Archive for the ‘ Inspiration – The Weird and the Unknown ’ Category

London Book Fair 2013

I just got back from the London Book Fair this evening. I’m knackered but still awake thinking of all the things I shall be putting into practice. I’ve learned a lot about what not to do with social media but also what I’m doing wrong. As an author, I need a brand that represents what I’m about as a writer. Some of the seminars have made this clear and helped me understand where to start.

Also, I’ve been lucky enough to receive input from an agent on my novel idea which I’m starting over the summer as well as great support from another generous agent. I met some great authors and small publishers, too – many friendly faces!

All in all, London was a great adventure and I shall post a more detailed list of my experiences and action plan once I’ve had some well-deserved sleep in the peace of privacy. (Hostels and exhibits don’t allow for private hermit introverted author time).

My twitter if you fancy grabbing a few more personal details: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

Frustration – We Create Our Own Enemies

It’s when you sit and stare at the stupid blinking cursor that you know something is wrong. I had this the other day and the screen just didn’t help. Games helped my mood but, of course, not my writing. I’m looking at you, TERA.

In the end I got some inspiration late at night/early morning and wrote what I came up with down on paper. It helped a lot. Sometimes I find changing medium is the most useful thing you can do to force your mind to work.

I mean, this is my room before a night out:

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It’s pretty much what my head looks like when I try to get ideas together in my head. Like the clothes into an outfit, sometimes things just don’t work. The tights are the wrong colour, the top too baggy, the trousers too hot, too tight.

It’s the same when I write. In the end, I give up and think of a first sentence, something that will (hopefully) draw people in. The story I’m writing at the moment begins ‘Planes are just like buses, after a while’.

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For me, this gave me the character, the voice, needed to blindly stumble through the next plot points. It works for me because I’ve found I just can’t make more than two/three decisions in my mind. It’s like playing chess more than three moves ahead. My mind blanks – there’s far too many things that can happen in that time. Characters are not obedient little puppets; they are your opponent, sat across from you and planning your downfall.

Little diabolical, but that’s how I see it. Each start to a story and each completed story is a victory for me against the character that doesn’t want to be written and that cursor.

Who ever said writers are pacifists? We hurt characters and give them problems. We are Gods of our worlds and hardly very kind ones. I suppose it’s no wonder they fight back.

The Writing Update

So, after all that, I’m glad to say I have one story freshly sent off to an anthology – Alchemy Press’ Urban Mythic

and another which I’ve started for their Astrologica collection. (There’s still two weeks to enter this – closes 14th April at midnight PST). It comprises stories based/inspired by the star signs with added fantasy elements. Check it out.

Definitely not all bad. Wish me luck!

And my twitter 🙂

Signing out,

Holly Ice

The Inspiration of Myth & “King” Arthur

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The last few months I’ve been reading up on myth and legend. They’ve given me some great ideas for stories but not just as-is. In an altered format, they can create something original and (hopefully) brilliant.

I’ve learnt writers cannot be afraid to change things: this is our job. The world as it comes to us is not always suitable for a retelling – bits may need rearranging, adding, subtracting…but let’s not get into the realm of maths here: we’re creatives after all.

Also, do not be afraid to take a tale like Cinderella or Thumbelina and make it contemporary, change the sex of characters, or setting, or emphasis. If you make this decision in order to create a new story, don’t be afraid to leave it unique!

Put in new names, clothes, etc! Let it be new, let the inspiration, the myth or tale that spawned your story, disappear. It will still be an influence or a starting point but your reader doesn’t necessarily need to know it was for you to have a great story.

As a last little tip to those who want to go further and learn more while they’re at it: unpick the myth. Find the meaning of the names, the places and their significance. Find where or how the myth started, whether it is based on fact or legend or religion.

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I’ve found in my exploration of the King Arthur legends that Arthur was not historical at all but a myth which is first mentioned in welsh poetry. The discovery of these early mentions created a whole new vision of Arthur – a man of the Otherworld, fae, faerie, enchantresses, giants and the supernatural. He is still a hero fighting off bad forces for Britain but these are supernatural rather than historical forces.

