Posts Tagged ‘space’

I’ve said that I love space enough times that to share another photo of something cosmic won’t be too much of a surprise!


hs-2014-18-a-webThis picture is from the Hubblesite website (always worth a visit) and shows an area of space where stars are being born. What is now a gassy, dusty nebula will one day be gone, the materials used to form those stars – and possibly companion planets.  In this mass, perhaps there’s a new Earth waiting to be shaped.

For me, this image is all about scope – the vast possibilities, the innumerable ideas, the expanse of our imaginations.

I remember being told that  there’s really only a handful of stories ever told, but what writers do is find new ways to tell them.  I’m not sure if  I agree there’s only a handful but I certainly think we as writers should find new ways of exploring life, humanity, the nature of existence.

That doesn’t have to be a heavy burden though.  In the picture you can see the darkness and the light, and it’s the same in writing. You can write about horror, or you can write about hope.  You can write about love, or hate.

Most writers fall somewhere on the spectrum, because most of life is somewhere on the spectrum.  But even with this you can vary the surroundings; for example you can create an alternative world, or move back or forward in time.

That’s the joy and fun of writing, for me – however many stories there may be, we’ll never run out of ways to tell them.

Happy writing,







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Have you ever looked out of a plane window at the ground below, and felt as though you are looking at another world? Or seen satellite images of countries at night, and felt disconnected?  Well, this week’s post is about perception.

Let’s start with an image, shall we?   Here’s one from NASA – this was found at grin.hq.nasa.gov

What do you see?

Not people, not man-made structures, not proof of life.  The first thing I saw was the clouds.  Just underneath, it seemed, was a white block – the ice at the South Pole.  I saw the liquid oceans and the land masses.

Humans, on the other hand, live at street level.  Brushing across the surface, we would be invisible to any aliens busily flying past; we wouldn’t show up to their naked eye – assuming they have eyes, that is…

They’d have to change their point of view to see that life thrives on the planet.  It’s in those clouds, under that ice cap, swimming in the oceans.  It’s scuttling across continents.

Now think about a story you might be writing, right at this moment.  In it is a whole world – people are vast in this world, as visible as a land mass, or the watery 70% of the globe.  But what are you missing, what can’t you see, what is hidden by your perspective? What, if you shift to the right and squint, can you see?  

Whose point of view could you explore?

Whenever you write, you make a decision which viewpoint you use.  Every so often, you should look from another angle to see what you’re missing.


I promised an update on the 2014 Reading challenge so here it is…

This week I have read two books:

Book 4 – Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie.  Like many people, I know this from the cartoon more than anything, so some elements were quite surprising – Peter’s selfish cruelty, Hook’s torment at his hand (pardon the pun), Wendy’s willful ignorance.  I loved some of the description, but this wasn’t the cosy tale I thought – so it’s a good thing I read it really!  There’s a darkness in it that probably appeals to children still.

Book 5 – The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.  I put this one on the reading group list because I thought it sounded interesting (it’s a war story of sorts, narrated by Death), but I don’t like war books, and I needed a push to read it.  I’m so glad I did; I devoured it like a locust, I was so hungry to know how things turned out for the characters.  It was thoughtful and emotional, but not cloying, and although it was a little metaphor-heavy in places, I suspect that’s because I am aware of these tools.  There were stylistic choices I didn’t particularly care for but as a whole I think it was a very good book

I haven’t given up Moby Dick yet, but I haven’t finished it.  I think the thing that’s keeping me reading in Queequeg, make of that what you will!

Until next time – happy writing,



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This week, I’ve continued with my prep, but I’ve also been working on a couple of new ideas. It’s been a week of mix and match, work-wise!

I have tried not to go too far with one as it’s a story, but I wanted to write it down before I forgot it. It was inspired by a phrase I read in the comments of a vlog, on YouTube. It had made me smile when I first saw it but then a couple of times it had popped into my head, and finally, it came with a slight change, and an idea.

That idea took me in a whole new direction, and actually into a direction I read about as a student, when I did my degree. I won’t say more now, but it’s sitting there, waiting for some time and attention in the future.

The second is a poem, currently called ‘The Pegasus Cloud’.  I thought of the title before anything else of the poem, but it’s coming in stages and I’ll see where it ends up!  Obviously mythology immediately came to mind that title, but that isn’t all I want to cover so I have a little challenge with myself!

I like it when new ideas bloom in my brain but I have to stay focussed and not let the prep for the next story fall behind; having just booked the retreat again I want to be in a position to write then!

Meanwhile I have details of a first novel competition that I am thinking about entering – more on that when I decide 🙂

In other news – we’re up to book 17 in the novel list, which is Moby-Dick (hyphen added as Melville’s preference!).  In line with my 2014 reading challenge, when I saw this come up I decided to read it – after all, if it’s really the pinnacle of US literature, I should have read it!  Sadly, I am not enjoying it and at about 25% into the book I am longing to stop – I read another book today just to give myself a mental palate cleanse…  I will give it a little longer but it’s probable that I will give up on this one.  Sorry, Moby fans – but if you love the book, tell me what draws you to it!

