Monday, 29 February 2016
Saturday, 27 February 2016
It's been nearly a year since I came off the medication. The drugs I was given were used to control the after effects of my 2004 drug overdose. In the wake of that, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
I'm not going to lie; it's not been an easy twelve months. There's been a lot of ups and downs and a lot of learning. Emotions have been bubbling to the surface and sometimes I haven't been sure of what they were. Anger? Exhaustion? Happiness? It's all been a little confusing but I finally feel like I'm getting a handle on it. As every day dawns, I ask “What am I going to learn today?”.
Grief has been a recent emotion I've been dealing with. Grief for what's been and gone. Grief for the years I feel like I lost to recovery. Grief for the things that have happened and the people that have come and gone from my life. Grief as I debate whether to lay long held dreams to rest and live the hand that I've been dealt.
But I refuse to give up. I believe that I have more to give this world than what you read in my books or on here. Keeping going is hard. It's like battering your head against a brick wall. It's like trying to break down walls with a fork. It's like long, endless nights of crying as you try not to slip back into the comforting depths of depression. It's being strong when your body and brain just want to give up.
I could choose between darkness or light, between the crippling depression or the brightness of love. Being evil and vindictive felt good. But that flicker of power was just that; a brief burst in an otherwise bleak world. To choose happiness, and to be happy, felt so much better. And it wasn't for me. It wasn't a choice of ego. Rather it was the happiness at seeing people smile and laugh. It was the beauty of a sunrise, the joy of a song, or the pleasure of a favourite snack. It was about enjoying the little things in life while working on the bigger things. It was, and still is, about letting go of the negative people and situations that were dragging me down. It's been about letting go of the hurt from the past; attacks, drug and alcohol abuse, and people who've seen someone who they can abuse. It was about being kind rather than cruel. Most of all, it was about being comfortable with myself and who I am rather than seeking out those dark corners of drama and dispute.
It was about not letting the darkness win again.
Saturday, 20 February 2016
The internet is rife with articles on what authors shouldn't be doing. From things authors shouldn't do on social media to words that should be avoided. Search for the term “Things an author shouldn't do” and Google returns around 80,000,000 results.
So here's the things an author should do (now with less negativity and more positivity.).
Collaborate (and Listen)
It's fun and it's a great way to meet new writers. You don't have to write anything for publication. Write letters to one another. Play writing games via email. Start a blog together. Bounce ideas around. It's a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
That seems like a crucial one, right? Read all that you can, especially authors you personally know. Buy their books and leave reviews. Support one another instead of tearing each other down (unfortunately I have seen online flame wars between authors. It's painful and sad to watch.).
Write Just for the Heck of it.
I scribble in notebooks. Not all of it will make it into a book but it's a great stream of consciousness. I also keep a journal, albeit sporadically. But it's there if I want it.
Take a Walk in the Literary Woods
Go and sample new things. Pick a genre you wouldn't normally read and give it a go. Search in different places for new ideas.
Give and Receive Advice
If you're an author, chances are you'll get asked for advice at some point. People will ask you to read through some of their pieces or do some editing for them. They'll ask you for your thoughts. Do it. If you can't take it on, politely decline rather than ignore the writer.
On the other hand, be willing to take advice from people. Share your work with a few close friends and listen to what they have to say rather than jump in to defend your work.
Be a Big Kid
Writing is all about having fun. You get to create the dreams that others only dare think about. And if Neil Gaiman says you never have to grow up then you take that advice and run with it.
Support the Next Generation of Readers and Writers
Find projects that support young readers and writers and help to get the next generation excited about reading and writing. Donate books to school and local libraries. Every little helps to keep storytelling alive.
Buy Books. Love Books. Read Books. Give Books
This is a simple one. Give your favourite books as gifts. If people ask for recommendations, give them. Keep lists to pass on to people if they're looking for new books to read.
Support your Local Bookshop
Bookshops, especially small non-chain ones, are making a comeback. Go and support them. See if they run events and get involved. If they don't, see if they'd be happy to set some up (or have you run events).
Be an Ambassador
As an author, you're in a privileged position. You're the ones people look to for inspiration and to be their moral compass. Give back to the writing community. And be nice. Always.
Rae is currently writing a book about Las Vegas. Come and get involved!
Rae is currently writing a book about Las Vegas. Come and get involved!
Thursday, 11 February 2016
Wednesday February 10th saw me leaving Leicestershire and heading back in to Nottinghamshire for the 2016 Brilliant Books. Apparently Nottingham and Leicester aren't the best of friends at the moment (something to do with some game called “football”. I believe our American friends call it “soccer”.). But I was willing to take that risk because this is one of my favourite times of the year.
