Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Category: books

Goodreads – Pros and Cons and Musings

I dig Goodreads. It’s a social network all about books and reading. What’s not to love?

Well, it’s owned by Amazon. Who I fairly openly hate/distrust. I often wonder, if I hate Amazon this much, as well as many other monocorps, then shouldn’t I hate Google? I mean…I probably should, and yet I don’t. Maybe it’s Bezos. Maybe seeing one guy get insanely rich and just seem so dug in on not being community minded really lays me low. It’s probably that. Anyway, TL;DR Amazon can jump, buy from your local independent book seller. And yet, Goodreads….

I use Goodreads. I’m not an active member of the community, but I track my reading there. I don’t really know what other people are doing there, but I do my thing on there as a reader. I also don’t mind it as an author, I’m not behiolden to the review scores, but it’s another place I can try to gauge interest, I suppose.

You can see my reading and writing on Goodreads here!

As a reader, this year I set myself the goal of reading 52 things. I track novels, comics, and even picture books with my class/kids, so it’s not impossible to make the list. And the site is a great place to assemble the list, and if people are watching and get a good reading recommendation, all the more power to them.

However, I think I can also track this stuff on my own site, and I probably should. You should never have all your content held on another platform you can’t control. Take it from someone who remembers reading comics on MySpace and wrote for the site The Weekly Crisis. You want your own copies, and you want to do your best to own how/where you share them.

I use WordPress, and even with that I worry at times that maybe they get bought out and my site gets junked. Who knows?

I’m considering doing more to keep my reading pile tracked on my site, I just need to work out the perfect format for it.

As a writer, I recently just looked into getting my latest comics put on there, SKYSCRAPER and SHE. I found they’d already been added, but I needed one added to my author profile, and with both of them there, I was able to edit the entries with covers and such.

All this activity [and there’s always peripheral writerly duties that take up our time], got me thinking – is this helpful to me? Will any new readers find my work through Goodreads? Will I get a proper gauge on what people think based on reviews/stars there? Is it a good catalogue of what I’ve written?

I already keep a Writing Catalogue of everything I’ve written on my site because I think that’s important to maintain on your own. But the thought of someone finding my work on Goodreads intrigues me. I don’t “find” much there, but I will admit if I look for something on there and find it has a great star rating then I am definitely more inclined to be intrigued by the book and want to buy/read it.

This then got me wondering, do many other people use Goodreads to track, shelve, rate, review books they’ve read?

I know I will continue to do it, I don’t seem annoyed enough yet to dump Goodreads in the same way I have Facebook [and have been all the better for it]. But I will also try to keep the data I put there also on my own site, so I have my own source of what I’ve written, and what I’m reading.

If you’ve read my work and are Goodreads-inclined, then by all means mark them off as read.

SKYSCRAPER is now on there

SHE Vol. 1 is also up

Or you can just use your fine tip caligrapher’s pen to put it into your bespoke leather journal, or open a window and scream it into your neighbourhood.

Short stories are awesome. Always have been.

I love short stories. There’s something so special about the kind of idea a writer gets that only needs a small amount of space/character/world to tell. It’s not a novel, not a tv series, not a huge reverberating narrative engine – it’s just a thing that desperately needs to be told.

The ultimate short story collection that springs to mind for me is NIGHT SHIFT by Stephen King. Mostly because I read it so young it became formative, but also because it’s so damn good. I feel like every damn story in it is amazing, they’re all certainly memorable, and looking over the track list…nine are still absolute bangers that I stand by. A few others are good, but fall just short of great. But the collection is evergreen in my mind for what I dig about short stories.

I got thinking about them recently because I saw Hard Case Crime are releasing a collection of Ray Bradbury’s crime short stories:

That cover is so exceptionally haunting and beautiful. Where compositon and colour just flat out open my wallet. I really really want this book in my life if I can ever track it down.

I’d love to write a short story collection. One day. I’ve gone on to devour and enjoy so many more shorts from King – I know it’s technically a novella, but HEARTS IN ATLANTIS remains one of the most beautiful and magical pieces of writing I’ve ever read. Just thinking about it again now puts a little butterfly in my stomach.

