Saturday 9 January 2010

Silver Blade - A Spot of Promotion

There are an awful lot of online magazines and anthologies out there in the cobwebby recesses of the Internet, and I thought I would take this opportunity to briefly swing my torch and shine its light onto one of my favourites, Silver Blade.

Yes, it's true, I am slightly biased towards them as they've published two of my pieces in the past. In The Shadows holds the honour of being the first piece of fiction they accepted, while Spring Returns was a contender for their first contest (although it didn't win). These two fantasy stories inhabit a different fictional terrain from my usual stamping ground, but thanks to their careful attention and supportive feedback, I'm actually very proud of both pieces.

Fantasy as a genre is often derided as nonsensical or just plain silly. Princes rescue princesses, witches thwart the best efforts of noble heroes, orcs and elves cavort among talking trees, and magic is as central to the world of the characters as the Internet is to ours. Despite this, I think that it can still say as much about politics or current events as science fiction. Sci-fi does so with aliens and spaceships, fantasy does so with evil sorcerers or brave warriors. No real difference - both genres utilise archetypes and metaphor - only one is hailed as visionary, the other dismissed as Tolkien-esque tosh. Poppycock, says I. You hear that, Internet? Poppycock!

Anyway. I wanted to recommend that fans of fantasy, both classic and modern alike, take a gander at the work on offer on Silver Blade. The editors work closely with their writers, and are trying to build a supportive environment within the competitive and often harsh world of publishing. If you like it, check out the work of Silver Pen, the charitable organisation sitting behind Silver Blade. Even better - submit something yourself!

Friday 8 January 2010

Creativity game

There seem to be posts on creativity all over the blogosphere at the moment, two of the best being Melissa Donovan's post over at Writing Forward and Mary Jaksch's post at Write to Done. I remember one person saying that you couldn't describe yourself as 'creative' unless you did anything deemed to be such, since creativity is an action. That being said, I decided I'd share a little game I devised the other day whilst sat on the tube to try and spark your creativity. It can be done on most forms of public transport, and trying to be furtive is good practice should you ever decide to become a spy.

If someone is reading the newspaper beside you, take a sneaky peek over their shoulder at the headlines. Quite a lot of people assume it's alright to read a broadsheet on a crowded train so this shouldn't be too difficult. Try combining two different headlines from the same page to come up with a plot line. Take a look at the person with the newspaper and try to work out just why a particular story might mean something to them. If the headline is about a security leak at government level, perhaps your newspaper neighbour is the staff member who left a laptop on the train? Or maybe they're the person who bought it for their own nefarious ends!

I love to read the newspapers to get ideas for plots! Truth is often stranger than fiction and one of my favourite things to do is to scan the 'for sale' ads, and then try to work out exactly why the owner wants to part with the item they're selling. Just today, I saw adverts offering a 'slightly used' wedding dress, an antique set of drawers, and a job lot of men's shoes. Why were they for sale? Even more importantly, what sort of person would buy them? Read a little further, and even the obituaries can give great story ideas, if you don't mind being a little morbid. If your newspaper has a science section, or a "strange but true" column, give that a read too. You never know what inspirational nuggets may lurk therein.

Further ways to use the news in your writing can be found at Melissa's post here. Recommended reading! Plus, if you're suffering from writer's block, then try Mark McGuinness' post at Lateral Action. They're currently running a series on removing creative blocks.

Now go forth and start scanning those newspapers! What weird and wonderful things can you find?

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Misfit Salon giveaway

If you toddle on over to Stephanie D's Misfit Salon, you'll find she's hosting two rather exciting competitions! Go and have a look, I dare you.

I also recommend that you follow her, too, as her entries are always informative and entertaining. Go on, do as Icy says!

Monday 4 January 2010

I write, therefore I am...or something.

Receptionists will tell you they are receptionists. Solicitors will tell you they are solicitors. Yet writers will tell you they're "trying to write", or they're "working on being a writer". They rarely own up to what they actually are. If you write, then you're a writer. It's that simple. (For a better explanation of this concept, see C.N.Nevets' post here on the same subject).

Funny thing is, I'm no better. I talk about being a writer, and I've even had work accepted, and yet I still have problems nailing my colours to the mast and saying "I am a writer". I'm not sure why. It's probably something to do with the difficulty in reconciling something most people see as a pasttime with a profession, and it's also something a lot of people say they're doing when, in actual fact, they're not doing anything. Still, I've sold a few of my stories and I write most days, which satisfies most criteria, but yet still the doubts remained unquenched.

Still, I've decided to redraft my first novel, and 2010 will be the year when I try to find it a home. With this in mind, I'd better learn to call myself a writer!

So I thought I might tell you a little about my book. I suppose it best comes under the young adult/middle grade umbrella, sitting squarely in the 'supernatural' camp. It's about a teenager named Sarah, who is growing up in the western Highlands under the far-from-watchful eyes of her socialite mother and scientist father. Sarah not only discovers that ghosts are real, they are also organised. She befriends the castle's ghost, a cavalier named Fowlis Westerby who has been assigned to her family. When things go wrong at the ghostly HQ, Sarah and Fowlis have to team up to straighten everything out.

I'm really proud of it as it stands, but I know it needs work. Luckily I think I know how to solve the few plot niggles, and once I'm done, Sarah will be getting her own blog. I may even given Fowlis his own Twitter feed. Before you scoff that spirits can't use computers, I shall direct you to watch Ghost!

Right, I'm off to do some editing. Have an excellent day, people!