Our first week back in New Zealand has been action-packed. In addition to my sprained ankle, we also had severe jet-lag and a hideous case of post-plane-flu. We’re looking for a new place to rent and so are living in a motel as we’ve been too sick to stay with friends. But none of that stopped us for jumping straight into our creative workflow. Though this week was been mostly been about artistic conventions and festivals.
Recently I was nominated for a Sir Julius Vogel Award, for my short story, Narco, which was published in 2016 in the At the Edge anthology, edited by Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts. I was so excited to be nominated and honoured to be shortlisted amongst some other amazing New Zealand writers.
The awards were announced last weekend at Lexicon, the New Zealand’s National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention held in Taupo. Sadly, I was unable to attend this year, however, I followed the awards ceremony online. I was so excited to see many of my colleagues win awards for their amazing work.
Eileen Mueller won Best New Talent, and as she is one of my writing critique friends I am so over the moon for her. My good friend, Lee Murray won Best Novel for her awesome book, Into The Mist, as well as an award for Services To Science Fiction, Fantasy And Horror. She also won Best Collected Work, which she shared with another good friend, Dan Rabarts for their anthology, At the Edge. Jean Gilbert won Best Youth Novel for, Light in My Dark. I haven’t read that one so I look forward to checking it out.
My short story did not win, however, I feel that being nominated was a great achievement in itself. A.J. Fitzwater claimed the prize for her beautiful story, Splintr.
Well done to all of the winners and nominees.
So what was I doing instead of enjoying the writers convention? I was at the Wairoa Maori Film Festival. My fiancee Dave Whitehead had his directorial debut short film, Possum showing. Despite not feeling 100%, we both had a lovely weekend. It was great networking with film people from all across New Zealand and abroad. The festival features films by native people worldwide, providing a great opportunity for cultural exchange as well as seeing some beautifully crafted films.
Dave’s film was greatly received by the audiences up in Nuhaka and it was made even more special because his father was born there and Dave’s film was set on the east coast too.
Possum is a tale of two young brothers who accompany their lumberjack father to a forest campsite. At odds with each other, their relationship meets the ultimate test when theyventure into the woods, hunting a notorious possum named Scar.
This screening was just the start of many more to come. I can’t wait to see where Possum takes us next.
We would have been in Berlin during the weekend and by now we’d be in Norway. We would have seen Radiohead in Oslo a couple of nights ago. We gave our tickets to some friends though, so it brings us joy to know that we could give that experience to people we love.
Even though we missed out on part of our overseas trip, we got to meet some great people that we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t come home early.
Things never go as planned, but that is just all part of the adventure. So get out there and make life magic people!
So a month and a half ago, my fiancee Dave and I embarked on a voyage. Not exactly a holiday, not exactly a work trip–somewhere in the middle. It is a creative expedition. It was based on an idea that we never really go anywhere or have time for anything except when work is involved. Our best trips away together have mostly been short journeys within New Zealand to go and record sounds.
So we figured if we were ever going to go on any big overseas trips, then we should involve our work in the creative industries. Last year, we had two friends who had both offered us to come and stay at their artist residencies.
The first was from Peter Roberts, a picture editor who had a residency in Ibiza off the coast of Spain for writers. It was a house once used by famous New Zealand author, Janet Frame. This sounded like a perfect chance for me to focus on the second instalment of my children’s sci-fi adventure and Dave could work on his feature film scripts.
The second residency was in Trélex in Switzerland. Our friend Nina Rodin runs an artist residency for all manner of creative artists and she has not had many sound artists stay at Trélex. Her husband David Rodin went to school with my Dave, so he had been talking for years about the idea of heading over to visit them, but the idea of doing art at the same time was doubly fantastic. Not only would we do plenty of sound art, Dave and I both love painting, photography, video-art and composition, so there was plenty of things for us to experiment with that we normally never have time for.
