Another New Book

Just an update as writing has taken the majority of my time this past week. I’ve said before that I try to keep a pretty even balance between film editing and writing, but sometimes a project (from either media) needs continuous focus for a little while. Getting the last few chapters done with continuity works better if I’m on it every day.

So, the Ganesha book gets put aside now for a couple of months while I work on the next one on the list. First I’ll need to dedicate most of next week to catching up film editing, which seems never-ending as it is. That works because a short break between projects sort of clears the mind and allows a mental shift to what’s next.

I’ve promised several people to try to get the MBS books out this year. The others I have planned will reference my older books a lot, so I may need to intersperse these with my fiction writing because the creative urge gets antsy if I don’t let loose with a few good sessions of all-out writing without the need to stop and reference things as I do for non-fiction… and sometimes for certain kinds of fiction. I’m getting prodded for the next Steampunk, which requires a certain amount of historical reference.

The scifi keeps nagging at me and events in current Astronomy seem to be correlating to things I’ve planned for the book, so what I might do is free my self-discipline for a couple of weeks to make some progress on this one and then clamp down to do the Elements book, or perhaps the chaos book which doesn’t need to be as long.

I do appreciate the messages I get about these and assure my readers that I’m working constantly to get it all done. I still don’t know how I ever had time to keep a day job.

Short blog today so that I can get back to work. I’ve got a little admin to tidy up and one short story to finish for a deadline, then my mind will be on the next book. Ganesha won’t go into edit until I’ve had a rest from it and can look at it with fresh eyes. It’s a method I’ve started using for all new books now to make sure they get a proper edit. Ideally I’ll get a paperback and re-read again before releasing the ebooks. It’s worth the extra time to keep up the quality.

Who Do You Want To Be?

I generally save posts on this subject for my dedicated blog at http://jaq-d-hawkins.bravesites.com/ but things have turned serious with the suicide of a new Zealand author and anti-cyberbullying advocate called Charlotte Dawson. She was also a model and television presenter, apparently popular in Australia.

http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/charlotte-dawson-death-friends-launch-charlottes-law-petition-20140224-33bc9.html

While I had never heard of this poor woman, the headline might easily have been for someone I regard as a friend, who I know through a couple of author support groups. This isn’t speculation or generalisation, someone I know personally was talking about suicide when she was distraught over attacks online, spearheaded by a couple of toxic women called Angela and Miranda. Both of these women have had accounts deleted from book related social networking sites for their activities, but their sock puppets thrive despite repeated reports and positive identification. They also have an active hate group that operates openly on the Booklikes site, which has prevented the site from developing into the sort of community it had probably intended. I know quite a few people who have given the site a miss due to the hate group always appearing at the top of the discussion groups.

The group was once much larger before the toxic pair started throwing people out who disagreed with them. Since then a lot of people who were misled into harassing authors, with whom they had no personal argument, have seen for themselves that what started as a backlash against a few immature authors who couldn’t take criticism of their books had developed into a hate campaign. Most of the people on the list now have never said a word to a reviewer or done anything to merit inclusion. Angela even started adding people for having ‘the wrong person’ on a social network friends list, although the authors were only networking with other authors and had no idea that anyone on their list might be a target. Angela also effectively blackmailed new authors to prevent them from doing interviews for blogs. The blog in question belongs to an author who never did anything other than to encourage people who had come under attack to keep a positive attitude.

It’s easy to sit back and say that it’s all childish antics. It’s very ‘high school’ and most of the time, gets nothing from me but contempt for the sort of people who would harass someone they don’t know just because someone else they don’t know put their name on a list. However, when people start talking about suicide, it becomes an issue.

One of the group members who developed a reputation for reading books from her “shitlist” for the sole purpose of picking apart things she could put in a scathing one-star review recently walked away after being ousted from Angela’s hate group. I actually felt some sympathy for her as both Angela and the infamous STGRB site simultaneously dumped on her. I’ve always maintained a neutral stance where STGRB is concerned, as they have provided a first point of support for many attacked authors, but I do not agree with everything they post. What I would say to SB is the same that I say to people in the support groups; if you don’t read the blogs, they can’t hurt you. There has been name calling and personal remarks from both Angela and some posters on the other site. While I can appreciate the anger from attacked authors, having been targeted by SB myself, I do not condone public commentary on things like what a person looks like. Their behaviour is the only thing that is up for judgement.

