Announcing: Forgotten (my oddcast)

Well folks, this is that “audio project” I’ve been mentioning.  I have created several episodes of a little project called “Forgotten” and I’m going to share them with you here.

I don’t quite know how to describe it… I’m calling the genre “oddcast”.   They are all short, between 1 and 3 minutes.   I hope you enjoy them.

(Please note: if you use Ghostery, it might interfere with the embedding.  If so, you can also listen to Forgotten on soundcloud, at https://soundcloud.com/hgbleackley/tracks)

Forgotten: 1. Forest Dream

Forgotten: 2. Inbetween

Forgotten: 3. Pain

Forgotten: 4. Colours

The page I’ll be archiving them is here: http://hgbleackley.com/forgotten/

I will post new episodes to my main page in my blog.  I hope to release one a week!

 

Credits:

Forgotten is written by H.G. Bleackley

The Voices: Aaron Bleackley, Heidi Bleackley

Music: Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

All rights reserved.

Best Rejection Ever, and Grab Bag Extravaganza II

Hello friends and compatriots!

No news yet.  Still waiting on the Agent Train for my stop.

Although, I did receive what is to date, the best rejection letter of my life.

An agent I was really into requested my full manuscript.  That in it of itself warrants a !!!!  But the next email I received from them went something like this:

I cannot represent you.  Because I cannot finish reading your manuscript.  …Because it is giving me nightmares.

!!!!!!!! Holy smokes man.  I could not have asked for a better endorsement.  People who have problems sleeping are going to have a hard time reading about the near extinction of the human race due to mass insomnia… So I guess that goes for agents as well!

I’m going to look at horror agents now, because this manuscript is far more horrifying that I originally gave it credit for.  >:)

I’m also working on a new project which I will soon be able to share with you.  It will be presented in audio format, and has been great fun to work on so far.

Also, I added a link my in “Craft” links- this one to a blurb I wrote on reddit, about my planning process!  It has tons of links to various entries in this blog to elaborate.

SO meanwhile, because I really like that you stopped by, you beautiful resilient caribou, you astonishing display of peacock feathers, you stack of waffles, you, dear reader, I will add some fluff here.  Because I like sharing.  And laughing.

Want to get lost in Youtube watching cake-spinning videos with me?  Because they are *singsong voice* amazing!

My fav:

When I wrote this draft I was mega hungry, so a lot of this first bit is food related.  NOW though, I am stuffed FULL of waffles and have a Magnificent Sandwich (band name called it patent pending HG Bleackley 2014) waiting for me for lunch.  Chicken.  Brie.  Pear.  Hoooo man I am going to have to wait a while on that though… waffles are my world right now.

How about some pictures instead?

Nooooooooo

Something else!  Not cake!  Not food!

Wait for it…

.

.

.

WHOMMP

NOOOOOOOO ok how about- this is how dogs drink!

Ah yes, the rare 9-legged Plover.

And then sometimes, you’re like, no freakin’ way.

Banana!

That’s all for now folks!

Back to agent hunting.  And when I have this audio-project ready, you’ll be the first to know.

Cheers.

Heidi out.

Checking In While Waiting for Good News

Just wanted to say Hey.

Whatcha thinking bout.

Me?  Oh not much.  I haven’t written anything for a few weeks.  A strange feeling.  I’ve trained myself so well that it feels really odd to not be writing.  Like petting a cat the wrong way.  But I needed a break.  And it’s good.

My manuscript is out with several agents now.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  “Waiting while hopeful” is a different sort of anticipation than the previous bouts of waiting.  Not that I wasn’t hopeful those other times, it’s just… several full manuscript requests.  From amazing agents.  I just… it feels like I’m really close here.  I hope I catch one of them by the heartstrings enough to go to bat for it.

There’s a few funny things below, and after, some Original Content of my trip to the Vancouver Aquarium!

Tales From IT, part one and part two.  A good and terrifying read.

Someone has been waiting literally 20 years for me to get this joke:

And a good ol’ knee slapper:

Also, last night I went to a preview performance of The Tempest with my friends. It was great! The Tempest holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first Shakespeare that I studied. I was worried my opinion of it would be tainted by nostalgia, but this latest viewing of it proved that it stands the test of time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it. Bard on the Beach never ceases to amaze.

The portrayal of the sisters Stephana and Trincula absolutely slayed me. I was in stitches. You ladies nailed it!

