We Could Be Heroes

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This week saw the deaths of two greats. On Monday morning I woke up to the news that David Bowie had died. I had to read that headline a few times before the reality sunk in. For someone who felt so timeless it was weird to hear the news of his passing, especially given the amazing scope of his influence on music, fashion, and culture. Not just in his constant reinvention driven by his curiosity, but also in how he played with gender and challenged the norms of the day. It took me a while to get into Bowie but when I did I realised just how many of his songs I knew, how much they’d been part of my life for so long. He was simply a genius.

And then to top the week off was the news of Alan Rickman’s passing. Also 69, also from cancer. I find it hard to decide what his best role was. The Sheriff of Nottingham in Prince of Thieves. Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest. The Metatron in Dogma. All fabulous to watch. My wife and I celebrated his life by watching Dogma and then Prince of Thieves. Any of them we could have watched and equally paid tribute to him. For many others he was Professor Snape from Harry Potter, though personally I didn’t enjoy the films. Nothing to do with the quality of them, I know there are millions of people out there who love and adore them. The films vision of Hogwarts just didn’t mesh with my internal one from reading the books and I found it off-putting.

Their deaths have left a lasting impression on me. not just because of what amazing people they were, but also in relation to a lot of other celebrity deaths there have been over the past few years. Robin Williams, Christopher Lee, Leonard Nimoy, and my favourite author of all time Terry Pratchett. Some have been talking about all these deaths as a passing of a generation, a group of unique people and talent we won’t see again. That we won’t see these people who dominated a genre or genres creatively.

I’m not sure I agree with that entirely. Okay yes, there will never be another Bowie, or another Pratchett. Their creativity, the way they connected with people, came from who they were, and no one can be like they were.

I do think it’s less likely we’ll see people who so totally seem to dominate an era, who speak to millions in such a way. Sure, there will be some, but I think our changing world will work against that.

One of the changes I think has happened over the past few decades, and which is accelerating thanks to the internet, is a broadening of niches. There are a lot more creators out there, whether they be writers or artists or musicians, who are much more able to connect with a fan base that is incredibly passionate about their work. That fan base may not be as large as the millions for Pratchett and others, but its one that will morn the loss of their favourite authors just as much.

I think about Amanda Palmer and the almost 25,000 fans who helped fund an album of hers for $1.5 million. I think of the birth of Patreon and the many comic artists and writers that can create more thanks to the money given by fans who are interested in what they make.

There are going to hundreds if not thousands of people out there all with their own curious followings making a living doing what they want creatively. The internet has allowed that connection to flourish and grow, and for artists to stand more and more on their own. To the point I think we’re entering a golden age of creativity.

With more and more ways for people to share their work, and to make money off of what they create, I think more and more people will. It makes me want to create too.

Thinking about the impact people like Bowie and Pratchett have had on peoples lives, I can hope to come close to 0.1% of that if I’m lucky. All I really hope for, and aim for, is that one person reads something I’ve written and lets me know they’ve loved it or that it’s had an impact on their life.

I think that’s a good thing to aim for, for myself and others. Have an impact on one life. Sounds good to me.

Who knows, it could even be your own.

Hello, I’m Still Here

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Been a while hasn’t it?

There are a number of reasons for that, some health related, but I’m back to posting on here more regularly.

Short update on things, Hodderscape got back to me about my open submission and they’re not taking it forward so I’m now going to do the next book self-published, same as I did for Oranje. I didn’t make the second round of reading for the submissions so I know I need to improve my writing.

The book i’m working on has changed a lot over the past month. Working on the third and fourth drafts of The Word has made me realise that several story elements that have been in since the first draft, and were carried over from the planned books of the September series, don’t really work.

As a result I’ve been re-outlining and making big changes to the story. Big changes, so much so i’m going to be starting on a whole new fresh draft once I’ve finished some outlining. I’ve been trying out some new techniques for outlining each chapter that I’ll talk about soon. More than just the story has changed, characters and locations have had their names changed so that it’s a much clearer break from Oranje.

I’ve also changed the name. It’s no longer The Word, now it’s called…

Hope.

So that’s where I’m at. Still writing, still learning, always making progress. I’m hoping to have a draft from this new outline done in a few months and then might share some it up here. Been enjoying more of the writing I’ve been doing lately so I think i’m getting better at the whole sentence to sentence part of it which is something.

Until next time, which shouldn’t be too long.

On the Importance of Reading Inspiring Books

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I recently had a short holiday to the US, visiting my best friend who I’ve not seen in person since he got married almost two years ago. The problem of them marrying an American and moving over there. The one good thing about a flight to the US is that it gives plenty of time to read, and on the way over I read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemsin.

Oh my, it’s spectacular. I loved The Inheritance Trilogy she’s also written, devouring that over a weekend, but this is on another level of awesome. But it wasn’t just fantastic to read, it’s inspired me as well.

I used to be wary about reading books when I was working on my writing, worrying about the ideas from what I was reading seeping into my work. It’s a silly worry, one that should be ignored, as the best books you read will make you want to write so much.

Reading a book like The Fifth Season, with its fantastic style and unique voice, just inspires me. It makes me want to reach the same levels (fat chance but I’ll try!) with my own writing, and to trust in my writing voice as well.

The best books not only show how a novel can be written, in a myriad of different ways, and teach you lessons on style, pacing, character. They make you want to improve as well.

So right now I’m working on draft two-and-a-half of The Word, and thanks to The Fifth Season I’m trusting to write my own way a little bit more.

