Through the Labyrinths of the Mind by Bevan Thomas

SF Canada member Bevan Thomas has just successfully concluded a Kickstarter campaign for the graphic anthology, Through the Labyrinths of the Mind, from Cloudscape Comics.

Along with writer and artist Hanna Lou Myers, Bevan co-edited this timely project in which a wide range of British Columbia comic creators explore their struggles with mental health issues.

Each of Labyrinths’ stories explores mental health in a unique and personal way. Many are memoirs in which the cartoonists candidly describe their own struggles, while others take inspiration from their creators’ experiences to tell fictional stories in numerous genres, ranging from realistic slice-of-life dramas to tales of magic and fantasy. The stories present mental health issues through a wide variety of symbolism – OCD as a host of whispering gremlins, depression as a suffocating black mass, anxiety a mask to hide your true self. In all cases, the chosen genre and symbolism are the ones that best capture the particular cartoonist’s psychological truth, sharing with the reader their own internal journey.

For a full list of contributors and more detail about this anthology, visit the Kickstarter page.

Bevan is a writer, editor, and creative writing teacher best known for his involvement with Cloudscape Comics, BC’s largest comics collective. His work has also appeared in the anthologies Beyond and Superhero Universe: Tesseracts 19, and the magazine Pulp Literature. Bevan teaches writing for comics and comic book history in Langara College’s Graphic Novel & Comix program.

Learn more about Bevan’s work at www.bevanthomas.ca.

Copies of Through the Labyrinths of the Mind will soon be available through Cloudscape Comics.

Writers’ Craft 10: Revision

So, you’ve written a thing

You’ve just keyed in the final word, placed punctuation, and the sense of accomplishment that settles over you is profound. You’re done.

Or are you?

At this point it’s all too easy to think there isn’t another thing that needs doing to that piece of writing. You’ve been careful throughout, not only with the mechanics of good writing — punctuation, spelling, grammar — but with plot, literary devices, character development, research. It would be all too easy to pull the trigger and fire it off to an agent or publisher, or the editor of that magazine you’re trying to crack, or hit the upload button through a self-publishing portal.

Don’t.

Time develops perspective

Good writing is like good wine. It needs time. What you really should do at this point is close the document, walk away, go do something else for a week, or four, or a couple of months. Do something completely different. Even write something completely different. But whatever you do, do not pull the trigger on the freshly-finished manuscript. Why? Because, and trust me on this, when you do come back to the piece you’ll come back to it with a fresh perspective. It always astonishes me, in my own work, how much tighter, cleaner, cohesive I can make the story by simply allowing myself time. I get to review all the plot inconsistencies, all the opportunities for development, all the missed conversations or descriptions or research which would have furthered not just the plot, but character, tension, the entire foundation of what I’ve created.

And if I can benefit from the boon of time and perspective, so can you. So walk away.

Create a new document

You don’t have to, but I have found it useful to save my revision as a new document. Not that I’ve ever had to go back to the original draft, but it just strikes me as a good failsafe in case things go awry. And they can. Mr. Murphy, who always likes to exercise his law, may just pull up to your document have tea.

Once that bit of housekeeping is out of the way, then you can set to your revision. What you’re doing at this point is coming at it from a distance, as an editor with a critical eye. Some writers set about their revision through Track Changes in Word (or whatever equivalent tool in your word processing program). Myself, I don’t bother.

Other writers print out a hard copy of the document and make their changes pen to paper. Again, this is something I don’t do personally. But if you find any of these methods works for you, then do it. As I’ve said before: there is no single, correct way of writing. You have to find your own method and your own rhythm.

But what I do know is that a second or even third revision may be called for, because after each pass you should again step away, allow yourself time in which to think about the story. When you are utterly comfortable, when you can’t think of another point or opportunity you’ve missed, then go back over the manuscript once or twice with a spelling and grammar check. I would caution you not to hit the universal change button. I’ve done this a few times, much to my despair, only to discover some horrendous changes which took me days to undo.

Will my manuscript ever be perfect?

Probably not. What in life is? When I was publishing other authors’ work, I can remember agonizing over errors we’d let slip through, even after two, sometimes three different editors, plus the author, would have a look. One of my own novels is out there, and I still grit my teeth because I know there are spelling errors I didn’t catch after nine — yes, nine! — revisions and edits.

But do take encouragement and pride in the fact you’ve done your level best to polish your story to the best of your ability. Sure, you can churn out six novels a year. But do you really want to? Will those six novels be works you can look back upon with pride? If you’re writing just to create pulp, then fine. But if you’re writing because of a different calling, or as a journalist who cares about correct detail, then time and an exacting nature will stand you in good stead.

