My Author Heroes: Neil Gaiman

This is hopefully the start of a regular series of posts on the writers that I love and look up to. Some of them are well known, some of them independent, but all of them come highly reccomended.

At the end of each post, I will add a link to the author’s blog and any other links that I think you need to know about, so that you can discover their work if you feel like it…

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Neil Gaiman is one of those writers that I look up to. He writes what he wants to write and it is always a good read. It doesn’t fit into any one genre but slips and slides between them,  the rhythm of his word choices carrying you into other places, other times and lacing it all with the unmistakable addiction drug that is a good book.

Sometimes his words are dark, sometimes they’re funny. There’s rarely anything in them that doesn’t bring a new side to the story or the characters. His stories are simple at first glance but the more you read them, the more you see.

He’s a gentleman to his fans. His tumblr blog gets questions galore. He doesn’t answer all of them (he’d never get any writing done if he did), but when he does answer them, his answers are thoughtful and never nasty, no matter what the subject.

Today’s question was a fascinating one:

neil gaimen

I think he handled the question with his usual gentlemanly aplomb, especially as it’s one of those trickier ones.

Mr Gaiman is without doubt one of the world’s best writers and I was introduced to his work the same way that I met the work of Terry Pratchett; I picked up a copy of “Good Omens” out of curiosity. With Terry Pratchett, it didn’t take me long to be hooked, I started with “The Colour of Magic” and devoured every book I could get my hands on.

With Neil Gaiman, I had to reread “Anansi Boys” twice before I decided to look at his other work. As I’ve got older, I’ve come to appreciate his work more and more. Even his children’s books are beautifully worded, my favourite of those being “Blueberry Girl”.

I’m slowly collecting his work. savouring each one. I have both Coraline and Stardust in Movie form and despite the differences from the book form, they are delicious. I hope that you will join me in appreciating his work, but I am realistic enough to know that they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

So here are the links for you to discover him through –

The Publisher’s Site: http://www.neilgaiman.com/

The Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/neilhimself

The Tumblr Link: http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/

The Young Reader’s Site: http://www.mousecircus.com/

The Muse – Illusive but friendly…

Every Writer has one of these Creatures sat on your shoulder. As do Artists, Musicians, Dancers, Crafters, Cooks… any creative pursuit attracts the Muse. So what on earth are they?

Muse Species

There are the species that I (personally) have encountered:

The Pen Muse
This is the muse that is attracted to Writers. It can look like anything; it’s a sneaky Bugger at the best of times, always changing form and hiding when you least expect it.
It delights in whispering in your ear just as you drop off to sleep or inspiring the weirdest of dreams… and when you try to write them down somehow, it runs off again, leaving a trail of gibberish behind it that is a pain in the arse to decipher the next morning…

The Paintbrush Muse
This one loves to sit in warm sunny places and will often curl up on whatever it is that you’re drawing or trying to work on. Yes, it often takes the form of a cat or dog – mostly because it adores getting in on the action and leaving hairs in the paint (clay, plaster, glue etc).
It’s also the best Muse for Dreamtime because they love to sleep.

The Tool Muse
This one usually takes the form of a Magazine, brand new tool, pattern or material. It is primarily a Crafting Muse , but I have seen it appear in the kitchen as well, usually after a visit to IKEA  or receiving the Lakeland catalogue through the door. It usually inspires a new crafting pursuit, but will jump ship to the next new tool / crafting idea after you’ve used it a few times, thus forcing you to collect tools and materials!

Care of Your Muse

Feeding
This is completely different from person to person. The Muse tends to enjoy your own favourite foods and beverages, so make sure that you imbibe and eat those things that it likes on a regular basis or you risk losing it to a Creative that will feed it in the way it likes.

Bathing
Muses like to bathe regularly, they can get strangely obstinate when they feel they are dirty. Again, the method of bathing is different from Muse to Muse. Some like to soak in a bubble bath, others enjoy the bracing experience of a shower.  I’ve come across some species that like to swim in pools and still others that appear to prefer salt water.

Rest
Muses appear to have different sleeping schedules to Humans. They can be awake and bouncy, ready to play, at the oddest of hours or sleeping soundly for hours. However, (in my experience) they seem to function best when you’re warm and snuggled into something soft.

Personally, I’ve found that the Pen Muse is the worst for inappropriate sleep – when I’m sitting at the desk ready to write; he’s curled up somewhere warm asleep and when I’m just about dropping off to sleep on my keyboard, he’s awake and inspired, poking me with his inky paws and telling me what to write next.

Sickness
You will find that when your Muse is ill, you will find it VERY difficult to concentrate on any creative endeavour. There is no real cure to this other than time and proper care.

Sorry if you were looking for a quick fix…

Play / Exercise
All Muses like to play.  What they play with varies. Some Muses like to exert physical effort and enjoy Team Sports, Running, Swimming, Walking… the list is a long one! Others will be drawn to Music and you can take them out Dancing or to Zumba.
There are more sedentary Muses as well; these tend to like watching TV, going to the Movies or playing Console / Computer Games.
The third type is in the middle of these two. These Muses that will work best with a varied play routine.

