Creating Inspiration

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Sometimes we wait too long to be inspired. Sometimes we expect the world to come to us when we should venture out into the world. I have been avoiding writing a blog entry for a few months, expecting that something exciting would happen worth talking about. Or perhaps I was waiting for some news about my writing. However, experiencing setbacks with my writing should not have prevented me from taking time to express myself.

What I should have been doing is getting out and finding inspiration from the world around me. Life isn’t always glamorous, but sometimes real beauty can be found in the small things that you see everyday or little interactions you have with people around you. You only have to look at how many people post photos of their cat, or what they ate for lunch on social media to see that people think every day life is worth sharing.

I have to remind myself that we create our own excitement, just as we create our own boredom. In my job as a sound designer, I am constantly having to switch on creativity as if it were flowing from a tap. Sometimes this is easy to do, if the project is exciting, or new, or if I am on a roll, but sometimes it’s hard and I have to find new ways to trigger that creative enthusiasm. Often this involves going out and doing field recording or buying a new plug-in for my studio. New tools and toys are a handy way to rekindle a childlike approach to work. You want to make your job more like playing and less like labour.

For writing, new toys usually means stationary.  I love stationary. The smell of a new paper journal and the feel of a fresh pen fill me with joy. Today however, my new toy is my dictation software. So far it seems to be working fairly well. However, I think I could have typed all of this by hand much faster,  but I’m sure I’ll get better.

Aside from gadgets and gizmos, the real reason I got back onto this blog today was because I started back at work after my Christmas break. I was inspired by seeing my fellow artists at work and feeling the good vibes of being back on the project with my team. Sometimes free time and leisure can be the biggest killer of inspiration for me and it’s not until I’m flat out at work that I find myself thinking about my own art.

So, I’d love to hear from you. What motivates you all to pick up your instruments? Or to sit at that keyboard? Or open another blank page? How do you create your inspiration?

Musk and the Journey to Mars.

 

musk

Philanthropists are rarely rich enough or skilled enough at business to get the results that Elon Musk does. He’s like Iron Man, but he’s less likely to get into a fight.

A few weeks ago I watched Musk give a breakdown of his plan to colonise Mars. It was so inspiring. Millions of people have been waiting and hoping for the world to take this step into the next frontier. He is actioning those dreams. The plan is simple; to take science and make it fiction no more.

Musk is on a mission to develop technology to improve human life, but he also has the vision to see that there are pitfalls to every promise that technology yields. He is all about figuring out how those pitfalls can be avoided.

He is also critically aware that we can’t afford to not pursue space travel. Not only for the purpose of’ “backing up the biosphere,” and to protect our way of life, but also to give our species direction. He says the main driver for looking to establishing other colonies in our solar system is because; “it would be an incredible adventure. We need to wake up and be excited about the future. To be inspired and want to live.”

He says that the proposal to colonise Mars, “appeals to everyone with an exploratory spirit.” And that’s the thing I believe will make this plan successful. Over the past decade, I have been feeling an increasing interest in space exploration from the general public. It’s noticeable in the steady rise in science fiction films and books. You see it in social media too. People are starting to take the idea of travel to Mars seriously. As the potential for public funding increases, so does the prospects of every day people becoming space travellers. People are becoming personally invested. Even for someone who doesn’t want to go, the very idea that the choice is open to them or to their loved ones will encourage their interest or support. His plan will inspire people all across the globe want to share in this collaborative venture.

It’s genius.

As with any new innovative ideas and possibilities, the younger generation will be the key. The enterprise will inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and artists.

I believe colonising other worlds will be a critical step towards unifying the human race. It’s not until a child grows up and leaves home that they can truly realise the value of having a family. Of course families argue, but they also offer support. It is in our species nature to fight each other, but perhaps, out in space there is something else to fight for.

http://www.spacex.com/

Creative Freedom–Selling Sounds and Selling Words.

Hi guys, It’s been a while.

There has been a lot happening here. I’ve been busy helping Dave get the first of our commercial sound libraries up for sale online. After working in the film industry on other people’s projects for so long, it’s great to finally start making stuff for ourselves.

If you’re looking for some lovely nature sounds to write to, then I highly recommend them 🙂 You can check them out on Dave’s website.

Meanwhile, my publishing plan is ticking along. I just read this article on readsy, interviewing David Fugate, agent of Andy Weir. (Author of ‘the Martian’).

