Why We Do What We Do

22 Jul

 

 

It’s a basic question: why?

Do we do it for love? Or do it for money?

How about neither?

Imagine turning on a radio, tinny music from a single small speaker bringing your favourite song to life.

Now imagine playing that same song on high-quality stereo speakers. Ah – much better.

Now turn up the bass until your bones throb in harmony, until that song has its own colour when you close your eyes. Air guitar. Air drums. You want – need – to sing along. Go ahead: drain your lungs. Belt out those lyrics, baby.

Take it another step: you are playing an instrument, the orchestra swelling around you, hot stage lights provoking beads of sweat, drums behind you making you startle at their chaos. Organized sound, yet you are lost inside it, surrendering to its triumph. Immersed in the music, you are part of something much bigger than you.

Athletes refer to “runners’ high” when endorphins, manufactured to inhibit pain, produce a feeling of euphoria. Musicians must experience a similar event, too.

And so it must follow that writers, during their creative process, experience a state of existence so intense it pings the brain in a unique way.

The science behind the creative process, while fascinating, has yet to be completely understood. A topic that provokes more research.

But for now we can simply call it “writers’ high”.

And that’s my theory as to why we do what we do.

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New Project

5 Mar

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When a story is mulled over long enough, it begins to take shape. It has no title yet, no names picked for characters. Those details will come. The premise was something I’ve thought about for a long time – a romance about a woman, a ghost, and a castle…

Only, when I started to outline the story it kept leaning towards a tale of primal horror.

No.

I kept trying to format it back to a love story, fought with the outline, revised the catalyst…but at some point it took on its own shape and changed into something completely thematically different.

I’ve never written a real cover-your eyes jump-scare don’t-go-into-the-basement screamer. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of movies and TV shows, read lots of books. Fuelled by a steady diet of The Dead Files and Stephen King, I should be able to do this. Should. The reality of making it happen seemed like a good idea at the time (kind of like sky-diving, until you have to jump out of the airplane).

The first week, I could not wait for a free moment to sketch out a few scenes, re-arrange them to fit. The mood was Unbridled Enthusiasm. Then I hit the half-way mark in story mapping, and that sneaky bastard Doubt wandered into the room, mocking my efforts.

Is it scary enough? Or more importantly, original enough? With no sinister soundtrack, no creepy visual effects, no jump-scares, can I frighten people with only words?

I meant it to be a romance story. Honest, I did. I tried.

Synchronicity Release – February 21, 2017

20 Feb

Synchronicity Cover

 

Every book release is a special event, but this one is particularly so.

This novel started as a screenplay, written in the early 90’s. Predating CGI-based special effects, I’d been told the movie would be too expensive to produce. So I filed it away, in my box of Lost Hopes and Dreams.

Time passed. Lots of time. Years and years. The urge to write resurfaced, never truly defeated by life or work or circumstance (or child birthing). I found the original notes in the basement, packed away in a bankers’ box, the manila file folder titled Vampires in Space. It was a solid outline, complete with the design of the space station.

I’d been meaning to re-write that screenplay into a novel…but the script felt worn, redundant; tired. So I wrote Inner Demons instead, and gave it to my niece to test-read. She devoured it, asking for another book in the series based around Nigel.

Naturally, I thought of Vampires in Space.

First hatched in Inner Demons where Nigel had a supporting role, his was a character I particularly enjoyed. The Inner Demons concept breathed new life into the story. I kept the framework, re-wrote the details, hammered away at the craft of story-telling…and thus Synchronicity was re-born.

Physics hasn’t changed much in the last several decades – you still stick to the same side of a rotating wheel, and yes, I fact-checked that detail with a physicist friend (one of the weird topics we discussed during break). Certain scenes – like the ones featuring the observation tower – felt like coming home. A blend of everything I enjoy: vampires, sci-fi, coffee, and scotch.

This post makes it all seem easy – but it wasn’t. Nothing worthwhile ever is. It took years before its final shape emerged. But the journey was amazing.

 

Here are some of the novel’s influences: monsters spawned from the wellspring of 70’s sci-fi and shaped by the 80’s craze for vampires.

(hey, I said they were influences, I didn’t say they were awesome examples)

Books:

John Wyndham: The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids

Ray Bradbury: The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451

Movies:

Outland (1981) (the one with Sean Connery – cowboys in space)

Blade Runner (1982) (androids in non-space)

The Hunger (1983) (vampires not in space)

Lifeforce (1985) (naked vampires in space)

 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Doctor Varma – look him up.

Interview with Steve McHugh – What’s New

4 Dec

 

promise-of-wrath

 

Steve has a true passion for what’s he’s doing – and it shows. He’s come a long way from his debut release of April 28, 2012 when he self-published his first book, Crimes Against Magic, selling 28 copies opening day. Now he’s got the whole Hellequin Chronicles under his belt with book 6 Promise of Wrath released September 13, 2016. He’s working on book 7 Scorched Shadows right now, but took time from his busy schedule to answer some more questions.

 

You left your full-time job in December 2015, to have more time to write. At what point did you decide that you could give up your day job? Was leaving that security net scary?

Through most of 2015 it became apparent that there was no chance I was going to be able to write books quickly enough for the amount of stories in my head. At least not if I worked full-time too. I was doing maybe 1 ½ a year while working. So far this year, since leaving my job, I’m finished 2 and started a 3rd.

