"I am a being of Heaven and Earth, of thunder and lightning, of rain and wind, of the galaxies."
– Eden Ahbez
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Monday, 18 July 2011
"Reality leaves a lot to the imagination."
– John Lennon
So you think the world is solid do you? When we look at the world around us we see something that is there and real – after all we can touch it.
Well here’s an interesting fact; remember those diagrams of atoms, the ones with electrons closely spinning around the nucleus. It’s a familiar image – a comforting one, and we’re brought up with this easy to visualise structure in our heads.
So great, where’s the problem then? The world is full of matter so it must be densely packed together – right? Actually it turns out that being far from being solid our world, our reality, is full of empty space. “Huh?” you may ask.
How far apart do you think the distance between a nucleus and an electron is? Remember that diagram of the simple atom? If we scale up the nucleus to the size a grape seed, a typical electron would be orbiting it at a similar distance to the width of a football stadium.
This means the world we see isn’t solid at all – it’s actually full of holes, and enormous ones at that. Just think about this as your hand moves over that solid computer mouse over an equally solid desk as you read this article – most of it's just empty space.
So do you still believe everything your senses tell you about the world around us?
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
"Volcanoes are one way Earth gives birth to itself."
– Robert Gross
Together with my son, I recently completed a research trip to Iceland, the planned setting for my sequel to Cloud Riders.
From the moment the plane began its descent, I was immediately struck by the island’s rock glowing in the amber storm light. Then I began to notice the lack of trees and realised it was going to be like nowhere I’d ever visited before.
Iceland is a new born geologically speaking. This was highlighted as we left the airport and drove past endless frozen lava fields, so rough that you’d have a hard time walking them without twisting an ankle.
However, far from being a desolate landscape there’s a primordial beauty to the island that quickly works its way under your skin. This is a land of myth and legend, of long winter nights illuminated by the shimmering aurora, midsummers of a never setting sun, and two tectonic plates pulling the island apart. With all this and more, it wasn’t long before its rugged beauty had me hooked.
Iceland is very unique and as you might expect this is reflected in the people who live there. Apparently over fifty percent of the islanders believe in the existence of elves; planned roads have even been altered to avoid the fairy folk’s homes. Now that’s something I can’t quite see happening in other countries. But when in Iceland these ideas don’t feel strange or alien, but a human way of expressing somewhere very unique about the island.
Iceland is strewn with inactive volcanoes, but geysers regularly venting are testament to the fact the island is still geologically very active. This was underlined last year when the unpronounceable volcano – at least if you’re not Icelandic – Eyjafjallajökull blew its top in a storm of fire and ash. The eruption subsequently grounded air traffic right across Europe, reminding us all that despite all our modern technology that mother earth is still the boss and we’d better not forget it.
With half an eye on those imposing volcanic stacks, my son and I took part in an organised super-truck expedition – the Icelandic take their off-roading very seriously – and were soon far from the beaten track experiencing memories to last a lifetime: towering glacier fields; the hissing cry of geysers; swimming through aquamarine geothermally heated lagoons; standing at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull and throwing snowballs at each other...
But as an author I had gone to Iceland for a reason – preparing the groundwork for a new book – and I wasn’t disappointed. From the moment I’d stepped off the aircraft, I felt my imagination going into a feeding frenzy and knew it was one of the best things I could have done in preparing the groundwork for my new project.
Since returning, ideas have been spinning through my head in a constant swarm and complete scenes have painted themselves across the snowy backdrop of Iceland. This is why I believe travel is so important to a writer… yes of course you can imagine anywhere and anything, but it’s the unexpected inspiration that comes from an actual visit that can be so rewarding. There are simply ideas that would never have occurred to me unless I’d actually been there.
Now safely ensconced back at my desk, I’m preparing to embark on a different sort of journey – one into my imagination – and I can’t wait to see where ideas seeded by a land of fire and ice, will take me.
Monday, 11 July 2011
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
– E.L. Doctorow
Writing is a funny old business. For months at a time, you live with your characters and wander through the landscape of your imagination. Blogs don’t get updated, friends neglected, and the world outside can be reduced to the view from your window. And then you get to the conclusion of the latest draft and it ends. I guess it must be a bit like how a hedgehog feels as it wakes from hibernation and emerges blinking back into the world.
Creating a novel of course doesn’t end with the writing process. It’s only part of bringing a story to the market place. At this particular stage of my fledging career, there are additional challenges ahead, most pressing of which is securing an agent. Hopefully, this will be quickly followed by a publishing deal, but even then there is probably another good eighteen months before my book hits the shelves… then the fun really starts for an introspective author. From the solitary existence of writing, one is suddenly thrust into PR circuit, an essential part of any book launch, to really raise awareness and market your work. Personally, I can’t wait. The idea of giving readings etc, although somewhat daunting, is also a very exciting prospect.
Cloud Riders has now gone into the manuscript agency I work with. Hopefully, spring for this hedgehog author, is just around the corner.
Sunday, 10 July 2011
I’ve just finished the remarkable finale to the Chaos Walking trilogy, Monsters of Men. I have to say that Patrick’s work is some of the most original fiction I’ve read in a long time. His main characters, Todd and Viola, are so well drawn that you feel you actually know them by the end.
Todd’s world is one where men’s noise, their thoughts, can be heard by everyone else. Just think about that for a moment what that would be like, a life where nothing is really ever private. The women by contrast, are silent, their inner dialogue locked safely away inside their heads. But this noise isn’t restricted to just the men and on this world you can hear the thoughts of the creatures around you. Some of Patrick’s most heart wrenching moments deals with this bond with the animals, such as Todd’s dog Manchee in the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and in subsequent books, with his horse Angharrad. Their is a clarity of emotion there that sometimes bites deeper than any human dialogue could ever hope to.
Another excellent innovation, is to use different fonts in different sizes to convey thoughts. You really need to pick up a copy to see how this approach really helps to convey the idea of telepathy. In terms of presentation of a concept, it just works.
Monsters of Men throws the characters into a world descending into war, and in the struggle to maintain their humanity in the face of brutality, they must ultimately remember who they really are. A tale for our times.
If you haven’t read this series, I strongly suggest that you do so. Highly recommended.
Saturday, 9 July 2011
"Stung by the Splendor of sudden thought."
– Robert Browning
During my trek along the Macmillan Way West, I came across this small caravan in the middle of nowhere by a stream. Immediately ideas began whizzing through my head: who lived there, what happened to them, and why did they live miles from anywhere? Before I knew it I had the concept for a full blown story coming together. If nothing else, it’s a good example of why as a writer it’s a good idea to get away from my desk sometimes. Just remember, you never know where you may find the inspiration for that next great story.
Now where’s my pen?