And finally – As I’ve said many times before, I love space!  So when I saw this article about a mystery on Mars, I wanted to share it because it gave me a number of ideas: I don’t write science fiction but if I ever change my genre I’ll be starting here…

That’s it for this week, but don’t forget to give me book suggestions for this year’s challenge!

Happy writing,



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Very happily, the computer repair experts have been able to salvage my work from the sadly broken laptop, and although the hardware is beyond saving, the data seems to be intact. Yippee!

Because of this, I’m spending some time catching up and checking through to make sure there are no corruptions and so on.  As a result, this post is not what I had planned, but is based on something I read today.

This week’s inspiration comes from a news article on my favourite space website – hubblesite.org – where they have announced the discovery of a planet under construction.

Immediately, I wondered what the new planet would look like, when it would be formed, if we humans would ever visit it.  It’s the start of a sci-fi novel, being built 176 million light years away.

As a writer, what I’m really interested in is characters – and alien ones are especially intriguing.  To test myself a little bit, I started designing a life-form.  Not the personalities – they come later – but the physical appearance.  It’s actually quite liberating not to write about human faces, but to think about different features.  A few questions emerged:

Are they humanoid?

Do they have skin, or scales, or feathers?

Are they carbon-based?

Do they have eyes, noses, mouths, ears?  Limbs?

Are they intelligent?

I came to an early conclusion that a story with a non-sentient, vegetation-type alien would be less than thrilling, so I stuck with intelligent, upright and slightly scaly.  Then I made decisions based on the position of the planet and the requirements for life – and how they would have access to these requirements.

All in all, I drew up a very clear picture, and the scope of the descriptive decisions I made got me thinking about the choices I make in my novels.  When I start re-reviewing novel two, I’m going to focus on some of the elements I’ve picked up on through this exercise, particularly around colour and texture.

It was actually a very useful exercise and one that bears repeating: thinking about everything I’d need to consider and understand to write a realistic alien made me realise how easy these things are to miss in more terrestrial characters…

Give it a go if you’re struggling with descriptions, it’s a good way to open yourself to more unusual ideas!

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, I haven’t forgotten the poem from my ‘pick a name’ post, and will get back to that when I’ve checked all my data still exists 🙂

Happy writing



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Fairly expectedly, I didn’t get far in my revisions for the woods novel this week; I reached a point that needs something of a restructure and am still working out how to do it.

In the work I’ve done so far, I’m making the relationship between the two main characters more uncomfortable – this may sound like a bad thing but is actually important for character development.

The male character is in love with the female character, and they were best friends when they were teenagers.  But they have been apart for several years and the male character doesn’t know why. When the female character calls him out of the blue after the death of the woman who raised her, there is a lot of unspoken tension – even though something compels him to support her.

The segment I am now moving into needs some work to incorporate this awkwardness.

But I have to say that – despite my earlier horror at the many, many alterations I was making – I’m actually not too unhappy about the way the work during NaNoWriMo progresses. Yes, there are a lot of amendments, but as I read through it I can see that the characters are clearly drawn, their personalities reflected in their movements, actions and language. Maybe I was too hard on it – and myself – when I started the revision…

Or maybe I was right last time, and next week I’ll be saying I was wrong this week!

Other than that, I’ve sorted out the poems I was looking at amending.  I realised that if I thought the ends were too similar I only needed to fix one, not both.  It took me longer than I want to admit to realise this!  Anyway, I’ve done it and it’s pretty good, but I’ll look again next week.

Non-writing-wise, I’ve completed my last week of Astrobiology – this was my favourite week as it was the philosophical stuff about first contact. It leads me nicely into the next course which is a Philosophy course, and starts tomorrow.

But it also leads me straight back to writing.  It’s probably not the right time for the comedy book – my partner in mirth is hugely busy at the moment, so there’s a time issue anyway, but I’m so fired up by all that I’m learning, and the way different people can approach a question or an idea, that I want to use my new learning in a more practical, writerly way.  I don’t mean I’m turning to sci-fi (although I may attempt it in the future!), but that I want to write something that forces the reader to consider their own responses…  Not quite a morality tale but something where norms are challenged.

I will think on that a bit longer, but studying is inspiring on both a personal and a writing basis.

In other news – I read this article about how a company has offered to get books to the top of the best sellers list – for the bargain price of £46,000.  I don’t understand this; if no-one’s actually reading your book, what’s the point of going to the effort of writing, revising, editing, publishing, marketing etc?

Maybe I’m naive but I want people to actually like my work!