Based on this research, I actually have a novel idea in the brewing stages. A novel where Arthur is a crime fighter of the supernatural world, once he is awaken. I’ve bought books on the Celts and Arthur in order for other titbits of Celtic religion and myth to inspire me in this project.

So, I know it sounds kind of boring…but research can be fun! The Arthur research was a mix of documentary-like reading  and old, bard-like tales of the unbeatable warrior.

Some of these old texts are very accessible and actually very enjoyable! I laughed aloud at a few and *may* have found the original inspiration for The Hulk!

Hope this helps those stuck with writer’s block. Anything on the page in a first draft is the first step!

And, as always, feel free to follow me on twitter.

My publications to date: About Holly Ice

My new Amazon profile: Holly Ice

Inspiration to Writing

I mentioned many days ago in my Pen’s Catalyst post that I have many folders of pictures on my computer. These are separated into “funny”, “animals”, “landscapes” and “people”. The two that are most useful for writing are, of course, people and landscapes. Before writing this I counted how many pictures I had in each of these folders. The landscape folder has 446 and the people folder has 116.

This discrepancy perhaps says it’s hard to find characters you like or interesting portrait shots. However, my landscape shots tend to have a lot of pictures within them that aren’t strictly landscapes, too. This ups the total.

Below is a sampling of my people folder.

As you can see, I seem to trend toward black and white photographs. I’ve always had a love for them so I’m not sure if this is just preference of the timeless and placeless quality of them.

The main point of having all these pictures in a folder is to inspire me. Sometimes I look through the pictures and don’t do anything. Sometimes I’m just fascinated by the colours and compositions. This may be the old artist in me or it may be the subconscious mind gearing up to a new idea. Who knows, who cares; the main thing is the pictures improve my mood and, sometimes, get me thinking, too.

  1. There are many ideas in these pictures. The first one for example: is it a girl or a boy? Are they running over rooftops or jumping over a wooden wall on the beach? Is it a war zone or an industrial area? Are they a thief of in costume? Playing a game or poor?
  2. The second picture shows my love for eccentric individuals. There’s so much you can ask about this guy and what he’s doing, where he’s going. He’s one big enigma caught in a photograph that I can play with in my mind like a riddle.
  3. The third picture is similar in this way. Only, here, it also gets me thinking about how I can use objects in different ways and create a new world with new values and preoccupations.
  4. The fourth picture is in colour, showing I do like colour after all! But, it also makes me think better of mankind. There is a contrast of one man saving food and material belongings and the other being, in my eyes, a winner, as he saves some beautiful little tabbies from the horrid water. News stories can often be great for these sorts of shots.
  5. The fifth picture is a bit weird. It did what a lot of pictures do in my folders: it caught my eye and wouldn’t let me forget about it. I always save these pictures. They somehow prevent me from scrolling on by. That’s good. You should save them to. What makes a wandering net surfer stop, will almost definitely make a reader pause in wonder, too.
  6. In the next picture I love the colour and bleakness of the landscape. It’s one of the shots that has blurred boundaries. It could easily have gone in either the people or the landscape folder. Sometimes I put pictures in both when they’re really blurred so I can always find them when it may be what I’m looking for. This picture tells a story in the still. Is she suicidal? Why? Is she playing with balance? Is she copying someone she’s seen before? Is she a ghost? What does her face look like? The questions just keep rolling.
  7. Now, this man in the city is also very interesting. His shoulders are hunched in. Is it cold? His expression is very ambiguous. Is he happy, crafty, miserable? The blackness of him in the landscape amplifies his character, too. He’s important in some way. It makes me yearn to create a world for him, a day and a story.
  8. The last guy is just like a song turned to a photo. He’s peddling an instrument home on a bike. It screams France to me. It’s also pretty surreal. There’s no discernible building anywhere near him. So many stories could be made from him or using him as a metaphor. Perhaps someone is taking something else ridiculously big home or riding into nothing?