On top of that I started to earn enough that it just didn’t make sense to keep working full-time and write. My writing had become my major earner, and it made financial sense to run with that.

It was nerve-wracking to leave and move away from a job I’d done for over a decade, but I’d pretty much done everything I could do while I was there and was essentially coasting because it was easy. I needed the shake up of doing something new.

You tried the traditional route first, looking for an agent, then decided to self-publish. How did you feel when a publisher approached you later? And then you were contacted by an agent. Why did you decide to sign?

Self-publishing was never really my first thought when I was trying to get an agent. I did it because I had friends who had been very successful doing it, and I wanted to give it a try and see how things went. As it turned out, it went well, but when 47N asked if I’d like to work with them, the idea of having a publisher do marketing and the like, allowing me to concentrate on the actual writing side, was something I thought would help me in the long run.

After book 3 came out, I started looking for an agent. I contacted maybe 7 or 8 and explained my situation, but got rejections. Paul, my current agent, and I got on really well from the start and having someone go to bat for me in negotiations meant was great.

You’ve hinted at a new project in the works, a departure from Nate’s adventures. What will that story be about?

I’ve just finished a book that will be out next year. It’s called Divided and it takes place in the Hellequin universe, but isn’t a Nate book. It’s about a young woman by the name of Layla, who through circumstances of someone else’s making, ends up with these incredible powers, throwing her into a world she didn’t know existed.

It was a lot of fun to write, and Layla is a big departure from Nate who was already well established by the time the first book came around. Layla gets sort of dropped in the deep end and told to survive.

What advice would your old self give to a new writer? (Throw yourself back in time about six years to answer that question.) How about now?

I don’t know. I’d probably tell him to just keep writing and not worry about reviews or rankings. I’d probably tell him that he gets to do his dream job and that all of those days when I had to go to a job I didn’t care about were worth it in the long run.

On a non-writer related topic, how’s the puppy?

Unfortunately, our youngest daughter and the puppy didn’t really get along. Harley was far too skittish around the dog, and the dog was constantly trying to show her dominance over our daughter. So, we returned the puppy to the breeder. We’ll try again with an older dog in a few years when Harley is a bit older. It was sad, but it was a learning experience.

https://www.amazon.com/Steve-McHugh/e/B007YYWVHA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1480881232&sr=8-1

https://www.amazon.com/Steve-McHugh/e/B007YYWVHA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1480881232&sr=8-1

New Release Coming Soon…

20 Nov
synchronicity

Synchronicity Cover

 

 

 

A snowstorm continues raging outside, the first one of the season. Two days ago it was warm and sunny, fall leaves scattering on green lawns. And this should make me sad…but it doesn’t. Why? Three reasons:

  1. I don’t have to drive anywhere today in this crappy weather. No shovelling. Yay.
  2. Still full from last night’s BBQ grilled steak. Yummy.
  3. This cover. Wow.

Yup. This cover. It’s new and exciting. The initial buzz still hasn’t worn off yet. Another fledging about to fly into the world. I thought I would get used to this feeling. Nope. And that makes me happy.

Hat Trick

29 May

THE HARVESTERS-medium

 

While listing all of my published work for a new contract, I released how much that list has grown in the past few years. Perhaps my list is shorter than other authors’ lists, but it is significantly longer than the one I had three years ago.

This will be my third novel released – all of them dear to me, in different ways. This one stands alone, not part of a series, nothing to fall back on. Just pure sci-fi, no ghosts or bats or gothic themes. A true product of the ‘80’s influence: different in tone and theme and voice.

A Hat Trick is when you score three goals on the same game – and that’s what this release date feels like: the culmination of a lot of hard work, a significant event, something that should be celebrated.

 

The Harvesters will be released on May 31: my personal hat trick.

 

Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

23 Apr

Where did the idea for the story come from?

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

 

The idea for The Harvesters came from a dream – actually a terrifying nightmare – that just wouldn’t fade once daylight invaded. Farmers’ fields being torn up by a giant machine, abandoning a home, frantic escape by car, making sure my loved ones were all accounted for…the struggle, the mad dash, the anguish of leaving things behind…

A compelling idea. Story-worthy.

The more I researched the genre, the more comments and articles I came across telling me my project wouldn’t work. Sci-fi wasn’t targeted for “women over 30”. The main character was a mom, trying to save everyone. Not daunted by those parameters, I plunged ahead anyways and wrote a few scenes.

When I tried to mold that dream into a story, it just wouldn’t work. It was dark, it was deadly, and it didn’t have a moment of victory. So I discarded the outline, quit working on the chapters I had written, and moved on.

A few years later (and a few books later), I was attending one of Brian Henry’s writing workshops intending to polish up my kids’ chapter book (The Persnickety Princess, released April 12 2016). I had an eureka moment! The Harvesters might work if I changed the point of view to the oldest sibling’s – a teenager. Armed with this new concept, I tackled the old outline and much to my surprise had a whole novel a few months later.

The book is all about things I know – the setting, the sports, the power struggles, injected with a hefty dash of sci-fi. The sunset at the lake, the wind turbines, the clash of sweaty kids on a football field, the dusty bookstore. Secrets and lies and the struggle to survive – all very human concepts. The realism grounds the fantasy.

And it all started with a nightmare.

 

The Harvester will be released on May 31 2016 by MuseItUp Publishing.