I found it very interesting. Agents are talking more these days about indie-publishing as a positive thing.  He says:

‘I’m a huge fan of self-publishing (in all its myriad forms) and what it has done for both authors and readers. I think it’s amazing that it’s no longer a question of if your work will be published, but how…. If what you’re doing is good, you absolutely will have an opportunity to find an audience for it. It just feels like a much more hopeful, positive environment in which to be a writer…. Now is the best time, in the entire history of the written word, to be a writer.’

And that is what I love about it. The positivity it brings. I feel so liberated knowing that I don’t need to pine my hours away waiting for a rejection from yet another agent. I don’t have to wait months just to get a request for a partial and get my hopes up just to be rejected again. I don’t have to spend hours researching publishing houses and deciding if they’d be interested in my book.

I can spend all that time instead on solidifying my own process, honing my marketing skills and lets not forget, WRITING!

So between our sound libraries, my writing and my work in Sound Design, I am loving my creative freedom more than ever!

 

 

Publishing Announcement – My Book

magic-book

Hello everyone!

It is time for an announcement. I’ve been sitting on this for a while.

Last year I was offered a publishing deal with a small press in Australia to publish my debut middle-grade sci-fi novel. I was jumping for joy and thrilled to have reached such a level of professionalism with my writing that I had been accepted by a traditional publisher! I was also very keen to go down the small press route as I have always had a lot of respect for small business models. I felt that smaller presses often had more heart than bigger ones with their strict money-making priorities. I also thought signing to a smaller press would give me more control over the process of putting the book together. However, as time went on, I began to realise that I wanted more control than the small press would be willing to allow me.

I have since come to the conclusion that for this particular project, self-publishing is the best route. I’m not saying I’d never consider the traditional path in the future, and I’m very grateful to have been offered a deal by a traditional press. But for me, right now, I want to go indie.

My decision is not so much about control as it is about choices. Yes, self-publishing will give me complete creative control, but I will still contract professionals to make sure the book I produce is at the highest standard I can achieve. I want to collaborate with artists and designers and I want the freedom to choose who those people are.

My decision is not all about money either, but it is about investment. Yes, I will own all the rights and royalties, but I’m not expecting to earn big money off my first book. I’m certain it will cost more than I get back. However, I am simply interested in investing in myself.

Ultimately, my decision is about creativity. I love making things and if I go down the traditional path, essentially someone else is making my art for me. Although this scenario may work for other people, it’s not what I want for this book.

I’ve worked the film industry as a freelance sound editor and spent years building my own brand and business, so I know how hard it is forging an independent career in the arts, but I also know it is achievable. I’ve learned the value of collaboration and networking, but I’ve also experienced what it means to be a cog in a machine producing someone else’s art.

It’s time to make my own art.

Working on films is a fantastic experience. As a creative contractor, my job is to help a directors vision come to life. Ideas that the director has been working on for months, years and sometimes decades finally come to fruition and I get to be a part of that. Sound editing and design is the end stage of this long ‘magical’ process. I try to create sounds that will do justice to the hard work everyone else has done, and hopefully enhance the audiences experience. The make-up and wardrobe teams, the art departments and VFX people, the actors and the picture editors, it all comes together with sound and music as the last piece of the puzzle — the icing on the cake. We soundies sometimes get a little neglected when the budget is sometimes spent long before we start working on a film, but we also get to see how excited the director is to see their baby finally born. The director is there, every step of the way through production, advising our creative work so that it fits the mould of their vision.

So my book is my baby. I am the director. I want to have that experience of reviewing work from contractors, making notes and giving them feedback. It seems ridiculous to have worked so hard on writing the book and editing it for years only to hand it on to someone else at this final stage and let them make all the decisions about how it is put together.

I have already begun work with a concept artist. More to come about this later, but it’s all very exciting. Now that I have made that critical decision, I can get to work making up a budget and a timeline and working towards a release date.

My book is finally going to have a birthday.

Come with me, as I embark on this journey as a creative adventurer!

Tell me about your own experience. Are you the director of your own artistic vision?

2015 – A Good Year for Sci-Fi

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The year is crawling to a close and it’s time for some reflection on the great Sci-Fi creations that have come out of it.

I’ve been busy working on sounds for both an upcoming sci-fi film as well as the mysterious game for the magical Magic Leap, both of which are absolutely incredible! I can’t wait till they’re released so that I can talk about them.

It certainly is a boom time for sci-fi, in books, films, games, and TV.

Science in general seems to be quite popular too.

This might have something to do with the current push for humans to go to Mars?

