Books about writing I’m currently reading

The past few weeks I’ve been reading quite a few books on writing — specifically how to write faster and streamline your writing. This is mainly because I’ve found that I want to find a way to write at least the initial draft of a story faster and learn how to better outline my stories.

So far I’ve finished the first of the books I’m going to mention and am busy with the others (I always read more than one book at a time).

(Just an FYI, these aren’t affiliate links.)

5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox

Although I don’t necessarily want to write this fast (I think my wrist will hate me forever and ever), I have found some good tips in this book regarding sprints, dictation (which is good for when my wrist is hating on me) and more.

With lots of exercises to get you going and helping you write faster, this was a good buy for me. I also like Chris Fox’s writing style and will look into buying some of the other books in his series as well.

Write. Publish. Repeat. (TheNo-luck required guide to self-publishing success) – The Smarter Artist Book 1 by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, David Wright

I listen to Sean, Johnny and David’s podcast and grabbed this book a while ago even though I’m only reading it now. I’m about halfway through and have found that there are some great tips to help you write, publish, and repeat. Great for those who are serious about making their living from their writing. I’ll probably have more to say once I finish the whole book.

Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing, Revised Edition by Libbie Hawker

I’ve wanted to read this one for a while now as I started out a complete pantser, but boy did it mess up my “recommended for you” on Amazon for a few days, ha! Mind you, if I was someone who read a lot of romance and stuff it probably would not have been so obvious… Anyway, I’ve only just started this one, but really love Libbie Hawker’s style and voice. More on this one also once I’ve finished it.

What I want to read next:

Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In a Distracted World by Cal Newport

I struggle to concentrate. Not so much that it is a huge problem, but I do find that I jump between tasks a lot during the day. And when I sit down to write it’s far too easy to “quickly” send a message or three, check the social media feeds, etc. So I hope this book can give me some tips to get myself again to a place where I can work for blocks of time (with or without the pomodoro technique) and not be sidetracked the whole time. I have the sample for this one at the moment, but haven’t bought the full book yet.

Rachel Aaron’s 2,000 to 10,000: How to write faster, writer better, and write more of what you love.

Recommended in some of the other books, so we’ll see how it goes once I’ve read it! Right now I can’t say much else about it except here’s the link, go check it out.

In the end, I know that reading won’t make me write faster, etc. but that exercises, and the like will. Sometimes you just need some pointers to point you in the right direction. So, if that is you, why not invest in a writing book or two?

Do you have a favourite book on writing? Please share in the comments below!

November writing plans: The Ruon Chronicles and Porselein

While the temperatures are cooling down for most of my readers (*waves hello*), the temperatures here on the Highveld are sweltering, leaving my poor desk fan to work most of the day at work to try and keep my space less stuffy.

To that end, I’m doing more of my writing early in the morning, leaving my melted brain to focus only on simple tasks like crocheting in the afternoons while I wait for it to cool down again. Which bring me to what I’ll be working on during November.

The Ruon Chronicles — The Knowledge Stones, Grove of Graves, and an untitled novella

The Knowledge Stones is starting to haunt me because I can’t seem to just finish it! But I guess it’s better to have it done properly that to have it only half done and sent out into the world!

At the moment I’m busy figuring out one of the fight scenes (it contains some of the Tellerassar/eagle shifters and promises to be epic). At the moments it’s only a bulleted list of things which much happen, and will take quite a bit of writing to get ready, I think. And probably watching some more eagle videos…

But after that it’s just the denouement and setting up the next story in the series; the novella Grove of Graves.

The problem with Grove of Graves

I wrote Grove of Graves quite on a whim, not sure where it would go and having no idea that I would slot it into the main narrative that would make up The Ruon Chronicles (as opposed to being just a novella set in Airtha-Eyrassa). Neither did I expect secondary characters which I’d already created for later books to pitch up and demand to not only be in Grove of Graves, but also in Knowledge Stones.

Anyway…

After writing The Knowledge Stones, and knowing that Grove of Graves takes place just a few years after that, I need to make some changes to the story before publishing the final version which will then be canon in The RuonChronicles.

However, you will still be able to read Grove of Graves as a standalone story and even start with that one before tackling The Knowledge Stones.

Basically the reading order will be The Knowledge Stones, Grove of Graves, the unnamed story I’m going to talk about in a bit, The Charms of Life and Death (which is set to be Book 1 of a series).

The as-yet unnamed story

So, as luck would have it, I stumbled across an idea for another story (or two) that is set outside of the main narrative of The Ruon Chronicles, but still set in Airtha-Eyrassa. These will be novellas (because who am I kidding when I say “they’ll probably only be short stories”!) and I will work on them from January 2019 in order to get at least one out by March 2019.

