HERE WE GO AGAIN

I’ve been working on my latest book recently and can present you with the cover for my soon to be released anthology of short stories.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the cover for “Tall Tales for Dark Nights”.

cover

I’m really pleased with the book and I’m looking forward eagerly to the release.

Watch this space for the date.

PICK A CARD, ANY CARD

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the power that family has on any story. How the engagement that the reader could overlay for their own family could potentially help in drawing them into the narrative at hand. When I posted the link on my Facebook page I explained that my wife and I had received some wonderful news before we’d gone on holiday and told people that they would need to read all the way to the end of the post to find out what it was. Add to that a picture of a family tree and we were all set.

And it worked.

That post has turned out to be the most visited of all that I’ve posted, beating the previous record by some distance.

But why? Was it that an unknown fact just has to be discovered? Was the information I gave just too tantalizing to ignore? Or did the statement of wonderful news lead the reader to create assumptions regarding what was going to be divulged?

My little baby sister ( she’s in her thirties but will always be my baby sister ) told us that she’s pregnant so my wife and I are going to be Auntie and Uncle but I’ve since been told that when everyone read the opening statement they’d thought that the impending bundle of joy was going to be landing a little closer to home and we were going to be parents.

I did it on purpose, the subtle misdirection, just to see if it would have any effect and it highlighted perfectly the power that the literary equivalent of a card trick, can have. We all know the feeling. The book you’re reading is leading you in one direction and then at the very last minute, reveals itself to be something totally different, leaving us with our mouth stuck open in shock. In film terms, The Sixth Sense.

It’s a vital tool in storytelling. It creates a false impression of what’s going on and delivers the telling switch at the end that causes you to have to re-check all of the details in the book. How could I have missed that? On the second read – with the benefit of forewarning, the whole story becomes a vastly changed tableau.

But that trick can also go horrible wrong.

We all know that feeling as well. You can just see the twist coming from page one. All the details are pointing you in one direction but you just know that there’s going to be a ‘ta-da’ reveal of something else at the end. In film terms, M.Nights later work has some unfortunate examples.

I’ve tried my hand at this when I’ve been working on different bits and pieces with varying results. My short story ‘TRUE LOVE’, beautifully read by an insanely talented friend of mine DrNeevil, tries to play with this idea. Give it a listen if you haven’t already and see if the story works.

I’m still looking at the ways to use any and all weapons in my writers arsenal to help create the story I’m after and literary slight of hand can be, if used well, a devastatingly effective method.

All I’ve got to do is learn how to do it properly rather than land on my face.

LOVE IS……

As Valentines Day was last week, it seems only right that we look into the subject at its heart.

Are you in love? Have you ever been in love? Who with? What with?

Love is probably the most evocative emotion, being the driving force for art work, music, writing, architecture and so many other great things from human existence but also for so much pain and suffering as well. Love of people, of a god figure, of wealth or almost anything can be found wound within our history as a species, always highlighted as being the reason why so many of the actions of our ancestors came to be.

People will lie for love, steal for love, kill for love and go to war for love. There have been the greatest works inspired by love and the greatest atrocities. The human race seems to have an inbuilt need for love and to react in the most wide ranging of fashions at its behest.

As a writer, I have tried to incorporate an element of a love story within my series of Dragon books but I’ve been very keen to stay away from the ‘cheese’ that topic can evoke if it’s just shoe horned in rather than there being a good reason for it. I’m never going to suggest that Shakespeare and I are on the same level but I do try to emulate the fact that he wrote love so compellingly without resorting to ‘pulpy’ comments. I’m aiming to write love as being more than just boy meets girl. There needs to be more meat to the subject.

Anthony and Cleopatra is a love story of two people but also of individuals and power, their peoples and what they ‘should’ be doing. Romeo and Juliet is a tale of the importance of personal love over the power of familial bonds and expectations, how choices are controlled by factors sometimes beyond our ability to direct. Both are easily seen as being love stories but they are so much more than that. The love fits into the real world as a fragment of the larger picture and that’s what happens in the real world. Love will affect us in our normal days but we still have to keep going to work, we still have to do the shopping, we still have to do all of the mundane nonsense we do on any other day.  Give it too much emphasis and the story gets weighed down by the syrup, not enough and no-one cares about the struggles of the characters.

And that’s the trouble.

That balancing act is so much harder than I had ever expected. I’ve included a serving of love story but I’ve jumped back to it on more than one occasion after coming to the conclusion that it just didn’t feel quite right. Sometimes it was too saccharine, other times too perfunctory and other times just crap. For an emotion so common to all of us, love is proving to be tough to pin down.

But I’ll keep going. I need to include as much reality within any story about Dragons Aliens or the like as I can.

DIRTY BOY

I’ve discovered a slightly odd problem recently. Setting the tone correctly in the story I’m writing.

How to create the correct age rating on what I’m trying to say.

For me, to set the tone in a childrens book, just don’t swear and avoid talking about willies. By the same token, the reverse is true when setting up an adult story, boobs and a liberal sprinkling of curse words and you’re good to go.

I know that’s more than a little over simplification but what about that grey area between the two?

I’ve been writing to appeal to everyone, spreading the love as far as I can but that means I’m forever playing in the no mans land between sounding like I’m writing a kiddies cartoon or dodgy porn or horror.

Now I recognise that the topic I’m playing with allows me the largest scope to be able to make sure I can appeal to everyone but there still remains the pitfalls of violence described too graphically or with so much fluffiness to make it painful.

So what to do?

I need to try and get the point across without including huge swathes of Clive Barker-esque brutality or repeated examples of ‘gosh darn it’. I need to ensure there is enough meat to the story that any discerning adult will be engaged without delving too deeply into topics and phrases which younger readers either wouldn’t understand or shouldn’t hear.

Those of you out there who’ve been reading what I’ve got to say on here for some time will have read a small collection of my short stories. I didn’t pick those stories specifically for this reason but there seems to be a decent show of my writing for different ages. Forced New Life makes you think but isn’t nasty, The Power of a Book feels to me to be more of a teenage flavoured tale, Make Believe Friend is more adult in its tone but still not totally off limits to younger readers, maybe some though, and True Love is certainly meant only for grown ups.

Trying to ensure that you say the right thing at the right time is vital to making the overall tale as compelling as possible. Using the wrong phrase at a given point can crush the fragile environment you’re making so the appropriate language is a must. The age of the reader is just another consideration.

I’ll just have to avoid loads of talk about characters going to bed to have a ‘special cuddle’.