And now, some pictures from my recent trip to the Vancouver Aquarium!

The Octopus came out to say hello!

It’s MEGA big. Like, I got Deep One vibes off of him.

Coelacanth!  I made a post in /r/Dinosaurs about this specimen, with more pictures.  

And, one more of the Octopus.  He was the highlight of the trip!  More photos of the octopus can be found in this album, right here.  

Aaand, a kitten picture.  Lemon sleeps with her leg splayed out weirdly sometimes.  

That’s all for now folks!  While I play the waiting game, I’m playing Minecraft again, the Apocalypse Server of course.  I’ve only been senselessly killed half a dozen times so far!  My little farms are going well, and I’m digging a *huge* inverted pyramid, which I will name something like “Monument to Waiting”.

Just didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten about you.  Hopefully good news soon.  😉

Thanks for sticking around.

Heidi out.

I’ll take “Weeks Of Hard Work” for a thousand, Alex.

Well, revisions went swimingly.  It was two weeks of solid, hard work.  I went through each story (Sleep Over consists of 32 stories told from 32 different people; together, they tell a cohesive narrative) and figured out what I needed to do to make each one better.

Mostly this involved amping up the emotional stakes, making people’s reactions become more insane as they lose their sanity (obvious, right?), and further accentuating character’s awareness of the jeopardy they are in.

That last one was what was missing from a majority of the stories.  Jeopardy.  Without jeopardy, things just happen, and there’s no feeling of tension or peril.

Jeopardy is anticipated pain or loss.  The pain or loss must be apparent, as well as plausible; that whole era of villains tying women to railroad tracks was short lived, because the sensibilities of the time didn’t allow for the possibility of that threat could ever be realized.  Since it was obvious that the train would never be allowed to run over the captive, the peril was implausible and thus ineffective.

The character must believe that the jeopardy is real, that the pain or loss being anticipated could actually come to fruition.

As for the other part of that equation, the pain or loss must be anticipated.  Characters must be aware of the stakes at hand, they must fully realize the pain and loss in their future.  That’s not to say that some of the jeopardy can be unknown to them (nothing like a bad situation getting worse to amp up the jeopardy) but the character must have a base level of awareness of just how screwed they might be.

This was the main thing missing from my narrative.  I injected some of the earlier stories with known timelines of symptoms, and various terrible things which might happen, and then did callbacks to them in subsequent stories.

Basically, I just spent two weeks doing terrible things to my characters and making them fully aware of just how awful things will get.  Even with some large cuts being made, I ended up with 10k more words than before.  That’s 10,000 words of jeopardy.

I am taking a few days off to get some distance from it, and then doing a full read through to make sure I got it right.

I tinkered a lot with tempo, and it’s hard to judge the flow when you’re zoomed way in and working on edits like that.  Taking a few steps back and coming at it fresh should give me a better idea of the time flow as well.

So that’s writing for today.  Going splendidly.

In other news, my new kitten, Lemon, is a brat!  She throws little meowing fits if she doesn’t get her way (which is often- silly kitty, NO you cannot make a nest in those cables, NO you cannot eat that tinfoil, NO you cannot climb up there and knock everything off of our bookshelves) but she is learning.  Constancy is key, and we’re getting there, slowly.

Our other cat, Echo, is finally into having a friend.  She groomed Lemon the other day for the first time and I just about died of how cute it was.

Here is a neat video I found of an interesting filming technique:

So that’s all for now folks!  Thanks for stopping by.  Good times ahead for the S.S. HGBleackley ReaderSHIP!

Cheers.

Heidi out.

Revisions, and Lemon

Well hello there dear readers!

I’ve been waiting to hear back from several agents who have the full manuscript.  That’s right folks, multiple full requests!  From brilliant agents!  I am over the moon.

An agent I would really love to work with got back to me saying that they like the project (with praise about my premise and prose!), but that the intensity of the narrative didn’t match the intensity of the premise.

Well!  You know what?  They are right.  Shoot.

I spent yesterday thinking about how to go about fixing that, and wrote 3,400 words on how to do so.  Not 3,400 words of writing; a 3,400 word plan.  I went through each chapter and broke down what I thought was missing, and what could be added to kick it up a notch.

