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My love affair with science fiction (part two)

July 29, 2018

I was 11 when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’d written stories before, most of which had fantastical elements. One had to do with a time machine. Another was about a couple of kids who travelled to a parallel world by magic.

By the time I turned 11, I had raided the local library for non-fiction books about space. I especially remember a book series for kids which introduced me to black holes and Stephen Hawking. I devoured European comics in great quantities and especially enjoyed Tintin’s journey to the Moon and the Yoko Tsuno series about a kickass Japanese woman with a degree in electro engineering who made contact with aliens. I had also decided my favourite of Walter Farley’s books was The Island Stallion Races (from 1955 in which two alien shapeshifters and their spaceship interfere with an otherwise run-of-the-mill horse book. Yes, you read that right.).

I loved acting out stories when I played as a kid. My action figures and My Little Ponies had names and background stories. At one point, the other kids thought they were too old to play. They wanted to “hang out” instead. Of course, I could still play on my own, but I wanted something else. And that’s when I decided, as much as a pre-teen can make major decisions, I wanted to become a writer.

My first longish story (50 pages or so and followed by a number of sequels of the same length) was science fiction. I was very into the original Star Trek series at this point, and I think it was around the same time that I read the Danish translation of Douglas Adams’ The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The story was about a spaceship and its crew who went on various missions to fight evil aliens and deal with various demands made by their leaders back on Earth. I think I had just started to learn English in school the same year, and thus my vocabulary wasn’t very large, and I certainly did not know much slang. For obvious reasons, I wrote in my native language, but since American TV shows were cool, I wanted to give my characters English or American sounding names.

The captain of the spaceship was a really tough sort of bloke, so he needed a short, poignant, no-nonsense name. Something that sounded cool and had a bit of oomph … And thus Dick Hard was born. Yeah. So that happened. It wasn’t until years later when I found myself thinking of the story that I realised what I’d done.

Well, I spent many fond hours of my childhood with Captain Hard and his crew before I moved on to the next story, and the one after that, and the one after that …

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My love affair with science fiction (part one)

July 8, 2018

If you’ve read any of my stories before, you might think science fiction is a sudden shift from my normal focus (fantasy in all its high, low and urban capacities). But I’ve always had a fascination with science fiction, and it’s how I began to tell stories in the first place. Come on. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. This is going to be a series of posts, and it will include a story I’ve been longing (and dreading) to tell for years in a later post.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin with my very first exposure to science fiction.

This was back in the 1980s, well before Netflix and quite a few years before my family got its first VCR (that’s the precursor to a DVD for those of you of a younger persuasion). Every evening, the Danish TV channel (yes, there was just the one) had a show for children for around 30 minutes. I remember a lot of them quite fondly.

I think I was three when the show broadcast a short series known as Bamse på planeten. That’s Danish for Teddybear on the Planet. The aptly named Bamse has since become a major character in children’s TV here, but it was this particular series that I fell in love with then and again in subsequent reruns. In it, Bamse (who happens to be a human-sized yellow infantile teddybear and is actually a giant costume worn by the dude who plays him) travels to a small planet called Joakim.

There’s a lot of miniscule volcanos on this planet, some of which can be used for baking bread, a sentient flower and a peculiar creature called Forlæns og Baglæns (that’s Forward and Backward) who has a face in each end. To this day, I’m not entirely sure whether Forlæns og Baglæns should be considered Siamese twins, a single entity with two heads or something different altogether.

Bamse also encountered a human named Arthur who looked after various planets in space and used his spaceship with the number 42 to travel between them. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference only dawned on me when I read up on the series to write this post. Arthur also sings a song about being super busy but still chilling and about using your imagination.

Well, my imagination certainly benefited from the show. It captivated me and got me hooked on stories about space travel, other worlds and fantastical creatures.

Announcements

May 3, 2018

I’ve got news. Big news. Probably the biggest news I’ve ever shared with you.

In December, I finished writing a novel that I’d been working on determinedly for a while. A few months later, I had edited it and gathered comments from my trusted beta readers and was ready to start querying. And now … well, I think you’ve guessed where this is headed, but let me say it anyway, okay?

I have a publisher!

My novel could not have found a better home. The publisher is called Spaceboy Books. I’ve read a few of their titles and enjoyed them immensely, and the vision of the founders corresponds perfectly with my own views. Furthermore, they exclusively publish science fiction which is great because my novel happens to be one (post apocalyptic fiction to be precise).