As they are not part of the main narrative, there is a bit more room to explore the world of Airtha-Eyrassa, which I think will not only be interesting to read, but will also help me to be able to write faster when I start with the serious series of The Ruon Chronicles. They will also be a good entry into the world for those just starting out reading the stories about the world.

One of the stories is set during the Ruon Wars in the Midlands/Northern Lands, with the other set in the more eastern parts of the continent.

Porselein — still busy tinkering

Yes, I know. It’s been like a year and I’m still not done. (But what a year!) I’m basically almost just about done with the full outline of Porselein  and one of the things that I think has held me back — that there isn’t really fantasy fiction for adults in Afrikaans so why bother writing some** — may just be a thing of the past now that the Afrikaans translation of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has been published. I can only hope.

Anyway, so I’m busy with the seventh module of my writing course (for which I am writing the book) and thanks to that have seen many instances where I need to rethink the pacing of the book or up the stakes some more. There is also some more backstory that I need to figure out completely and figure out how much of that I need to include in the book — if I need to include it at all.

** Ah, self-doubt. The seemingly ever-present companion of a writer.

A Note on Forgotten:

Because apparently I hate having any time off, I’ve decided to translate Forgotten into Afrikaans and make that available on Kobo as well. (Still pondering whether or not on Kindle…) However, this is not a priority for me at the moment, but more something that I want to do in-between working on my other projects. For now my main focus will be the Airtha-Eyrassa fiction and Porselein.

Forgotten is available in English at the moment, and you can read more about the story here.

Cover Reveal! Forgotten

The day is here! The final cover for Forgotten is ready! Behold –

Forgotten Cover JPEG File

Blurb:

Nine years ago a plane crashed outside the village. Since then sigils have kept the darkness away.

Joshua dreams of flying and escaping the burning fuselage unhurt. Now fourteen, he goes to explore the plane’s wreckage but has no idea that he will release powers beyond his comprehension. The spirits of the wreck are the least of his problems.

Forgotten will be available from next week!

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(Cover photo by Benjamin Behre on Unsplash.com.)

Writing Update: Horror and Halloween!

With Halloween just around the corner, I’m glad to say that Forgotten is almost, nearly, just about done. I may have changed the ending as I was writing. But these things happen!

I’ve made a collection on Unsplash (wonderful photos, you should check the site out) for Forgotten and which will definitely give you a feel for the story. I’m quite happy with how it turned out in the end. It was nothing like I had planned when the inspiration first hit me – that was when I saw this photo:

Photo of man on crashed plane

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

I didn’t use it for the cover as the protagonist ended being a bit younger, and I wanted the focus to be just on the wreck itself. The story is probably more of a 13 for sheer creepiness factor, but if you’ve read my fiction before (especially the darker stories) you’ll know by now that it’s more of a creepy/psychological horror than a blood-splashing-everywhere horror.

This song may also play a part in the story…

Called “I tremble not at noise of war”, it was published in 1612 and written by Orlando Gibbons. The words really struck me:

I tremble not at noise of war,

I quake not at the thunder’s crack,

I shrink not at a blazing star,

I sound not at the news of wrack,

I fear no loss, I hope no gain,

I envy none, I none disdain.

Look out for announcements of the release here and on social media!

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Writing Update: “Forgotten” – a short story

Note: “Forgotten” will be published in time for Halloween!

I’m busy finishing what I’m calling “part 2” of “Forgotten”, but I’m also heavily editing the first part which has already been written.

“Forgotten” had started out as an image of a story inspired by the photo by Joshua Sortino and which grew in leaps and bounds from there.

Photo of man on crashed plane

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

So what does the rewrite mean? (I mean, let me be honest with myself, it is almost a rewrite, the amount of editing I’m doing.) Well, it means delving into the history of the world a bit, but really delving into the myth and folklore surrounding the story. Myth! Folklore! What’s not to love?

Book cover for "Forgotten" by Carin Marais

Cover for “Forgotten”

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Of markets, sunburn, and writing

Ruon Crafts

This past weekend was the first market where I exhibited my own crafts! I’ve called it Ruon Crafts — because why not — and had some notebooks, amigurumi, bookmarks, etc.

Although it wasn’t a big or busy market, it was a good start not to be in a bustling place, I think. Well, partly because I’m flaring at the moment, and partly because people and anxiety.

Sssssunbuuuurrrrnnnn

Unfortunately for me the market was outside and even though sunscreen came into play, I still got a severe sunburn. Nice. Not that I realised that until I got home… So, after sun, paracetamol, et al, it is. Hopefully it will be OK in a few days.

