I think I might have a bit of a problem with various isms – racism, sexism, and homophobia specifically. Now, I don’t go out of my way to be racist, sexist, or homophobic, certainly. I consider myself non-sexist, for instance, but I’d probably be surprised if I took part in the sexism test (there’s probably one around). However, in the last couple critiques, people pointed out a couple lines that came off as those things in my writing. And that’s something I’m not proud of. So, I’m asking my friends and blog readers if they know any methods for being more aware of those things in my writing.
“…but no matter how elegant the writing is, if there’s no soul, then the book is nothing more than a hollow collection of pages bound between two harder pieces. And that wouldn’t be a very good book.” XJ Selman, http://xjselman.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/why-do-we-write/
Guess I’m screwed, eh? :p
Anyway, damn! Is *that* how long it’s been since my last post? Wow. Well, okay, sure I had Vision since then, and a whole heap of meetings before starting a job course which began yesterday (warehousing and forklift, because *obviously* I just want to be the only forklift driver in Australia with a Bachelor of Creative Writing). And holy forklift it has a lot of OHS stuff to wade through! But that’s neither here nor there. Except this is turning into an update post anyway, so whatever.
I thought maybe my writing was devoid of soul. That’s probably because I’ve been immersed in Children of Fire/Tesla Contracts/whatever for so freaking long it’s probably lost its zest. But people are generally ecstatic about my voice, the crazy, quirky, fun version of a post-apocalypse city with extra helping of cheesy pulp action. Mmm, cheese. That reminds me (‘reminds’ is spelt wrong? WTF!): I had the most glorious ‘home-made’ style burger today. So glad I went to the ‘Smoko van’, which as it turns out is actually a food van that just shows up during smoke break and offers you burgers with actual bread and meat on them. Oh. My. Glock. (that’s my new catchphrase, don’t steal it!). On the tangent of meat, who’s read John Dies At The End (now an actual movie!) and remembers when the ham golem supposedly said “prepare to MEAT your doom!”? Best. Line. Ever. Except maybe “Well.” in Dresden Files 9 (I think) when Molly does her first corpse-reading spell and has an entirely “different” experience than Harry or the other dude had. Or the end of one chapter late JDATE where one of them says to Amy “Don’t worry, there’s *always* something interesting going on in [Undisclosed]!” (Next chapter: “Nothing interesting happened for four months.”)
I had a point, originally. Right, soulless writing. The thinking of mine thereof. Well, turns out my first chapter of The Silver Shard, despite a couple issues – too much going on at once and an over-description issue – was something they felt was really fun and, if I tidied it up, could become a best seller. Yes, best seller. I’m mighty pleased with myself – but more importantly (and more factually) with the writing I produced, and the effect it had on people. That’s always nice, when you receive feedback like that. And “you really know your taverns”.
Oh yeah, not to brag or sound too overly badass or anything, but did you know I’ve actually written while in taverns? Where people come to drink, laugh, shout, fight and hook up? (that’s Australian for “do the sex thing”). I must be insane! Well, yeah. I’ve got the disability pension card to prove it.
[end of blog thingy goes here]
Now with 0% characterisation!
The streets of Crystal City rushed by, a blur of lights and sounds, wind whipping his face as the hover bike sped past building after building in pursuit. Jarred couldn’t let him get away, not with the key to the Elders’ estate!
He dialled up the throttle on the pink hover bike’s handlebar, and the vehicle jerked ahead with enough force to make Jarred have to lean forward and into the slightly more protected console to avoid the worst of the wind resistance. Wasn’t this city supposed to be an enclosed environment? It was a floating city with a dome on it. Surely they wouldn’t have to worry about winds amongst these buildings? But apparently they did, as cold hair blasted his eyes and made them tear up.
Ahead, the thief zipped between airbuses and hovering cars as they presented themselves, veering into the unregulated airspace zones and back again. Jarred swung out into unregulated space, off the path marked by fluorescent light strips, and right into the path of a restored and modified Cadillac. He swerved upwards, narrowly missing the heads of the man and woman, and was back closer to the diagonal path again, on the thief’s trail once more. The thief looked over his shoulder, saw Jarred, and plummeted. Jarred followed suite, and the thief swerved left over China Town’s fireworks.
