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Camp NaNo 2018: The Dilemma of Stagnant Progress

It’s been a slow week for me this Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve restarted about five times, struggled to write that killer opening line, and now I’m trying to get my story going. As slow as it’s going, I’m working on not quitting. I think there’s a gem in this story somewhere and I just have to keep chipping away until it reveals itself. I will probably re-write it anyway but for now it’s all about getting that word count going yeah? Speaking of which, here’s my current progress:

 

 

Writing Without a Plan:

The idea formed back in March (how is it April already!?) and back then I couldn’t wait to write. So I put down the basic thought and left it to simmer. What happened between then and now? Who knows. I didn’t want to think about the story in case I write it before I write it. You know? It’s playing out in your head, building itself up but not in any physical sense? Yeah that. Only when I sat down to start writing, I found that the story had lost its bulk and become a wasted, formless thing. Skulking in the dark recess of my mind on its last leg.

I didn’t know where to start or how. Couldn’t figure out where I wanted the story to go. I still don’t, but it’s beginning to take some shape again. My little ball of unformed clay spinning and spinning and spinning while my dirty hands form and reform the piece of clay into something. Anything.

Getting Over It

As much as I hate that “Just get over it” phrase that we sometimes use, with the expectation that the recipient of the advice will simply overcome their struggle and be fine, I’ve had to tell myself the same thing. It didn’t work, of course, but it changed my mindset a little. Set a silver lining against the clouds of doubt forming. This was augmented by:

  • Reading: Okay so maybe Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Brandon Sanderson aren’t the greatest motivators, when they know how to spin engaging stories so well and seemingly easily. Nonetheless reading their works has helped clarify some of my own writing issues. Especially with the skeletal framework that is my current WIP. I just finished King’s ‘Salem’s Lot and looking to finish The Illustrated Man by Bradbury. I’m feeling a shift in the winds.

      

  • Music: I’m writing a horror so I needed something heavy. That turned out to be Lamb of God, Slipknot, and the occasional Paramore because there’s apparently romance in my story. Hearing the heavy guitar riffs and deep vocals from these metal bands (not you Hayley Williams, your voice is a dream) I find the scenes writing themselves out naturally.
  • Netflix, Crunchyroll, and Manga: Movies, series, anime, and manga – that’s the good life. There’s a lot of good content out there, with unique stories and characters. How they form all of those smaller intricacies that later reveal themselves to be key sub-plots to an even bigger (and mind-blowing) main arc still baffles me. It also motivates me.

Not My Best – That’s For My Editor

Nicky, if you’re reading this, I apologise in advance haha. I’m not really happy or proud of this novella, but I’m writing it. I will finish it. By the 30th of APril (hopefully sooner) I will have 30 000 words of story. Of writing. Of content that later can be tweaked and refined and made better. Maybe this is my Carrie (Stephen King threw it in the trash. His wife rescued it. It was his first published work). Maybe. Nonetheless I will keep writing.

And that’s all I can do right now.

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Writing Hiatus (Not Really)

Hey all,

I guess it’s been a long time since I updated the blog and the reason for that is my mind just failing to wrap itself around life in general. Just a lot of things happening all in all which makes writing difficult. No it’s not writers block, and nothing health wise. Just choices I’ve been making in the last couple of months all catching up at the same time, and emotionally I’m frayed.

At the same time, yesterday I churned out 3000 words in about an hour as two different intros for an idea I have. Each of them an intro to a new story twirling about in my mind like a ballerina doing an endless series of pirouettes. So rather than trying to catch up to March blog posts and book reviews and the endless list of books I keep adding to my reading list, I’ll be going on a mini-hiatus.

So what will I be doing in the mean time?

Camp NaNo Prep

Camp NaNoWrimo is coming up next month. I’ve decided to write another novella (while my other one is still with my editor/publisher). The story is a horror romance temporarily named Upon an Endless Sea. That’s about all I have (I doubt I will use all previous drafts I’ve written haha) so I’ll be using the rest of March to put down some characters and a plot of some sort so I can pants my way through April.

Reading

I am so behind on my reading. Not that I haven’t been reading. On my bedside table (and following me around like a demonic shadow) is the book Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams. It’s about an angel who goes into hell to rescue his demon lover. Beautiful ain’t it? Not so much. It’s like Williams was playing DnD with his characters and every side of the die was an even worse situation than before. A true descent – pun intended. I also have to finish The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradubury and a bunch of other author requested book reviews.