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/index.html

 

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Or maybe, its due to a cultural fear of Earths’s demise caused by our misuse of current technologies?

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Or perhaps, it’s the fact that this, 2015, was the year of the future that Marty McFly travelled to in the Back-to-the-Future series?

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Or just maybe, it’s because we’re all eagerly awaiting the new Star-Wars film?

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Whatever the reason, I am loving the eclectic and inspiring science-fiction I am seeing today, from block-busters right down to short films and indie books.

My own favourite Sci-Fi highlight of the year is up in the air, pending the release of the aforementioned Star-Wars film 😉

But aside from that, I’d probably have to say the most inspiring Sci-Fi stuff I’ve seen this year is the films and projects I’m working on. Unfortunately I cannot disclose any details about these jobs, but one day, I will.

Working with a host of creative people in the film and games industry is just about as fantastic as life can get. I feel very blessed.

Are you loving this Sci-Fi boom? What is your pick of the best Sci-Fi highlight for this year?

 

 

 

Science is Art. Art is Science

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Thanks NASA for constantly doing research for me. With a steady flow of inspiration coming from the scientists of the world, all I have to do is do a quick google search and BOOM…super exciting news about the cosmos unfolds before me. Of course the scientists also employ artists to come up with lovely pictures that I can sit and stare at, waiting for my brain to sprout some exciting idea. This image was created by an artist called Karl Kofoed, famous for his sci-fi illustrations. He created this image of the snow fields of Pluto by using data collected by the New Horizons mission. This image struck me instantly since one of the alien worlds in my book was based on Pluto. It’s fantastic to have a visual reference to connect to the imaginary world that I created.

Where would I be with out you science?

This brings me to an issue that I ponder quite regularly. Science and art are closer related than many people think. Back in the early days of modern sceince, before photography, scientists relied on artists to draw anatomical and biological figures in order to document and learn. More often than not, the scientist was the artist. Remember the guy who did this? Da Vinci? Scientist or artist? Is there a difference?

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Well, sure I guess there are huge differences, but I think that it’s important to regularly reflect on the interconnected nature of our lives. No aspect of human culture can truly be separated from the rest. Politics, history, human relationships, religion, sport, everything is intertwined.

As Einstein says:

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

My brother is a research scientist, and while he loves art, he often says that he wishes that scientists got as much credit and notoriety for their work as artists do. I agree with this wholeheartedly, the sciences deserve much more support and praise than they often receive. However, so do the arts. And I’m being broad here, including anything from visual arts, films, and sculpture, through to books, music, dance, etc. I think that without art, the human race could not be what it is today. While I’m an artist, I know that nothing I create could be possible without the gifts of science. My computer agrees with me. What do you think? Are you a scientist or an artist?

 

http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/galleries/snow-fields-of-pluto-artists-concept

Share a Story of Hope

 

It seems I can’t look at the internet at the moment without coming across some news about the global refugee crisis. It is a human exodus unlike anything we’ve seen since World War II. With social media as prevalent and powerful as it is these days, there is no shortage of horrors to be seen, from photos of suffering children, to YouTube videos of people desperate to find refuge. But there are moments of hope and kindness too, such as the welcome that Germany offered to many of these displaced people.

It is such a complex and harrowing situation, one that I am not going to get involved in discussing on this blog other than to say there is no shortage of inspiration for artists these days. Social media has brought the world in closer. We can see, hear and share our stories with just a few keystrokes. But it’s a system that encourages a short attention span too. It’s easy to become disassociated from the things we see on the internet. Over-saturated, inundated and bombarded. Sometimes I just want to unhook from this network. I want to unplug from all the updating, advertising and media mayhem and just switch off. But it is important not to give up on humanity. We all do what we can to help those in need. Whether it is through offering donations or simply sharing their stories.

We are all in this together. Each person on the planet who lives at this very moment has one thing in common — we are here. We have no where else to call home. In the face of every fellow human, I see my own face reflected. If one person suffers, we all suffer. It is easy to feel helpless, simply because the problem is so far away from where we might live. But we’re closer than we think.

Every person out there doing some good and lending a hand is depending on us to make sure their efforts are appreciated. So, if all you can do is read an article or share a post, you are still making a difference. Find a person who is making a positive change and share their story.

 

 

Alien Worlds

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Hello there!