I figure a person who chooses to stop indulging in toxic behaviour deserves a break. Two people from the carpetbombing crowd have subsequently removed their one-stars from books they’ll never read. Intelligence and sanity may well be contagious. The ‘cool kids’ don’t lash out at strangers because Angela behind the curtain says to. One of SB’s supporters who expressed sympathy on her post about Angela’s attacks also mentioned that she had a history of suicidal behaviour. Her one-star ratings are still in place.

What I would say to S****y is hey, guess what. I put a load of one-stars on Angela’s books one day when my friend was talking about suicide. I understand about projecting anger or pain. But you know what? The other day I went and removed her books from my shelves, except for the one I did force myself to read as far as I could stand. I posted an honest review on Amazon UK, but I didn’t copy it to Amazon US or anywhere else. I’m not the sort of person who would sling mud far and wide over something that bad, but the one star on GR represents my honest opinion. I won’t be reading any of her other books, so they don’t belong on my shelves.

Why did I remove them? Not to be magnanimous or even to take the higher ground. I removed them because doing so releases me from the negativity that is generated by expressing hate or disgust in that way.

Who do you want to be?

I ask this question of everyone, from every side of this soap opera. Do you want to be a person who wallows in hate, or someone who can walk away and just enjoy reading books? Do you want to be the person who drives a harried author to suicide? Or do you want to be the person who lends emotional support when someone you know is feeling pain?

For the record, the majority of posts in the author support group, including mine, are supportive messages. Angela likes to plant moles and take selective screenshots, take them out of context and try to portray anyone who crosses her as the sort of person who does what she does herself. Apparently she didn’t like my review and has made me a favourite target ever since. Hypocrisy anyone?

The point of this post is that suicide is not an answer. It must not be allowed to happen again through cyber harassment. I will be part of the campaign to make site owners take responsibility for their content, but I’ll say to anyone from any of the camps who has a history of suicidal thoughts what I say to my close friends who suffer from Depression: Suicide robs you of finding out what happens in the next chapter. There is no problem that cannot be solved, no matter how heavy it seems at the time.

I do not suffer from Depression myself, but I’ve dealt with real life problems that are beyond your worst nightmares. I’ve taken guns out of the hands of attackers and I’ve won a child custody case after a parental kidnapping when I couldn’t afford a lawyer. Compare that to Angela’s spewings and you can see why her false rhetoric rolls off so easily.

I choose to be the person who gives support to those who are feeling weighed down by all the negativity, as I’m effectively immune to it. Who do you choose to be?

Do you want to be like Angela or Miranda?

In the 1960′s there was a saying: “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”

It’s not that hard to walk away. Get on with the things that bring you joy in life. Release yourself from the need to lash out, or to retaliate. Just think what it would be like to be the man in this story.

http://www.tickld.com/x/this-man-got-mugged-what-he-did-next-was-genius

You can be free. You can be the person who released themselves from the negativity and lived happily ever after. You can write the next chapter of your life and make it what you want it to be.

Even Angela could have that power. It’s only a choice of who you want to be.

Dealing With Unacceptable Behaviour in Fictional Characters

I’ve mentioned before that I write reviews once a month for a Horror review site. I’m not sure why I do it, except that the site’s criteria matches my own taste for this genre pretty closely and it pushes me to seek out new books in an area that I might enjoy. I won’t read slasher books or anything to do with serial killers. I prefer supernatural themes; ghost stories, stories that deal with magic, traditional vampire or werewolf stories (as opposed to the YA watered down Romance stuff that is popular in the self-publishing market).

I was writing a review this month for a story that dealt with ancient Indian magic (the American kind, rather than from India) and the behaviour of some of the characters reminded me that in certain genres, you have to expect characters to do something that will make you uncomfortable. In Horror, this is definitely a given. Nobody expects Hannibal Lector to be the sort of person you would want to invite home to dinner.

Similarly, in the story I was reading, one of the ‘bad’ characters was particularly well-written because he went into areas of taboo that would make any reader uncomfortable. Issues of bullying, child abuse and violent behaviour make for a good character that the reader can only despise. It’s a Horror novel – expect to be horrified.