Binge Watching (a.k.a Inspiration)

Yes, yes, yes. I will be watching all the series and movies and anime I haven’t seen yet. Me and Netflix/Crunchyroll gonna have a good time. On my list is:

  1. Altered Carbon
  2. Blade Runner 2049
  3. Insidious 2 + 3 (watched first already)
  4. Baywatch (Don’t even ask)
  5. Dexter
  6. The Machinist
  7. The Taxi Driver
  8. Jacob’s Ladder
  9. Requiem for a dream
  10. Zodiac
  11. A list-full of Anime

Talk about distractions inspiration. Anyway, here’s to a productive March of planning and onwards to an April of writing.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll see ya’ll in April yeah!?

Tales of Terror from Outer Space #BookReview

Title:
Tales of Terror From Outer Space

Authors:
Ray Bradbury, Ray Nelson, Robert Bloch, Brian W. Aldiss, Ralph Williams, Sydney J. Bounds, Robert Presslie, Charles Barkin, Bob Shaw, Arthur Porges, Claude Veillot, Robert Sheckley, Arthur C. Clarke, R Chetwyn-Hayes

Genre:
Horror/Science Fiction

Book procurement:
Bought this anthology in a heavily secured, highly stacked second-hand book store run by such a nice, though wary, old man. He looked like the gatekeeper to a secret library, awaiting the “Chosen One”.

Rating:

A gripping 5 out of 5

Synopsis:

Outer Space – where in the dark mists of infinity lurk alien creatures from far-flung galaxies. Weird monsters like…

The vamipre girl from Mars. The spaceship manned by living corpses

The hideous giant trapped by time. The lump of intelligent jelly. The huge insects that overran the earth.
Space-age horror comes down to earth in these chilling stories by such famous writers as Ray Bradbury, Brain Aldiss, Robert Bloch and Arthur C. Clarke.

First Thoughts

I am on a quest to read as many classic works by famous horror/science fiction/ fantasy authors as possible. While also under tight budget during this Janu-worry period. So it was quite fortunate that I found this gem. (Along with The Priests of Psi by Frank Herbert which will probably be next week’s review)

I started reading the book almost immediately after I got it. (I was waiting for Ole and Elliot for once) The first story by Ray Bradbury affected me for hours afterwards. Haunted. That’s what I can say about not just that story but all that followed. Haunted. *Shivers

The Stories

I, Mars – Ray Bradbury

We are thrown right into the deep end with a beautifully written, nostalgic and mentally-distressing tale of a man forgotten on the planet Mars. There are no aliens or anything of the sort, just the thought-provoking concept of solitude and how far one will go to overcome loneliness. With very creepy personas leading the way. *Shivers

Eight O’Clock in the Morning – Ray Nelson

Ray Nelson is a known science-fiction writer and cartoonist. This story is one of his most noted works which famous director, John Carpenter, turned into the film They Live. Although the film took creative-liberty to extend the story, it does not change the immense psychological effect it has. Basically the entire human race is under the influence of reptilian aliens who use subliminal hypnosis to keep humans under control. On the TV. On the radio. They are everywhere… and one man wakes up from the illusion and into the horror. Turn off your TVs and phones kids.

Side note: I was playing the new rendition of DmC: Devil May Cry and its basically Nelson’s story but with demons. It wasn’t even influenced Nelson’s story or idea and it was created decades after his short story. Could this be an underlying human fear?

Girl from Mars – Robert Bloch

This one wasn’t so scary. The owner of a travelling circus meets a very, very beautiful girl who claims to be from Mars. Its her first time on earth and in his ignorance of her statement, hopes to take advantage of that situation.

Heresies of the Huge God – Brian W. Aldiss

The human psyche is always one that fascinates me. Especially when it comes from a religious world-view. This story is in essence the writings of a new “prophet” sort of St. Paul’s Letter to the… kind of thing. Only it speaks of the Huge God who appears on Earth suddenly and how people react to this startling new entity with religious zealousness.

The Head Hunters – Ralph Williams

The idea of game hunting is probably as old as time. We’ve all seen that gross act (though some people may argue against that) of hunting an animal and placing its severed head on a wall as a trophy. Now imagine Earth was the playground of an alien race who claimed humanity to be their game – and their heads as trophies. Very Predator don’t you think?

Not that scary in the end but a good read. Human ignorance never ceases to amaze me.

