Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Procrastination techniques, exercise, and how to work out what book to read next.


That was the unspoken resolution. Get more writing done. Finish The Wills Tower, and move on to rewriting Levels 4. The good news is that I've printed out the first draft of Levels 4 in small writing on A3 paper. The whole thing is only 20 double page spreads, for me to scribble over and highlight. I particularly need to find where add some Great Gatsby, and some violence.

And I will do all that, and more, once I get started. Unfortunately I'm still loving the Vulture a bit too much. This is a chart that tells you what YA book you should read. Genius.

You can find it HERE, courtesy of the Vulture.

I'm not going to read the book, of course. I'm going to get on my new exercise routine, then get that final Wills Tower chapter done. The exercise involves walking up the steps to Jabal Webdei, walking down then back up again. Kittens skitter around my feet and from time to time the mosque drowns out my audio book. Got to get fit before Christmas...

Friday, 22 November 2013

What concept did I invent today? And how did it turn out? What are the top ten YA books of the year? Lena Dunham and Girls 3.

I invented the November resolution.

The concept is simple. If things are worth doing, then why wait til January? Get them done. What are mine?

1. Surf the internet more imaginatively. Find cool stuff. Learn. Get new perspectives. Up until today I mainly bounced between my four or five favourite little corners, which is crazy, because the internet is like a massive magical world.

Here's one of the things I found today: TOP TEN YA NOVELS OF 2013. Which have you read? I only managed one, but I definitely need to check out Rainbow Rowell.

Another brilliant discovery was VULTURE, where I came across tons of cool stuff, including the GIRLS teaser.

2. Get a pinboard. An actual physical pinboard on the wall behind my desk. Okay, I did this two days ago, but I started using it today. The plan is that random ideas will go there, instead of in a dozen scattered notepads. I'll see them every day, and add to them, and rearrange them, and be prompted to do stuff about them.

3. Blog more. My last post was on Monday, four days ago. Job done.

Monday, 18 November 2013

New LEVELS story, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness, The Wills Tower and Kyle Thompson

I'll tell you the good news first. The good news is that there's a new Levels story approaching.

The bad news is it's not the one people are expecting. I finished the first draft of Levels 4, and put it aside to get my breath, and got distracted by dystopian novels. Got so distracted that I wrote one...

Here's the idea: Song to Wake to is the springboard of the Levels series. It's the unveiling of the key relationship, and the paramount secret. What happens next is kind of the obvious way for the story to go, if the world stayed the same.

What if the world didn't stay the same?

What if in lots of ways it ended?

What would happen to the Levels series, and its characters - bearing in mind their special qualities - if society collapsed around their ears?

That's what THE WILLS TOWER is about. I  read and obsessed about Wool, by Hugh Howey at the beginning of the year. Then I read the complete Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. Here's the first, The Knife of Never Letting Go:

It's set in a world quite like ours, but with two key differences: Men can hear each other think, and the world is inhabited by a second, very different, intelligent species. Patrick Ness really develops about these two things would really mean. People's thoughts are 'noise' and they're deafening, and maddening. The other species are communal, maybe aggressive, maybe not. They are so fused as a social unit that they don't even have individual names.

The story is about a boy, the last boy, trying to make his way through this world. So is THE WILLS TOWER. As well as being about Maddie and Eddy, it has a third character, a boy alone, called Roman.

We meet Roman when he is in love, and being picked on. He asks a girl out, and a bully mocks him. "Only if you were the last boy in the world," he is told. THE WILLS TOWER in part, is about the process of that coming true, and in part about how dealing with high school can be good preparation for dealing with the end of the world.

I'm going to call THE WILLS TOWER 'Levels 2B' and it can be an alternative sequel to Song to Wake to. It will be out before Levels 4, which is being slowed by rewrites and getting the cover perfect. I've just been inspired by the photo at the start of this blog, and this one.

You can read more about them here, the most amazing pictures I've seen for years. Hopefully the cover of Levels 4 'THE WALLED LAKE' will have the qualities of one of them.

Hopefully it won't take too long...

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Minas Tirith is a Real Place, as is Alicante of the Shadowhunters: 5 Reasons this is a Great Vacation

I've got a new completely amazing place for you to visit.

This city was New York, Rome and London combined. It was the richest, biggest, most modern place in the world. When many people lived in huts of dirt and sticks, and a big town had a hundred families, this was a city of palaces and cathedrals, and millions of inhabitants, from every corner of the known world.

Many of the hut dwellers wouldn't have even known it existed, of course, or where it was, but for those that made it there it must have been an astonishing place. Now you can do better. You know it exists, and if you really, really want to, you can go there.

Constantinople, later known as Istanbul, simply 'The City.' When King Arthur was alive, this place was the centre of the Western World.

 These are the great walls, stretching completely across a peninsula, built one-and-a-half thousand years ago and still standing. They were the greatest fortifications in the world, and behind them they kept safe the riches and palaces of an empire. One happy afternoon I walked their length, from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. In places they are tumble down, and incorporated into the structure of raggle-taggle houses. In others they are restored, and grand, and you can walk along their tops. In a thousand years they were breached only three times, by the Crusaders, the Ottomans, and an outcast emperor, returning to take back what was his.
 The walls and the city were built by emperors in their lives. In their deaths they were housed in great black coffins, made from ton-heavy cubes of stone. The Archaeological Museum has them lined up, bigger than parked cars and much more menacing. The statuary of the Byzantines that has survived the centuries stands in a beautiful little garden.
 The palace of the Byzantines, once the most luxurious and magnificent in the world, has disappeared, but the amazing mosaics of its floors have been rediscovered. They stretch the size of basketball courts, works of art composed of millions of fragments of stone.
 The coolest place in Constantinople, though, is here:
 An enormous water cistern in the form of a gigantic cave, its roof held up by lines of slender, stone columns. Small lights sit at the base of each pillar, and the light glimmers on the two foot deep water that fills the floor. The light is feeble, though, and dies before it reaches the last line of pillars. The columns and dark water stretch beyond sight.

As cool as the cisterns (there are a couple of them) are, they aren't the best bit of old Constantinople. This is it. Hagia Sophia. The holy wisdom. For 1000 years it was the biggest building in the world. If you aren't convinced check out the size of the people standing on the balconies, then see how high the ceiling arches above them, and remember it has arched like that for 1500 years. When Columbus sailed the Atlantic, this was one of the oldest buildings in the world.

Read that again, and think about it for a second. It was the cathedral of Christianity. When Rome was being trashed by savages, this church was where the great emperors of Byzantium celebrated mass. A thousand years ago Vladimir the Great of Ukraine visited. "We no long knew if we were in heaven or earth," he said of the moment he looked up at the vast dome, that seemed to float above dozens of windows.

Of course I've missed out the whole Ottoman Istanbul bit, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, etc. Maybe I'll save that for another post. Maybe you'd like to go and see it yourself. I recommend it.

There are places on the earth that outreach the greatest dreams of authors and artists. This is one of them. A tumbled stone from a Byzantine wall has forgotten more stories than I shall ever write.