When Words Collide 2021

Save the dates this August 13 through 15 2021 for When Words Collide (WWC) the annual Canadian literary festival based in Calgary, AB. This popular event for fiction readers, writers, artists, and publishers is open for registration.

As with last year’s online event, WWC 2021 will be both online-only and FREE to attend with most panels and workshops taking place via Zoom. WWC is an inclusive event with programming covering a broad range of commercial and literary fiction, poetry, and more.

WWC has grown to become one of Canada’s largest literary events and is now celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2021.

Learn more about WWC at: whenwordscollide.org/About_WWC

Register to attend this year’s virtual conference here: whenwordscollide.org/Registration

A Virtual Campfire Tale with Mark Leslie

Join SF Canada member Mark Leslie for a virtual event tomorrow, Tuesday April 13, 2021 at 7 PM EST. Mark will be live reading “The Shadow Men” a short story meant to be read around a campfire.

Mark’s reading will be live streamed to YouTube and Facebook, with an interactive chance to ask questions as well as some prizes randomly drawn from those who comment.

Register in advance for an extra chance to win one of Mark’s audiobooks.

Krista Wallace on Myth & Magic

SF Canada member Krista Wallace was recently interviewed by Neil Mach on his UK podcast Myth & Magic. This podcast is aimed at Fantasy writers and focuses on research into history, mythology, fable and folklore.

In episode 75 of Myth & Magic, Krista talks with Neil about her Gatekeeper series and the struggles related to it, as well as Krista’s own podcast, Totally Fantastic Title.

Krista also recently released the second book in this series, Gatekeeper’s Deception – Deceiver. Like the first in this series, Gatekeeper’s Deception was a finalist in the Colorado Gold Contest.

The Lady Alon Maer, wife of duke Kien Bartheylen, is pregnant and seriously ill. Swordfighter Kyer Halidan, along with her company of friends, takes on the mission to find a cure. If they fail, Alon and her baby will die.

An alluring stranger who calls himself The Guardian appears along the way and gives Kyer timely warnings, earning her trust, and hinting at her true identity. But is he helping her, or serving his own ends?

An uncanny escape, a gift from a dead warrior, a shocking message for Kyer’s ears only, all sow suspicions among her friends that she is not who she claims to be. Even as their faith in her is tainted, her nemesis plots his vengeance: exposing unassailable evidence that it is Kyer who is attempting to murder Alon Maer.

 

Krista Wallace is a writer, singer and actor. She writes short fiction in a variety of genres, and long fiction, primarily in fantasy. Krista sings jazz in a big band called FAT Jazz, and a duo called the Itty Bitty Big Band. She also does audiobook narration, and puts out a weekly podcast. She likes dark chocolate and fine single malt scotch.

Learn more about Krista and explore her work at kristawallace.com.

Purchase Gatekeeper’s Deception at Chirp, Google Play, and other audiobook platforms.

Writers’ Craft 9: Research

A good writer is an informed writer

I remember interviewing biographer and historian Marian Fowler for The Canadian Author and Bookman, back when the Canadian Authors Association published that wonderful writers’ periodical. She was particular about her research, always digging for accuracy and primary sources, and because of that her work rang with truth, a fact which sometimes garnered her a bit of trouble as was evidenced when she wrote her history on Blenheim. Seems the Duke of Marlborough took umbrage to Marian referencing some of the interesting escapades and traditions established by Consuelo Vanderbilt, who became one of the legendary American heiresses to marry into British aristocracy, and thus the Duchess of Marlborough, and rescue heritage estates. Marian had a love of discovery, of unearthing facts and history around the subjects about which she wrote. I remember her saying she was so very glad not only for her extensive education, but the fact she had a lifetime of immersion into reading, often esoteric reading, and thus a broad knowledge. She said something to the effect of having a head full of interesting trivia. That paradigm stuck with me. And while I’d always had a love of discovery, I realized it was important to encourage and cultivate that love in order to enrich the articles and stories I wrote. The fact it has always been fun for me was an added bonus.

Blenheim: a Biography of a Palace, Marian Fowler

So if you’re going to venture into writing, whether as a journalist or creator of fiction or non-fiction, the love of research is a work-paradigm you need to embrace. Sure, there are lots of writers out there bashing out novel after novel, book after book, spouting pseudo expertise and consumable, forgettable work. In and of itself there’s nothing wrong with that. Escapism is perfectly fine. However, if you want to write a really good book, or a memorable fiction, then you need to gather around you an arsenal of information which will allow you to write with authority. Do that, and your work transcends because it is believable. You have infused your story with plausibility, and it’s that plausibility which will have readers returning to your stories both familiar and new.