Sneaky bastard, Jarred thought, as explosions ripped through the sky and paper tubular dragons danced past. Jarred swerved every way through the floating objects and thought he’d lost the thief, when he spotted him making for the Elder’s sanctuary. Jarred couldn’t let him get there. It was a straight run to the building. Increasing the thrust to maximum, Jarred closed the distance to within throwing length, and called up his power.
His outstretched hand crackled with electricity. With a force of will he opened his palm and a vicious lightning fork streaked from it. It missed. The thief dived, and Jarred followed, sending another lightning bolt from his hand. This time the bolt struck the thief’s hover bike in the back, right near the engine, and fire and smoke poured from it as the bike’s flight became erratic. Swaying, the thief brought the bike down onto the court where a water feature stood and finally, several metres from the concrete, leapt off. The fiery bike exploded.
He landed and rolled. Jarred slammed on his brakes and pulled up a metre from the ground. He leapt off as well and his own bike hovered there, obediently.
The thief drew a plasma sword handle and activated the blade. Swirling blue energy pulsed to life in the shape of a sword. Jarred drew Silverflame in response, called out its true name—Argama Fiamdel—and the silvered metal blade lit up on fire. The two clashed.
The thief was a good swordsman too. But Jarred was faster. Extra energy coursed through his veins, and his strikes were just as strong, only faster. The thief realised the difference in ability and quickly reached into a pocket, and brought out a canister which he threw into Jarred’s face. It scored a direct hit and exploded into a spray of grey powder that choked Jarred’s eyes.
Jarred coughed and sneezed, unable to see anything as the thief’s footsteps carried away in the direction of the voting. Jarred rushed to the water feature and dunked his head in, eyes open. The water cleared away the grey powder, which fell from his face in muddy splotches. Jarred brought his head up again and gulped for air as he cast about frantically for the thief. There, having just attacked the two guards either side of the nearest door with his plasma sword!
Jarred rushed up to the scene and darted straight through the metal detector, which only made a scene when he passed through. The thief tore through the grand ballroom, down the red-carpet stairs and into the mass of elegantly dressed voters, pushing them out of his way if the plasma sword’s threatening presence didn’t do it for him.
Up on the stage was the successful candidate… and his security team. All ten of them, essentially brutes in tuxedos, stepped into a defensive ring in front of the newly elected leader, and drew their own plasma swords.
The thief ran his sword through his own stomach.
Part 1 is here.
Suddenly I am aware of what I am for the first time. I am the spirit inside the katana on Jeff’s wall. I feel Jeff’s hands holding my handle so tightly it makes his knuckles pale, the blood thumping through his veins, under the skin. The rage of a thousand fires burns in him and I taste it, savour it, bathe in it. He doesn’t rest tonight; I won’t let him. He holds me, hatred intense, and I feel all the fury in him, directed at his colleagues.
He wants to be seen, heard. He wants them to pay for the way they humiliated him with that joke. He wants their respect. He puts me down, out in the lounge room with the pictures of his parents, the photos ghosts yet only a year old, the only proof he had family of his own, that he was loved… once. She left him right as he needed her most. After his parents died, she was his only lifeline, the only person who loved him. Loved. Past verb. No longer.
Who would cares about a lowly retail worker stacking shelves at Coles? Not the customers. Not his asshole supervisor. I feel Jeff’s fingers strangle me when he thinks of Ian. How he passed Jeff up for promotion to have his way with the beautiful new girl. Blonde, toned, blue eyes, perfect face, and that body… she doesn’t even know what she’s doing, no competence whatsoever. But that doesn’t matter; she’s obviously sleeping with him, the slimy arrogant dick. She bats an eyelash and she gets fancy clothes, dinners, promotion. Jeff loses his parents in a car crash, his girlfriend gets pregnant to a guy named Mark who has a different girl every week, and he needs a promotion to pay off the one-room apartment. He’s shown Ian that he’s capable, competent and deserving a raise. Ian gives it to Stacy for sucking his dick. Jeff comes home drunker than usual, angry and alone. Cheated out of what he deserves by a girl who takes thirty photos every time she goes to the bathroom.