Brilliant Books is an initiative that encourages reluctant readers in schools to get involved with reading and creative writing. The team bring in people who they find to be an inspiration and have them talk about their favourite books. At the end of the eight weeks, the students stories are compiled into a single volume that anyone can buy.
Last year, we did War of the Worlds. This year, to keep with the Victorian theme, I picked another HG Wells classic in The Time Machine.
The Time Machine has been placed on film a number of times but the book, with its wonderfully winding imagery, is still a joy to read. We went over chapter two which looks at the protagonist's initial journey into the future.
From The Time Machine we jumped to War of the Worlds, including the infamous Orson Welles radio broadcast. Explaining how it caused panic back when it was first broadcast was fun and interesting. It also gives an idea of just how quickly technology has developed in the past century.
We spoke about how the Victorian era is being translated by modern authors via Steampunk. World building and detailing were also issues we talked about, including how to get an image across to a reader, especially if the subject matter is unfamiliar to many people. Along the way, we touched on copyright (one book I had with me was Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. By that point, the characters he used would have been out of copyright).
I did prepare another spooky story but we were did so much talking that it wasn't needed! (Last year, we talked about Skinwalker Ranch in Utah. This time I was going to tell the story of Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk. The incident that took place there is sometimes referred to as the UK's Roswell).
One part of the day that I thoroughly enjoyed was reading over some of the students stories. These guys are talented and are already running rings around some writers! Their ideas are clever and well executed and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished stories.
Going and speaking to the students of Nottingham's Free school was an honour. Being given the chance to pass on a love of reading, writing and creating was a privilege. To spend time with them is also an inspiration to myself and I always find myself coming home with new and exciting ideas. Brilliant Books is a fantastic project to bring young people together and get them creating. It's an initiative that I'm hoping will be going for many years to come.
A number of well known indie authors are included in a book that it is helping to keep Brilliant Books going. I was very blessed to be included alongside some well known names from the indie circles including Brenda Perlin, Georgia Rose, Mark Barry and Lynne Morley. You can find out here how I crammed God, the Devil, a chess match, Dave Grohl, Lemmy, Metallica, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, U2 and the Birds of Satan into less than 1100 words:
Saturday, 6 February 2016
Inspiration is a strange mistress. She appears for fleeting moments or endless weeks. We notice when she's gone as we become frustrated and tired. As quickly as the days change, she once more graces us with our presence.
She appears in the most unlikely of moments and the strangest of forms. An overheard conversation. A missed connection. Snippets of songs. The shape of the clouds on a summer's evening.
All it took for me was a single song. Yet the story that came from that song had spent six years living in my head.
Six years of the same idea bouncing around the walls of my skull with no idea how to string it into a reasonable story. Six years of seeing the same images and having no clue of how to get them down on to paper. Six long years of being frustrated and angry with myself because I couldn't get this story out.
In late 2013, I was trawling through my music collection, trying to find something to kick start the creative process. I've been blessed with living in a very musical family. Wherever you are – in the kitchen, the garage, the car – there's been music. If it hasn't been coming from a stereo, it's been because someone's been drumming, or playing guitar, or singing. If it's not them, then it's one of the bands rehearsing. I'm listening to music while I write this. Music's always been there, ever present whether I've noticed it or not.
The song that triggered that “Eureka!” moment was Megadeth's “Dance in the Rain”. The track describes a dystopian world as told through the eyes of the lower classes. Ideas for the book began to fall into place and, for the first time in a long time, I felt as though I was working on something that came from me. It wasn't a case of writing something to see if it would get me on bestseller lists. I wasn't writing to try and prove something. I was writing because it felt right to write. It was a story that meant something to mean, one that had to be told.
Once the book was complete, I erased its original working title and gave it a new one.
Dance in the Rain.
It was then converted into a screenplay and sent out into the world to find its forever home. It's a story that, over the past two or so years, has taken me on a rollercoaster of a ride, a ride that I hope isn't over yet.
Just a few weeks ago, Megadeth released a new album. Dystopia tells the story of a ruined world. It uses several ideas that I included in the book, ones that made me smile when I caught them. It's also an amazing album and I'm so very proud of the band for putting it out there.
You never know when inspiration is going to hit. You never know how long it's going to take. But it's there,lurking in the shadows and waiting to be discovered. If you need something to prompt you, go digging. Because you never know what you're going to find.