It would have been so easy to think; “Oh yes, that would be lovely to travel overseas and work on our art,” but never actually get around to it. For once Dave and I wanted to jump on such an opportunity and go for it.
Last year was a big year for Dave as he directed his first short film. And my book is in the final stages of preparing for publishing, but I wanted time to dive into the second book before the first one comes out. With a heavy work load planned for the back half of 2017, we decided that from the end of March to June would be the best chance we had to head to Europe for a couple of months. When we get back Dave has his short film screening in some festivals as well as a very exciting writer’s workshop to attend, so now is the perfect time to get things moving on the writing front.
Though we were only planning on spending two weeks at each of the residency locations, our process of creating art was one that we wouldengaged with every day of the trip. We record sound every single day, no matter where we are.I’ve been keeping a couple of creative journals with sketching and writing ideas. And of course Dave has his trusty cameraand I have the GoPro.
We started out in the UK, spending a few days In London with some friends before driving up north to Scotland. We stopped in to see relatives I had in England, but for the most part we were travelling heavily every day and visiting as many attractions as we could all the way. All the while, we were gathering sounds, video footage and artistic photographs to inspire our art. Some highlights were Stonehenge and Avebury, the Roman baths and Lindisfarne and of course, the castles. Edinburgh and Stirling castles where stunning, but some of my favourites were the derelict ruins standing alone in the mists without tourists and gift shops. Places where you could sit and sketch and soak in the ancient landscape.
The longest we spent in one place was four days in Skye. Skye was breathtaking. Such wildness and isolation, I felt very much at home there. I guess in many ways it’s similar to New Zealand. Harsh weather and rugged landscape permeates the cultures of the Antipodes and the Hebrides with a similar fortitude. The first two weeks in the UK was so jam-packed full of excitement and adventure it felt like a lot longer than two weeks. I planned on doing more blogging on the journey and I also had hoped to start up a video blog, but we’ve been busier than I expected and quite often without very good Internet access. So I thought I should make a start somewhere. Better late than never.
Today I have more time on my hands because yesterday, I badly sprained my ankle.There is nothing quite in injury to allow time for retrospective and slowing down to appreciate what you have. For example, I am incredibly glad that I only sprained my ankle and and didn’t break it. Today is 18thof May and we have exactly one month left of our trip. We will arrive back in Wellington on the 18th June. The trip has been in some ways longer than I could have imagined and in other ways has flown by.
Our two weeks in Ibiza, was amazing. The warmth was a welcome change from Scotland and we made sure we explored the landscape there and went swimming in the crystal blue waters. I had a lot of trouble with asthma and sickness, and yet we still got a lot of writing done. It was so incredibly luxurious to be able to focus on writing, considering it a full-time job instead of having to cram it in around a normal workload.
We were in Barcelona for only three days after that and though we didn’t get to see much of the city, we saw a lot of the Gothic Quarter where we were staying and had very splendid time enjoying the food and wine of that beautiful city.
Trélex has been magical. Staying with David and Nina Rodin and their family has been a privilege and a pleasure. Though our time he has been short, already we have achieved a lot. I have been painting and sketching more than I have in years, and I have gotten back into doing my audiovisual art which I’m very excited about. I’ve been continuing writing and Dave has too. He has made some great breakthroughs with his scripts and I’ve been able to help him with editing which I normally don’t have much time for. And of course we have been recording plenty of sound.
Switzerland is a wonderful place for recording soundscapes. There are lots of public parks and wide open spaces and lots of access to forests and mountains. There is so much more here that we could record but I’m very glad that we have some great recordings of cowbells and church bells and tranquil environments. The bells, the bells!
