Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech

I keep this video on my bookmarks bar. One of my friends made me a beautiful cross-stitch of those three words and framed it; it hangs on the wall just behind my computer at eye-level. Whenever I lose the plot (in a book, or in life in general) I look up from the screen and remember what I’m doing, and why. I often finish blog entries or writers’ circle announcements with this iconic phrase.

If you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend it. Even if it doesn’t do for you what it does for me, it’s some solid advice for all artists, be they literary or otherwise.

Have a most excellent day, and make good art.

Stepping Into the Scene: A Writing Exercise

So my writers’ circle had a meeting this evening and we did a really interesting exercise I’d like to share with you because it was extremely effective for me as well as the other members who participated. If you’re good at visualizing things during meditation, you’re already way ahead of the game here. If not, it might be something you’d like to try.

What we did was this: each of us picked a scene from a project we were working on. Didn’t matter if it was a main project or something pulled from the back-burner … or dusty broom-closet. Then, we designated a mat on the floor to be our working space. One at a time, we would sit while another member read out the scene we had selected while we sat, eyes-closed and listened, visualizing the scene taking place as clearly as possible as though we were watching it take place in the space of the mat in front of us.

Then, the author of the scene would step onto the mat, assume the position that the character was currently in and proceed with the scene from its beginning to its conclusion.

If it were just that, it would be an interesting roleplay/guided meditation session. But that was not, in fact, all there was to it. The other members of the group asked questions of the character to which the author (in the character’s shoes) responded based on what they could see, hear, smell, etc. They asked questions about what emotions the character was feeling, what they had done previous to that scene, what they planned to do afterwards and what was currently weighing on their mind, what they were wearing, what everything around them looked and sounded like, all while one member of the group took notes on everything the character said. (It’s a good thing we can all type really fast!) Together we wrung all the details out of that scene that there was to be had and saved the information to be used by the author later.

The beauty of this exercise is that one can squeeze precious details out of a scene that seems dry and uninteresting. One can connect with a character or a situation that feels distant or a bit fuzzy/unreal and bring the scene to life.

The end result? I stepped onto the mat with a vague character concept and a few bits of plot strung together and exited the mat with a fully developed novel plot and fleshed out character with believable emotions and motivations in 45 minutes. This was the equivalent of months worth of work for me. And it was FUN.

So, if you can find some friends to help you out with this endeavour, I heartily recommend it. Good luck!

How to Weave Japanese Waraji Sandals for Bleach Cosplay

One of the trickiest bits of a shinigami costume from the anime Bleach (aside from the hair) is the sandals. Unlike the quality uniforms that you can order online, the sandals that are available for purchase are pretty sub-par quality wise and don’t fit the feet of the wearer the way a custom made pair will. The good news is: they’re pretty cheap and easy to make once you get the hang of it.

I found a pretty good guide online for how to make the sandals here. However, I found the pictures to be a little unclear and some of the directions were incomplete such as how to actually do the weaving which resulted in quite a bit of trial and error.

So, I thought I’d present an updated guide for you to make use of. I hope you find it helpful!

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Continue reading “How to Weave Japanese Waraji Sandals for Bleach Cosplay”

Chapter 3 Update (and some crafting!)

So my editor got back to me with a fixed-up chapter 3 for Blood of Midnight: The Broken Prophecy. Glad to see you feeling better Kal!

I had a bout of insomnia last night so I decided to make the best of the situation and worked on the chapter while the sun rose. So eerily quiet! But on the upside, I got most of the work I had scheduled to do today done before the alarm went off. Go me!

I also got most of the Book That Bleeds completed which is not actually a writing project. It’s a costume prop. I’m going to this year’s Montreal ComicCon and I’ve decided to cosplay as a Drow. I love elves of all sorts but this particular variety has got to be my favourite because of their interesting culture. And before you ask, no, I’m not a super-rare good Drow seeking to redeem himself from the evil ways of his people. Nope. I’m a standard run-of-the-mill evil Loth-worshipping Drow. Yay!

As you might have guessed, aside from writing, one of my passions is costuming. I usually make my own costumes and my wife’s as well. This year is no different except that the budget is a little tiny bit bigger than last year. Perhaps I’ll share some of my in-progress costume-creation shots!

But that can wait until after I finish this fresh-ground hazelnut coffee. Mmm.

14 Writers Handwrite Their Writing Advice on Their Hands

14 Writers Handwrite Their Writing Advice on Their Hands

As writers, the tools of our trade are always with us: our hands. Here’s some great gems of advice from authors about how to make good art.

For centuries, …

For centuries, legends of the ancient sorcerer known as the White Asp have been told.

But this demon is writing a new tale in the blood of the slaughtered, as cities and kingdoms fall to his relentless assault. In a desperate bid for survival, the Stonehart clan places its hopes on the shoulders of Damon, whose blood magic is the strongest of all of his kin. Thrust from childhood onto the battlefield, Damon must find a way to stop the sorcerer’s onslaught.

Born with only half of their magic, every Stonehart must seek out their Reflection to gain their full power. Damon’s match, Phoenix Solara, escaped the Asp’s holocaust but fell into a strange world where bird-men live underground and stew in madness, pining for a sun they cannot see. Separated from her mystical counterpart, Phoenix can only reach Damon in snatches of time when they are both dreaming.

Damon seeks the knowledge to save his people; Phoenix searches for the power to escape her prison. But even if they find a way to aid each other, will it be enough to repel their common foe, or will the world be crushed under the coils of the White Asp?

Sound like something you’d like to dive into? Hopefully yes! This is the blurb for my fantasy novel, Blood of Midnight: The Broken Prophecy. It’s currently scheduled to come out this winter.

As a status report: My manuscript is currently at the editor’s. A bout of illness prevented him from getting much done over the past month. Feel better soon Kal!

Next up, more great advice from authors written on their tools-of-the-trade: their hands.

The Art of Asking

I trust you.

I’ve had people, many of them friends of mine give me a pained expression, full of well-meaning worry for me and my livelihood, when I tell them I am self-publishing. I tell them that the book publishing industry has changed. It’s a brave new world full of new opportunities for artists to connect directly with their audiences.

Yes, it’s frightening to take that leap of faith and do something outside of long-standing tradition. I’m doing so, and Mz. Palmer’s TED talk here is precisely why.

I don’t want to connect with a publishing house. I want to connect with you. I don’t fancy giving 80% of my money to a middle-man to stand between my readers and myself. I want people to be able to enjoy a good fantasy novel for no more than three dollars and to be happy with that investment.

That’s why I have decided to put forward my art this way; I trust you.