Sunday, 26 August 2012

How to be a cynical optimist

I've decided that I'm a cynical optimist.

I'm not totally sure what that means, but then again, I'm never quite sure what anything much means.

What I can say for sure is that at various times, I have been accused of being overly cynical.

I've never agreed with this assessment. I don't think I'm overly cynical at all. I just figure that I look at things in a practical and realistic way. When you read the newspapers. When you listen to the guff that politicians spin. Ok, let's not single out politicians unfairly. When you listen to the guff that lots of people spin, cynicism seems like a completely reasonable response.

And it's not just the stuff that's covered in the rarefied world of the media. Just getting through most days seems to require a healthy dose of it. Whether you're working in the public or the private sector, there's more than enough rubbish you need to wade through every day. I should know - I worked in universities for the better part of 20 years. Supposedly, universities are full of the smartest people in the country - god help the rest of us is all I can say.

As for being a writer, a dose of cynicism is more than required to get through the day. It was needed back when I was trying to deal with publishers, and their various prevarications for why they didn't want to publish my stories - especially after I saw the stories that they did publish. And it's even more necessary in the self-publishing world, where the variables that define success still often seem to have little to do with the quality of the writing.

So why the hell do I do it? Why do I put myself through all this daily torture? Because, as I said, cynicism is not the only side to me. I'm also a ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky optimist. Every day, I get up, I put all my grumbling and cynicism to the side, I look up and tell myself that there's a bright side to all of this.

It's a bit like one of my stories: Flidderbugs. I suppose it's a bit of a satire about politics and all that stuff. I've had reviewers say it was overly-cynical. I've had others say the ending is too contrived and optimistic. I like to think it means I've somehow got a good balance of the two.

Because that's the thing about us. We're all a contradiction. We all have a mix of different qualities. You just have to make sure you make the best of all of them, and don't let any take you over.

Seems to me, being a cynical optimist is the best approach to take. It means you'll always be aiming for the sky, but you'll also be aware of where the dark clouds are. because how else will you be able to avoid them?  

Sunday, 19 August 2012

29 Days of Fantasy - a great anthology for a great cause

Back in February, I was excited to be involved in a really great online event. 29 Days of Fantasy was organised by Thomas A. Knight and involved a whole bunch of posts by a range of authors covering just about every aspect of fantasy you could possibly think of. There were posts about how to construct worlds and how to develop characters. There were posts about fantasy for young adults and romance in fantasy. It was a really great collection of articles by a bunch of interesting and talented writers.

The really great news is that Thomas has now collected all of this material together and published it in the form of an ebook - called, of course, 29 Days of Fantasy. All of the great articles can be read in one simple and convenient format, and at the exceptionally convenient price of just 99 cents. I could say more, but I'll let the blurb for the book on Amazon give you a better idea of what this is about:

What is 29 Days? It's a celebration of the fantasy genre, and fans have every reason to party! The fantasy genre is bigger and better than ever before, and shows no signs of letting up. This celebration is for the authors, the creators, the artists and producers, publishers and promoters of fantasy, but most importantly, this celebration is for the fans!

Fantasy author Lorna Suzuki writes about incorporating reality into fantasy, author J. Robert King brings is The Heart of Villainy, world renowned author and game developer Jeff Grubb spills the beans in an in-depth interview, and much, much more.

But that's still not all the great news.

Thomas has very generously decided to share the royalties for 29 Days of Fantasy with an organisation called Reglue. You can learn more about them at their website,, but in summary, they work to provide access to technology to underprivileged kids - a pretty worthy cause if you ask me.

So there's a bunch of really great reasons why you should check this out. Even if you don't think you're interested in fantasy, you may find yourself swayed by some of the terrific posts captured here. And the chance to help a worthy organisation is always a good thing on top of that.

About Thomas A. Knight

Thomas A. Knight has spent most of his life either immersed in or building fantasy worlds and bringing characters to life.

From Middle Earth, to the skies of Pern and beyond, no world is too great a challenge for him to conquer. His favourite places include a pair of worlds that spawned from his own imagination, one of perpetual light, and one of perpetual darkness.

When he is not living a life in one of these worlds, he is a husband, father of two little girls, software developer, and avid role-player. He grew up and currently resides in a small town in Ontario, Canada. Holding a diploma in Network Engineering, he works as a software developer at one of the world's leading vinyl siding manufacturers.

You can learn more about him and his writing at his webite -

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Sunshine on a rainy day - or is that rainshine on a sunny day

I'm in one of those moods today.

I can't figure out why. I can't even figure out what.

Maybe it's just the weather. It's what we would describe as "a typical Melbourne day". One minute, the sun is up. The next minute it's cloudy. The next minute, the sun is up again. The next minute, it's pouring.

I think I'm feeling a bit like that today. One minute, I'm feeling that I'm really motivated and moving and on top of things. The next minute, not so much.

It's been a bit like that all week. Partly it's my head. One minute, I have a headache. The next minute, it's clear. And so on. I'm getting a bit sick of it. Can my head just make its mind up. Be sore, and then I can take some tablets and have a nap, or be fine, and then I can go outside and dance around in the street (assuming the rain lets up).