My manuscript, Wandering Stars, is all neat and tidy and I’m not looking at it anymore, or I’ll discover it’s not neat and tidy. There are always more commas to add and adjectives to delete. However, it’s time for me to move on. I’m plotting the sequel/s at the moment. Though I have a lot of other story ideas that I’d love to dive into, I feel like I have to make headway on my sequels to this book, especially while the world is so fresh in my mind and the characters like buddies who I hang out with every day. Or perhaps enemies who make me think about ways to make them suffer! 🙂

I’ve already made a start on book 2 twice now. Back in 2012, I made a 40K word start, but scratched it and went back to revise book 1. Then last year in November, I made a 20K word start, and again scratched it to re-work book 1.

Am I daunted about starting all over again?

No.

Throwing all those words out is not a bad thing. Creating a book-universe is just like creating the real universe, it takes time. Hopefully, not as long. I don’t have 14 billion years to get my head around story structure and character arcs. The point is, it’s never a waste to just write words. It helps me get a feel for the characters and the world which I keep refining and refining. 

I’ve already got a lot of the basic structure for book 2 in my mind and mapped out in lots of journals. The thing that takes me the most time is  researching  and developing the planets and all the crazy creatures in them. As my concepts evolve, the next trick is to make sure the world-building never gets in the way of the story. I have to take all my wild inventions and weave them into the plot in a way that develops the characters and moves the story forward. If they don’t fit the criteria, I have to remove them from the book. Some times it’s hard to let go of scenes and aliens and pretty ideas, but at the end of the day, they’re never gone, they’re all in my head. And essentially, that is why I write to begin with. Everything I create is for my own selfish joy. I love inventing a universe in which I can play — a space within my mind that will always be real to me.

So, time for some exo-planet research. Scientists are finding planets these days faster than I can create them. According to the NASA site; there are “150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study — the 1,000th of which was recently verified.”  https://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/january/nasa-s-kepler-marks-1000th-exoplanet-discovery-uncovers-more-small-worlds-in

They’ll never find some of my planets though…

Just looking through all the research being done on finding, categorising and conceptualising these worlds provides me with endless inspiration for my own designs. I will have to start talking more about my worlds on this blog and sharing some of the sketches I’ve made too perhaps.

Until next time…

 

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Editing…and then some.

It’s been so long since I’ve posted I don’t quite know where to begin, other than to say it’s time to get the words flowing again.

I’ve been writing and re-writing – editing and polishing – draft after draft. My energy has gone into my art, without a scrap to spare for my blog in talking about it. Sad, but there it is.

Plus there is that pesky sound design job I do by day…ROBOT ROBOT ZAP ZAP!

(No really, that’s the sound I’m making in my studio. I’m not suggesting that my life in anyway resembles that of a robot.)

The most awesome thing I’ve been doing lately though, is critiquing work of colleagues. Not only is it making me a better editor, but it’s helping me to see what can be improved in my own work. Plus, as a happy side effect, it’s letting me help out friends by giving them a review of their work.

Though I still have much to learn, and getting feedback continually from my peers constantly educates me on the wily ways of words. (Like never use alliteration…). Also, using parenthesis in narrative text should be avoided like the plague. Its a good idea to remove cliches too. 🙂

So I’d like to offer some advice if you are thinking of writing a book or screenplay, or anything really…get yourself a crit group. They are an absolute necessity. There is no better and faster way to learn anything, than to surround yourself with other people who are on the same mission. So a big thanks to my fellow writers, for finding every single comma missed or word misspelled that my eyes would never have detected. But mostly thanks for helping me to hone my own style. Every day I get more confident with setting words down in print and that is more than I could ever ask for.

 

First Publications, I’m Officially an Author!

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It is official, I’m an Author!

I have in the last few months had 2 short stories published in 2 anthologies!

A horror short story in Disquiet…

http://nblo.gs/10AphN

And a Christmas story for 8-12 year olds in ‘The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales.’

http://phantomfeatherpress.wordpress.com/

The Twisty Christmas Tales is having a Book launch this Thursday at the Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/367827330040946/

This will be my first ever book-launch event and it makes me feel incredibly proud to have such a great group of Kiwi writers to share the occasion with.

So if you’re in Wellington, come check out our book-launch and get to know some local Authors. Perhaps you might want to pick up a copy of the Twisty Christmas Tales anthology to give as a Christmas gift to some lucky child?

If you’re not in Wellington, it might be time to consider coming here, it’s a fantastic city.

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Twisty-Christmas-Tales-J-Ponder-ebook/dp/B00OWXKEAW/ref=asap_B00KTUIJQ8_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415583214&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.com/Disquiet-John-Irvine/dp/9526823001/