His son, Joe Hill, also writes some exceptional short fiction. His collection, 20th CENTURY GHOSTS, felt like his Night Shift, and it had some stand out pieces, none more so than THE CAPE, later adapted into a comic that’s one of the best comcis of the past 20 years.

Being a horror nerd, I loved THE BOOKS OF BLOOD by Clive Barker. I will stop anyone in conversation and tell them about the madness of IN THE HILLS, THE CITIES – a tale where neighbouring villages get their entire populations to physically link together and form writhing human Voltron forms that then fight. Every time I describe it, peoples’ eyes just widen. That’s the sign of a great short.

Ethan Coen wrote GATES OF EDEN, which is a weird set of vignettes that feel like they fell out of scripts he would have tried, and they certainly captivate. Naturally, the shorts of Philip K. Dick mean a lot to me. There’s THE DAYS OF PERKY PAT, which is so strange and haunting, and there’s one whose name escapes me but I know Alan Moore completely ripped it off for one of his Future Shock strips. Who would forget the TALES OF THE MOS EISLEY CANTINA, followed by other collections set in Jabba’s Palace, and I think one about just the bounty hunters…right?

A great slice of short fiction offers an earworm of an idea. A 20 page sample of something that opens the door, fires the gun into your chest, and leaves you gasping, sucking in blood, and feeling yourself die. Short fiction is where smart writers sometimes play their best ideas and themes that haven’t found a full story, and it’s like they don’t leave a morsel on their plate – every quality piece of brain fuel powers their engine forward. I’m in awe.

I have one idea I want to tell as a series of short stories, and I’ve written…a handful of them, but I’ve shelved it for time, at this stage. I’m also writing very short pieces on my Patreon, twice a month, and they’re just a blast to get out of my head. From weird romance to ghastly serial killers, and all the strangeness in between, I’m just flipping up balls and taking a swing. It’s only 300 words, usually more, but it lets me play with voice, to experiment with style, and I have about 17k of them so far. There’s a part of me that wonders if I could stitch together 20-something-thousand and put them into a book. Some of them rate as my very best writing, which is a weird place to leave my best work, but sometimes you never know just what’s going to come out. Some are maybe…not as good…or as we say, they can’t all be winners in a collection. But we try.

I don’t know what will come of them, but for now I’ll continue having fun writing them, perhaps you’d like to follow my Patreon, which you can do for free, and sometimes I put the 300 Flash Fic out as a free post. You might dig what you find.

Oh: also, this doesn’t even take into account comic shorts, of which I’ve done a few, and I love dearly. You can read some of my short comics on my site for free, and on my Patreon this week I’ll be posting some and their scripts for you to enjoy!

Follow along on my Patreon now for all the writing goodness!

Bookfair Haul 2020, First Quarter

I love the Lifeline Bookfair. A whole giant building just rolling with tables of awesome old books. Just getting to roam and browse and scope out covers and enjoy it all is a beautiful afternoon to behold.

This year I did the Saturday lunch run, so Friday peeps had already pecked the comic section dry, which was a shame, but I managed to snag CITY OF GLASS, which I’m keen to get into. I also got this LIFE IN FIVE SECONDS book which takes a story, or sometimes a concept, and lays it out in a handful of stick figure flow charts. Genius, and I can’t wait to read them all, but also would love to teach this kind of business. Here’s a good one, can you work out what it is?

I was talking to my mate I went with about Corey J. White, and how I dug KILLING GRAVITY, and wanted to get the next 2 books, and then the second book appeared. But then so did the first, so my mate snagged that. Absolutely beautiful bookfair synergy.

I got Mieville’s EMBASSYTOWN because I enjoyed THE CITY & THE CITY, and because these covers are gorgeous. Whereas I got SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS because I genuinely enjoyed PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and this was $1 so I had to know if it’d hold up [which I’m certain it won’t, but I’ll still get my money’s worth].

The rest were all cheap choices based on covers. Have a look. I could spend an hour just looking through what books people buy and enjoying the experience just as much that way, too. Where’s my bookfair haul insta feed at?