But, that being done, I can spend some more time on writing at the moment, or at least for about two weeks, before I need to make sure that I have the rest of the stuff for the Christmas market ready! That will be a church market, but if the previous night market’s is anything to go by, it will be a good challenge for my anxiety — wow there was a lot of people!

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Writing!

The first thing I need to get to with regard to writing, is getting my Patreon page back into shape. The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity and of flares (as if I need those in my life!) and I really want to get the Patreon Page ready for The Big Reveal at the end of November.

I realise that this year has been a bit of a flop in some ways (and awesomely awesome in other ways), but I don’t really see why I need to wait for 1 January to press “restart”.

I’ve therefore decided that October will be the month when I press “restart”, relook and my goals for the year, and see which I can still reach and which I need to move on to next year. (The radio drama will have to wait, for instance!)

Please keep an eye on the blog to see what I’m up to and when what will be posted and published!

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And, lastly, huge thank you to everyone who follows and reads my blog! It means so much to me!

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Tolkien Week 2018 – My journey with Tolkien’s works

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit…”

Hobbit-forming

As for many, my love affair with Tolkien’s works began when reading The Hobbit. Moving on to The Lord of the Rings, I found a new world of fantasy, linguistics, and beauty opened for me and I quickly went on to read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales as well. This all happened during high school.*

Soon I was reading Beowulf — the local bookstore had the Seamus Heaney translation — and reading up on myths and more. I’d always had a fancy for the weird and the fantastical, but it was only in high school that I started reading writers like Pratchett and Tolkien. And, while Pratchett’s works are brilliant, it was Tolkien’s works that led me to go “I need to write more of this kind of thing…” and “I need to know more about language and I think that that is what I need to study”.

So, blame my mother and Tolkien for making me a writer!

9 August 2001 — The Day Mom Bought Me The Lord of the Rings As a Surprise

Tolkien also came into my life at just the right time. You see, I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (more specifically) in grade 10 – just a few months after losing both grandparents and moving to a new and much smaller place.

Losing grandparents are usually not the nicest thing in the world, but you have to understand that I grew up with them and helped care for them through Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Cancer. Basically right up to the end. They were in frail care for only a few weeks before passing away. So what I needed was a book of hope.** I had never cried as much in a book before reading The Lord of the Rings. I actually stopped for a few days after Boromir’s death as I couldn’t bear to watch the whole fellowship die (hey, I didn’t know what was going to happen).

I finished reading the book before the movies came out (both happened in 2001), and still remember that my mom got me tickets for the first show of Fellowship somehow even though money was more than tight at that time. And, after the movie, my mom was hooked as well! (Mwahahahaha)

The way to university

Thanks to the movies I was able to learn a lot about Tolkien himself and found out that you can study old languages at university. So I decided on studying to be a language practitioner and at last got the chance of learning Gothic and Old Norse in my honours year through the Afrikaans department (Afrikaans was my one major). During undergrad I was able to learn some Middle Dutch as well, whoohoo!

To say that Tolkien has had an influence on my life is an understatement. It is thanks to his work that I’ve found my passion and my calling in life. That is why, during Tolkien week, I think about the giant impact one man and his work can have on the world. If my writing can do but a smidgen of that, I’d be happy.

Footnotes:

*Now, you may ask yourself how I didn’t know about The Hobbit sooner seeing as how everyone who’s English seems to know about it and to have read it at least as a child? One, I’m not English (it’s my second language) and two, fantasy literature is not that big a thing in the Afrikaans culture (can I change that? We’ll have to see… Ha!)

** Please don’t start preaching to me here about the Bible also being a book of hope. I know.

Playing around with covers – The Ruon Chronicles and Forgotten

I’ve been playing around with possible ebook covers for The Knowledge Stones, Grove of Graves, and Forgotten on Canva. Not just as a procrastination tactic, but also because I actually need some covers for when I publish the full stories. (We’ve been so busy at work that I’ve spent some evenings rather working on covers and stuff than trying to force fiction from my brain after already writing the whole day.)

While Forgotten is a stand-alone short story (thus far it’s behaving itself and not turning into a novella), both The Knowledge Stones and Grove of Graves form part of The Ruon Chronicles. Also, The Knowledge Stones actually takes place before Grove of Graves, although the latter was written first. I am therefore planning to re-edit Grove of Graves and then publish that along with The Knowledge Stones in July.

