I am a confessed Kar Schroeder fan. His Virga sequence is remarkable – absolutely the kind of retro, yet hyper-advanced concept I love to become immersed in. Engine of Recall is a collection of his short stories from across his career. The worlds Schroeder creates are amazing – ships jousting at near-light-speed, artifacts orbitting pulsars, and so on. I’ve read the first three Virga books, and am looking forward to reading the fourth, and then reading more of his back catalogue.
Unplugged is a cool idea: a print collection of science fiction and fantasy stories that originally appeared online. As with any anthology, there are stories that appeal and stories which don’t, but overall the standard is pretty high. My personal favourite is “Snatch Me Another” by Mercurio D. Rivera – great pacey writing, a cool idea (a neat twist on the idea of alternate universes. There are some known writers here – Cory Doctorow, Nancy Kress, etc. – and also some less established names. There’s a handy list at the back of the volume with the original websites – some no longer functioning, but an intriguing resource. A cool description on the back cover too “unplugged surfs the web so you don’t have to” – that’s good, ‘cos I’m thinking lots of us (ie me) could do with a little less web time and a little more A.R.
Professional photographer Kyle Cassidy has a wonderful project of photographing science fiction authors in their writing space. Where I Write is a quick and cool insight into the variations in how people write – Michael Swandick’s bustling busy office, Will De Smedt’s orderly space, Ellen Datlow’s living room approach. I think my favourite is Joe Haldeman handwriting in notebooks by candle- and lamplight.
I’m tutoring in creative writing again this year, and the first portfolios are due in a little over two weeks which means the early first ones will probably arrive in week. I’ve gotta be prepared and that means reading the book of readings and the study guide so I both refresh myself (this is my fifth year with this course) and settle in, plus keep up with anything new. The first portfolio is poetry, so I’ve been reading Frost and cummings and Wendy Cope and Basho. It’s refreshing and directed. I know that tutoring in this course has helped my own writing hugely. I recommend creative writing courses to all: they’re not the be-all and end-all, but they have a lot of value, both if you’re a student or a tutor (or, I imagine, a lecturer).
Wake is a multi-volume science fiction graphic novel from the early to mid 2000s. I came across volume five, which combines story 6 (Artifice) and 7 (Maximum [in]security). The stories are fun, both brutal and humourous and a bit over the top. Navee, the main character is quirky, tolerant and at times impatient. What I really like most about the volume, though, is the illustrations. Buchet’s use of line, framing, colour and so on is hyper-real. The pictures remind me a lot of Moebius’s work from Heavy Metal. In particular I like the attention to detail – Snivel, Navee’s robot buddy, gets disected and retrofitted to two different bodies, ending up with a nice replacement, yet he always looks like Snivel. When Navee pulls on gloves from the three-fingered aliens, her middle two fingers are forced into a single finger space – not overtly done, but when I noticed that, it was pleasing to see the care that had been taken.
How does a graphic novel fit with reading for writing?
1. Read widely.
2. Graphic novels still have a story.
3. Maybe the story you’re working on but struggling with might lend itself better to treatment as a graphic novel.
4. Read widely.
I blog about Kim a bit, so it’s probably no surprise I’m starting my regular “reading for writing” series, proper, with one of her books – I’m a definite fan. Part of what’s cool about this book is how it shows Kim’s versatility – she writes adult horror/fantasy/supernatural novels, adult romances (as Kimberly Freeman), children’s novels and young adult novels. She’s even written an early reader and a picture book. Anyway, Witchsong is the fourth book in her young adult series about psychic Gina Champion, and perhaps the scariest yet as Gina is faced with a ghost hell-bent on retribution.
What’s cool about reading this, as a writer, is how well-balanced the novel is. Gina has to contend, as in the earlier books, with the supernatural events, sceptical police, busy friends, distant parents and added into this, very nicely, is her almost estranged relationship with her adult sister. Throughout the book things keep unfolding and the danger increases, as you would expect from a thriller, but Wilkins dials it back at times, really heightening the tension, with everyday things that have to be done. It’s as well-tuned as a racing engine.
There are many, many “how to” books on writing a novel out there, but the best guide, I say, is actually reading novels to really understand how to write a novel. While Witchsong might be targeted neatly at a teen audience, it’s still worth checking out for would-be writers.
(Kim recently changed the theme of her website, which runs on wordpress, to Chaotic Soul, the same as I’ve been using for ages! I guess there are only so many themes, and this one must be popular amongst horror writers – Graeme Reynolds is using it too).
Scott H Young’s site on getting more from life is worth checking out.* Often I find I’m reading into websites just for little motivational pushes to help stay focused on the goal line, and beyond. I especially like Scott’s article on reading and how to read more (70+ books a year) and read more effectively (I do like the “cut down on TV” idea in there, though I think there are other ways of speedreading – I do it without the finger).
Okay, as per my previous post this is a Wednesday – random what’s up post. Tomorrow will be a reading for writing post on what I’m currently reading, which kind of relates to the above – reading 70 books a year. At the moment it’s more like 52 at a stretch, and if I’m going to post every Thursday about a new book, then I need to get cracking.
*Another guy, without the H – just plain Scott Young – has a site on getting more from life too, just from a different focus. Don’t confuse the two, though for some people I’m sure they are quite complementary.
I’ve been watching my posts over recent times and realise that I’m all over the place. So, I’m going to try a little structure for a while. In general the blog has always been about creativity, whether that be writing, music or art. When I started it was pretty much all music (hence the blog name), then as my publication list began growing, the blog shifted to more of a focus on writing and, over time, has become very broad (perhaps some would say scattered). Anyway, here’s my plan for the next little while, assuming I keep blogging on weekdays**
Monday – weekend musings: how my projects have gone over the previous seven days
Tuesday – music to write to: a short review of music I’ve been listening to as I write
Wednesday – random notes on what’s up
Thursday – reading for writing: a short review of the book I’m reading*
Friday – music to write to or random
I will also, as they occur, post notes about current publications, music releases, general news, etc.
*I try to read a book a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. During marking blocks, heavy writing times and so on, sometimes I slip so I might write about something I read a last year, or the year before, or 1989 or whenever.
**Being to the left of the international dateline, if I post at, say, 9am on a Wednesday, that’s around midday on Tuesday in LA, 3pm Tuesday EST, so if my posts seem early …