Wednesday, 25 September 2013

new work

I hardly ever post anything here, probably because I don't really know what to write as the author of a book that hasn't been published and doesn't have an agent. There doesn't seem to be much to say, though of course part of having something to say is trying to say something. So here goes:

Recently I've been taking a break from The Black Dionysia in almost every sense. I haven't been editing it, promoting it on authonomy, or looking for agents to sell it. I think that, because the book has consumed and shaped my imagination for so long, it's been good to get away from it for a while. Also, because my recent work on it has been polishing and promoting rather than pure creating, I've begun to require a new outlet for my creativity. As a result, I've been doing some sketching and research on a new book. As with The Black Dionysia, this one will in many ways be a tribute to some of my favorite authors, including Jorge Borges, Italo Calvino, and A.S. Byatt. It will also make similar reference to classic mythology and poetry. Whereas The Black Dionysia was particularly concerned with the Iliad, this new project will turn to Homer's Odyssey. Finally, as I've recently read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, certain elements of that story are fresh in my mind and breeding enchantment.

One strength I found in Susanna Clarke's writing was her effective creation of historical atmosphere. I always wanted The Black Dionysia to float free of time - to feel like its world was in a compartment (or cupboard) adrift on magic. But I think this new book will begin in a definite time - the Age of Discovery.

Friday, 5 April 2013

a week in review

Friday at last, and what a week! Got back from a wonderful long weekend in the Lake District, hiking around Derwent Water, Grassmere and Windermere, and in general having a great time. My wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary and my 40th birthday. Then on Tuesday I started a six week course, which has kept me busy and tired all week. I'm hoping to have the chance to post the second half of Chapter 28 this weekend, but I'm also going to be trying to post a block of my first several chapters to authonomy, the online writing community developed by HarperCollins to help writers get constructive feedback, promote their books, and ultimately get PUBLISHED.

Monday, 25 March 2013

mixed feelings

More snow outside my window today, but even though the wind is freezing cold nothing is accumulating.

My editing has gotten a few chapters ahead of my posts, but it's in for a major slow down next week, about which I have mixed feelings. I'm enrolled in a six week training course starting next week, which hopefully will lead to me landing a job. Alas, finding work in a new country (and a pretty economically depressed region of it) has been harder than I'd hoped. On the one hand I've had loads of time to write and share my work with others these last months, but corollary to my availability to write has been a fruitless search for employment.

It has been great being able to set aside large blocks of time for my book in between job searching. I've loved it, really loved it. And while some day I'd love to write for a living, or even half a living, for now I'm facing yet another test of resilience as a writer. I intend to grab time whenever I can to get the rest of this book edited, but probably this process is going to take several months.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The air outside my window was swirling with snow this morning. I've not had as productive a week as I have lately, but I did get another chapter edited. I'm a bit distracted lately with an idea for another book. I think the closer I get to finishing The Black Dionysia the more eager I am to feel my imagination running free again.

You see, I started work on The Black Dionysia about four years ago, during the autumn of my last full year in Canada. Essentially I locked myself in my room for about twelve hours a day, and while the sky darkened and the air dampened outside, I devoured novel after novel, letting the words of other writers create echoes in myself. I called the process 'tracing', by which I meant I was searching for paths presented to me through novels I had been drawn to read. I don't know how best to characterize this 'tracing'. Was it a metaphysical exercise or a religious ritual? Or was it primarily a way to occupy myself through a challenging season of life? Of course it was all of this, but the most substantial thing to emerge from that time was the skeleton of The Black Dionysia. And for the last four years I have kept my creative world centered around The Black Dionysia.

Even when ideas for other books suggested themselves to me I kept my mind focused on this one novel. But all along, especially in the last couple years, I have looked forward to re-embarking, re-tracing. And about two weeks ago I suddenly felt this urge stronger than ever. Too strong to resist, in fact, and as a result I have begun spending my odd minutes and hours on a new project. I'm not ready to share anything about it yet, and probably won't post any of it until the editing process for The Black Dionysia is complete.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

halfway through

Beautiful sunny day today. Got some background writing done on a new project. Having reached its midway point, I'm moving into a new stage with the editing and posting of The Black Dionysia. I'll still be posting chapters here, but not as often as I have been. Instead I'll be working backwards from the ending at the same pace as I'm working forward from the present location, just to make sure I keep on top of the repercussions made by my edits and revisions.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Bahamut - slightly adapted from Jorge Luis Borges

"God made the earth, but the earth had no base and so under the earth he made an angel. But the angel had no base and so under the angel's feet he made a crag of ruby. But the crag had no base and so under the crag he made a bull endowed with four thousand eyes, ears, nostrils, mouths, tongues and feet. But the bull had no base and so under the bull he made a fish named Bahamut (so immense and dazzling is Bahamut that the eyes of man cannot bear its sight; all the seas of the world, placed in one of the fish's nostrils, would be like a mustard seed laid in the desert), and under Bahamut God put water, and under the water he put darkness, and beyond this men's knowledge does not reach."