Thinking about this aspect of writing put me in mind of a deliberately obtuse troll who has some sort of obsession with telling people that my first goblin novel has rape scenes. It doesn’t. It has goblins. Goblins don’t behave according to human perceptions of acceptable behaviour and any Fantasy reader wouldn’t expect them to. Their customs for mating are explained within the context of the story quite clearly and although there are hints of borderline bdsm practices as well as bisexuality suggested in the realms of the goblins (they have a female shortage after all),  what might be considered dubious consent by human standards is perfectly normal to the goblin in the scene that the troll likes to cite.

This is why I don’t read a lot of YA stories. Many of them write characters who are supposed to be other than human as if they were human and have all the same morals and standards of behaviour. A good story will breach those boundaries and depict non-human characters with differences in any number of ways.

Watching old episodes of the original Star Trek series also brings speculation on species differences. As a science fiction series involving space travel will inevitably have aliens, it is interesting to observe how differences in alien societies in fiction have evolved over several decades. Star Trek can seem fairly ‘beginner level’ after all this time, as several other series and films have gone further to differentiate alien characters from standard human (usually American) culture and attitudes.

The first film I ever saw that crossed that line was Enemy Mine. Dennis Quaid crash lands on a planet where an alien has also crashed and they are thrown together for survival, having been on the opposite sides of a war until then. Cultural differences are discovered along the way as the plot progresses and this forms much of the central theme of the film.

Many good science fiction and fantasy books have also depicted ‘other’ species in various ways. The Chieri from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series come to mind. An unimaginative person might write them off as a variation of elves, but having read all the books and learned bits and pieces of their nature over time, Darkover readers would recognise the originality that went into these creatures and how they really don’t resemble elves very much at all. Yes, that includes mating practices. Apart from anything else, they are a species that can change gender. There is precedent for it in nature, just as there is precedent for creatures that use venom to paralyse their mates and some that eat them afterwards. Try hanging human perceptions of acceptable behaviour on that one!

Most stories of any genre will have an antagonist. Chances are that the antagonist will behave in some manner that the reader will find disturbing in some way. This is what makes for a good story. Writing a really good bad guy requires stepping over lines and risking upsetting someone. The degree depends on the type of story. Even in children’s stories we get an antagonist, like the farmer in Peter Rabbit who was actually justifiably upset that rabbits were eating his vegetables. When we’re sympathising with Peter, the idea that the man would kill him is very upsetting, but it is a realistic depiction of a farmer protecting his crops.

In a good werewolf story, people get hurt. Even in traditional vampire stories like Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire, human-like polite behaviour is balanced against the innate instinct of the vampire to feed on blood and vampires are not always nice. Lestat, who has become a very popular character over several books, behaves abominably on many occasions. The unacceptable becomes acceptable because it is what we expect from such a creature. While this wouldn’t extend to serial killers and other sociopath humans, we still have to expect unconventional behaviour from these characters because they are sociopaths. We may not want to encounter such people in real life, but if we make a choice to read about this sort of character, expecting them to behave according to our own codes of conduct would be unrealistic.

For the writer, the ability to step out of normal behaviour and write a character according to deviations in expectation is a fine art. Whether it is a human with an abnormal mind or a creature of another species, the writer has to project a very different version of normality into that character from their own normal way of thinking. Otherwise characters would all be the same, and how boring would that be?

Different customs and characteristics are what make characters or species of characters unique and interesting in context of a story. Sometimes these characteristics can be very alien or even disturbing. Interaction between characters that we like and those we don’t like holds interest and gives a story substance. At least if a character like Hannibal Lector reviles the reader, the writer got a reaction, and in that case, a best selling book and movie.

Filmmaking, Reviews and Re-writing

I’ve somehow got my time management to allow me a fair bit of reading time in the evenings, despite the amount of work that I do in the mornings and afternoons. I do love a good book. That’s what drives most good writers to write – the enjoyment of a good story, which leads to inspiration for stories of our own.

In my case, time to write is in a constant juggle with my filmmaking activities. This took over last week as I found the perfect composer for the film project I’m currently editing and sorting out time codes and technicalities commanded much of my attention. I’m on top of that now and can carry on working on effects and such while he is composing music.

