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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 10 – “There is a King”


LATEST READ

Today I am off work ill. This blog post will be the only output of my day.

Unfortunately lack of output has been common recently for me. Due to an INSANE time at work the last couple of weeks with training and system upgrades (and a 24-hour straight shift!), all the while accompanied by some sleepless nights, writing has been low down on my agenda. Which annoys me. 
A lot.

Yet I’ve still found time to read.

This morning I finished my latest; Stephen King’s From A Buick 8.

It’s an interesting story, one that has effortlessly earned its place in my all-time favourite King novels. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is about it that I like, but I didn’t hesitate with the five stars on Goodreads. When I looked online, however, I found a lot of reviews that online came in from the extreme angles; people either really liked it, or really, really hated it.

The main issue the 1 stars have with it is the lack of explanation, of resolution. This is ironic, because that’s what the whole book is really about. From A Buick 8 is a tales made up of tales all leading to the point that life doesn’t always work out like the stories we enjoy reading so much. Life doesn’t always end well, it doesn’t give all the answers, and it doesn’t all have meaning.

I liked it, though. But then, I’ve read enough King to enjoy something a little different. I like how he writes his characters (all of them, not just the main ones). I could read about a character’s day, where nothing really happens, if it was written by Mr King. He writes so much detail into his worlds; some of it obvious, some of it subtle. He writes characters as if they’re real people.

Of course, while I’d recommend it in a heartbeat to any King fan who hadn’t gotten around to it yet, it isn’t (in my opinion) a good place for someone new to Mr King’s work.
Which brings me to . . .



WHERE TO START

While my toast was cooking on another lunchbreak earlier this week, a work colleague noticed the book on my table. She asked if I liked Stephen King (absolutely) and then told me she was planning on reading It soon. I mentioned that I hadn’t gotten around to that one yet but was looking forward to it.

Then I asked her what other King books she’d read to which she replied, “None”.

What?!?!

My immediate reaction was that she was crazy to start with one of King’s biggest works. If it went wrong, it could put her off the master writer for life. That first King read is important; it’s the one you’ll always remember (like that first love, remember him/her?), it’s what you’ll judge all the rest by, and it will hopefully open you up to all the things that make King such a mighty author.

So, what did I tell her? Well, with the help of a fellow King fan (hello Steve), we compiled a list of where we thought she would be better of starting.

I started with The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, an odd one, I know. You see back then (around 2005) I was adamant that I would avoid mainstream authors. And you don’t get much more mainstream than Stephen King. But one day, while the future Mrs Creek was busy perusing in our local TESCO, I spotted a King book I’d never heard of before, or expected to be something he would write. It was part western and part fantasy. I was very, very interested. Yet there was that name on the cover, a name I’d stubbornly sworn not to read. And the price, that was . . . cheap actually. On sale for £1.99.

Sold.

Of course I later found out that it was more than one book, and despite the Dark Tower series being my favourite story of all time, there were many reasons why that shouldn’t be my colleagues first King read. And after the Gunslinger

Next up was Cell. This was a simpler book in King terms, an interesting premise with a zombie story turned on its head. Excluding the Dark Tower, this was my first proper Stephen King novel, and when I finished it I felt guilty for that earlier stubbornness. I immediately found his writing interesting and smart, and knew then and there that I would be reading many more of his (to date, I’m not even halfway, but I’m enjoying taking my time with them).

After that I went with his first, Carrie. I thought that, for my colleague, this would be a good start due to its size and simplicity. Steve also suggested ‘Salem’s Lot and The Shinning (we both agreed she should skip around for The Stand for now), but our worry became that these was all his old (oldest) stuff, and some people can be put off of period stuff. It’s like movies; I know some people that avoid films made before they were born like the plague.

So Steve and I started thinking about more recent works (all while my colleague eyes started to glaze over as she began to regret the question she’d asked me). I mentioned Cell, but tought things like Lisey’s Story and Duma Key were a little too involved for a first time.  

Of course there was Blaze, the Bachman book released not long after Cell. This was another easy read (and another of my favourites).

But as I mentioned, my colleague started to feel comatose, and the conversation ended there. I don’t know if she started It, or if she picked another (or if we scared her off of Stephen King altogether).



OTHER FANS

I know a couple of people who read this blog are King fans. What would you guys have suggested? Do you agree that I should have diverted her away from some of the heavier stuff for her first time, or should she just have dived straight in to a doorstop? And what was your first King novel?

Apologies for the short and random nature of the post today. As I said at the beginning, illness is hugging me. Hopefully it will go away quickly, work can get better, and writing can rear its beautiful head once more.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 09 – “In This Together”



YOU ARE NOT ALONE

When I was a kid I used to write. A lot. Sometimes I would take my favourite movies and cartoons and cannibalise them, before mixing myself and my friends in (yes, fan-fiction). Other times I would create my own originalish characters and pit them against each other in epic fights.