I’m going to leave it there for today and prepare myself for some philosophical thinking.  After all, I think, therefore I am…

Happy writing,



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Finally, here is the post I promised about news articles!  I’ve had to change it a bit to make it more up to date since I started 😉

I’ve often suggested reading the newspapers for inspiration.  This is something that was suggested when I studied creative writing and it is a rich source of ideas.   For me, the trick is to find the weirdest stories – the ones when my immediate reaction is either laughter or amazement, but some people might like crime cases or romances or science stories…

So I thought I’d look at a few stories, and give examples of the ideas that came to mind.  Please don’t take them too seriously!

1. The Horsemeat Scandal.

There has been a Europe-wide issue with the discovery of horsemeat in a number of beef products.  I don’t want to go into the ins and outs of a subject that’s been in the press for over a month (you can check out the link if you want more info), but suffice it to say there has been a lot of discussion, a fair few pretty terrible jokes, and a great deal of concern.

This seemed like the kind of story that could trigger a novel.  It’s so wide-ranging that it could cover almost any genre:

For the crime novelist, there could be international gangs of horse thieves, smuggling horses from stables to tables…

For the political novelist, perhaps there’s a cabal of secretive, shadowy types controlling the supply of food.

For a sci-fi writer this could be the starting point for a future where food production goes into the labs – only a terrible disaster destroys the production and people have to start surviving like the hunter-gatherers of the past.

For a romance novelist, how about some activists fighting for some truths about those food cabals, who meet at a rally?!

2: The retirement of Pope Benedict XVI

When the Pope decided to stand down, there was a great deal of surprise expressed in the media.  I knew that this was unusual, historically speaking, but I was not aware until I looked into it how unusual it was – you have to go back 600 years to see anything similar.

So of course this got me thinking about historical novels.  Perhaps one written from the point of view of Pope Gregory XII back in 1415, or it could be about the nature of the church at that time – or a simple person caught up in some way.  Or it could have nothing to do with the pope, and focus on something else at the time – eg the Battle of Agincourt (this is timely, as I’ve recently booked tickets to see Shakespeare’s Henry V for the first time – more on that another day!)

3: Discovery of a tiny planet

One close to my heart here – the has been a new planetary system found as part of the Kepler mission, orbiting a star similar to our sun.

This one is of course spurring thoughts of Star Trek-type interstellar travel, and the various inevitable challenges that would lead to.  It could also lend itself to a futuristic story based on Earth as we seek more resources to keep our 9 billion plus population safe and fed…

Or perhaps you could approach it as a poem – I like space poetry anyway but you can imagine the tiny planet, like a drop of water in a huge universe, and write about its potential – unfulfilled though it may (currently) be…

So there you go – a few examples of how I get from news article to writing idea.  Of course there are hundreds of stories to read every day, and some will be more enticing because you know the characters, or the place, or the subject – just go wherever your inspiration takes you.  Worst case scenario, you are better informed about something!

Please feel free to share some stories you’ve found interesting, you never know who might be inspired!

Happy writing



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Yes, it’s nearly time to say the first novel is done.  I cannot keep changing things forever, and although I’m well aware that there is a proofread yet to do, and any editor will no doubt change it, this is the version that I will send out for possible publication.

I have pretty much finished all the new writing – there’s maybe 200 words left to complete.  I don’t have a vast amount of time to re-read it before sending it off, so I’ll probably only do it once – but that may be a good thing!

All these extra sections have made it longer, so I’ll check that when I’ve read it through: I’m conscious of the ‘natural’ length of books within similar genres, and don’t want to stray too far off this guideline length.

I am now thinking about using the ‘NaNoWriMo’ model for a couple of other storylines I have in my head – I know I have the plans in place to start on book 3 but getting others on paper in some form will be a useful activity too.  I won’t do it through February but am strongly considering doing some planning in the next couple of months so I can run with the new storylines whenever I want.

I have also been continuing my publishing research.  So many publishers won’t look at manuscripts unless through an agent that it seems limiting not to consider this option: I have to learn a lot more in the next few weeks as this will be vital for my future book-publishing life.  If I can’t find an agent who is willing to take me on I can then decide either to re-work the novel or self publish.  It will be very much dependent on the feedback I get!

In other news – You may remember a while ago I was intending to take part in a free course on nutrition.  Unfortunately I missed the start date as I hadn’t realised how the site worked (a reminder that technology is not my thing!) so instead I have enrolled on a course on astrobiology!  Yes, it’s a bit of a leap but I love studying and miss it – plus I love space stuff, so why not?!

Also – A couple of days ago, it was Burn’s Night ; I love the idea of celebrating the life and work of a poet because I think that poets are underrated in terms of their influence on culture.  So although I didn’t celebrate on Friday, I will seek out some more of his poetry.  I’ll leave the haggis for someone else though…

And finally – talking of poetry, I’d love to hear whose poetry you enjoy!  I want to expand my knowledge of poets from other parts of the world and know you’ll have some great ideas where I should start…

Happy writing



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