Playtime is usually when you can get the very best ideas out of them, but be warned; not every idea will be a viable one or will be what you are looking for for the piece you are currently working on.  Just make a note of them (mentally or otherwise) and keep playing until the Muse indicates that it needs to rest.

Training Your Muse

It is possible to train your Muse to produce ideas on command. They are fickle creatures though and you will find that if you try too hard to train your muse it could get upset with you and disappear on you.
Sadly I cannot advise you on what the best training is – it’s entirely personal to the Muse in question and often takes considerable trial-and-error over many years to perfect.

I have not yet found the perfect training regime.
I know there are writers out there that have trained their Pen Muses; they seem able to produce books / stories / articles  time and again without seeming to break a sweat (Yes, I know that’s not exactly true – I’m having fun here, leave me alone) and they have different routines that don’t work for me.
This is fine – part of the work of becoming a good writer is discovering your Muse’s training regime.

Meet My Muses

I currently have two Muses, this is what they look like in Resting Form:

This is Puff, the Faerie Dragon and Pen Muse.

Puff

 His favourite foods are Chips, Chocolate and Starbursts. He enjoys drinking Dr Pepper and Gin & Tonic, but will function (with many complaints) on Coffee and Tea. Puff is a Sedentary Muse, so prefers to watch TV / Movies,  play Tetris / Candy Crush etc and go Walking or Swimming.

This is Stardust, the Faerie Unicorn and a  Paintbrush / Tool Muse hybrid

Stardust

Her favourite Foods are Tortilla Chips-and-cheese dip, Ice Cream and Cake. She likes to drink Tea (mostly Chai and Earl Grey) and Wine. Stardust likes to go Swimming, Cycling and Walking. She also likes reading and browsing the internet.

Over to you

I know that there are other species of Muse and I should imagine there are as many forms to each species as there are ways of being creative.  I also apologise for the lack of pictures,in the Species section of this post; Stardust (my Paintbrush/Tool Muse Hybrid) has gone on holiday and I can’t for the life of me get the images in my words onto paper in visual form.

Feel free to add to my list of species, tell me what your personal muse is like or contribute images of what you think that the different species look like in the comments below – let’s have some fun!

100 Days to Be Happy: Writing

writers manifesto

I suppose you’d think this would turn up earlier in my countdown, but strangely it wasn’t the first thing that I thought of when I thought about things that make me happy.

Possibly because at the moment, my writing is causing me a little stress.

Yes, I understand that you’re shocked at such an occurrence, but between having to manage with the new baby, the financial pressure the family is currently under and our lack of space issues, the word flow has been dammed. It has slowed to a minute trickle, where I am unlikely to write any more than 200 words on whatever it is I am working on that day.

There’s also the sales thing.

That isn’t going so well. Possibly because I don’t really have the energy to write much, let alone market it all…

Anyway, let’s look at the positive side of my writing. Here’s five things that I love about writing:

1) Since I started writing, I’ve met some wonderful people on the Internet.

Some of them I’ve even talked to on the phone or  in person. And they’re all writers, readers, cover designers, artists, musicians, photographers – they’re all creative people with whom I share an interest in.

2) Writing has taken me places I never thought I’d go.

I’ve travelled to the darkest recesses of my mind writing horror stories and I’ve created whole new worlds for stories to take place in. My YA stories have explored regions of emotions that I thought left behind in my childhood / teenage years. The whole experience is one of wonder.

3) Publishing my own work has been an enlightening experience.

Before I started writing, when I was just a reader, I never realised quite how much work goes into producing an actual print book. It’s not as easy as it seems and really is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.

4) When I was a kid, I never thought I would ever be an author.

I was told it wasn’t a good career choice, its was a pipe dream and that I should look for something to target my learning toward that would bring in a steady income.
Yet here I am. I ended up being a Teacher but I have also published eleven books so far.

5) Its expanded my mind: I never realised how many types and styles  of writing there actually are!

As a Reader, you don’t tend to think about point of view, genre  or form. It’s a story and you’re reading it.
As a Writer you have to think about these things in order to get across the story in the way you want it to be read. You don’t tend to think about it too much – unless something goes wrong and you have to change something. That’s an exciting prospect – you are completely in control of the story… well as long as your characters cooperate!

There are pros and cons to being a writer – the long hours and insufficient remuneration are definite cons, but I went into this intending to learn my craft and over the last five years, I have learned and experienced so much more than just the downside. I’ve found happiness and peace doing something I really love to do.

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Breaking News

Season 5 of Choose or Die is upon us.

For those of you who don’t understand what CoD is, have you ever read a “Choose your own Adventure” book? You know, those books where you read a chapter, then have to make a decision, turn to the page number the decision tells you and find out what happens next? There’s usually more than one story involved in them…

Well Choose or Die is a bit like that. You read a chapter, then you vote for the direction the story is going to take. The winning choice becomes the next chapter, the other two take great delight in killing the character in the most inventive way possible.

So to get involved, pop over to the Choose or Die website (link below) and pick the story we writers are going to tell. You, the reader have the control of the story at last… or do you?

I dare you to come and find out.

http://chooseordie.blogspot.co.uk/