Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Horror Movie Review: Blood Night (2009)

A recent article in the Oxford University Press Journal of Medicine provides strong evidence to suggest watching ‘Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet’ (2009) will make you sterile and permanently lower your IQ by twenty points.

Symptoms of watching ‘Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet’ (2009) include: nausea, headaches, testicular cancer, gangrene and periods of homicidal rage followed by intense apathy.

If you suspect you may have been exposed to ‘Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet’ (2009) you should contact a poison control hotline or drive immediately to the closest ER.

There is currently no known treatment for ‘Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet’ (2009).

Monday, January 6, 2014

Seven Top Tools For Productivity

Here are the seven things I suggest every writer has to boost their productivity. These are all tools that make the process easier, they are not vital for success, but they will have a huge impact on your word count if you use them correctly.

Unfortunately there is nothing you can buy that will make you sit your ass on a chair and write every day. That one is on you.

1. A dedicated writing space and computer.

Insomniacs know, if you’re having trouble sleeping, you should ONLY use your bed to sleep. No reading in bed, no watching TV, no playing with your phone. Beds are only for sleep, so when you lie in bed, your brain knows ‘okay, we’re sleeping now’

Likewise, if you have a dedicated place and time that you write, your brain knows that space is for writing, not checking facebook and playing games. If possible an older or cheap computer running only the three or four programs mentioned here is ideal, so you can’t possibly become distracted.

Having a room that is dedicated just to writing is ideal too. However it needs to be a room that you can be comfortable in. So appropriate heating and cooling and somewhere comfortable to sit is preferable. As is a door you can shut.

2. Noise cancelling headphones.

If you can’t close the door, or you live somewhere you can hear distracting sounds through the door, invest in some comfortable noise cancelling headphones. They shouldn’t be buds, as those increase the bacteria levels in your ears and are not ideal for everyday use. They should also be comfortable for long periods.

3. Ambient storm or cafe sounds.

Ambient sound tracks are one of those simple yet surprisingly effecting writing tools. The favourites tend to be coffee shop sounds, storm and rain sounds and rainforest sounds. These have no music, no speaking of any kind, just ambient noises. They are great for focusing you on your writing. You can find examples of these on youtube, either in one hour long tracks or ten hour long tracks. Download one or two with download helper on firefox and you can listen to them with your internet off.

4. Write or die

I believe Write Or Die is the best program for writers ever created. You can use it free on writeordie.com or buy your own version for $10. It is the best investment in your writing you will ever make. It triples my productivity when I use it and I can’t recommend it enough.

5. Turning off your internet connection

Sometimes I’ll be working and when I paused to think I’ll absently open firefox and start browsing. This is a terrible subconscious behaviour—one I have only been able to counter by disconnecting my internet. If you often find yourself checking twitter, email or facebook during your writing time, TURN OFF YOUR MODEM.

6. Scrivener

Scrivener is a writing program designed by an author for other writers. It has a huge list of amazing features that make writing a novel and keeping track of scenes, characters and plotlines much easier. The way people sing its praises you’d think it dispensed perfect coffee and did your taxes for you, but it really is very helpful for organising your novel.

7. Progress Jars

This is my secret weapon. However I keep it a secret because it’s a little bit kitschy. On my desk I have two jars (okay, they’re vases). On one is written: ‘Unborn Words’ and on the other is written ‘Breathing Words’. When I start a project I decide how long it will be and put a marble in ‘Unborn Words’ for every thousand words. So an 80, 000 word project would require 80 marbles.

When I write 1000 words, I move a marble from the Unborn jar to the Breathing jar.

Moving each marble becomes a kind of reward and it gives you a physical representation of your novel’s progress.

So there you go. Seven writing tools, they won’t make you a better writer, but they may make you a more productive one. Some may require a time or money investment, but I genuinely believe they are all worth it.

Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Goals

It’s the first of January, which means it’s time to outline my goals for the year in the desperate hope that making them public will shame me into actually achieving them.

I have some formal, some informal as I think it’s important to distinguish between those things that you’d like to do and those things that are necessary for moving your career forward. First, the critical few:

1. Finish two first drafts over 30k.

This one speaks for itself and hopefully will be pretty straight forward. I still have books contracted under my pen name for harlequin to get done, I haven’t written book 3 of Lifesphere and I have two half finished 80k-100k novels I’d like to see completed, so I have a lot to choose from.

2. Edit two novels over 30k.

Again, pretty self explanatory. I still have to do another edit of Lifesphere book 2 and edits for Harlequin will be happening early in the year, so I might get this one done by the end of January.

3. Get under 65kgs.

This has been a goal for a few years running and I haven’t made any progress. However I stopped taking one of my long term medications that can cause weight gain a few months ago and recently started an exercise and healthy eating pact with a friend and the weight is flying off.