The major element I was missing :JEOPARDY (anticipated pain or loss).  My main issue was that my characters were not aware of the jeopardy they were in, so they could not anticipate the pain or loss.  Can’t have that.

I have a good game plan.  Hopefully, with hard work, I can have a revised draft back to that agent in two weeks.  (It’s a lot to do- we’ll see if I can get it done in such a short time.)

In non-writing mnews, I got a kitten!

You know my cat Echo, right?

Well, we wanted to get a friend for her (grumpy as she is). We took a lot of time to do the proper introductions, over several days. After nearly two weeks, the kitties are cohabiting the apartment together pretty peaceably!

Everyone, meet Lemon.

She’s pretty sweet. TONS of kitten energy which we have to harness via playtime or she will get super frustrated. She’s going to be medium-haired, with a LONG haired tail! She’s a real sweetie with a tough streak.

So that’s what’s been going on with me!

I’ll make a writerly update about revising a manuscript once I’ve gone through the process.  Fun fun fun!

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

Character Creation Part 1

While I’m between projects, it’s interesting to see what starts to bubble up in my creative mind.  Sometimes it’s plot, sometimes it’s setting.  Right now it happens to be character.  For some reason, I’m getting wicked insults popping into my head in a new character voice.

Wicked dialogue does not a character make.  I must craft one, and hopefully I will create one to suit these lines that my hindbrain is feeding me.

So, here are some notes on character creation.

When writing, you have to know your character pretty well before you start off.  A lot of the discovery of who they are happens while you’re writing them, yes, but you need to have some idea of who they are at their core before you begin.

The trimmings can evolve as you go, and it’s quite thrilling when you discover parts of a character on the fly.

But who they are deep inside is yours to lay out and set in stone before the first time they grace your page.

It is a writer’s basic duty to lay out coherent characters.  If the players in your story are unbelievable, that is to say, they are untrue and your audience picks up on it, you lose all credibility as a writer.

Your plot can be genius, your settings magnificent, and your prose delightful, but if your characters give your reader pause, you’ve failed.

This is a rare case when the converse of the rule is just as true: your plot can have some holes, your setting could be a little bland, and your prose might be a bit generic, but if your characters grab your audience, buddy you’re in the door.

My first draft of this post included some examples of this, but I thought it would be better for you to discover your own.  Ask yourself, are there any stories that come to mind, films, TV shows, books, anything at all, where you forgave them a few mistakes because of their characters?  When you excused a lame plot hole or some flat exposition, because you were being drawn onwards by the strength of the character?

We forgive a lot if the characters ring true.

So how do we go about making believable characters?

First let’s look at where we get aspects of the character from.

From life.  “People watching” is a great way to spot things to stow away in your bag o’ writerly goodness.  From the smallest gesture to the way someone stands, from their accent to their dress, you can take that and run with it.  You can expand this into people you know, but there is a danger there.  Tuckerizing someone as an injoke is one thing, basing whole characters off of people you know is entirely another.  And I think very few writers would recommend it.  Let’s keep the friends we have, eh?  There are plenty of people yet to be invented that we can abuse.

A common mistake for new writers is to get hung up on names.

The name of your character is mostly unimportant.

Let me say that again.

You don’t need the name before you write the character.

Use a place holder name, and for godsakes, don’t wait until you have their perfect name before writing the story.  That’s an excuse and you’re fooling yourself.

I’ve heard some people advocate changing character names every ten thousand words, or every few dozen pages, or every other chapter or whatever.  The idea behind this is that we don’t want to get too attached to our characters- we need to be able to hurt them in brutal ways, and if you’re all precious about them, you’re going to have a hard time doing things that will make your work better.

So rename them.  Figure it out later or as you go along.

I like to pick a name and generally stick with it, but I’ve often found myself at a loss for a name at the start of something, so I use placeholder names.  Ctrl+F and replace is your friend.  Don’t get precious.  Names are unimportant.

But don’t be clever- stupid names that draw attention to you as the writer instead of keeping your audience in the work where they should be is something to avoid.  If it doesn’t make sense in the context of the story, find something ‘less cool’.

I’ll do another post about how writers intrude on the story, but for the purpose of character creation, one of the big ones is naming them.

With that out of the way, onwards.

So where do characters come from?  Life, yes, but also fiction.

Writers cannot ignore the thousands of years of story telling from cultures around the world, and all the myriad of characters that have already been created.  There is nothing new under the sun, but we’re all beautiful unique snowflakes, right?  So there should be characters left.  There will always be characters left.

