive Christmas dinner - now it's time to lie down on the couch and snooze.

Not only is the book done, but so is the wiki. In many ways, this was a much bigger job than the book itself (and not without its share of challenges). If you care to wander over to http://calibansend.pbworks.com/ , you'll find the wiki numbers well over 1,000 individual pages. Not only does each chapter of the books gets its own page, but every single thing in the books (characters, fauna, flora, places etc.) also gets its own page, and in many cases adds to the narrative of the novels.

It's a bit different so it's probably worth a look.


The book will be available for free download in a few weeks. I have a couple of clever people reading over the proofs, tracking down all the typos that my blurry eyes missed. Once they're done with their proof-reading, I'll correct the remaining mistakes and click the Available to Buy button on Lulu.com. Hopefully Lulu will have fixed up their rather horrendous issue with shipping costs. In their last correspondence with with me, they intimated that changes would be coming. Let's hope so because I want lots of people to read my book, not just people willing to splash out the extra dollars to get the new book (i.e. my mum, wife, close friends etc.)

Anyway, while you're waiting (or even if you're not) have a look at the cover (below) and please, please, please spend some time wandering through the wiki.


Friday, April 03, 2009

The Flow of the Thing

Just a quick blog post today. It's more of a status update. I'm still working my way through the final draft of Akin to Pity, the second and final book in the Caliban's End saga. At the moment, I am in the highlands of Upper Scoriath with Lara, Edgar and others making their way to the breach in Sessymir. Don't worry - no spoilers here. As this group has made its way across the land, more and more of Caliban's work has come to light and it is most disturbing work indeed. There is no mistake about it - war has come to the Myr.

I mentioned it in my last post, but I'll say it again - I am really enjoying reading the book. In fact, I'm quite thrilled with the flow of the thing. Now the backstory, setting and characters have been properly introduced, it's a delight to dig deeper into the characters and I think it makes for more fulfilling reading. The second book is just as brutal as the first, but I am finding there are more moments of connection between the characters and the tone is a little more varied.

I created a little video for Akin to Pity. It's a trailer of sorts. I was experimenting with marrying images to music. My intention was to follow the tone and rhythm of the music so the whole thing had a cohesive feel. You can be the judge of whether I have succeeded.

video

The YouTube version of this video can be found here. The music Lux Aeterna/Requiem for a Dream is by Clint Mansell.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Getting Back in the Saddle

It's March? Already? No, that can't be right.

You know, late summer should conjure up images of lazy, balmy afternoons, long twilights and languorous hours spent reading trashy magazines or watching even trashier TV. Unfortunately, I can't say this has characterised my experience of recent months. Returning to work after Christmas break has been like jumping into freezing cold water (the type that makes one's brain hurt).

Last year, I would spend my lunchtimes sitting in the gardens across the road reading over the manuscript of What Lies Beneath. It was a nice way to spend sixty minutes. This year, my lunch breaks have been occupied with far more prosaic pursuits.

What significance does this hold for anyone reading this blog? Basically, it means that Akin to Pity (the sequel to What Lies Beneath) will be in print slightly later than I had hoped. I'm looking at May now unfortunately. It's a reality of the amateur writer I guess - doing the stuff that pays the bills must come first.

However, it's not all gloom and doom. Over recent days I have been re-reading the manuscript of Akin to Pity and I'm finding that I'm not making a lot of corrections. I'm already up to page 75, trotting along at a pretty good pace, so it might not take that long after all. What's more important is that I'm actually enjoying what I'm reading. The three months I have spent separated from the Caliban's End saga have not made reading the second book any harder, which bodes well for other readers methinks.

It's probably worth mentioning here the reaction I've had to the first book. As readers of this blog would know, I've been a little nervous that the book may have been too inaccessible and demanding for most readers but the feedback I've received has been to the contrary. Most readers have enjoyed the complexity, even revelled in it. I think I was slightly disheartened by a few comments I received early on - before the book officially went to print - that suggested the narrative was too dense, and I've been apologising for it ever since. Now about thirty people have read the book from start to finish, I'm realising that the challenges the book puts before the reader are pretty much what some people want in their reading.

What has also astounded me is how supportive most people have been about it. The one thing most people seem to be short on is time, which has made it incredibly satisfying to know that there are people who have spent their moments of leisure reading my book. What's even more fulfilling is the extra time they have taken in giving me feedback and asking questions born out of a desire to know what happens next. I've been blown away by the hypotheses some people have had. I don't want to spoil things for them suffice to say there are things in the sequel that may surprise my readers (but hopefully satisfy them too).

Since finishing What Lies Beneath I've played around with the idea of taking the books to publishers or even writing a screenplay of it, but I'm in no hurry. I'll spend the next month or two getting Akin to Pity ready for print and then see what happens from there. It's been good to have a little break from it, but now I'm back in the saddle, I'm keen to dig the spurs into the snorse and get moving again.