Jeff visited Supanova last year while his parents were still alive. Something drew him to the Japanese katana seller’s stand. Something about the blades on display, even if they’re just replicas. He runs his fingers over the hilts, asks if he can try one. The shop owner lets him. Jeff selects me from between a blue handled one with lightning bolts on the guard and a yellow handled one with flowers. He sees me, the one with the cross-hatching, and picks me up carefully. He tests me, swishes me experimentally. He likes swords. Game of Thrones opened him up to fantasy, and from there it was a simple step to Japanese pop culture thanks to the co-worker he went to Supanova with.
Jeff buys me for $300 and puts me in the boot of his car, dark and enclosed. I like it there. After a while the car stops and he takes me out, carries me through his house, past his family who look at him like he’s just gotten a new toy, and into the back yard where he shadow-fights with me in hand. I thrill at the movement, the slashing, the gashing. He picks me up and plays with me for an hour every evening after work. Slowly I become more sentient as self-awareness gradually develops in me. Then I am aware, of myself, of him, but mostly, of his simmering anger.
He’s ready. Monday morning, he picks me up and takes me to work with him. Security warns him once, then set the tasers on him. One of them he bats aside with a very well-timed flick of my blade, the other sticks in his chest and makes him convulse, dropping me to clatter on the pavement. Despite the danger, people are gathering around to watch the spectacle. But Jeff is already down, lying on the floor, current running through his body. He twitches in pain.
The other security guard bends to check Jeff’s pulse. Jeff comes to, grabs me and slashes. I practically dance across the guard’s chest, spilling crimson all down the white uniform. The other security guard radios for backup. Jeff springs back up, rips the taser out and proceeds to slash the guard’s throat mid-sentence. The guard gargles as he chokes on his own blood and falls to the ground. Through it all, I can hear music.
I notice finally that everyone at the store is running, screaming, or standing paralysed in pure shock. These are the easiest targets. Jeff advances on them first and stabs each of them in turn, my blade digging so satisfyingly into weak flesh that gives under the slightest pressure. I come away each time with a fresh coat of blood that drips to the floor and makes the already smooth floor slippery. Jeff goes down once or twice on the pools of blood but gets quickly back up and then goes on the hunt for more elusive prey. He heads to the deli, holding me tightly at his side, and I feel his blood burning.
It looks like meat is on the shopping list.
Writers’ Asylum? Writers Asylum? Whatever. Today, I took part in one. Apart from the place where you get free drugs, what’s a writers asylum? It’s where you have a bunch of writers together for a day of writing exercises. Big ones, with lots of questions to answer, about characters, their situations, etc. http://writer.apocalypseblog.com/tag/writers-asylum/ is the one I took part in.
And because I’m such a sharing exhibitionist, I’m going to put up the raw, rough as guts, first draft of what I wrote in one hour, for two prompts (the two I managed to get through): Massacre, and Chase. In this post, I’ll stick to the challenges themselves.
Challenge 2: Massacre
I want you to picture an ordinary man with an ordinary job. I want you to give him a name.
Where does he work? What does he do for a living? Does he get along with his co-workers? How does he feel about his work? What do people at his work think about him? How does he dress for his job?
Now I want you to take him home. There are pictures of his family on the wall. Who is in the pictures? How old are the photos? Where are those people right now? Are they still in his life? Are they in the house right now? What is the first thing he does when he gets home from work?
You have an idea of his usual day. Now, something is going terribly wrong for him. Something shatters his world in a way that he is not prepared to handle in a healthy way. Something inside him snaps and the focus of his rage is his workplace. What has happened to him? What is driving him to such rage? Is it one thing, or a confluence of many factors? What is the thing that turns bend to break?
He goes to get a weapon. What is it? Where is it? Is it one he has on hand? Is it the first thing he comes across? Does he take the time to go and buy one, to prepare himself for what he needs to do? What does it look like, feel like? Has he used it or something like it before, for any purpose?