But back to the covers

I’ve kept the wreckage for the cover of Forgotten, although I got a picture where there’s no one on the plane, which helps as the protagonist is supposed to only be twelve. Here is the cover as it stands at the moment:

Forgotten

As for the The Ruon Chronicles stories, I’ve opted to keep it simple rather than try to use too many images all at once and turning it into a blob — the covers on the ebook stores are only that big, after all. I’ve also seen that, especially with fantasy, sci-fi, and action adventure, many of the covers are just too busy to really see what’s going on.

Here are Knowledge Stones and Grove at the moment:

There is another aesthetic I’m going to try for the The Ruon Chronicles books, but those I’m still working on. I’m afraid I’m stil very slow in Photoshop!

Books Can Make You Do Stupid Things

Or, musings on owning a large number of books

So on Sunday I at last got around to carrying all my books downstairs to the bookshelves. (Long story short – my place flooded and I got new carpets end of last year. I know. Don’t judge me.) I had by that time carried down about a third of the books. It took me two hours to carry down the rest in some of those huge fabric shopping bags.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I even carried my phone with me in case I fell down the stairs and had to phone a neighbour or family. See, I was being a responsible adult. Ha ha.

And now I’m reminded of the time I carried a bookcase down the stairs by myself… and got stuck halfway down the stairs with the cat laughing at me. (People with cats know that look they get.)

But, see, I had had enough of open space on my bookshelves. I need to have books around me. It’s just one of those things. Like a security blanket. Or a teddy bear. But more difficult to move around.

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I don’t understand people who don’t have any books (I’m not talking about those who can’t afford books) or don’t read at all. “How can you not?” I ask. “Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on all the adventures?” I beg of them. And then I am reminded that not everyone got the chance to find books that they love. Or they were shot down because they dared to love Mills & Boon romances. As if reading romance suddenly makes you less of a reader.

Perhaps writing and reading genre fiction has made me more aware of this. Perhaps having studied literature has also helped. Many books that win literary prizes I can’t stand. Many books that others would want to pulp I find entertaining and read more than once (here’s looking at you, Night of the Living Trekkies).

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So yes, maybe books can make you do stupid things. Like trying to carry twenty bags of books downstairs by yourself. Or buying a box filled with books because it’s a library sale and they only cost R10 each. After all, they have a heady perfume to them. They call to you with gorgeous words, titles, and beautiful or strange covers. They tempt you with the adventures and knowledge you know are locked inside of them. They give you escape from a world that seem to be spiralling out of control a little more every day.

Keeping all of this in mind, perhaps carrying my stash of adventures downstairs wasn’t so silly. After all; I got to sit and read while waiting for my stiff muscles to recover.

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Book Impressions – Nature’s Temples by Joan Maloof

“How astonishing that when I visit an old-growth redwood forest in California, I am visiting a place that may have been forested continually for fifty million years!”  – Joan Maloof

I came across Maloof’s Nature’s Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests quite by chance while I was browsing the Kindle Store. The title sounded intriguing, especially after reading The Secret Life of Trees: How They live and Why They Matter (by Colin Tudge), so I could not resist reading it. Joan Maloof doesn’t disappoint and her book is packed with information (like the fact that the tallest tree in the world is some 380 feet tall!) while remaining accessible to the lay reader.

These are just some of the diverse chapters contained in the book:

  • What is an old-growth forest?screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-10-27-22-am
  • History of the forest
  • Forests and carbon
  • Birds and their habitat preferences
  • The role of insects in the forest
  • Fungi in the ecosystem
  • What lichens tell us about forests
  • Do humans need the forest?

Maloof looks at and explains the extremely intricate and intricately balanced life of the old-growth forests and rightly bewails their loss to logging, deforestation, and other means of human interference. The harm of our interference is, after all, becoming more and more apparent and there is also now studies to show that, even if forests are replanted, the same abundance of flora and fauna will not be present again – even after many decades.

“We know we need clean air and clean water, but do humans need beauty?” — Joan Maloof

Maloof also notes in Nature’s Temples that researchers from Japan and elsewhere have shown that a walk in the forest can improve one’s mood, reduce stress hormones, strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce blood sugar levels. This kind of walk in the woods even have a name in Japanese – shirin-yoku; “wood-air bathing”.

“… we should always allow and encourage the left-alone woods, for it is there that our true riches reside. Today, and in the future, these are the places of refuge – for both the species we share the planet with and for our human spirit.” — Joan Maloof

I can highly recommend this book to those who love nature, woods, and trees or even just those who wish that there really are shepherds of the forests residing deep in the forests. After reading this book you will want to go and walk in a forest and – yes – even hug some trees.

Maloof, Joan. (2016) Nature’s Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests. Portland: Timber Press Inc. (Illustrated by Andrew Joslin.)