The Animators – Sydney J. Bounds

The silent invasion we never see coming begins with a group of scientists exploring the surface of Mars. After a peculiar accident, the dead come to life on the red planet. How will the sole survivor fair against the animated corpses of his fellow crew members? *Shivers

It is a well written, though with very surface story-telling (because it’s a short story) but has deeper ramifications when one starts to think too deeply about what happens.

The Night of the Seventh Finger – Robert Presslie

There are very few stories of aliens that elicit empathy from us. The usual reaction is fear and/or disgust. This particular story plays on multiple emotions as we are given the “alien’s” perspective as well as of the girl walking through the dark who gets picked up by the seven-fingered creature. The ending makes me shake-fists at the irony of it all. With a touch of sadness.

No More for Mary – Charles Birkin

Toby Lewis is a writer on a holiday who finds an obscure creature in his garden. A bug of sorts with the most captivating skin and a single gleaming eye. Knowing his sister  is a renowned entomologist, he captures the creature and hopes to give it to her as a gift. But of course this is no bug.

Charles Birkin’s writing style is fluid and expressive. The detail he paints is gorgeous. Beyond that the story itself intertwines two unconnected creatures into a chance meeting. Coincidence? I think not.

Invasion of Privacy – Bob Shaw

Imagine you’re sitting at the table, and you seven-year-old son states he saw your wife’s grandmother at the old “haunted” house. Only she’s been dead for two weeks. This is how this short story begins and what unfolds is a tale of terror and reflective poignancy as the father seeks out the truth. What he finds may have far-reaching consequences… and not the deep-space kind.

The Ruum – Arthur Porges

*Shivers

An alien crew forget their “Ruum” on a primitive planet. Billions of years before the start of man-kind. In the age-of-man, Jim travels to the Canadian Rockies on an expedition. There he meets a bizarre creature that begins to chase him.

I can’t give away too much but there is a logical reasoning for all of this, and one of those obscure endings that hit you later like  “Ooohhh!!” Arthur Porges you devious man. I was holding my breath the entire read!

The First Days of May – Claude Veilliot

Nooooooo!

Can that just be my review? No? Okay. So. Giant Praying-Mantis like creatures appear on earth and practically decimate the population with their shrill-like screaming and razor-blade forearms-and legs. We follow a survivor who has kept himself hidden in his apartment, waiting for his wife. Hoping for her return. Eventually he leaves the house to search for her and what unfolds is just pure horror. Will I ever sleep again?

Specialist – Robert Sheckley

This was a weird one. Like. Weird. The story revolves around an alien crew made up of various… body parts? that have learned to co-exist as the universe intended. As in Eye is practically just an eye. Engine is a creature who is an engine. Walls are actual walls etc. And they are all sentient, cognitive beings designed by the universe to be exactly what they are. They are also the Ship, each one with a specific role in their interstellar travels. Unfortunately the storm has forced them to find a new crew member… on Earth.

Its peculiar because these beings are so normal in their “human” behaviour while being completely alien in every way. Underlying this whole story, we actually delve once again into the human mind and how our behaviour is so… uncooperative.

Great insight.

No Morning After – Arthur C. Clarke

Trust Arthur C. Clarke to come up with this perfectly normal and yet exceedingly frustrating and true reflection of us as humans. An alien ship is trying to communicate with earth to deliver an incredibly important message. With all the billions of people, the message reaches the most stubborn drunk fool with morbidly accurate reactions to the telepathic voices in his head providing the warning.

I think the protagonist is right in many aspects. To our shame as humans. Just think about it. Imagine you’re the only human on Earth who hears a message from aliens… how would the world perceive you even if you were right?

PS: This story was so affecting, I actually had a dream about something similar… and it was the most heart-wrenching, mind-shattering dream ever. I may even turn it into a story!

Shipwreck – R. Chetwynd-Hayes

How fitting that the last story in the anthology is also about an invasion. A silent one. A scary one. An asteroid crash lands on earth and a gelatinous substance escapes. It is able to break-down any living thing and assume its traits… almost perfectly. The living creature turning to ash on the spot. Then it spots a bipedal on a motorcycle.

*Shivers

Writing

The writing obviously varies from author to author. Some are quite straightforward in their telling while others use strong descriptive language to captive more than just the mental process of reading, but the visual too. However many of them touch on that one important aspect: Humans.

We’ve built up so many defenses in our minds, negating the very idea of “what if it’s true”. Despite all the movies and books and series and documentaries on the possibility of aliens. There’s just a part of us that doesn’t want to accept it. And it is this idea that makes these stories so much more riveting. So much more frightening. So much more… insightful.