Now here’s a sample of the pictures in my landscapes folder…

There are all sorts of pictures here from the surrealist art to the natural shot of a landscape. They are all useful to writing. Perhaps the bedroom tells you what a character is like, the sort of house they live in. Perhaps a beach starts a love story or a castle a failed siege? Landscapes can be used as much as objects and outfits to create a character, too. Perhaps your Charlotte has the temper of an ocean or is as flexible in ideas as sand. These pictures span a swath of ages and genres to me. They have many different associations and yet are all in the same folder.

My advice is to create a similar folder. You have been told, I’m sure, to have a notebook. This is your digital image inspiration book. Keep it fresh and keep adding to it.

For somewhere to get you started, this forum thread is where I get a lot of my pictures. (You don’t always have to do all the work! Sometimes people with similar taste have done some compiling for you!) INFP Forum Post  .

Now for the writing exercise!

  1. Grab a pen and notepad or a computer and blank document.
  2. Pick any pair of person and landscape and think about a short story or a poem including them both. The landscape doesn’t have to be the setting. It can inform their character. Similarly, the person doesn’t actually have to appear in the setting. Their qualities can be like a ghost in the landscape or the voice of the person describing the landscape. Give it a go!
  3. If you feel adventurous, feel free to add an extra person or landscape to the story. Maybe there’s a whole novel in there somewhere if someone can connect the dots!

Good luck and tell me what you get up to here or here!

Fish or Beef? Family and Taste.

We all know family changes us. There’s the big nature/nurture argument to go with it. What if our ancestry, our genes, does too?

The three pictures of forests spread throughout this post, for example, show the diversity of life even within one snapshot of forest. Place effects story and lives so much. Don’t forget if your story is based in cold climates to make it snow in winter or in wet climates to have swampy areas etc. Think about how these climates affect lifestyles, too; do they swim, canoe, ski, snowboard, travel, hitch-hike, rock climb?

Place is more important than you think. I read a book last year: Who’s your city? by Richard Florida. The idea is that certain qualities in people such as creativeness, liberalism, traditional etc will draw people to certain areas where these qualities are popular and centralised. It makes for an interesting read and some videos can be found online that talk about it. I read it as a: where should I live? Where would I like?

These qualities, if in the wrong amounts for your character, can, of course, create a lot of great tension in a piece. It’s worth experimenting with!

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Many families don’t know much of their history, at least not beyond grandparents. This can be where you find out who you really are. I’m not plugging any ancestry sites – usually the best information is on site anyway – but perhaps there are some places you can get started.

Personally, I know my grandfather was Latvian. I’ve looked into their culture, their way of life, and realised a lot of it I’d picked up without ever going there. From an incredibly young age I’ve loved anything pickled and vinegary. I thought, and still do think, that it is sweet. In Latvia dishes like sauerkraut and verrry vinegary fish are common place.

I also love potatoes and prefer chicken to beef. I also absolutely love fish. A lot of these things are popular or usual in Latvia, too.

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Perhaps it would be useful to get into your own histories to find a story. I’m thinking of writing a novel based in Latvia so perhaps there is a whole story of injustice, love or adventure hiding in your past too, whatever origin you may have.

If not, at least this might give you ideas about how to portray characters from other cultures: often they’ll pick up some, if not all, of the likes and taste, even if they never lived there.

When I was little I was a vampire and got free sweets. I never thought of death.

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This is me with the scariest eyes I could find. If you want to know how to do the make up then scroll down over the historical bits (if you don’t like them) until you see more pics of yours truly!

We’ve all been that age when, once a year, our parents dress us up in adorable little outfits and take us down the street to collect free food. Once we’re a bit older we may even be let out without an adult escort.

What started off this family tradition? What is the history of Halloween?