Me and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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I’ve not really blogged about anything too personal on here before, but I think this is a topic worth talking about. A little warning, the word bowel is used a lot and a lot of talk about a medical condition I have.

Hi, my name is Jack Lusted, and I have Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What is IBS?

Well luckily the NHS have a very good definition on their website:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation.

The symptoms vary between individuals and affect some people more severely than others. They tend to come and go in periods lasting a few days to a few months at a time, often during times of stress or after eating certain foods.

This is also followed by what I think is a wonderfully British sentence:

You may find that some of symptoms improve after having a poo.

Hehe!

I was diagnosed with IBS back in 2012. I’d been having problems for a while with pain in my gut/stomach and, well, my bowel movements were pretty damn running. Think shitting out a bowl of cheerios with the milk. You can thank me for that mental image later.

Result was taking quite a few days off work sick to the point where I went to my GP about it. They thought it was likely to be IBS and a series of blood and stool tests ruled out the other candidates. It was really nice to have a diagnosis for what I was suffering from, and it helped me take steps to improve my quality of life.

I don’t have the worst IBS in the world, there are others out there who have to deal with the pain on a daily basis and use pills to combat it. I have luckily been able to minimise it’s impact on me via changes to my diet and reducing the amount of stress in my life. Stress has been far the biggest trigger for my worst IBS episodes.

YO deal with IBS certain foods have been cut out of my diet or reduced a lot. For some people eating more wholegrain helps them but for me its the opposite, and some fruits such as apricots go right through me. I now eat a couple of cereal bars with oats in every day as that kind of fibre helps give me more solid bowel movements. The diet stuff has helped reduce its day to day aspect, though it still has an impact.

A good example of this was on holiday recently. Me and Clare went to Tenerife for a week, spending a lovely week at an all-inclusive hotel. It was lovely, the room we stayed it was bigger than some flats I’ve lived in! But I did have low level gut pain for most of the week. That was caused quite simply by the change in diet. It was a buffet meal service with a wide range of food available, but different enough from what I regularly have to cause me problems. Not ideal by any means but it is something I’ve simply had to learn to live with. My IBS is something I’m probably going to have for the rest of my life.

But what’s really driven me to talk about my IBS is a recent painful bout of it that’s been the worst for years, and which was triggered by high levels of stress. Part of the stress was from work, some from other personal life stuff, and a big part from one of our cats, Flynn, sadly being diagnosed with terminal cancer. We sadly had to put him to sleep last week. He was an amazing cat, and we were very lucky to have him as part of our lives.

The net result of all the stress was missing almost a complete week off work. I do have to say that my work have been incredibly supportive and understanding of my IBS. If i’m having an off day I can work from home so not got the stress of going to the office and they’ve offered a lot of other support as well. Generally I can reduce the stress I’m under as I lead my own team so schedule my own workload which also helps. With that bad week they understood I needed to take it off ill and kept in regular communication with me before and after to see if I could use any extra support. My stress levels have reduced again now and i’m back to normal, or as normal as I ever am with IBS.

It’s never fun to spend a whole week in pain, especially when I know I do so much to manage my diet and my stress to keep my IBS under control and sometimes you just can’t control the stress and it has a big impact.

Apparently around 10-15% of people suffer from IBS, but there are only one or two people I know in real life who’ve talked to me about it. It’s a condition you have to live with and deal with as you can, whether that’s via diet, reducing stress, or medication. What works for each person will be different as each person will have different triggers and severity of IBS.

My recent holiday and stressful painful week of IBS have reminded about how little I’ve seen people talk about it, but I think it is important to bring this up. Too many people suffer from IBS for it not to be a condition we feel comfortable talking about, and I hope someone who reads this takes comfort in me describing my person experience with the condition.

My name is Jack Lusted and I have IBS, and that’s something I have to live with. I hope this has been informative, and maybe if you’re reading this you’ve learnt something new. Not all medical conditions are big and showy, many people you know will have conditions they have to deal with every day that you might not know about. This is mine, and it has a constant impact on my life. But I have to live with it. I don’t have any other choice. So, I deal with it as best I can.

Thank you for reading.

An Update

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Been quieter on here recently than I’d intended. Simple reason for that is I’ve been feeling pretty stressed recently and been dealing with things one at a time. Most of the stress has been dealt with so should be more regular posts here soon enough. Thinking I might also starting talking about my IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) because it does have quite a large impact on my life and it could be useful to talk about.

In book related news, got my submission off to Hodderscape for their open submissions. They’re going to let people know if they’re interested in a submission by the end of September so fingers crossed until then.

I’ve had an editor looking over the first draft of The Word but they’ve had some issues to deal with so that’s been delayed. I’ve started to get on with getting the second draft in order, my submission to Hodderscape serving as the first 15,000 words of it. Hopefully have most of that done by the end of September.

So still plugging away at the writing, just been dealing with some things. More posts soon.

Hodderscape Open Submissions

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Hodderscape, the UK sci-fi/fantasy/horror imprint of Hodder & Staughton, are holding open submissions in August. It’s open to authors without agents writing and novels, and I’m going to be submitting The Word.

I went the self-publishing route for Oranje as it felt the right path for me at the time, but this time round I’m interested to see if a publisher would take up The Word. Hodderscape seem to be a very good publisher with a lot of great authors on their books.

Also look at the cover art they do:

I mean holy hell they’re good!

So i’m going to be spending the next month getting The Word up to scratch for submissions, with the help of someone I’ve hired to do some character/story feedback. I think there’s a really good book here that with some editing can shine. Only time will tell.