I wrote about all this for my filmmaking blog yesterday, only to find that the blog has disappeared! Not just my film blog, but the entire server that it is normally on. This is not a crisis as that blog is mirrored from its original source at the Norwich Evening News and I keep all blogs on Word files anyway, but it was a reminder that it’s always a good idea to keep copies of blogs if you want to have a record of what has been written before. In this case, the blog acts as notes for a book on filmmaking that I have planned for after I finally get a film released. Those notes are safe, but I find myself scratching my head, wondering if it’s a temporary blip or if the server has been abandoned. I’ll give it until after Christmas, then look for an alternative if it isn’t back. The Norwich Evening News no longer supports pictures and has become sort of back page, so I prefer to mirror the blog on something more visible.

Meanwhile, my re-edit of Dance of the Goblins has turned into a re-write. My writing has developed over time and there is rather a lot that I look at and say to myself, “I could do that better.” I’m more than halfway through the book, but the number of minor changes have kept me from working on my new projects for the moment. I don’t think this will be the case with the sequels as they were written much more recently and should have a more usual number of minor changes, but I’m seeing why a few reviews only had three stars. There was room for improvement, and those improvements are being made.

Despite all this going on, I find myself reading four books, alternating to read a little of each in the evenings. One of these is for a review. As I’m in several author support groups, I’m making an effort to do reviews as time allows, even sometimes outside my usual genres. Not all of these are for authors in the groups. I choose those that sound like they’ll have an interesting plot from a variety of sources. I have one that I’ll be reading next (as soon as I finish the current review read) that I’ve been warned is a Romance. Although I don’t normally read Romance, I’ve made the occasional exception for various reasons. I read Twilight to see what all the fuss was about and I read a popular Romance author to see why she was so popular. My comments about both are probably best kept to myself.

I also read one by a sad woman who spends most of her time stalking other authors just because they are on a list for trolling. It was dire to say the least. Though I can’t identify with the ‘break everyone else’s toys’ attitude, I can see how she fits the profile of a person with a failed ambition, lashing out at others. Ironically, she put a few people on the list herself just for having one particular author on their friends list and continues to harass them, despite the fact that that author has been dropped off friends lists by most of the people in the support groups because his methods were overly confrontational.

Two of the ring leaders of the GR trolls have suddenly disappeared from the site. This improves the site markedly, although book pages are still riddled with one star ratings from people (and sock puppets) who have never read the books, but rate them just because someone put them on a list. I can have no respect for people who are lemming-like followers and are happy to vandalise book pages of people with whom they have no personal argument. I’m finding that book lists made by these people with intent to put readers off are a good place to look for good book recommendations. I’m given the impression that most of them have a low reading level and just don’t understand intelligent books. I’ve found some real gems by looking at the books of authors in the support groups, though not all of them are brilliant. I’m doing occasional reviews of the better ones.

I came across an interesting quote that made me think of the troll group:

“The weak humans, those who have no sense of internal power, seek it through their austerity and authority over others. You know this is true. Those who most seek power in your social structure are those who are the most lacking in a sense of self-worth or significance. They are nothing, and would perish easily without the assistance of others. So they seek to rule among your species and to find those who will serve them. There are always many who will consent to this slavery in the hope that they will rise in the artificial hierarchy they support. They, like the people in the highest authority, fear any form of self-sufficiency. They are not survivors.”

Sad people. They are no longer having the impact that they crave when new authors are attacked. Most of these authors find the support groups quickly and learn that it is a repeating pattern, then soon laugh it off. There are still a few failed author stirrers who try to keep goading on whatever followers they can find, but even the obvious sock puppets have become no more than a minor irritation. I expect those will be the next to disappear.

In the meantime, I’m really enjoying having some reading time again. It means that I miss most of what is on television, but that’s not a great loss. I’ll finish the re-edits on all my books in the next couple of months and should soon be releasing some new titles. My biggest distraction is that I’m also finishing a film, but that too will give me a great sense of accomplishment.

Happy Christmas to everyone!

What’s In A Name?

Choosing names for characters in a book is a process that every writer must deal with constantly. For those who write contemporary novels, ordinary names are usually sufficient, but a good writer considers the impressions given by any specific name and often the meaning behind the name gets looked up.

Writers tend to keep baby name books around for this reason, although this information can also be looked up on-line these days and finding names from other cultures to add some diversity to a story can be easier to do on-line rather than keeping multiple hard copy books around to leaf through.

