You may have noticed an awful lot of tumbleweeds rolling through this place lately. That is, if you’ve been back to check in at all, given how long it’s been between updates. The reason for that is that I’ve been away. Really away. In fact, for all of May my wife and I were overseas on our belated honeymoon.
Though our wedding was in December, we decided to delay our honeymoon until midway through the year. Partly it was because the weather would be better in the northern hemisphere. Mostly it was because organising a wedding, a house move and a honeymoon all at the same time seemed like a form of torture, exquisite though it may have been.
I had intended to blog while we were on the road and…well…didn’t. But now that I’m back I fully intend on getting back in the swing of things. I thought I’d start by offering you a little insight into our time on the road, which included a few days in Venice.
At events I’ve done, I’ve recommended to any aspiring writers in the audience to keep a journal handy, especially when travelling. That way, you can note down the things you see and use them for future reference. More than that, it’s simply a good writing exercise, forcing yourself to become more observant of the little details and find a creative way to encapsulate them.
My wife and I made a game of writing down what we’d seen each day, eventually ending up with three pages worth. I won’t bore you with all of the notes, but here are a few so you can get an idea of what I mean;
The smell of leather wafting from shopfronts. Masks in windows. Lime-green moss. Pinks, putties, pastels and creams. Green window shutters. Computer print-out tributes to the recently deceased. Ironwork bars spotted with rust. Waterbuses that slam against every stop. Squiggles of light in the black evening waters. The rattle of suitcases over stoney streets.
And so and so on. Some are more original than others, I’ll grant you. The thing to keep in mind is there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. Just write down what you see. Worry about the poetry of it later. The side benefit is that you end up with a record of your trip, even if you’ve never been one to keep a diary.
From Venice we went to London, driving up through the UK to Scotland, before heading over to New York. With every country we went to, I meant to write down notes of what I saw each day and unfortunately never got around to it. Just goes to show that sometimes the hardest advice to follow is your own.
In fact, I got a lot less writing on the trip done than I’d hoped to, but now that I’m back I’m looking forward to getting back into it.
Of course, it doesn’t help when there are distractions available, such as the art exhibition we went to on the first Saturday we were home. I’ve been a fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion since I was a teenager and the original series was aired on SBS. Since then, I’ve collected the Platinum Box Set and, from there, eagerly awaited the release of each new movie in the “Rebuild” series, where writer/director Hideaki Anno revists the series and reinterpets the story with updated animation and a divergent plotline.
Anime fans who also happen to be Vanguard Prime readers will no doubt see the influence that Evangelion had on VP, given that both series revolve around a teenage protagonist who’s reluctantly drafted into saving the world by an international military operation and the female Major who acts as his handler. In fact, the red jacket that Major Blackthorne dons in Goldrush was intended as a joint shout-out to both Akira and to Major Misato Katsuragi from Evangelion.
With the upcoming release of the third film in the Rebuild series, an art exhibition has been touring the eastern states of Australia, showcasing the film’s production art. Thankfully, we got the chance to see it before it finished up its run in Melbourne.
I’d hoped that there’d be some merchandise for sale to add to my nerd hoard, but unfortunately the pickings were slim. I’ll just have to content myself with the bits-and-bobs I picked up during our trip (photos of which I fully intend to show off…at some stage).
In the meantime, the edit for Vanguard Prime: War Zone is keeping me pretty busy, as is the edit for Red Alert, the e-book novella that will be getting released before War Zone to help promote the series. New readers and old should both be interested in Red Alert for a variety of reasons. Namely;
1) It’s an all-new adventure that follows the whole team and is over a quarter of the length of one of the full-sized novels
2) It features a whole host of new villains
3) It’s 100% free!
Pretty cool, huh? I’ll make sure to post more details about Red Alert as they come through, as well as whatever info I can share about War Zone ahead of its September release (like, for instance, the brand new cover that Chad McCown has illustrated and that I can wholeheartedly say looks fantastic).
‘Til next time.
The Somerset Celebration of Literature finished last Friday, though I didn’t get home until Sunday after staying on the Gold Coast to visit family…and if you ever get the chance to check out the Gold Coast Hinterland, I highly recommend it!
I’ve been to writers’ festivals as an author before…well, once before…but this was the first time I’d had multiple sessions over multiple days. And the experienced was incredible. I learnt so much in so short a period of time, and I can’t wait to take all the knowledge I’ve gained and start applying it to my future events.
Something that I found especially interesting was how engaged and switched on all the kids were, with many of them showing a confidence I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was their age. When I asked if there were any writers in the audience, one girl raised her hand and said she was writing a verse novel. A verse novel! I wouldn’t have the guts to try that now, let alone when I was a teenager!
Spurred on by her calm self-assurance, I decided to take a chance and read out a poem I wrote a year or so ago and recently rediscovered in my notebook. Admittedly, I did it mostly to fill time, but the kids in the audience responded really well to it, so I may end up posting it here…in fact, I might even add it to the end of this blog post. Let’s see how I feel by the end…
One question I was asked during my sessions was “What makes a good villain?”. I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the guy who asked me that particular question, which is awful of me given that he came to my signing line after the talk and was very sweet. I felt at the time that I gave him a bit of wishy-washy answer, so I thought I’d take a moment to address that critical error.
What makes a good villain?
It’s something I ask myself a lot because, in writing adventure fiction, you want to create an antagonist that is memorable, that is intimidating, that is worthy of your hero, and who maybe even has some shades of sympathy to him/her. I think the best villains are the ones who are a little morally ambiguous – perhaps they have a tragic back story, or a legitimate reason for doing what they do, even if they’ve taken it too far.
But more than that, the best villains are the characters that shed light on your protagonist. In dealing with the quandary of this opponent, facets of your main character’s personality and history are revealed. Villains are dark mirror images of heroes, serving as a warning of what we can all become if we give into the weaker elements of ourselves.
I could write up a whole essay on this subject, but I think I’ll leave it at that for the time being. Don’t be surprised, however, if there ends up being a future blog post that digs down deep on this topic to an almost tedious level!
In addition to Somerset, I’ve also made a trip in the past week to Channel 9 studios, where I filmed my second appearance for Kids’ WB. I’ll blog more about that in the future, but in the meantime enjoy this behind-the-scenes snapshot;
The segment should be airing at the end of March, though that’s yet to be confirmed. Watch this space for updates!
Okay, so we’re at the end of the post. Will I put up that poem? Hmmm.
You know what? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So here’s the poem, but before you read it there’s a few things you should know;
1) I have no idea if it’s crap or not.
2) I’m not a poet. See point # 1.
3) It got a good response at the festival, but I think that had mostly to do with how I read it…and the demand I made for applause at the end.
4) It’s about writing and being a writer.
5) I studied poetry at uni but the best I got was a ‘C’.
6) I don’t have a title for it.
7) I’m stalling now.
8) Here’s the poem…
We are dream merchants. And magicians.
We are astronomers, charting the stars,
and astronauts, reaching up to touch them.
We work instruments made of mirrors,
weaving invisible threads.
We stitch together scraps of cloth collected across a lifetime,
to make flying carpets and coats of many colours.
We are explorers. And hermits.
We study the soul and bring it names.
We take names and make them ideas.
We sell inspiration. We sow fancy and bottle stray thoughts.
We do this with ink in our veins and with our hearts beating to the rhythm of a keyboard.
We do this because we have to.
We do this because we can’t imagine anything else.
And that’s it. Hate mail can be sent here.
‘Til next time.