Final Thoughts

I love the underlying meaning in every story. Beyond the fear that your neighbour, or your teacher, or your pet could be an alien in disguise – awaiting its orders to subjugate the human race. Or that we are even worth saving if an alien race realised a star is about to explode and they are our last hope. Will we willing jump aboard their vessels or will we assume the worst of them and begin a war. (Ah war… the bane of humanity.)

Just how we think as humans. Our egos. Our fears. Our oh-so-clever brains that logically make us think ourselves superior on every level. The center of the universe. But as one of the characters in the anthology said “probably the one about praying mantes”,

“Establish communication? Do we ever think to establish communication with an ant before we take a boot to the anthill? What if to them, we’re the ants? Do you still think they’ll establish communication?” ~ paraphrased but you get the gist right?

Isn’t that a scary thought?


Tales of Terror from Outer Space was published May 15th 1975.

The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury #BookRecommendation

The Illustrated Man is classic Bradbury – a collection of tales that breathe and move, animated by sharp, intaken breath and flexing muscle. Here are eighteen startling visions of humankind’s destiny, unfolding across a canvas of decorated skin – visions as keen as the tattooist’s needle and as colorful as the inks that indelibly stain the body. The images, ideas, sounds and scents that abound in this phantasmagoric sideshow are provocative and powerful: the mournful cries of celestial travelers cast out cruelly into a vast, empty space of stars and blackness…the sight of gray dust selling over a forgotten outpost on a road that leads nowhere…the pungent odor of Jupiter on a returning father’s clothing. Here living cities take their vengeance, technology awakens the most primal natural instincts, Martian invasions are foiled by the good life and the glad hand, and dreams are carried aloft in junkyard rockets. Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth, widely believed to be one of the Grandmaster’s premier accomplishments: as exhilarating as interplanetary travel, as maddening as a walk in a million-year rain, and as comforting as simple, familiar rituals on the last night of the world.


Last week sometime I found myself in a recognizable yet not quite familiar mall. It was tall rather than wide. And not in the best of conditions. I was to meet my good friend Ole (Of Ole’s Truth) and another fellow writer Elliot. P. McGee for some good clean fun bowling, and later pool/snooker.

The traffic surprised me with its clarity and I was uncharacteristically early for our meeting. Which led me to a heavily chained, second-hand book store run by an elderly man with shocking white hair. His suspicion was momentary as I explained I was looking for books, specifically fantasy. The bushy eyebrows raised a fraction and he hobbled forward to unlock the great chains protecting his store. Oh the smell of old books. The endless shelves. How I adored that place, and even more the two gems I found within it. One was a collection of short stories by renowned authors Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke among others. The other was another anthology but solely written by Frank Herbert. The stories were a combination of horror, science fiction, and science fantasy. How I fell in love.

I don’t know why it took so long to actually read Ray Bradbury’s books. I am enthralled by his writing and the worlds he creates. A masterful writer! I need more!

Author Ray Bradbury

American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival, in 1947.

His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences. Next came The Illustrated Man and then, in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury’s masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden.

On the occasion of his 80th birthday in August 2000, Bradbury said, “The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me. The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve. In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me. I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you’ll come along.”

The Time Traveler’s Almanac – Recommendation

The Time Traveler’s Almanac is the largest and most  definitive  collection of time travel stories ever assembled. Gathered into one volume by intrepid chrononauts and world-renowned anthologists Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, this book compiles more than a century’s worth of literary travels into the past and the future that will serve to reacquaint readers with beloved classics of the time travel genre and introduce them to thrilling contemporary innovations.

This marvelous volume includes nearly seventy journeys through time from authors such as Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R. R. Martin, Michael Moorcock, H. G. Wells, and Connie Willis, as well as helpful non-fiction articles original to this volume (such as Charles Yu’s “Top Ten Tips For Time Travelers”).

In fact, this book is like a time machine of its very own, covering millions of years of Earth’s history from the age of the dinosaurs through to strange and fascinating futures, spanning the ages from the beginning of time to its very end. The Time Traveler’s Almanac is the ultimate anthology for the time traveler in your life.


Not a hint at anything (maybe) but this book was recommended to me while I was looking up Time Travel for a story idea. I’m thinking of picking up this book though just to see what others have written on this fascinating topic.

Any time-travelling books/movies/comics/anime you’ve enjoyed that you think I might be interested in?

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