FATES

We see in stories, a great deal of versions of the idea of things taking place according to an already written plan. That somewhere, at some time, some kind of all powerful being or beings started to pull stings and move pieces to guide or control all of us measly humans.

It’s an interesting idea, that all of the lives we all lead, all of the choices that we could take, have already been laid down for us by someone or something above and beyond us. From there comes two schools of thought.

It’s either good or bad.

Imagine that all of those tough decisions you’ve ever had to struggle with, the awful times you’ve spent forced to crack your head against an impossible choice. Now imagine that those choices and all of the pain and suffering that came with them, were decided by someone else and there was nothing that you could have done to do anything other than what you did? You were always going to do what you did and all of the uncertainty surrounding the choice was nothing but a waste of both time and energy. In short, you have no power. You’re nothing but a mechanism following a prescribed path and no manner of trying on your behalf will allow you to stray from the path.

On the other hand you truly get to say ‘what will be will be’. You can happily forego all of the stressed thought and go with the first thought that crosses your mind in any situation. It doesn’t matter what choices you think you’re making, they’ve already been made for you so you can just plonk along happy in the knowledge that someone else is doing all of the thinking for you and you can just smile and wave from the passenger seat.

But, if all of the events that take place are already known, that means that someone planned out all of the horrors that crash into you and how they’ll turn out. Someone decided that pain was what your life needed at exactly the worst moment. The illness and injuries. The deaths in the family and every possible nastiness has been put there deliberately because someone just fancied the idea of seeing you suffer.

As a story idea, the powers of fate offer a fantastic way to twist the narrative in any way you fancy but the thought that we’re all nothing but pawns is awful. You were always going to watch your parents suffer a drawn out illness. You were always going suffer the injuries and dark times which battered you down and you know what, maybe I won’t lean on the power of the fates in my storytelling. Giving my characters the knowledge that their lives are simply controlled from above seems almost like making them a step closer to a level of self awareness and I don’t think I could do that to them.

CONNECTIONS

The human experience is one that seems to be defined by so very many different ideals. Money, beliefs, family and community to name a few. But when you review these things and try to come to a conclusion of the worth of a single life, they all land squarely on the shoulders of others.

We can chose what we do with our lives, we can decide to turn left or to turn right, to have the extra scoop of ice cream or not but when all of those things are collected together, it falls to others to make the overall assessment of a life’s worth.

I was told a story from the bible years ago which the person talking used to highlight a question. The story was longer than this but this was the bit that got the questioning running.

‘Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.…’

Lived for two hundred and five years (!) and all that’s worth noting is that he died in Haran.

Now I understand that there’s more to the story than just that and Terah did do more than that but it does seem a little dismissive that there was nothing more of note to point out. From the time of moving to a location to the time of death is lost. It’s been said before that life is the line between the dates on a headstone but shouldn’t we all be looking to live a life that won’t fit into that tiny space?

I don’t want my life to be scorching through the history books for all of humanity to see but I also don’t want to just be lost to the mists of obscurity.

So how do we go about being remembered?

Now I think I need to point out that I’m not talking about fame or indeed infamy at this point. As a writer, I’d love for my books to stand the test of time and to be read long after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil but I imagine the individuals reading my work rather than faceless swathes of people on sales sheets. Granted I’d love the money that JK Rowling has but I’m not fussed on being the internationally recognisable figure she is. I really enjoy that connection I have with those people who’ve read my stuff and have had a chat with me about it. Of course, I’d love to be successful as an author and I’d love to be able to continue to tell all the stories that possibly go running through my head but my overall legacy, as it were, is going to come down to how others see me.

All in all, I think we all have the same need to be thought well of and then remembered. Maybe all we really need to do is just make sure that the world is a better place for having had us in it. I think when we drill all the way down to the real core of the point, we just want to know that our little entry into the wildly varied writings of human history will be enough to mean that people will consider us worthy of at least a little comment.

DO CLOTHES MAKETH THE MAN?

This weekend just gone saw us head off to the Sci-Fi Weekender in North Wales. Jo won the tickets and after having last year off, we headed to the convention looking forward to all things sci-fi.

We didn’t go last year after the event shared the space with a prog. rock gathering and the amount of things going on that we were interested in became watered down a bit but this year was back to the full compliment so it was easy to make the choice to return. The addition this year though, I had a table in the trader zone.

All in all, this was the best convention I’ve been to in a while.

I didn’t get the chance to see as much as I would normally have done at this event, being at my table all day, but I did get the chance to speak with a huge number of people. All in all, I was able to chew the fat about all kinds of things and spread the word of my books with loads of people who had a shared enjoyment of the same kinds of things I enjoy. The mood of the event was wonderfully inclusive and the traders around me all said that they had a blast.

Now the crux of what I want to talk about this week is connected to the event but more about the trading side of things.

When I attend these events as a trader, I dress in a very specific way. If you happen to drop by my table at an event you’ll most likely find me wearing a tweed waistcoat and jacket, adorned by my pocket watch with my dragon headed cane at my side. I have a specific pair of jeans that I wear and I’ve recently purchased a new pair of boots to go with the rest of the ensemble.