Simply put, death. Humanity has been struggling with the concept of death for what seems like eternity. Different cultures and time periods have accepted it with varying degrees of success.

In Britain, for example, 31st October marks Halloween. It’s a festival for spooky outfits, pumpkins and scary tales of ghosts or monsters. But it’s also a day for free sweets (nom!)

However, Halloween was originally “Samhain” and was the start of Gaelic preparations for winter. The Celts must have had some very bad luck around autumn as this is also when much chaos, illness and crop failure was blamed on a thin line between the living and the dead.

Perhaps it was easier for them to explain these catastrophes, and death, through spiritual happenings rather than natural problems. There was no science then, after all. (Though I do acknowledge, and agree, that the spiritual explanation is much more fun).

It is possible that the festival has gained a much livelier, happier air because people in today’s world tend to ignore or put death off in order to function. Many people simply don’t face up to death on a regular basis in the modern world.

Alternatively, it could have become a bit of fun simply because the disasters attributed to the dead are now attributed to the weather or pests, even earthquakes.

However, the old tradition of facing the dead once a year is popular in other countries, too. For example, Mexico has long been known to celebrate The Day of the Dead.
To outsiders they seem to mock death – skull have smiles, are decorated in colourful ways…today sugar skulls are often eaten with the name of a dead relative on them.

Skulls in these countries were historically taken as trophies after battles, skirmishes and wars. They symbolised death and rebirth and kept their significance in later years. After all, aesthetically, the face is what a person is remembered for.

The lighter take on death in Mexico perhaps reflects their beliefs. It is believed that life isn’t the important part of living. The afterlife is the continuation of life and is like waking up after the dream. Therefore, death has a much more positive impact on their lives than in Britain where death is an ending, not a beginning.
Instead, it is a celebration of life, an acceptance of death and a view towards a better future.

I believe that both of these traditions are a way of explaining and dealing with the unexplained as well as gaining closure or positivity from death. The original Samhain and Day of the Dead show the opposite viewpoints on death (positive and negative).

Looking into the history of both has not just encouraged me to explain away their beliefs with scientific, modern solutions but also made me think.

What would it mean for the world if the dead really can communicate? What happens in a world where ghosts can interact with us? Where vampires are real?

These celebrations tap into that inner child in all of us that loves all these ideas and deeply wishes them real.

(A great, non-scary, family friendly movie to demonstrate this would be Halloweentown  ).

To end on a positive note – I hope you all enjoy your halloween – you’re never too old to dress up!

Like I have done! Here’s the first pic. I start by putting some dark black/grey eye shadow around my eyes and some black crayon-y eye-liner in the inner parts to make them less fleshy. Cheers!

Then I paint all my face white apart from the bit around the eyes.

Now I do the bit around the eyes a dark reddy-purple. Messed it up a little bit – not so neat! No true make up artist here!

Next I start outlining with these embellishments. Then colour them in blue, then add silver bits. I also added the nose – outlined an ace of spades and then filled it in. Simple.

  

Now even more outlining on the forehead! And some more blue and silver. 

Then I colour in my lips a terrific bright red and finish up with the black lines around the mouth and colouring in the heart.  The finished shots are the last two from the front and profile.

Here’s a full length shot. Ignore the mess please :).

A rainbow me too because rainbows are awesome 🙂

These were my tools

Any questions? Did you like what I did? Do you have better pictures to show me? Did you even enjoy/like halloween? Be sure to let me know – comment below or message me on twitter.
That’s all for now.

Thanks for reading!

My twitter: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

The Pen’s Catalyst

Today I’ve entered the National Poetry Competition which is one large chunk of poem off of my mind. I’m now turning to short stories to fill my time and (hopefully) my repertoire.
But it’s hard. Stories have to have stronger characters, longer (or bigger) ideas.

It has taken me a while to get started so I thought I’d share some ideas for inspiration as we all have good and bad days at writing. The thing that often eludes us is a good idea. At least, that’s what I find. So where do these ideas come from?