My stories changed a lot in those first few years. I experimented across all genres and tried different styles. Yet the one thing that stayed constant was that I wrote everything in a vacuum. The stories were mine and either people wouldn’t enjoy them, or they wouldn’t understand them. And whatever happened, the world was not allowed to interfere with my process, least it ruin my creativity.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Because how can a writer learn and grow with nothing of outside influence assisting in its creation. Sure, it remains our true vision, the finished product put down on that page being exactly how we imagined it. But it’s a process of sharing, if you want to go the whole way. If you write for only yourself then that’s fine. But if you want to be published, if you want to earn money, if you want people to want to read your work, then other people will have to be involved.

Also known as interaction.

So you’re writing this story and in your head it’s the GREATEST THING EVER™. But maybe there’s that one character, what’s known as a secondary character, and he’s hung around since an early draft of book one, and you can’t see that he needs to go. He does nothing much, nothing important to the plot, anyway. But the reader, they notice that this odd little secondary character serves no real purpose, and really shouldn’t be lingering like a bad smell in book four.

In your own little world, behind your closed door, you wouldn’t see this. And if you did, you’d fight with yourself to justify it. But let another pair of eyes (or several, if you have more than one friend, or just one friend who has lots of eyes) glance over your work before the rest of the world sees it. Then perhaps they will spot any excess, any holes, and any mistakes (like a character dying in chapter eight but randomly being alive in chapter twelve! – thank god I never released that novel).

I guess what I’ve spent 393 words trying to say is, it would be really useful and productive to find like-minded people and interact with them when it comes to writing.





RUNNING WITH THE PACK

So you’ve found your online (or real world, you lucky bastard) writing group and they really are a nice bunch. The first thing to remember is that word I used earlier; interaction. By this I mean that the relationship you form with these like-minded people really should be a two-way street. You cannot expect people to all gather together to help you with your own project and not even consider returning that favour.

Now, I’m not saying that it should be a ‘you-scratch-my-back’ kind of situation. You shouldn’t be keeping a tally of who has helped you and recording mental vouchers that equal one-for-one.

Instead, think of the group as the one, and you as the other. Adam helps with your story, taking a look over, and suggestion some very wise changes that make that ending really pop. But Adam isn’t at a stage yet where’s he wants the same in return, so you feel like you will just sit and wait until he’s ready. Wrong. You see, Bob is over there and his book needs a critical eye. Well, why not make your eye that critical eye. Because if you do, you’ll have Bob’s gratitude going forward, and while he’s waiting for your thoughts on his project, he uses the spare time to take a look at Colin’s short story collection.

And round and round it goes. Because you’re a group helping each other and really supporting each other. And you’re all bathing in the golden syrup of karma.





HOW CAN WE HELP?

But let’s not stop at writing and beta reading. There are other ways for you to support your fellow authors. Just the other day, Mark A King posted an interview with me on his website. He’s currently waiting for his debut novel to come back from the editor and decided to use that time by promoting his fellow FlashDog authors. I’m not the only one (I believe I was interview six on the playlist, with more to come). You should pop over to his website and check out the interviews. And while you’re there, check out his fiction too. There’s a reason the people I write with respect Mark and are all looking forward to that debut of his; he’s good. Go on, check it out. I’ll wait. . .

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Okay, you’re back. Mark’s not the only one you know. While some of the quieter writers (meaning the one’s like me that are unpublished but working on it) don’t do it yet, but several of the FlashDogs that have expanded into the larger writing world have taken the time to support those of us coming up fast behind them. I’ve read quite a few author interviews; some to mark debut book launches, others to celebrate contest wins. But they all let us know a little more about those we write beside.

It’s awesome, right? The stronger ones lead the way, but they don’t leave behind those that read, commented on, and enjoyed all those weekly contest stories spread over the last few years.

I recently finished reading a collection of short stories by fellow (awesome) writer Tamara Rogers called DOUBLE VISION (I highly recommend). In the acknowledgments she thanks her mother, and then goes on to thank the #FlashDogs. She has some very kind words to say about them.

I myself was lucky enough to get personal acknowledgments in a couple of books recently, books I was asked by the authors to beta read. I didn’t expect anything like this from them, and was just happy to help. But damn it if seeing my name followed by a thank you didn’t make my week.

I guess what I mean by all this is don’t write alone. Find a group and start working together to make everyone in it a success. You won’t regret it. I haven’t. I’ve grown in confidence so much in the last two years and it’s ALL down to the people I’ve met; those who have helped me, and those who have let me help them.

And if you have trouble finding a group . . . then check out the FlashDogs.