The archetypes are there and you have to be aware of them.  Good writers get pretty familiar with maybe half a dozen archetypes, great writers have more.  These skeletons can be helpful forming a basis for your characters.  The specifics of their motivations, backgrounds, and surface details change, but these archetypes exist for a reason.  Use them.

As you get more and more specific with a character, the closer you come to creating a character that already exists.  It’s impossible to know every single story and every single character that’s ever been created, but this is where a sometimes overlooked aspect of creating comes into play: consuming.

You have to know what’s out there.  What characters are in the popular culture right now?  Are you inadvertently recreating them because they got under your skin without you realizing it?

One morning, I independently invented Dexter.  :/  Good thing I already knew about Dexter, or that could have gone on longer than it did.  It was one of those “smack your forehead and laugh” moments.  You can search the internet, ask friends, and check out TV Tropes.

Consuming media, literature, movies, TV shows, opera, whatever, is a vital part of the creation process.  You cannot write in a vacuum.

Where else do characters come from?

From yourself.

DANGER DANGER

HIGH VOLTAGE

This is very risky business.  A lot of first-time writers write themselves as the main character.  It’ll save you some time if you just listen when I say to NOT do that.  (Other characters that are wasting your time: a writer, a writer struggling to ‘make it’, someone writing anything, especially in a coffee shop).  I mean, I can’t tell you what to do… but know that agents and editors delete those stories without a second look as soon as they see those characters.

Of course, how do you write a character without putting yourself into them.  I don’t know that it’s possible.  Even the vilest of characters, those who I would be loathe to think I had even the slightest bit in common with, come from within me.  And because I’m not just creating flat evil, as in, a bad guy who has no past and is evil personified for no reason, I know that they have motives, desires, and feelings.

Empathy is the strongest source of character creation.

Understanding why characters do what they do leads to crafting complexity into them, and this is the breath of life.

I’ll say it again.  Empathy.

The best characters come from understanding.  You craft their stories, and in doing so, delve into their pasts, their motivations, their thoughts and feelings.

Truly understanding a character will allow you to bring richness to their portrayal that will draw your audience in.

This seems like a good place to leave off, as this topic is rather dense.  To recap:

Realistic characters are needed to tell your story.  These characters come from many places: real life, people you know, characters that already exist, and yourself.  Understanding your characters enables you to write them more convincingly.  Understanding what characters already exist enables you to create new characters.

Well I hope this has been helpful.  I do enjoy sharing my notes.

Happy writing!

Until next time dear readers, thanks for stopping by.

Heidi out.

Kitty, Wild Gears, Rejection

First a video of my kitty playing!  She’s rather subdued when she reaches the end of her “running around” phase of playing.  When she moves into her “rolling around” phase, I really enjoy playing with her and her mouse toy this way.  Cutest!

Next up is some art my mom made with Aaron’s Wild Gears!  Holy smokes she’s been crankin’ ’em out.

Here’s a link to the full album.

My favourite piece of hers:

Intricate!


Photo of his newly-opened gear sheet, by Scott Bleackley:

And in writing news, I’m hearing back from literary agents.  The consensus is very positive- I’m getting a lot of “Great idea!” type comments, but so far all of them don’t feel like they’re the right agent to champion my manuscript.  *crosses fingers*  One of them has got to be the one.  I’ll keep looking.  I submit to really cool people, and it’s sometimes hard to tell if they’ll be into what I got goin’ on, but I’ve got to get it right one of these times!

Tonight: Ink Club!  I’ll spend the night researching several more literary agents I’d like to submit to.

This involves reading interviews they’ve done, looking up what people on Absolute Write Water Cooler have to say about them, and looking up their past sales.  It takes time, but it lets me know if I think they’d be a match for me and my work.

I’ll keep you posted, of course.  Thanks so much for stopping by!

Heidi out.

Titles Are Hard

You have to pick a title.  You can’t start querying without a title.

Did you get your friends to suggest some to you?

Wait wait, you started querying before you had a good title?

I feel like an idjit.

But now I have a better title.  I even wrote it in the book.  Why didn’t I see it.  Man. Outside perspective- it’s almost like it’s super important or something.

I am one of the four, for sure, like, totally.

In other news, I love my friends.

Sleep Over.  