When I ready myself for an event, I’m all about the visualisation of actually being in the thick of things and speaking with everyone about anything and everything, and I find that donning the ‘uniform’ of my author persona helps me overcome any nerves I may be feeling and surround myself with the mindset and attitude I need to be able to go out and do the business.

Clothes can play a vital part in how we perceive ourselves and others. We make decisions based on what people present to the world. How someone is dressed can affect the way they walk, the way they stand and therefore, the way that they are seen by everyone else. When I dress as ‘The Author’ I do find myself feeling very different. I become more able to channel all the energies in the correct way and, you know what?, dressing well in smart clothing makes me feel more confident. I stand a little taller (I’m already over six feet tall) and almost become someone else.

We all wear different clothes depending on the situation we’re going to be dealing with.

We go to work in specific clothes that fit the role we’re going to be paying that day. On a daily basis I live in jeans and a polo shirt, safety work boots and a hi-viz jacket. These things have an effect on me as well. I take on a different set of qualities when I go to work wearing the ‘uniform’ of my usual day to day. I feel the difference on my face although whether that difference is clear for all to see is still yet to be seen.

If we play a sport. If we don’t. If we work in office. If we don’t. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, we all know that dressing in a certain way comes as standard for all of the various things we do and that we can feel the power that comes with the addition of certain clothing as an almost tangible force running along our skin.

Could this be why cosplaying is such a popular activity?

We have the chance to become someone else – totally. By dressing as a character from a show, film or game, we suddenly find ourselves able to take on characteristics of said character and a once timid person can become the super confident Wolverine, any fear of wearing just a vest over a potentially less than Wolverine physique banished, because they’ve got the claws to do some damage.

Fans of sports teams don the shirts of their beloved sides and the closeness of that group bond is there for all to see. Businesses of all kinds have their staff wearing a set uniform to show that they all belong to the same group, all working for the shared goal. These things have an effect on everyone on both sides of the equation, changing how people behave in the clothes but also how people behave towards the clothes. I try to make sure that I include the garb of the characters as a vital part of who they are. Different people wear different things and these uniforms can be a touchstone for a reader when deciding what they should be feeling about people in any given situation.

Just another example of how the way we think is potentially twisted or nudged depending on certain details. It’s all extra flavouring for any story we tell so we have to be sure to always get those details right.

Yet another thing to keep in mind.

 

I WONDER. DO YOU?

It’s fair to say that all of us who enjoy reading or watching genre fiction have a reasonably stretchy imagination. We can read stories of far off lands, mythical creatures and outer space and find ourselves fully immersed in the experience. We all know that the specific details of the far off planets are nothing more than the creation of someone’s imagination but we can all let our mind soar as we try to keep pace with the words on the page.

So why is it so many people can’t?

I’ve asked a great many people about their reading choices and all kinds of answers came back detailing an almost inexhaustible supply of books which drew people in, but a very common response was that genre fiction didn’t appeal to them because they just couldn’t suspend disbelief. They may have enjoyed the potential ‘whodunnit’ aspect of a book or the descriptions of a relationship but the surrounding details of the sword and sorcery stuff just crush the connection.

So why are certain genres appealing to some and not others? Why is it that you enjoy the books you do and not others? Just how possible is it to draw people in despite a genre bias?

I ask because I’ve always wondered how to bridge gaps with people.

I look at the way my niece acts around all of the very run of the mill objects and activities and marvel at the sheer exuberance she displays as she goes about her explorations. Looking through the eyes of a cantankerous forty year old, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when everything which is commonplace was once new and exciting. My niece loves animals and the sheer delight on her face when she sees the family cat is amazing. Whether or not she thinks all animals can actually talk because they all do in her cartoons may have something to do with it but I guess we’ll never know.

Kids always seem to look at everything with an amazing wonder at the possibilities that could be before them. Games of make believe and all manner of pretending and role playing are the par for the course for kids and at no point does anyone involved think there’s anything wrong with the whole situation. All kids get stuck in and are able to envision all kinds of landscapes or activities and they see all types of possibilities around every corner.

So when do they stop?

For vast swathes of the population, there will come a time where they no longer view the world with the same wonder they once did and instead of seeing boundless possibilities reality becomes rigid and set. No longer can adventures be summoned from thin air and as such, the reading material for adults is a very different landscape. Very often there are whole genres which seem to be passed over as being only for kids but don’t we all still have that flickering flame of wonder lit inside us which can just step us out of the relative drudgery of the day to day and send us off to wherever we could imagine. When was it that so many of us put away the mind set of letting go of the ‘real’ and running around with our imagination just soaring? Why should seeing the world as filled with wondrous possibilities be so easily dismissed?

The world is an amazing place but surely that doesn’t mean we can’t add to the picture inside our own heads?

ART +

Last week I wrote about the importance of the many forms art can take and how one form can never be held higher than another in terms of being a medium to convey meaning between artist and the rest of us.