This is my writing desk on a good day: sunny and equipped with both a pen and a notepad. It’s also clear and free of plates or rubbish, for once. The thing is, a good writing space is not a creation machine for creative ideas. It is an area free of distractions (especially the internet!) which provides a fertile ground for ideas to grow.
However, the ideas are often found in other ways…

I’ve been told to read, read and read some more if I stuck. Galleries, museums and exhibitions are always a good idea too. Or travel! I’ve often found a really atmospheric picture will spark something in my mind.

I have a huge collection of landscapes are portraits on my computer in various folders which, in some way, have sparked the imagination or caught my attention. This one, for example, did both. The photo shows almost every hue of blue. I expect some don’t even have names in English. Not only that, but the picture asks questions: what are people like that have to survive such a cold, hard environment? Do they live in tribes, families or larger communities? What is the world like without the blemish of larger civilisations?

These questions and curiosities are useful; if they captivate you, chances are, they will captivate a reader of something you’ve written about it, too.

Therefore a great place to start for story ideas is always what interests you. What are you passionate about that you haven’t written about? Think about writing a story about it. Think about some original characters, a storyline. Use your hobbies, your profession – professions of your friends even! Even a country your ancestors came from could be interesting, if you are passionate about it.

Sometimes a situation can work, too. Two people inside an elevator or lovers discovered in a field by their religious parents. It might be possible to pool locations, professions and actions in a bag and draw out one of each – see what comes up!

If all else fails – write about the people outside your window. What do they look like? How do they walk? How can you describe their exact gait to get it perfect in the reader’s mind? Write from the point of view of this character – what are they interested in, what do they like, dislike? Are they educated or dumb? Able-bodied or handicapped?

This exercise could help you find a character you’re happy with. Someone you’d want to follow for a short story or even a novel.

If these people aren’t interesting, why not search for emotive portraits on the internet or deviantart? Find something that interests you or sparks and idea and get writing!

These two, for example, are pictures of very different people that have caught my attention and made me think about their story, their lives.

One last suggestion; I’ve once been so stuck I’ve resorted to primary school tactics and picked story starters from the internet like:

“A fire started in the middle of the room….”

“My hair fell to the floor in a heap.”

“…and that’s when the window exploded.”

Any random idea for a story starter, like these, write it down – you never know when it could come in handy!

Do you have any other examples of what starts stories off for you? Let me know!
And, as usual, if you want to hear more from me, here’s my twitter page: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

“Madness”: What/Who is it and is it REAL?

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So you’re asking – why is this on a writing blog? It’s inspiration – many ideas in psychology or philosophy have helped me start a story, come up with something out of the ether, so to speak.

Madness has been a big topic this fortnight, too, with even influential individuals such as Stephen Fry tweeting in order to try and reduce the “stigma” of madness with the tagline #proudtobemad. However, there is a serious side to this debate, too – madness isn’t really defined.

Some could say, it isn’t real.

Rosenhan (1973) creates an experiment to test the definitions of madness within american psychiatric hospitals for the clinically mad. He asked 8 completely healthy, mentally “normal” participants to enter different hospitals and say they heard the word “hollow” “thud” or “empty”.

On the basis of this, all the pseudo-patients were admitted with a variety of disorders. So, even the same symptoms can result in different diagnoses.

All participants were told to act completely normal after admittance and it was expected that they would all be released shortly on realisation of their sanity.

However, this didn’t happen. Instead, all pseudo-patients were watched through the stigma of their condition. Normal behaviours such as writing in a diary or queuing for food were noted down as obsessive writing disorder and other such “abnormal behaviours”.

Most patients weren’t released until months after they were admitted and, even then, they had to admit that they were mad before they were released – a mad person cannot be in denial, of course. On release, the participants were not given the all clear for madness either. Instead, they were labelled as “in remission”.

This, of course, shows how sticky the stigma of madness really is.