 

Forest, trees.  Trees, forest.  There.  We’re all comfortable around each other?  Great.  Now let’s keep querying, but this time, you know, better.

Stay On Target

Sorry for the long time between updates!  I have a draft of something I was working on, but I won’t post that yet.  For now, news on the novel.

Things have been smoking along at quite the clip.

I have another day of read-through and editing to do, and then my manuscript will be ready for the beta readers!  I am so excited.  I’m already feeling relief; I have written so many challenging things these past few weeks, and I really will be glad to be done.

I have to make a tough call tomorrow about cutting a piece.  The fact that it’s on the chopping block means it’s probably already been chopped, but for some reason my current self hasn’t accepted it yet, so I’m still “considering” it.  I am being careful not to say the same thing twice in this book… so I need to really look at what I said and see if I come at this part of the event at two different enough angles.

Of all the segments I had to write, the pregnancy miscarriages and deaths of infants was one of the hardest.  In the insomnia apocalypse I’m writing, children get a pretty shitty deal.  I wanted to cover it but not dwell on it- because it might come off as shock-value- but damn.  It really took it out of me.  And I fricking wrote the damn thing twice.  One from a paediatric nurse working the neonatal unit, and one from a medical hypnotist.

Guess which perspective is more interesting?

See, it’s obvious.  But my stupid writer brain is clinging to the nurse.  It took so much time to pull that off, it was haaard, it thinks.  Cram it brain, the Hypnotist is better.  But the nurse shows it better.  The Hypnotist is all about The Hypnotist.  

Ugh.  Cutting is hard sometimes.

Sorry, this is all abstract.  Here’s a bat.

This is the most challenging thing I have ever written, and keeping it held together in my mind, dozens of stories, vignettes, characters, locations, research- it’s messing with my brain.  …And my life a little.  Like missing appointments, shifts at work… my brain is just about at its limit with this one.

I got four hours of sleep last night, then went to the cafe, and spent five hours fervently writing (one segment completed) and editing (perhaps 45,000 words read-through/edited.

Once I get this book done I can go back to the methodical agent researching.  I already have notes on several whom I’d love to work with- I hope one of them loves my project enough to work with me on it.

A new apocalypse scenario, who would have thought, right?

Onwards.  Oh god I just devoured The Handmaiden’s Tale.  Man alive, that one will stick with you.

Banished is an amazing medieval city building game.  If you like resource management and seeing your villagers die of starvation, this game is for you!  T_T

It is hard as butts.  But addictive, and also fun.

And also we’re getting another kitty, a kitten.  Will post pictures, of course.  It’s going to be a toss up between news about this book and a kitten.  …I will try and mash them together, maybe like a cute kitten photo with a caption that’s all business.

*

Today I got a full manuscript request from the most amazing agent ever!**

*not my kitten

**is only a caption example, has not happened (for this particular manuscript, yet, as it is not finished).

Ta ta for now, beautiful readers.  I will have a tidbit of good news to share with you soon.  😉

And then, hopefully soon, the best news.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

Using Visuals to Help Keep Track of Story Structure

My book is just about at the halfway mark.  It’s going well.  Last week was, as you guessed if you read the post, rather rough.

I finished a portion of the story that is happy and uplifting.  I’m trying to keep it close to my heart so I can use it to get through the rest.  I’m getting some great stories and some interesting characters…

…But I’m having trouble keeping track of it all.

My book is a collection of stories from people all over the world.  I have a great program, Scrivener, to help keep track of it all, but at the end of the day, I found it really useful to make a physical map to lay everything out.  Now when I’m typing, I can see the gaps in my story and fill them in.

The timeline is showing me where the gaps are, and where I have overlap that could be moved around.

Already, these little things on my wall have caused me to shift the times and locations of a few stories.

Cue cards are helping me keep track of the major themes, as well as a body count, for each of the segments.  :<

It’s helping shape my story, and helping me keep track of everything.  If it helps you too, do it.  Do whatever works.

As before, I can’t wait to be done with this one.  It’s good, but man is it hard to write.

Side note: I found this comment on Reddit about how the original Enterprise is at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, but that it needs to be restored.

Having just been hooked by the original series, I thought I’d see what we could do about that.  I contacted them about getting it refit; hopefully I’ll hear back!  If not, I will post an open letter to gain support.  More on that later!

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.