This week though, I fancied discussing the way different art forms can collide.

‘You can’t judge a book by it’s cover’.

We know the comment and it’s something we have to be aware of in life. We have to be able to maintain a mindset to look beyond the surface and see what may be beneath.Stopping at the top as being all there is is a path to greater disappointment. That’s an important point when actually considering books. An amazing flashy cover won’t be the be all and end all of a book. It’ll certainly help but when the reader then scratches away at that surface, you have to make sure they find more than just more surface.

But.

Now way back when, books just had a blank cover or maybe just the title. There wasn’t the availability of cover design and the need for marketing in the same way as we see today. But times change and today we see more and more choice flooding over us as the number of authors grows and their work is fighting for the attention of all of the readers out there.

And now we see a new step. Now we see the books go from merely having an interesting cover design to that design being more a piece of artwork to be marvelled at. Gone are the days where a bland, featureless cover was sufficient. Today we’re moving from the cover design being there to be the lure to attract readers and towards the book transcending its own art form.

As well as being the domain of the written word, now there are books where they’ve become pieces of art to be looked upon and enjoyed. Not only do they draw people in but now they demand pride of place on so much more than any old bookshelf.  These mighty artworks are recognising the delight that they can bring even without the pages being turned.

Bolder artwork on more than just the front or back cover can be further advanced by daring sculpture where contours and texture add to what is being presented as the receptacle of the word.

The evolution of how we enjoy books has meant that we don’t have to be satisfied with the words and nothing more. Who knows where we’re likely to move forward onto as the way we enjoy books grows? Sound effects?

IT’S ART YOU KNOW

What is art?

For many, art is sculpture and painting which lives in galleries and is to be marveled at in awed silence. For others, art is a more vibrant and modern affair, any and all things that the creator could get their hands on to get their point across.

For so many, the accuracy of sculpting and paintings of days gone by allowed us to admire the skill of the artist in their rendition of a facsimile of the model in whatever medium they so chose. We looked upon the deft brush strokes or the assured moulding and recognise the skill and talent that must have been at play to make the materials bend to their wishes.

In the land of ‘modern’ art, the rigid adherence to the ways of the old are pushed aside and experimentation and wider expression come to the fore. Rather than seeing the work as a direct rendition of the subject, the request is to now look through the physical to examine the true meaning behind the piece. What was it the artist was attempting to say? We look at Tracey Emin and her unmade bed as a great example of the meaning being beyond the bounds of the piece itself.

Now this can mean that there are more areas where there can be disagreement in terms of the value or skill on display.

I could look at a given piece of work and see something very different as the message compared to almost anyone else. Even knowing what the artist was trying to say may not remove the stumbling blocks.

So I ask again. What is art?

Art is an expression of a theme. An idea given form. It doesn’t matter what materiel that may be, paint, clay, light, ice, sound or all of the above and none, art is that most beautiful of things that allows the thoughts, feelings and experience of another to reach out and touch you. We can all glimpse inside the mind of another through the myriad portals that are offered for all to experience. Paintings and sculpture. Music and Film. Fireworks and architecture. And literature too.

My books do just that. They give the reader the chance to experience a tale where the characters go about their lives but it’s there to give everyone a snippet of me too. The pages hold a message that I want to convey which is beyond just the words. They hold my hopes and dreams for the narrative but years of hard work as well. Effort and desire coming together to create a whole that I wanted to share with the world.

There’s an artist in all of us and the ability to draw a convincing nose doesn’t always have to come into it.

It’s just trying to be heard.

GIVE IT A GO

What genre of books would you say was your favourite?

Who is your favourite author?

Are you a fan of the horror of Stephen King? Does the fantasy of Tolkien tickle your pickle? The crime writings of Patricia Cornwell or James Patterson?

We all have our areas of passion and artists of all kinds are no different but could you imagine a book written for 5 year olds by Clive Barker or HP Lovecraft? What if Tolkien had written about the BDSM scene? Imagine in cinema, a ‘tweeny’ film directed by Quentin Tarantino?

Now I’m not saying that these people wouldn’t be able to do amazing things but they have shown an affinity for a certain part of the literary spectrum and have remained there, happily pumping out tale after tale for us happy readers to devour. But why not try something different?

I like the thought of doing something different.

The thought of testing myself, to see if I can do a thing, is a big driving force in who I am so staying in one area when it comes to my writing isn’t going happen. I have my current fantasy series I’m working on but I also have a YA book in the works as well, which is more science fiction than fantasy. Add to that another book about an alien invasion which will be more akin to The Walking Dead and a short story which has the potential to become a novella dealing in very dark horror, and I’m doing my best to try and keep things moving in different directions when I’m creative.

I like having a bash at new things and the thought of being stuck rigidly in the same place for all time makes me want to look in new locations. I think that it keeps my mind busy in different ways which can only help when I write, regardless of the topic.

Besides, if all I do is work in exactly the same location, and give no thought to doing anything differently, there’s always going to be the risk that I just get stale doing the same thing.

Change is good, well some is anyway.