Note: these books are still sitting out in my office, on display, and they bring me joy every time I walk in and see them.

What is Best in Life? 2018 Edition

Nothing like an end of year round up. A time to reflect, a time to take stock, and a time to project.
Overall, 2018 has felt like a year of building pressure. Whether we get a glorious wave into 2019, I don’t know, and whether I have the balance to ride that wave and not get crushed I also do not know. But I’ve done my best to stay positive and keep wheels behind the scenes moving, so while I didn’t publish a lot this year, I did prep 4 pitches, and put the scripts for one project to bed, and wrote a tonne on another one, and have lined up a few one-shots with artists I’m excited to bring it all together with.

If everything I worked on in 2018 came out in 2019, it would be a stellar year. So we shall see.

And while I said I didn’t get much out in 2018, what did come out was stuff I’m crazy proud of. The BEAUTIFUL CANVAS tpb landed in Feb, collecting last year’s acclaimed mini-series, and the month before it we started the year strong with ETERNAL, and I’ve been saying if you only publish one new thing all year, but that thing is ETERNAL, then it’s been a good year. Eric Zawadzki and Dee Cunniffe deserve all the praise this year.

Now, onto some things we can list!

MY TOP COMIC OF 2018

I really dug some good good stuff this year. Image tops the list with so much quality: GIDEON FALLS was something I got caught up on recently, and that book is very fine, as is CEMETERY BEACH, for totally different reasons. SHANGHAI RED was my jam in the same way SINK at ComixTribe is. PAPER GIRLS and SAGA and DEADLY CLASS continue to be masterpieces, and I really enjoyed MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES, but the top book really has to go to something that’s one of my very favourites from my very favourite creative team:

KILL OR BE KILLED

Just a stellar end to a wicked story where both Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker were on superbly fine form.

MY TOP NOVEL OF 2018

Man, THE OUTSIDER from Stephen King could have run away with this, if I’d only stopped before the final hundred pages. It’s not *bad*, but it is not as blistering as the first half of the book. That first half is pound-for-pound King at his dark criminal best.

I also really dug PLATO WYNGARD AND THE ARMOUR OF THE GODS, the second novel from my two brothers, Marc and James Lindsay, but that feels a bit nepotistic, and would make them far too happy.

I took a few weeks to smash through HANGMAN, where Jack Heath writes such a ballistic crime novel that you can’t help but be impressed with the layers of familiarity he builds into his characters alongside the wild intricate puzzles and violent moments.

But there can only be one, so, I’ll lay this one at the feet of:

WE RIDE THE STORM

This fantasy epic from Devin Madson was something I bought because she showed the opening line on her table, and it’s a banger:

I honestly hadn’t read a fantasy book since my David Eddings days in high school, but I was keen to try this out. It’s Book One of a bigger story, so the opening hundred pages is a lot of table dressing, but by the final hundred pages it’s just fistfuls of food being slammed into your mouth faster than you can chew. And I mean that in a good way. The action and character drama continue to rise, and I was hooked on all three plot threads as they wind ever closer.

There were also two particular chapters where I finished them and thought…damn, that’s some good reading.

If you get the chance, track this down, it’s bloody, glorious, and bloody glorious.

MY TOP TV SHOW OF 2018

THE GOOD PLACE came so so close to running away with this one. The third season has been just as good as the rest, and in a way that’s different from S2, which went about it different from S1. The show is a titanic force, and I’m a better writer for having watched it, but something else from this year jumped ahead of it through sheer force of will. And it wasn’t DAREDEVIL S3, or GLOW S2, or THE KOMINSKY METHOD S1 which came out of nowhere to absolutely thrill me, nor was it my marathon catch up of three seasons of THE LEFTOVERS, which I’m discounting because it’s an older show. No, the top gong is kinda easily held onto by this one which should be absolutely obvious when you really think about it:

ATLANTA S2

This show good, this show real good. Some of these episodes, mostly in the middle in and around the Teddy Perkins ep are just A+ analyses of the modern world as told through gonzo noir small screen cinema. So so perfect.