On the medication previously I could run on the treadmill everyday and eat nothing but salad and lean meat and still be gaining weight. Just maintaining my weight was a constant nightmare struggle. Now I’m off it, I ate roast pork, potatoes and chocolate for three days straight over Christmas and still lost a kilogram.

Only three months after stopping the medication, I’m the lightest I’ve been in ten years.

4. Fully prepare Lifesphere 2 and 3 for publication.

Obviously I still need the numbers before I can publish the books, but we’re extremely close to the threshold for book 2 and I suspect it will boost the downloads for book 1 again. Remember, if you want to see book 2 and 3 this year, you need to keep sharing and recommending book 1 to your friends.

And informally:

1. Blog once a week.

I choose blogging as my interactive platform. I know twitter is all the rage, or even tumblr or facebook. However I like the idea of actually creating content, and as a writer, that means writing. I love being able to write articles on the writing process and having people tell me they’re helpful. I’m very keen to get back to that.

2. Be well enough to volunteer with the arts and library council.

It’s great to give back to the community, but really I just need to get out more. I’d like to find a volunteer position that allowed me to meet a broad range of people in the community, so I’ve love to volunteer at the library or gallery.

3. Make more time for friends.

My health makes it impossible to do all the awesome things I’d like to with friends, like going hiking and clubbing. However I truly know some of the most awesome people on the planet and I’d like to spend more time with them.

So there you have it. My goals for 2014. They hinge heavily on the two axis of my life, writing and illness, but so does my day to day. Writing is the best thing in my life and illness is the worst, but they both require a lot of sacrifices on my part. They also both require constant effort, research, networking and self control. They are both things to be constantly worked on and improved.

You make the most of what you have though. If I wasn’t ill, I wouldn’t be able to write full time.

If I wasn’t ill, writing wouldn’t be a struggle though and I would be a lot further in my career.

I am striving to make 2014 better—not because 2013 was bad, but because striving to be better is a worthwhile goal in itself.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Guest Post - Raymond Gates

Recently I did a guest post for Ray Gates that you can find here.

He was nice enough to return the favour and today we will have our first ever guest post!

My Love-Hate Relationship with Matthew Reilly. A guest post by Raymond Gates.

When my NaNoWriMo buddy and colleague-in-ink asked me what the first book that gave me a bone-deep jealousy for someone else’s writing skills was, a single thought resonated through my mind like a Tibetan temple bell rung by a monk newly introduced to speed.

I fucking hate Matthew Reilly.

It didn’t start out like that. When I had my first taste of his story-telling style I found it not just palatable, but quite easy to devour. His simplistic style lends itself so well to the action-thriller genre that he achieves something not many writers pull off successfully: he creates pace. Not just in terms of the story, but also how quickly you read each line, each paragraph, each chapter, until the book vanishes into the wee hours of the night. It is a neat trick, and something I’m certainly envious of.

But after I’d digested a few books, I started to realise something. It was around about the hundred-and-fiftieth time I’d read that someone got shot and their head exploded in a fountain of blood like an over-ripe melon. And as I sat there wondering if anyone was ever going to die without their head exploding in a fountain of blood like an over-ripe melon, it occurred to me that, well, dare I say it? Matthew Reilly really isn’t that great a writer.

And that pissed me off.

 Writing, or maybe more importantly, being read, had always been the seemingly unachievable dream. I grew up reading King and Barker, Masterton and Lumley, Tolkien, Eddings and Salvatore. How the hell could I possibly aspire to sit on the same shelf as any of them?

And here was Reilly; best-seller, hundreds of thousands of copies sold, discussing movie rights, with a writing style that, by his own admittance, earned him countless rejections from editors everywhere. I couldn’t believe it. I started thinking my creative writing assignment for ninth-grade English class could probably get published if his stuff could. I mean, if he could do it, why couldn’t I?

That’s why I love Matthew Reilly.

To me, Matthew Reilly is the embodiment of my belief that writing is a skill that gets us past editors, but it’s the story that connects us with readers. Anyone can learn to write well; story-telling, however, is a gift, and you either have it or you don’t. He has it, and whether you love or hate his work, there is no arguing with his success, and his connection to his readers. To me, that’s what writing is all about: telling a story, and sharing it with others. And while the big names will always be the ones I gaze upon with admiration and devotion from my place beneath their pedestals, it’s the Matthew Reilly’s of the world that continue to inspire me to keep chasing my own dream.

You should come too. There’s plenty of room, and it promises to be a hell of a trip.


Raymond Gates is an Aboriginal Australian writer whose dreams mostly belong in the dark fiction and horror realm. He has published several short stories including The Little Red Man in Ticonderoga Press’ Australian vampire anthology, Dead Red Heart. He continues to write short fiction and threatens to write a novel. Look into his mind at: http://raymondgates.com, and follow his journey via:

Twitter: @RGDreaming