For Fantasy writers, deviating from the ordinary is fairly essential. You can get away with some common names, but mixing them with older or made-up names helps add that ‘other world’ taste to a fantasy setting. George R.R. Martin, for example, has been very clever in creating slightly altered names for his Songs of Ice and Fire Series. Eddard sounds similar to Edward, Danaerys to Denise, and so on so that when a Jon, Sam or Robb gets thrown in, they are offset by Petyr, Tywin, Bran, Jorah and so on. Tyrion is of course the favourite of many.

Some fantasy stories use more exotic names, which poses a challenge for the writer to keep them pronounceable while still maintaining an exotic feel. I’ve been reading one recently with some very interesting names, called The Raie’Chaelia by Melissa Douthitt. I came across the author in a group on Facebook and became curious about the book because of the exotic sounding name, then after reading a sample decided this was something I would probably enjoy.

It is indeed a good story that would appeal to the same audience as the Terry Brooks Shannara series books, but one thing I particularly admire is the artistry of naming characters, peoples and places in a way that sounds exotic, yet is easy to see how to pronounce. The most difficult term in the book is the title itself, but a pronunciation is supplied within the context of the story early on.

In my own character naming practices, I often use the baby naming books and lean towards names that have fallen out of use, like Latham, Ranalf, or Horatio, but also make up a few, like Talla. For my non-human characters, I sometimes find myself making use of my own goblin name generator on my website at http://www.jaqdhawkins.co.uk/name.php

This can be fun to play with, entering names with an appropriate meaning and watching to see what comes up.

Names have subtle inferences that the subconscious interprets in a way that influences a reader’s impression of a character. A hard sounding name with associations of power, like Khan for example, will make a completely different impression than something like Colin, which has a more intellectual feel to it. Can you imagine if the second of the Star Trek films had been called The Wrath of Colin? Somehow it just doesn’t have the same effect as The Wrath of Khan.

Regardless of genre, character names are important. Certain names trip different inherent expectations. If you were to read a ChickLit story with characters named Jessica and Beth, which one would you expect to be more outgoing? Most people would say Jessica, assuming that Beth is a gentle creature who likes to read. After all, if she were a party girl, she would probably be called Lizzy. It’s prejudice and stereotype, but we are all subject to these subtle impressions, and it is the writer’s job to make best use of this simple fact of human nature and use it to best effect.

I’m working on introducing more culturally diverse characters into my next fiction story. It’s a scifi so there is plenty of scope for mixing cultures and a diversity of backgrounds. This makes for an interesting challenge when choosing names, to avoid cliché and common choices while choosing names from unfamiliar cultures that still hold the feel of the personality of the character as I see him or her. Name meanings play a large part in this, as well as the sound of the names that are considered.

Naming characters is almost as important as naming your own child. My primary characters for the upcoming novel are in place now, but the process of choosing them filled up a day’s work. It’s worth the time and effort, because when the story is finished, these important characters will exude the personality I’ve chosen for them. Who knows, perhaps someday someone will name a child for a favourite character from one of my books, which will help spread that little bit of cultural diversity that resides in the cultural identity of a name.

Getting the Facts Right

As much as I enjoy writing fiction, my writing roots and reputation are in non-fiction, specifically metaphysical subjects. I have stories bursting to be written, but my primary writing project at the moment is to keep a promise to write a book about Ganesha.

I have plans to write more books in my established category for the digital market, including covering subjects I’ve done before that are currently locked into paperback only format, but Ganesha won out for the first project of what will be not officially a series, but a series of books to bring my Mind, Body, Spirit writings into the realm of E-books and all aspects of modern publishing.

The process of writing these books can be slower than fiction as I have to do research in some areas. For example, I’ve been collecting information on Hinduism to put modern practices of working with Ganesha into context of his historical roots.  Anyone who has ever read about the history of Hinduism will find that it can be a woolly subject, but thankfully I don’t have to write a comprehensive history, just an overview so that I can place Ganesha within the pantheon of best known Hindu gods in a way that Western readers will be able to comprehend. I’m actually finding it quite interesting.

Many of my past books have required research into folklore as well as history. The research itself isn’t all that time consuming apart from actual reading time. What gets tricky is transferring the facts that I learn into my own version of events without plagiarising a source or changing the information in a way that would compromise the integrity of the information. It can be a challenging balance to maintain.

Sloppy research makes for the sort of books that can bring the reputation of a genre down, so I feel it’s important to get the facts right, even when limited information is required. It can feel like doing a school essay at times, but in this case the gruelling work only affects two chapters and then I can have the freedom to write things that flow a little more quickly, like modern observations, opinions and personal experience. I want this book to be both informative and entertaining.