MY TOP MOVIE OF THE YEAR

It’s one thing to announce a tie, and it’s another to give that tie to two polar opposite things. Both of these flicks did what they needed to do nigh perfectly, and they left me in very different places, and I can barely separate them. One will be endlessly rewatchable, one will be a hard watch again, though I will. One is high pop bubble gum joy, one is brutal art house insanity. Both, though, are long. I can’t separate it, so I’m letting the chips fall where they may – the top flick[s] of 2018 are:

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and SUSPIRIA

Watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe come to this big break moment at the end of Infinity War was something to behold, a truly special feat. The movie is top notch event comic action fun. It’s *BIG* and it’s wild and it’s a smile injected into your lips. It’s not high art, and it shouldn’t be. It’s not a great character study, and it shouldn’t be because there are about 500 principal hero cast at play – though it is a study of Thanos, which is both as bold as it is brilliant, and it’s for that reason it crossed the line at the top.

However, across the aisle, SUSPIRIA does everything different, and is most likely the more true superior flick. It is high art, it’s weird, it’s a character study, or more of a location study, a look at witch hierarchy in dance schools. It’s unsettling, and everything holds huge gravity – which is funny when you consider the death count in Suspiria must be about 0.0000001% of the other cape-inclined movie. I feel like Suspiria is more likely to sit atop Best Of lists when we look back in 20 years, but Infinity War will be more remembered, and more wildly remembered, and will sit on its own Best Of lists, too, for its own reasons.

MY TOP PODCAST OF 2018

I’ve gone deep into WOW IN THE WORLD and STORY PIRATES with the kids on all commutes, and they’ve fed my brain in wonderfully small ways. SERIAL returned and was interesting, but lacked that central narrative engine that makes it a binge-worthy podcast. I also found it crazy depressing, to the point where it almost felt like it was inducing anxiety in me after listening for an ep, and maybe that’s a huge point: if listening to it all give me the shivers, imagine living it 😐

I’ve caught up on a tonne of the GOOGLE TEACHER TRIBE PODCAST just to keep my dayjob game tight, and it’s worked a treat, making me feel energised about all kinds of things for work, especially going into 2019.

But, I think this year goes again to OFF PANEL, the comic interview podcast where the creators are well picked and always get down to real talk. I still love this podcast, and still get a constant stream of quality inspiration and joy from it.

MY TOP MUSIC OF 2018

There was new Sarah Blasko this year, I got DEPTH OF FIELD and it’s a great writing record, but it lacks the punchy catchiness of her other albums, so I think sneaking in at the top might be the SUSPIRIA soundtrack.

And I think that’s a wrap. 2018 had some good stuff, and it also felt like mental quicksand. But walking into 2019 will feel like walking free, so I better make the most of it.

Here’s to building a better stronger list of live in yet another year.

CICADA – Sublime Social Discourse, Y’know, For Kids

There is so much contained within this book, and like a cicada, it’s just waiting to burst out from beneath the surface. You need this book in your homes, in your classrooms, and in your hearts.

Shaun Tan is a wild genius, and sometimes he does it with a lot – glorious words, hyper-detailed and strange art – and here he does it with so little. The art is still beautiful, and what words there are sing off the page, but it’s his mastery of control and surreal commentary that make this a modern masterpiece about modern culture as we live in it.

The story is about a cicada that works as an office drone, is unappreciated by the humans in whose world he lives, and it’s all very bleak and subdued. From here, Tan comments on modern capitalist society, and how downright boring it is, and why we should abhor such an existence, and he does it so effectively that I’m hard pressed to think of a better literary burn on what a waste most of what we consider “modern living” is. The final words would be haunting, if not for the fact they made me laugh so much.

This is a book with heady themes present, and every adult will connect on a very real level, but kids should be exposed to this kind of thinking. They should have it unpacked for them.

S P O I L E R S

Cicada is about whether we’re getting busy living, or getting busy dying. It’s about city living versus getting back to nature. It’s about putting the goals of necessity before our happiness. It’s about how we’re getting it all wrong.