Now we only have four days left in Switzerland, and I’m very aware of how difficult it will be moving on from here with my injury. With out recording gear, we have way too much luggage, so I hope I can lose the crutches soon. We are supposed to catch a train to France on Monday, but I have to go to the hospital for them to assess my ankle in the morning and then who knows what will happen. Though I hope it heals quickly, I also know that it will stop us from doing big and ambitious hikes which is sad, but like I said, I am very grateful for the things I do have and will make use of this time that I am less mobile by doing more art. As this is a creative journey, you have two create what you can using the tools is that you have available. Though this is my first blog entry on my journey I’m hoping that I will be more productive from now on. Until next time, get out there and create magic everyday!
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?
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.
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.
I only discovered this recently, that some people can not see images when they read. They call this Aphantasia. I was so upset to learn that so many people miss out on the magic of mental images.
I think I fall at the opposite end of the spectrum. Hyperphantasia.
I see so much when I read that it distracts me. It’s not just images though. I hear, I smell, I taste. I get so wound up in exploring another world inside my head that sometimes it takes me months to finish a book. The more I love the book, sometimes, the harder it is to read.
No wonder everyone called me a daydreamer!
I was teased as a child for living too much in an imaginary world, but that never stopped me. I never stopped being creative. Now that I’m an adult, I have a career in the film industry, Im an author, a musician and a painter. I can never get enough of the fantastical realms within my own mind. There’s nothing better than getting out those ideas and expressing them through image and sound.
I love being a daydreamer.
The main character in my upcoming book, James, is also a chronic daydreamer. Though his dreams are more nightmarish. And of course, his nightmares also have the unfortunate tendency to come true.
It’s been a while since I gave an update on my plans to publish, but I swear there will be more news very soon!
In the meantime, I’m going to just grab a book and have myself a little daydream.
Is there anyone else out there who has Hyperphantasia?
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?
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?
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?
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.
Sadly she passed away in 2008, so she’s not here for me to share this day with her. However, she is still giving me love and inspiration daily as her influence lives on in all that I do. She was just about the most generous, loving person I’ve ever met. She always put others before her self. She always took the time to make everyone feel happy and loved. She was an endless joy.
Her passion was reading. While I love reading, I could never come close to the amount of book-time that she managed to clock up. Each day would begin and end with a book, and she rarely left home without one. I must confess that I didn’t read much in my youth. I read a lot of non-fiction while I was studying at university, but there were whole years where I didn’t touch a piece of fiction. She thought that meant that I didn’t like reading much, but that wasn’t the case. I am a creator and sometimes that makes me selfish with my time. Unfortunately, I’m a also a bit of a workaholic. I can only seem to find time to engage in leisure activities when they directly support my work. When I was a musician, I listened to a lot more music. Now that I work on films, guess what? I watch a lot of films! So, it’s only now that I’m pursuing writing as a craft, that I can make more time for reading. I only started writing seriously in 2010, so my mother missed out on seeing me truly enjoy books.
My mother always wanted to write a book. I often suggested that she should try, but I think the mystery of ‘how would I even go about trying to get it published?’ held her back. (That, and she was busy raising four kids and working as a language teacher). If she were alive now, I’d absolutely force her to give it a crack.
I wish she was around to share ideas with. She would have loved to explore the challenge of publishing with me. With the kindle, so much has changed. There is so much more room for people to express themselves these days and with social media, everyone has more chance of finding their audience. I wonder how many people have lived and died, carrying their stories to the grave with them. Too many to count.
I urge everyone to chase your dreams and make your art. Don’t wait. It doesn’t matter if you only manage to reach a handful of people, or fill whole stadiums. What matters is that you put it out there.
When I was a guitar teacher I used to tell my students that it doesn’t matter if you only ever play music for yourself and a few close friends, art is meant to be shared. And make no mistake, anything creative is ART. Art doesn’t need a price-tag and it doesn’t need a tick of approval from some critic. So get to it. Make your art. Hang it up, belt it out, share it and watch it grow. Do it now, and do it with love.
No matter how few eyes will find them, every word I write is in some way thanks to everyone who has touched my life.
So, thank you! And happy birthday to one of the people who has helped me most — my beautiful Mum. xx
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?
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.