Work has been a bit like that too. I have a bunch of pending deadlines. One minute, I think I'm fine and I'll meet them all, no problem. The next minute, I'm suddenly not so confident. Then, I suddenly realise that I have nothing to worry about and it'll be fine. But then I tell myself that maybe I'll meet the deadlines but the quality of the work will not be so great. Honestly, I tell you it's hard work being me.

I like to watch people. I guess that's a typical hallmark of any writer. Everybody seems so clear and confident and sure of what they're doing. I know, in most cases it's probably just a bluff, but gosh some people are good at it. I wish I could at least figure out how to pretend that I had some idea about what I was doing.

Gee, this has been a bit of a down post, hasn't it. Here's some good stuff to finish it off. I got some great feedback from a beta reader who had a look through Scribbling (the sequel to Doodling, which is hopefully not too far away from release now). Also made substantial progress on my other WIP - the YA/MG one I talked about in my last post. So what the hell am I complaining about?

Have a great week. Hope the sun breaks through the clouds for you. And if it doesn't, break it through yourself.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Week 7 of The Next Big Thing

First of all, a big thanks to Coral Russell for inviting me to participate by tagging me.

So here are my answers to the questions:

What is the working title of your book?

My working title is Beyond the Flame. Or perhaps it is Through the Flame. I really haven't decided for sure yet.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It actually comes from a couple of different places. Partly it's a response to another book I read. A pretty well known and reputable one (actually part of a series). But I didn't like it at all. I didn't like the message in the story and I didn't like the way it was written. So I decided I had to write something in response - I'm not going to tell you what that book is.

Also, I wanted to have a bit of a play within the fantasy genre. My previous book, Magnus Opum, played with some of the conventions. This is an attempt to play further with the conventions. I recall years ago, somebody talking about how within the fantasy genre, the actual staples of the worlds portrayed, high mountains, deep dark forests, etc had got a bit cliched. I wanted to create a world with a difference, with landscapes like nothing ever seen before. Don't know if I've been successful but it's been fun trying. 

What genre does your book fall under?

I suppose I would have to say it's a fantasy. Bits of it are funny, but it's much less out for a laugh than other things I've written. Also, it has a young teenager as the lead character - not sure if that makes it YA or MG. Don't mind as long as people like it. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I refuse to give up movie rights to my books. To me, books are the highest form of story telling and that's where I want this one to stay.
PS I may be open to offers. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A girl passes through a flame, where she enters a world like none she has seen before and shows a young man what it means to be a hero. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Funnily enough, a big publisher has seen some early chapters and expressed interest. I suspect I will get back in touch with them, but would be surprised to be taken on as I hear they're not travelling too well. So most likely it will be indie all the way. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

How long to write it? I started 4 years ago and am still going (admittedly there have been lots of distractions on the way). Hoping to have a draft complete in a couple of months. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hard to say. It's a kind of portal fantasy which I suppose compares it to something like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It's got kids solving problems adults can't so maybe a touch of Harry Potter. Then again, it's not that much like either. It kind of stands alone. 

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I described the main ideas above. One thing I might add is that it was because of my daughters that I wanted to write a story with a smart, interesting and extremely capable female main character. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It's different. It's surprising. Parts are funny. Parts are strange in the best kind of way. It has an extremely likable main character who is grappling with the kind of problems we all seem to have to face. And it's set in a crazy sort of world like nothing you've ever seen before.

And now it's my turn to do some tagging:


***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress)

***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

It’s that simple.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Writer Olympics is on

I suspect not too many people are going to read this post and I suppose I don't blame them. After all, the Olympics are currently on. Who would be sitting to read a humble little blog when they could be sitting in front of their telly, watching people running and jumping and throwing things, and all the other fun stuff they do at the Olympics?

In some ways, it seems a bit unfair. Why should the Olympics just be about running and jumping and throwing stuff. What about all the other valuable skills out there? And when I say "valuable skills", I'm talking in particular about what I regard as the most valuable skills in the world: writing skills.

So here's my solution. If the main Olympics doesn't think writing skills are important enough to include, we should just start our own Olympics - the Writer Olympics. 

Just think how amazing and exciting the Writer Olympics could be. Think of some of the fantastic events we could have. For a start, we writers are pretty good at twisting, whether it's a twist in a plot, or twisting the truth. The battle to see who can do the biggest and boldest twist should be something to see.

Then, of course, there's the wrestle between the plotters and the pantsers. This one should be a really epic event. I'd hate to be in the middle when these two great sides come up against each other.

A big part of the Olympics is the throwing events. We writers would have plenty of things we could throw. We could have a contest to see who can throw out the most ludicrous simile. This would be a bit I guess that's one event I won't be competing in.

Of course, the Olympics isn't the Olympics without the running events. Both speed and endurance are key events. The 100 word flash sprint should be a classic. And the marathon should also be epic. After all, who doesn't love a marathon writing session.

So there you have it. The Writer Olympics. I reckon I've barely scratched the surface in terms of what it could involve. I'd love to hear ideas from other people. And I reckon, I've left out potentially the best bit of all. The great writer's marketing bandwagon relay. Then again, maybe that's the subject for another post.