Meanwhile, a lot of blog readers will probably have noticed that changes at Goodreads have sparked rather a lot of blog entries across the Internet. Everybody has an opinion on the matter, but let’s look at the actual facts:

Goodreads recently deleted one Listopia and several shelf titles that they expressed “bring down the tone of the site”. They have put in a new policy that they will delete lists or shelves that violate new guidelines.

That’s it for facts. Anything else is speculation, opinion or just plain drama. I’ve said what I have to say on the matter on one of my other blogs where I deal with troll issues, but the gist of it is that 1. I think this move is a year overdue and 2. I will just wait and see how they deal with the retaliations of the small group behind this problem.

I could speculate with all the rest, but there’s no point to it. We’ll all see in good time what the longer range plan is and how it all unfolds. What I would say to authors who have been targeted for multiple one star ratings is don’t panic. I strongly advise that you do not try to balance them with fake 5 star ratings.

Let’s all just step back, and wait and see.

Results are always better when you take the time to get your facts right.

Editing, Editing, Editing!

Editing seems to be a never-ending process. As if I didn’t do enough for my own books, I’m now doing commercial editing for three small companies. In the last couple of weeks, editing has taken over my writing days, which I don’t intend to allow to continue for much longer.

It started because The Wake of the Dragon has gone into paperback now and I needed to check one technicality before it was put on Amazon. It will be there in the next few weeks by the way, and is currently available at http://www.lulu.com/shop/jaq-d-hawkins/the-wake-of-the-dragon/paperback/product-21141444.html.

As the book had been written on more than one computer, there was an inconsistency in the style of asterisks and speech marks. The easy way to fix this was to do a find-and-replace with the desired style all the way through, but this meant that I had to go through and manually change any beginning speech marks, as the programme isn’t quite clever enough to differentiate between the beginning and ending marks.

This, of course, raised the possibility that a few could easily be missed. When I got my proof copy, I decided that the best thing I could do is read the story again to look for them, as these things really stand out to me these days, even on my own stories that I haven’t read for a while. Besides, it’s a fun story and I was well up for enjoying it from a reader perspective.

I did find a few that had been missed, but in the process of reading, I also came across several places where a changed word here or there would improve the writing. It wasn’t wrong per se, but could benefit from some minor changes. So, reading the story just for enjoyment went out the window and I began a process whereby I would read just one chapter every evening, then go over the same chapter during my work time the next day and assess every sentence, making the minor changes where I deemed them appropriate.

The idea behind doing it this way is partly because things get missed when you get caught up in reading the story. By reading the same chapter the next day and keeping the increments to one chapter, I was able to better read the chapter on the second reading with an editor’s eye, rather than looking quickly to see what would happen next in the story. It also made the time commitment limited so that I could keep up with the other things I do. I carried on this process through my film days as well.

By the time I finished, I had enjoyed the story, albeit slowly, and I would swear that the text is now immaculate. I would be astonished to find a single typo. Would that the commercial books I read were as pristine! I’m currently reading a book put out by one of the Big Six publishers and have noted seven glaring typos so far.

Having tidied the book to such a standard, I decided that I would continue and do this with all of my fiction books. I’m going to wait until after a film related trip I’m going on at the end of this month, then I’m going to start reading Dance of the Goblins, one chapter at a time with an eye for spotting anything that might be improved as well as any typos. I don’t expect to find any of the latter, but if they are in the Paganarchy paperback editions, I’ll find them and fix them.

I will then continue all the way through the series, including the third book which hasn’t been released yet. As a matter of fact, I think that all of my future books, both fiction and non-fiction, are going to go through this process before release. I see more in hard copy than on screen, so the plan is to get them ready for paperback release and get a sample copy, then read it in detail before releasing even the e-books. With this process, I hope to always have pristine editing in my books.

Meanwhile, the commercial editing is taking too much of my time. I was given a project just when I was putting much of my attention on getting sound files placed for my film work before going to record the next batch, and this edit has cut into my writing time too much. Without saying anything that would compromise client confidentiality, some publishers have stricter standards than others and this particular project, while an interesting story, is a punctuation nightmare. The time it takes to point out the same mistakes repeated over and over makes the fee insufficient for the hours involved. This one is going to take two more days for me to finish. Every page is riddled with my red marks.