At this stage, I can’t share any details regarding my book, but I will keep you updated as soon as I can tell you more about it.

– But I do have one more announcement: Spaceboy Books publishes an annual collection called Boned and donates the proceeds to charity. The 2017 edition has just been released, and it contains a short story by me. Incidentally, that very story inspired my novel and can be said to be a prequel to it. So if you are curious, why not pick up the collection, discover some great, new writers and support a worthy cause at the same time?

Reboot

April 21, 2018

From: M. Howalt
To: The Internet (ATTN: Blogosphere)
Subject: On being a writer with PCS

Dear Internet,

I’m sorry for leaving you so suddenly and without much of an explanation. I know it made me seem flaky and may even have worried some, so I’d like to tell you a little bit about what happened and what I plan to do now.

In September 2015, I suffered a “minor” injury, a concussion to be specific. It wasn’t a serious accident that caused it, and it should have gone away on its own after a few days. Or weeks. Or months. It didn’t. Hence the snarky quotation marks above. I now have a condition called PCS (Post-Concussion Syndrome). It means that I am easily exhausted and get nasty headaches and nausea if I work with backlit screens for too long, and even reading on paper can be quite straining.

I imagine that when I hit the upload button for this blog entry, I will have written it over two or three days, proofread it on another day and waited one more day because sharing the link on social media also demands screen work and concentration.

Will my condition get better? Yes, probably. Do I know when? No. Am I going to let it get me down? Heck no.

That’s the situation. That’s the lamentation. Now let’s move on to the silver lining. Putting activities on indefinite hold, having to plan and prioritise every single thing I do and needing to rest every day have provided me with a lot of healthy insights. I’ll stick to the writing-related ones here although I could go on about mental health and mindfulness too because … you know, it’s a blog about writing.

The first thing I learnt is how important writing is to me. Yes, I knew it was important, sure, but the moment you physically cannot skip a day writing and catch up another day, the moment when you can’t check Twitter and Facebook and write on the same day, the moment when you miss playing a computer game and know you could play or ten or maybe fifteen minutes, but also know that it would mean not writing that day (and maybe the next if you play for a little too long) … When you have to make constant choices, you find out what it is that you can’t imagine living without.

So I wrote. I wrote, and I worked on finding the best method for me to do it. I have recently finished a novel (but more about that in a later entry) that came to life during my PCS struggle. To begin with, I used a dictation app on my phone for a few minutes every day. Then I took notes and drafted scenes in a notebook and dictated them afterwards. Then finally I got a fantastic tool to help me (and I owe my friend Aden Ng a huge thank you for pointing out its existence to me!): An Dasung e-ink monitor. That is a non-backlit screen, much like a Kindle.

Of course, those are just the technical aspects. I think most writers probably prefer to be able to immerse themselves in their writing, to get into flow without interruption for hours when inspiration hits. Without that possibility, I had to find a way of accessing that place in my mind anyway. The solution to this, for me, is to have a huge synopsis pinned on my wall, to leave a note at the bottom of the document I’m working at on my computer to remind me what’s next and to write so often that I never fully leave the universe of the story I’m working on. And to spend some extra time with my characters by drawing them and such.

It’s not the fastest I’ve ever worked. But it is definitely the most consistent. And it is the first novel-length story where I have had no blocks and have almost been in flow every time I put my fingers on the keyboard.

I think all this amounted to the realisation that at this point in my life, writing is both the hardest thing for me to do and the easiest and definitely the thing I need to do.

So … What now? Well, my main interest lies in storytelling. In novels and short stories. But I also miss putting my thoughts out in non-fiction form. I miss blogging, so I have decided to do that. At a slow, calm pace that suits my current needs. So I’ll plan and write ahead and schedule my blog entries. I’ll focus less on links and media and probably make shorter entries (splitting some up in instalments) to allow for semi-regular updates.

I think that’s it for now. If you’ve followed me for a while: Thank you for sticking around! If you’re new here: Welcome! Regardless, I want to thank you for reading.

Camp NaNoWriMo

April 16, 2016

This month is Camp NaNoWriMo, the April writing challenge. Unlike NaNoWriMo in November, you can set your own word count goal and keep track of that on the site, and you get to join a virtual cabin of other writers.