The titular cicada is completely downtrodden, ignored, bullied, and cast aside. It’s horrible. But doesn’t this happen to us all when you really think about it? It might not be obvious, or explicit, but most of the time it doesn’t hurt to consider if we’re making any difference, and if that impact has any real staying power. Or do we live, consume, die, and the world turns on?

It sounds horrible, and it really kinda is, so the story offers a solution of sorts.

The cicada, retired, already forgotten, walks to the roof of the building in which it lives as well as works and it splits open. A blade of red light appears, and the true cicada form emerges, naked of the business attire, and it returns back out to nature where it started. More importantly, where it belongs.

The theme of the story is that we should be doing what we are meant to be doing. We should be connecting with nature, we should be living and working within our means, we should be putting happiness ahead of…I don’t know, progress, bland citizenship, money.

It’s better to live as a cicada in the wild, happy, than grind through an endless life in the city and be a millionnaire.

The book leaves us with the cicada’s blistering assessment – it has left the city, to return to its kind, and sometimes they think about the humans, and they laugh.

This stopped me, and I had to laugh, but I was stopped nonetheless. Yes, they laugh, at our ludicrous existence, and Tan hits the nail on the head.

We’ve got it all wrong.

But this book is a step in the right direction, in a way. It’s a book to share, to come together for, to discuss, to open our minds and hearts, and to change our futures.

We should be doing what we’re supposed to be doing, not what we’re told we should be doing, or what we’ve told ourselves to believe we should be doing.

Weighed down by all of t h i s ? Then shed your skin and let’s get started.


CICADA by Shaun Tan is no doubt available at every good book store near you. Google one and find it and support your local bookseller.

 

THE FIREMAN – A Study in the Modern Insanity

THE FIREMAN by Joe Hill is an astonishing novel that’ll completely engulf you.

I love Joe Hill, I’m a complete mark for his work, and this book is definitely one of my absolute favourites of his stuff. It’s a great premise, handled well in the narrative line it chooses, the characters lure you in, and by the end you’re exhausted in all the right ways.

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On the ISLAND OF THE LIZARD KING’s Cover

For as long as I can remember, I always dug playing the Fighting Fantasy books.

My brothers had copies of these strewn around the house, and I don’t even know at what age I picked them up, but I can vividly remember playing them when I was about 7, half laying under our coffee table, and half poking out with a cushion under me, to roll the dice, to battle the pages, and to make my own adventure sheets in an art pad.

I loved the adventure, the nerdy mathematical/chance aspect of it all, and the scenarios and art were wild. These were infinitely better than the Choose Your Own Adventure books – these were the Horror Section of your old VHS emporium compared to the Kids Rental Section of your safe old library.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but these were the METAL interactive story/game pages of my youth.

We owned many of these books, and I played the all, and while many hold a dear place in my heart, it is always this cover that fires up my imagination. behold, the ISLAND OF THE LIZARD KING!

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What Is Best In Life? – 2017 Edition

I love a good year end list. And this list is very much about me, and my year, and what works for me. If you dig what I usually dig, then seek these things out.

Oh, and this just means things *I* did/imbibed in 2017, not necessarily things *from* 2017 because I’m crazy behind on things all the time.

Okay, roll the thing!

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University of Canberra FIRST: Voyages Book Launch Keynote 2017

I was honoured to be asked to attend the launch of UC’s FIRST: Voyages anthology book – a place for uni students to get their first publication. The book was a ripper, so many great examples of emotion and truth on the page, so I was happy to speak to the crowd and give away whatever small amount of wisdom I have.

Below is my speech, typed, but I’m not a TED presenter, and I notoriously tangent, so this isn’t 100% exact what people heard on the night, but it’s as close as the history books will ever get. I hope you enjoy.

Hi, I have to start by saying:

Thank you to every person who contributed to this book. Thank you for stepping up, for putting yourself into ink, and firing yourself off into the world as yet another book of blood, because as Clive Barker says, that’s what we are, and wherever we’re opened, you better believe we’re red.