I really should have sent it back and told them to have the author learn some basic punctuation rules before giving it to an editor, but it was given to me by someone I like and my ‘too nice’ streak agreed to take it before I realised how much work it was going to take. I’m seriously considering dropping off that publisher’s editor list.

I forgot to mention, my short stories are going to go through this re-editing process as well. I have a reviewer who has volunteered to read them as I finish them, which will be great for feedback. Then maybe I’ll get on with writing the rest of the goblin short stories that I had planned, in between other projects.

Writing Non-Fiction

I first started my writing career with non-fiction, writing books that are now classified as Mind, Body, Spirit. That’s just another term for occult books that allows it to encompass the New Age and Self-Help stuff, but nevermind. It allows the booksellers to keep their categories contained without inciting the religious fanatics as Astrology and Occult used to do when that was the name of our shelves.

But I digress. The point is that I wrote non-fiction, which is different than writing fiction. I never gave up writing in this category and have several unfinished projects that are in various stages of completion from notes to having several chapters written. One of the convenient things about non-fiction is that you can leave a project for a time and don’t have to ‘tune into’ it again as you do with a story. It is information, presented in an organised form, and each chapter is like writing a separate essay.

Non-fiction requires a certain degree of organisation. Once I’ve chosen a subject, I work out what there is to say about the subject and make chapter titles to reflect the needs of the book. This is a natural form of outlining, which I think that any non-fiction writer must practice in some way. Books that ramble on about a subject willy-nilly don’t tend to express the subject well.

Once the subject of each chapter is determined, the research starts. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert in the subject, the writer still has to provide a variety of references if s/he wants to present the salient points to good effect. Exactly how this works varies from one subject to another but in a topic as ‘woolly’ as the occult, a combination of personal experiences, historic references, case studies and apocryphal stories may come into play.

If the writer is writing about something academic the references are actually easier, if perhaps more time consuming to gather. For example, if Professor Brian Cox writes a book on the subject of Astrophysics, the book will be organised with chapters that present information from scientific sources and perhaps some observations through a telescope. There may be references to historic ideas of the stars, but emphasis would be on more up to date discoveries.

If Tony Robinson were to write a book about modern Archaeology, he would probably have chapters that explain known history of certain periods as well as personal experiences to relate from his explorations with Time Team, the Archaeological television programme that he hosts.

In the subjects I write about, there are often references in folklore and legend that are relevant to the topic at hand and perhaps some history if occult ideas of the past are included. History is rich with experiments in Alchemy and known magician personalities. One of the books I’m slowly working on now will reference books on Archaeological landscapes which were a hot topic in the 1970′s. Another one on elemental spirits will reference historic folklore of various countries as well as my own past books on the subject, re-relating a few personal experiences that might be of interest to readers of this sort material.

A reference book I began many years ago stands to be finished this year as well. It is effectively a guidebook to those who are new to the occult and looking for which path to take. Most of the research for this one was done when it started, as I contacted various groups and developed a complete table of contents that covers every aspect of what the reader will want to know. Updating the information will be as easy as perusing the Internet, although the groundwork I did in the early phases of the book is invaluable. The fact that I’ve made a name for myself in the genre since then will lend significant credibility to the book as well.

I enjoy writing fiction. I expect I will always have a next story to write. But writing non-fiction appeals to the natural researcher in me, as well as the OCD aspect of my three planets in Virgo that enjoys organising information into tidy chapters. There is room in my life for both.

I’m not going to put any time frames or deadlines on my writing projects for a while as the filmmaker side of my life is putting quite enough pressure on me to finish things, but for a few months at least, I’m going to be working on finishing some of my non-fiction projects that got put aside in favour of both the films and the fiction writing for several years. I’ll continue to write bits of fiction when chapters formulate in my head and must be let out, and in between I’m going to catch up on all those emails and marketing links that get put aside for ‘later’ when the determination to finish a specific book takes over.

I have no doubt that one project or another will suck me in and demand to be finished ‘first’, but that is part of the writer’s life. Hopefully I’ll get some of the backlog in my waiting projects folders finished up before the next airship escapade or trip to the moon colony takes me over.

At least I never get bored.