A later experiment by Rosenhan was also carried out where a hospital approached him suggesting they would be able to tell which patient was mad and which wasn’t. He agreed to send more pseudo-patients but he played a trick: he didn’t send anyone to the hospital.

The hospital over the weeks identified 41 of 193 patients they talked to as being potential pseudo-patients.

So with madness, there can be many false positives and false negatives and it is incredibly difficult to tell who is what and who isn’t. This is largely because much of the disorder manifests within a patient’s mind and the symptoms are likely to differ between patients with the same disorder.

I should point out that the documents used for diagnosis of madness and disorders have changed many times since this date but the point still stands: madness is a slippery subject.

In some cultures, it is mad to be homosexual. In Britain, many years ago, women were seen to “need” the doctor to induce orgasm in order to reduce “hysteria” (what these days is merely accepted as an emotional outlook on life).

So madness changes over time. It changes based on culture, age (children talk to imaginary friends – adults shouldn’t) and gender, even sexuality.

Madness is in fact defined as culturally abnormal behaviour.

Some people may like to boil a kettle 10 times before they pour their cuppa. Is this OCD or is it merely eccentric? At what point can we as a society feel justified in calling an individual mad? At what point is it acceptable to intrude on their lives and uproot them from their daily activities?

Is it not possible that although the “sane” are the “norm”, we are in fact not how humanity was supposed to be? Perhaps it is better from a survival instinct perspective to boil the kettle 10 times or count the cracks in the pavement.

Perhaps, the “insane” are enlightened and we are dysfunctional for not seeing their vision.

After all, many of the great men and women of the world were first called mad because they thought outside the box, ahead of their time. Or because they challenged deep rooted cultural ideas which, later, were not thought to be mad at all. (Think of the earth’s “flatness” here or the idea that the earth in fact circled the sun and not the other way around).

It’s useful then, if ever writing a story about the mad or the eccentric, or even thinking on how madness’ stigma effects society, to wonder whether madness is real or simply different.

Any questions, comments, debates etcetera, please feel free to write below.

Disclaimer(!): Of course, if an individual is ever worried about a behaviour they can’t control or an issue they are having trouble with, they must talk to a medical adviser and not use the information here as substitute. Some individuals can be a danger to themselves or others if not treated.

This is my twitter for those interested: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

The first picture was taken from here: http://brainbreaking.wordpress.com/tag/rosenhan/
This blog is a more in depth summary of the Rosenhan experiment. Feel free to visit it if you wish.

The second was found on a top ten of sex facts. If you wish, read about them below.
http://www.oddee.com/item_98314.aspx

Who are you, anyway? What do you do? What do you like?

Hello!

My name is Holly as any good name badge would tell you.

Image<—–That picture there is me.

I am: a writer.
So I write, yes, but I’m also an author. I’ve had two poems published so far and a short story. I want to build on these successes over time.

I do: many things.

Cop out, I know. I tend to read a lot, I scour the internet for pictures I like, I sometimes have a little bit of a draw but mainly I write, a lot. I also have a love for languages.

I like: similar things to what I do.
I read a lot on psychology and philosophical topics – I love to assess how these theories change (or ferment) my world views.

I also read about serial killers and other authors (more interesting things to some) because I like to learn how everyone’s mind ticks. The logic goes, this will help me write.

Art used to be one of my major passions. I drew more than I wrote but this seems to  have reversed. Writing is now my main passion and drawing the sidelined hobby.

Languages are one of my background loves. I’d like to think I’m somewhat of a linguist – I did an A level in japanese. This is due to going to a “good school” rather than any remarkable extra talent but it was fun.

Languages are the grammar, the logic, of how words work. The roots of language are almost the building blocks of imagination and common thought.

Or so I’d like to think.

Currently, I’m attempting to learn Latvian (very slowly and between writing and working).

I also like cats.

Hopefully this has given you an insight to my character.
Hopefully you don’t find me entirely uninteresting.

Holly

P.S. Here’s my little twitter page, in case you’re not bored of me yet: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

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