It is a heartbreaking and delightful and insane and passionate thing we do to put our words into the world, and it makes our lives better and worse than others, but it also means we are truly living our lives. So thank you, can we give everyone in this book a round of applause, please? :]

It’s invigorating to submerge into an anthology so rich full of passion and erudition. You don’t start a journey over mountains and through the shattered dust of stars by tiptoeing forward. No, you dive, man, you just have to because if you pause, you’re DOA. Writing is a passion, it’s a drug, and it’s a monkey on your back for the rest of your life. And you either learn what your monkey likes and you placate it forevermore, or you invest in good gardening equipment and you bury its body in various locations to live a very free, though much more mundane, life. These are your options.

Which is why I want to tell you to please keep writing. I mean, you’re obviously off to such an amazing start, why stop, right?

But know that writing isn’t going to ever get easier. Writing isn’t going to do what you planned. Writing is one big problem you keep in your skull most of your life, and sometimes it aches, and sometimes it itches, and sometimes it stops – which can be the most scary of all the symptoms. But writing will complete you. I know it will, because I see the talent in you. I know that fever, and I know the soothing balm of seeing your words in print. I know it feels good – even while it kinda feels terrifying, right?

I won’t ask for hands up, but I guarantee at least one contributor already hates their work, and others would love another pass to juuuust get it right. Someone has looked at someone else’s story and now violently hates them because they see how good that person’s story is – don’t be afraid of competition, it’ll make you sick, but it’ll also make you better, I promise. I know this, and I know it’s stupid. You’ll know it soon, too, but knowing isn’t a cure. I’m sorry.

You are all now officially writers, and the only way is up. Up, up, up, because, technically, even a 1 degree incline is up. And you have to stay the course, even when it feels like a downhill tumble. You have to write through the blizzards, and the afterparties, and droughts, and the mazes. You have to write, because you are writers, you know this, you’ve stated it right here in the book.

I declared I’d be a writer in Year 3. I wrote my first 2 short stories that year. The joy of completing them was wild. The thrill of reading them to my class was exhilarating. The shame of looking back years later and realising how bad they were: priceless.

Honestly, one was called Volcano and it was about a guy who decides to climb a volcano. So he packs his bag – I go into full list mode to detail all the muesli bars and snacks he takes with him, it’s like half a page. Then he starts walking. And keeps walking. And keeps walking. Then he sees a wolf. He says, “Hey, there’s a wolf.” To no one in particular, and hopefully not the wolf, unless I was writing existential animal identity crises back in 1990. Sorry, where was the story, oh, yeah, he keeps walking. Then he gets to the top. He looks in. He sees some lava. Then he walks home.

He doesn’t even touch a single goddamn preciously bagged snack from his bag in the entire story. Maddening.

And when people tell you that your first writing will suck, it’s easy to point to those juvenile words and say they were your formative years, as if I wrote anything of greatness when I was 18. Or 22. Or 25. Or last week.

So much crap over the years. But the common theme was I kept writing. Brian K Vaughan once wrote that you have to get 10,000 pages of utter shit out of your system before you start getting good. That’s when you start getting just good.

So keep writing. Because I went from writing fanfic to really awesome break up poetry to four novels of questionable quality to online comics journalism to hot takes on twitter in 2009 before the Nazis and the trolls occupied the underside of every bridge and then I went and I got my first publication out into the world and then started getting good. Just good. And it still wasn’t as good as what you’ve done here.

But I kept at it. I wrote a baker’s dozen of short stories, I wrote about 60 issues of various comic projects that never went anywhere. I wrote so much, and finally the tide started to shift. Soon I was signing my first publication deal with a publisher in the States for my first comic miniseries. Then I was winning the Aurealis Award and Ledger Bronze Award for my comic about suicide and emotion eating monsters. I was selected in a group of 8 people out of 1500 people to be in a comic writing class run by DC comics.

I’m currently sitting on 3 comic book deals with a US publisher, and in the midst of my sixth successful comic Kickstarter campaign, and I’m writing every damn night. I’ll go home and write tonight. Because not only is that what it takes, but that’s what I want. That’s what I need. I’m a writer, it’s no shock I go home to write.