How far do you take that research?

As far as I’m concerned, and this is only my perspective on the window of writers’ craft, there is no limit on how far you take your research. Myself, I’m often guilty of doing too much research, because I find myself frozen with uncertainty regarding what is sometimes minutia. But it matters to me, because if that Norseman in my story is spooning down a plate of rutabaga (neeps or swedes), I need to know rutabaga was available in the 2nd century. In fact, I’ve recently learned rutabaga wasn’t available until the 16th century, and is a hybrid cross between turnips and cabbage. So, no, that character in my 2nd century story won’t be macerating a mess of rutabaga. He would, however, chow down on turnip. And, yes, turnip is a different vegetable to rutabaga.

Why does that matter? Well, because there is assuredly some person out there who is going to read my story and come across this passing, one line sentence and nod with approval because they know I have my facts straight, and that, in turn, deposits further proof of plausibility of the story, and credibility of the writer. Which, hopefully in turn, will mean that reader will put me on their list of writers they want to read. So, in a way, good research is good marketing.

As an editor — and you will forgive me for reiterating an oft-stated example — if you’re going to have your character trekking about at night, be aware that unless it’s a brilliantly moonlit night, in open territory, there isn’t a hope in hell that character will be able to see colour, let alone details like, oh, that big mucking ravine in a dense forest they’re about to pitch into. Or, if you have that character going into an inn there isn’t going to be some great massive beastie roasting over the fire in the main room. Inns, in any time period, in any culture, were the masters of fast food. So the fare would range through soups, stews, pottage, pies both savoury and sweet, bread, cheese, cured meat, fish either fresh or salt, and small fowl. And no there isn’t going to be peacock, because in most European cultures that was a royal bird. As was swan. Even venison, rabbit, pheasant, grouse or other game procured by the common folk could have you either mutilated or executed. The royals were mighty particular about what could and couldn’t be taken from their land, and they owned most of the land. So you, as a weary traveller, had to rely upon what was readily available in the common market, legal for trade, and easy to keep, prepare and serve. Unless, of course, this is some sort of underground inn serving the illegal and perhaps even dangerous. That’s another whole interesting story.

And you also need to be aware of what was available in season. So, you won’t be having fresh asparagus served with roasted potatoes, because the former is a spring vegetable, and the latter an autumnal. Unless you’re dealing with a culture which has access to food preservation in the modern or future world. But those methods of preservation have to be plausible and credible.

If you’re looking for some excellent visual examples of, say, British Regency, there are some superb British films in which the details are perfect and delightful. Comes to mind one of my personal favourites, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion done in 1995, staring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. From the salt stains on the naval uniforms, to the mustard seed crust on a baked ham, the correct shoulder seam treatments in garments, to furnishings in homes from peasant through gentry, it is an intimately researched film which remains utterly true to the time period and the author’s vision.

These details matter. Always.

But what kind of research?

Primary source is always your first, best reference. What do I mean by that? From the horse’s mouth, as it were. If you can find it, an extant text from the period, and it doesn’t matter whether that text is a print book in your hand, or available digitally through a well-annotated Wikipedia entry or website. Secondary sources are fine, but you want to reference the bibliography to see if the writer(s) used primarily primary sources for their research.

For example, in my current novel in progress, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to access, and be in correspondence with, archeologists who are curating and researching the sites about which I’m writing. So, wow. I’m in historical writers’ nirvana.

If you’re writing science fiction, then you want to be sure you have solid research regarding whatever subject you’re discussing, whether that’s space travel, an alien invasion, or alien world. It has to be plausible. And it’s plausible because you have the research right.

The Expanse, by Amazon Prime

To refer again to film, one of the most startling and plausible science fiction series I’ve had the pleasure to view was The Expanse. Not only was it great writing and world-building, but it was utterly plausible because the research and science were so tight. Sure, the series isn’t going to be everyone’s bliss, but the fact they made space travel difficult, that they made living in space have physical consequences, that the political intrigue had the ring of humanity’s truth, all went toward giving the series absolute credibility. This is no Star Trek, “Give me warp nine,” let’s sit in comfy theatre chairs science fantasy. This is good science fiction, because the science is real and credible.

Do my homework?

So, yes, do your homework. Get to know the world about which you’re writing, not just the characters. Make that world come alive, and you infuse life into that work because you understand all the minutia of that world and how it functions. Cultivate an encyclopedic mind and let that spill out into your story. It is my belief it will make a better story. And the adventure you have along the way may turn out to be something completely engaging and rewarding, because, after all, what is art but an expression of self and vision?