This time I’m in a cabin with some of my JukePop pals which is super cool. It’s a bit like a virtual writing group.

I’m working on a novel that takes place in the world of my novella Conviction. It’s set around 10 years before Iliya’s trial and revolves around the Keeper, Cornelius Rowenheall. The scope of it is a lot broader than Conviction, and it has multiple viewpoint characters (one of them will, hopefully, reappear in the sequel to Conviction someday) who tell the story of the Keeper and a national crisis that arises in the country Gerania. I’m really enjoying being back in that world and exploring some of the things that I haven’t had the opportunity to do before.

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An old draft, my outline and files on some of the characters related to my project.

 

5 Books That Shaped Me: Teen Reads

March 15, 2016

I did say I would make it a series, didn’t I? Here’s the second post about books that shaped me. (The first one was about childhood memories.)

It’s terribly difficult to choose just five for this post because I read a lot as a teenager. I would devour anything that looked interesting (and sometimes books that didn’t as well) in the local library and it’s a period during which I (like all teenagers) evolved a lot, so my taste changed accordingly over those years. Anyway, I decided on these to represent my teens:

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It’s a mix of supernatural genres. In my teen years, I really was most into science fiction. All my favourite TV shows were science fiction.

  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice was the first novel with a focus on vampires that I read. I went on to the next few in the series and found that I really enjoyed the narrator change (I was more for Lestat than Louis). In a way, these books inspired me to write about vampires in the first place. I still have a few of them around in my stories, but it’s probably needless to say that they are not very much like Anne Rice’s.
  • I had to include Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey because I read the Pern series right around the time when we got internet at home and the books became a catalyst for my interacting socially online (this was way before Facebook and Twitter, kids. We’re talking mailing lists and IRC here). They also made me start writing in English (albeit not very well to begin with) to share my own stories with others online.
  • Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles has to be on the list because our household had a number of his books (translated into Danish), and this one was my favourite. Science fiction, you know. I loved how the short stories were connected, and one of them included a poem by Lord Byron (my first encounter with him, I think).
  • I picked the first book of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books for this list although my favourite was probably The Prisoner of Azkaban. I  got started on the series rather late, but I fondly remember breezing through the first four books (the fifth wasn’t yet out at the time).
  • The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams kept me busy during a summer break. I remember getting the first book from the library to see if I liked it – and then the next ones a couple of days later. I loved the humour, I loved Ford Prefect. When I look back at the stories I wrote at the time, it’s clear that I was so inspired by Douglas Adams. Not so much when it came to plots, but I was definitely trying to be funny. Mostly Harmless was the first novel I read in English (it hadn’t been translated into Danish). Clearly I didn’t stop again.

Which books have changed you, helped you or shaped you? Please feel free to join me in the comment section or on your own blog (or other social media) using #5booksthatshapedme – I would love to hear which books mean something special to you!

5booksthatshapedme

Ready for a new serial? Focal Point is here!

January 27, 2016

If you’re a regular here, you’ll know that I’ve muttered something about launching a new serial novel on JukePop for a few months. Guess what! It’s finally here!

My new serial is called Focal Point. I actually wrote the first draft years ago and have been wanting to do something more with it. It’s a bit different from anything else you might have read by me so far, and I’m pretty excited about publishing it. The first chapter is online now I’ll be updating biweekly (at least to begin with) on Thursdays – starting tomorrow.

Here’s the blurb:focalpointcoverforjp

Sean considers himself a pretty normal guy. His biggest problems include making ends meet as a freelance photographer, his mother’s obsession over a picture he once took of a puppy, choosing the best wine for a double date, and his perfect boyfriend’s brain surgeon uncle who hates Sean for no apparent reason.

Well, that is until Sean’s whole world starts cracking at the seams. Only, no one else seems to be noticing, and Sean is known to have an overly active imagination. But what’s lurking in the darkness underneath the fabric of reality?

Literary fiction with a supernatural twist.

 

I hope you’ll check it out. And please, do let me know what you think! Tell your friends if you like it. Tell your enemies if you don’t. Ahem … Well, seriously, a serial really does depend on support from its readers.

And on the subject of my jumping from magical fantasyland to contemporary Copenhagen, here’s a question for readers and writers alike: Do you usually stick to certain genres, or do you read/write across them? Are there some genres that you absolutely would not dream of touching, or does it depend on the execution rather than the genre?

 

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