So, please, write. That’s the obvious lesson everyone imparts. But let me gift you two more horses and you can elect to look in their mouths or not.

You will fail. A story will suddenly dry up. Or a story will not find an audience. Or a story will suuuuuck. Or you’ll have the chance to finally pitch the Ninja Turtles and you’ll drop the ball…or y’know, some other vague possibility not ripped from the headlines inside my brain.

You will think you’re crap – which is just as dangerous as the family members who tell you you’re amazing – and sometimes you will be crap, and you won’t know sometimes, and you’ll have doubt, and you’ll worry and overthink, and stress, and miss parties, and learn what a sore neck really feels like. Writing is going to add some hardship to your life.

But a real writer finds the greatest hardship to be not writing. So…yeah, I don’t have any great solution to that, sorry, welcome to the club, it’s gonna kill ya :]

Each failure in the club is there to teach you a lesson. Whether it’s story structure, or humility, or taking editorial notes, or swinging for the bleachers, or selling out – learn why the failure happened, and factor it into the new 2.0 version of yourself, the true Writing Intelligence Supreme of 2020.

Just remember why you write – because it’s a way to take the truth you know, and marinade it, and make something more out of it.

I’ll tell you about two of the best things I ever wrote. One was in Year 10, it was a recount of the morning we found my father’s dead body. Looking back it was the sort of bunt hit an angsty teenager writes because he knows it’ll get him on base, but I also wrote it because this was a truth I’d lived with for a decade and I needed a way to get it out of my head. So I did, and my teacher loved it, and wanted it for the school’s annual magazine, and I politely declined. Because it was out of my head, but I didn’t need it into the heads of others. Not yet, anyway.

But nearly two decades after that, I wrote a story about a writer who sits down to write his suicide note and gets writer’s block. Which is a pretty shit thing to do to a character, but it’s great narrative fuel. And this was me tackling the same themes I’d sophomorically slapped on the page in Year 10, but now I had a way to use my truth as an ingredient, and not as the recipe and whole dish. I’d mastered subtext and theme and subtlety, and so I explored my feelings about suicide again, also with added decades of reflection to even better understand it.

I truly believe that’s why NEGATIVE SPACE sold so well, and won awards, and became my entry into what modest limelight I’ve afforded myself. It’s a book with truth in it. A truth only I could write.

You’ll no doubt have already heard that you should “write what you know.” Which I always took to mean, well, Stephen King writes alcoholic teachers-cum-writers, and John Grisham writes lawyers, and Dan Brown writes intellectual middle aged white dudes absolutely sizzling in turtleneck sweaters. I thought it meant write what you know how to do, which is essentially writing who you are.

This is not what that advice means.

Write what you know should focus on the word KNOW – what you know is your truth – you need to write your truth. Which is why fiction is so amazing – every person has their own truth. One person can know and believe the world is a wonderful place while another person can believe the world sucks and will most definitely try to smash you into pieces. Both of those truths can exist, because they stem from experience.

Your job is to find your truth, by living a life, by doing dumb things, by avoiding those now discovered dumb things and choosing the smarter things. A life lived, is a brain informed, is a writer with something to say. And if you can say it in a way no one has read before, then you’re gonna be fine. You have to work out how to make your truth palatable.

Which I know you can do because so many of you mastered this in the book.

The truth of what a railway line means in the many stations you stop in through your life. The truth that you’re only gonna get better, and that knowledge can’t be applied retroactively – not even with time travel. The truth that your wits will keep you alive, but only if you let your wits navigate for you as well as react for you, even centuries ago on a sinking ship. The truth that the devil’s right, even if only about the fact his opposition is wrong. The truth that souls are precious and need rescuing, but you can only ever do what you can. The truth that the ocean represents all we should fear in this world, and yet we dive back into it constantly. The truth that it only takes one person to do absolutely everything they possibly can for humanity to be saved. The truth that your tolerance will always be met with intolerance and sometimes you see what happens when an unstoppable force collides with an immovable object. The truth that the world is constantly twisted up in sex and shame and stupidity and all you can do is accept your place in it and hope you get better at it all.