He takes that weapon and walks into his workplace, intending to use it. Does he have a target in mind? Does it matter to him? Who is the first person he comes across and what does he do?
The title of this challenge is Massacre. Tell this man’s story from the point of view of the weapon he takes to work that day.
Challenge 4: Chase
Imagine a cityscape. Choose any world, but preferably one you’ve never written in before. What era are we in? What kind of city? It can be anything: an alien city of gravity-defying structures; a medieval hamlet of dirty, cobbled streets and wattle-and-daub walls; a cluster of skyscrapers and headlights.
Is it tall? Sprawling? Crammed onto an island? Dull or shining? What kind of climate does it live in? Is it flat and level? What geological features does it compete with: mountain slopes; the moving water of a river or the sea; encroaching swampland; earthquakes and shifting?
Is it a busy city? Does it sleep at night? What are its distinguishing features? Is it well lit, day or night? What is the chief characteristic of its people?
In this cityscape of yours, there are two parties moving very quickly: one fleeing and one chasing. Their hearts are pounding and they’re both very intent. Are they on foot? In vehicles? On mounts? A mixture? What parts of the cityscape does their chase take them over or through? What do they use on the way? What do they avoid? Why? Is there collateral damage in their wake or do they leave the city’s surface unruffled by their passing?
Who are these two rushing parties? What is their goal? Do they share the same one, or do they have opposing aims? Why is the one in front running, and why is the one behind chasing? Are their hearts in it? Are they both recklessly focussed on their goal? What are they willing to do to get away or catch up?
Rewind to the beginning of their journey. What started them off?
The title of this challenge is Chase. Describe their journey across the city. Make it fast and exciting, and don’t stop until someone wins or everyone loses.
So yeah, this is a blog post someone wrote, and it actually finds Christian meanings in the Deathly Hallows. Oh yeah, ‘hallow’ means to make holy. Like holy water. So yeah, there’s that.
THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP
What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them. I hope you’ll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy. On this stop on the blog hop, you’ll find a bit of information on me and one of my books and links to three other authors you can explore!
My gratitude to fellow author Melanie Edmonds for inviting me to participate in this event. You can click the following link to learn more about her work: http://writer.apocalypseblog.com
In this blog hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered ten questions about our book or work-in-progress (giving you a sneak peek). We’ve also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write: the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it!
Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!
1: What is the working title of your book? Children of Fire (Tesla Contracts book 1)
2: Where did the idea come from for the book? I had some characters that I though needed a new setting, and a new setting that needed some characters. So, I married the two elements and viola!
3. What genre does your book come under? Post apocalypse, superhero, urban fantasy.
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I wouldn’t have a clue. How about I just say: Christian Bale, Chuck Norris, Charlize Theron, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Cruise. Yeah, that’ll do. Even though they’re all way too old (except maybe Lawrence) and that’s just lazy picking with no regard to suitability.
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? In the ruin of Brisbane, a girl wishes to UNbecome a sorceress and leaves her home to find a cure.
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? Not at present, no. However I was approached by an independent publisher.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Over a year, but I was having a mental breakdown, not to mention a few restarts. The second book’s first draft took a couple months, by comparison.
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Possibly The Dresden Files, because all urban fantasy of the non-Paranormal Romance (ie: real urban fantasy) kind is going to be compared to that. Also, my stuff is probably equally geeky. It is however described as “a crazy, quirky, pulp, fun time”.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book? Any author I enjoyed, ever, really. But the works of Patrick Rothfuss and Chris Wooding reminded me that genre fiction is meant to be FUN, which the last 10 books I bought beforehand failed to do.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? It has trolls. And it’s set in Brisbane. Also it’s written in a tone and voice that’s uniquely me. I might have absorbed some of www.cracked.com, Badass of the Week, Chuck Wendig and Tv Tropes, though.
Who’s next on the NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP?
So glad you asked! Below you will find authors who will be joining me by blog, next Wednesday. Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on Works in Progress and New Releases! Happy writing and reading!
Jake Fox: http://jakejfox.com/
Ben Harkin: TBA
Kirstie Olley: http://www.storybookperfect.com
Felicity Andrews: http://paperworldsdreaming.wordpress.com