Just reading Borges's book again as ideas for a new novel simmer in my brain. Every time I read this entry in The Book of Imaginary Beings I can't help a) delighting in the metaphysician's inventiveness and description and b) laughing. I wonder, if the metaphysician was going to end the description with "beyond this men's knowledge does not reach" why did he bother investing such detail in his preceding descriptions, particularly of the bull and the fish? But mostly what I wonder is how he asserted the other levels in the stack with so much certainty if he was comfortable admitting the limits of his knowledge? Was he really so certain a giant fish held a bull that held a ruby mountain that held an angel that held the world?

Woke up today to a surprise blanket of fresh snow in the garden. Felt a little like a child again, when a stealthy overnight snow turned the world into a magical kingdom.

I've decided to hold off posting any new chapters this week, other than the first part of the Theseus Skit chapter I posted on Tuesday. I might be posting the second half next week, in which Theseus tells the true story of how he met Ariadne. But we'll see. I might not post anything new for a few weeks. While I've been busy editing the next cluster of chapters, I've also seen the need for some organizing and planning. At this point I've posted just under half my chapters, and some of my edits have turned into revisions with significant domino effects on later chapters. So it seemed a good idea for me to take a look ahead and get prepared for the big push to edit and revise the second half.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Unsettling Wonder has landed

No new chapter for The Black Dionysia this Friday as I've been taking something of a break from my routine this week. Instead of trying to post a new chapter I spent time on earlier chapters that needed work. For a while now I've felt that some of my chapters were just too long and needed to be subdivided. Also, my wife, who has been an enormous help with the editing process, had suggested a number of changes and corrections that I had to address. It kept me busy enough without worrying about a new chapter for Friday. I'm back on track now, though, and hope to have the first part of the next chapter online by Tuesday.

I also just received my copy of Unsettling Wonder. I've been looking forward to this first ever issue for several months, as the descriptions of the project intrigued me:

We craft and tell stories because we’ve stood on the uncertain edge between the waking world and our imagination, between enchantment and fear. And we remember other stories that help us build our own stories, scraps of lumber and fragments of narrative we gather together to make stories for ourselves. 
Unsettling Wonder is about going back to that place, that troubling, entrancing glimpse into story. Childhood affords us the first glimpse, but it is by no means the last. And the oldest stories—the fairy tales we met in childhood, the folklore and folk traditions that gave rise to them—can still be woven together for telling today. We want embrace and celebrate, re-imagine and re-invent, our folk traditions, the wild and variegated scrapheap of story and theme and motif that lies open to the magpie gaze of the writer.
The quality of the first issue does not disappoint. My only wish is that it was a bit longer. Even so, I haven't read it all yet. But what I've read, Claire Massey's 'The Woman Who Wore Frost Slippers' and Johnny Wink's poem 'Great Grey Moles', are excellent examples of the living tradition of fairy stories in action.

Monday, 11 February 2013

There! I've got all the formerly posted chapters from The Lost Biography of Zeus updated. Now I can get back to the new chapters.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Have finally bit the bullet and am rewriting the Lost Biography sections to mesh better with the rest of the story. I've been debating this for a while and have even been working on a draft of some changes. I've hesitated to actually make the change, but the more I've thought about it the more I'm sure it needs to happen. There are things I've always liked about the original way I wrote The Lost Biography, but the story as a whole has come a long way since then and developed a new kind of unity that largely excluded the material in this story line. So I'm onto it now, drowning one of my darlings...

Read my guest post

Check out my guest post at Spinning Straw into Gold, where I talk about familiar otherness in the the opening passages of The Black Dionysia.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Welcome to my author's blog

Welcome to my author's blog. I'm only just getting this started, so I don't have much to say today. And aside from editing the next chapter of The Black Dionysia, which will be another section from The Lost Biography of Zeus, I'm in the middle of working on something for a guest post at Spinning Straw into Gold. Although I am very excited about this opportunity I am also a little stumped over it at the moment. Not sure if I aught to write something new or if it wouldn't be better to share an excerpt. But then I have to figure out how long an excerpt would be best... Ah, what am I going to do?

If you came here expecting to read a story or a chapter from a story, you should go here instead.