Those were some of the amazing truths I took away from this book and they floored me, each one, each time. A fabulous way to read a book, so thank you.

I do want to highlight 3 specific stories that really stuck with me, and all because they offered a truth, and in a different way. One with clarity, one through obfuscation, and one through a warped sense of acceptance. These three stories are everything I love to read, on personal and technical levels, and I want to call each person up to receive a gift voucher as a small token of appreciation for sharing these words with us.

DAD was an utterly amazing gutpunch, so can Jasmine Braybrooks please come up.

This illustration of a parent changed is done with such honesty and humanity that it never feels brutal, nor salacious. This is a spirit laid bare on the page and I kept thinking that these intimate nothings etched out in careful words are going to give Michael Chabon a run for his money one day. Thank you for letting us all read this.

READ RECEIPT REQUESTED was a gripping and funny and ultimately horrifying story, so can Susie Ellis please come up.

This story feels funny, and genuinely is funny, and I was entranced from the first word to the last. Your style and pacing are near-flawless as you toe the Hitchcockian line of absurdity and tension. But, in the end, this story is horrifying because beyond the cute charm, it’s a story about society, about how easy it is for idiotic men to rule on a whim, and about how easy it is for women to disappear. It’s the best kind of statement, in that it never states it at all. But it’s there, and that’s a gift, so thank you for sharing it with us all.

And the final story I want to mention is ANNIE & I, a short pitstop into a mentality of strange acceptance by Jerzy Beaumont.

It would be easy to write this story off as a mere twist reveal at the end, were it not for how amazingly acute and true it is in every line. The twist unpacks a whole new narrative and once you know who Annie is, the line “and when we make love we do it like iron maidens; the nails are in-side.” becomes this haunting and harrowing and yet still somewhat hopeful proclamation.

I hope a million people read this story because it’s the sort of thing that shows you how to access your truth, and how to manage it, and how to touch it fondly and often until you no longer have any fear in what it can hold or do. This story is the kind of thing that will stick with readers for a lifetime and beyond, and that’s the greatest outcome any fiction can ever aim for, so thank you so much for creating a better world with this story in it.

Please join me in giving applause to all three recipients of these gift cards tonight.

Now, I want to leave you with one last piece of wisdom, so I’m actually going to steal it from one of you.

Write every day, about things that matter to you, across all genres. They say every statue is in the marble waiting to be unearthed, and the same is true of every story around us. You job is to go out, touch, observe, carve, polish, stand back and think, start again, and discover the world so you might best synthesise it. There’s a lot of stuff out there, to write about, to ignore, to immerse yourself in, to know, and forget, and you’re all just the right age to do it all and use it later in your next great works.

Or, better put by Lara Hazel Thompson as she muses on how you, writers, might see the world moving forward – “These people, my friends, recently became really fucking boring, so I’ve taken to details.”

Take to every detail you can find, you’ll find a story for all of them eventually, I promise.

Thank you.

NOIRVEMBER 2015 ebook coming!

My series of NOIRVEMBER posts from Noirvember last year will be available as an ebook on the 19th of January for 99c on Smash Words from Four Colour Ray Gun. You can pre-order it now, if’n you like. It’s in multiple formats and represents nearly 40k of my thoughts and words and misconceptions about life and art.

PREORDER NOIRVEMBER 2015 – ESSAYS AND RAMBLINGS EBOOK NOW! – LINK

I’ve tidied up the posts a touch, and added a CURRICULUM ADDENDUM section at the end of each chapter to give you the boring deets I didn’t want to didactically drop into the essays – plus sometimes some links to scripts and rad pdfs and other cool stuff.

It also features this ace cover from Christopher Kosek!

noirvember2015_v2

If you want, all the posts are still right here [LINK] but there’s something cool about being able to have this on your tablet, just waiting for you, or maybe you just buy a copy to share with friends. Or maybe you have that site-to-pdf Chrome extension. Or maybe I die destitute and alone.

NOIRVEMBER, the ebook, coming January 19th – tell your friends [who don’t already read this site, follow my twitter, like me] – [LINK] for the preorder, or the order if you are accessing this post post-Jan 19.

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