In Support of WaterAid

The organiser of one of the reader groups I participate in has facilitated a project which I think is rather good. It’s for a charity, WaterAid. http://www.wateraid.org

WaterAid’s global aims are:

1.      To promote and secure poor people’s rights and access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation.

2.      To support governments and service providers in developing their capacity to deliver safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation.

3.      To advocate for the essential role of safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation in human development.

4.      To further develop as an effective global organisation recognised as a leader in our field and for living our values.

So, what does this have to do with writing? After contacting the organisation and learning about the legalities involved, Jay (the organiser) invited authors to submit short stories for an anthology to be distributed for free, encouraging people to give a donation to WaterAid.

The anthology, Of Words and Water,  is out now on Smashwords and can be found at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/330936

The stories all have a watery theme in some manner and have been carefully selected and extensively edited to create a professional quality anthology. As Amazon doesn’t allow free products directly, it has been placed on Smashwords and everyone in the group is spreading the word so that 1000 copies will be downloaded, which would generate Amazon distribution through Smashwords.

So, if you’re reading this, please download a free copy and encourage everyone you know to do the same!

Donations large or small to WaterAid are encouraged, but not required to enjoy the anthology.

It’s all for a good cause. Nobody should have to live without access to clean water.

Series

I’ve finally finished the third and final goblin book. I’m not sure how long it will be for release as the editor is still ill, and I’m not going to put out something that isn’t properly edited. It came out a little longer than I had planned as I just couldn’t rush the ending. It wasn’t just the ending of the novel, but the end of a series. All the loose ends needed to be tied up.

It may be a while before I consider doing another series. The advantage to them is that you can revisit a world you’ve already built and enjoy, but they commit the writer to a monogamous relationship. Other projects that wait for their turn can get put aside for some time. I’ve got quite a backlog as a result of the time that has gone into this one.

I did a series in my MBS books as well and although non-fiction has the advantage that a series is almost automatically outlined and easy to write, it still has that time and exclusivity aspect. I’ve been able to get a little work at a time done on other projects, but I mostly need to focus on one at a time.

Speaking of which, quite a few blogs back I mentioned that I was working on something in a different genre. It kept calling me back to keep working on it, while I kept trying to stay on the series book. I’ve been quiet about it for a while, partly because I was considering the idea of releasing it under a different pen name. It’s a common practice with authors as it keeps things tidy and avoids readers of one genre being disappointed if they buy something from the same author and find themselves with a book in a genre they don’t enjoy.

I finally got it finished and it got through edit and was released a couple of days ago. I’m going to keep the alternate pen name to myself for a little while though, and let it gain momentum on its own. Ironically, I suspect that my stalker was expecting me to do something of the sort as she and a couple of her more obsessive cohorts latched onto a book that I gave 5 stars to and have been trolling it. I can’t see any other reason they would attack that particular author, even by the drop-of-a-hat standards of their troll group.

I’m amused because not only did the other author shrug it off on his blog, but by jumping the gun the silly woman has called attention to the fact that she continues to stalk me. This has been going on since 2005. Sometimes the mind boggles at how lacking in self-esteem these people can be.

So, apart from making whatever changes come of the edit, I’m done with goblins for the moment. I can always do what Anne Rice does with her vampire books and add side stories if I go through withdrawal from my goblin world. First I want to clear some backlog. I’ve got partially finished stories and notes to keep me busy for some time, just in the Fantasy genre.

I also have a lot of little things to catch up, so I’m going to take my writing days in June to catch up on those while I do any edit changes on the goblin book. There are bits of admin and all those emails that you put aside thinking “I should look into that when I have more time,” plus a few short stories I’ve been meaning to do and even 500 word writing contests and such that get put aside when all attention is on finishing a book.

My film work will get more of my focus for the month as I’m close to finishing off the sequence for my second film and have been actively organising ADR sessions. I expect I’ll do bits of writing in one project or another as there are many I’ve been wanting to get to work on, but I know which one will get my primary attention once I’ve given myself a breather.

I’ve been getting requests from readers of my Mind, Body, Spirit books that formed the basis of my writing career. The publisher that has rights to all my old books isn’t moving towards digital publishing very fast when fans are asking for ebook versions, so the obvious solution is to write a couple of new books in the genre with updated material.

Fiction will continue to be my main love, but occasionally it’s good to remind myself of my roots. It also tends to make the magic in my Fantasy novels more believable.