RSS Feeds

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Travel Inspiration III – The people!

Okay, I found that guy's picture online, but I would LOVE to meet him. I think he'd fit well into the stories I write. 

Every writer I know is only a telephoto-lens and an apartment dark-room away from being a creepy stalker. Writers watch people. It’s just what we do. We watch interactions, we watch reactions, and we stare at people. We do all that because we’re mentally writing down descriptions. Without believable characters, you can’t have a believable story. It just doesn’t work.

"C'mon, Steve," you say. "I can find people to watch anywhere. I don't need to travel to get inspiration in that regard."

True enough. You certainly don’t need to travel to exotic destinations to find observable people. An afternoon on your neighborhood park bench will suffice for that goal. Same goes for cultural differences. I'm from Canada, which is a very multicultural country, and If I want to observe different cultures in action, I can do that at my local mall.

But there is a difference between the people you meet at the park, or mall, and the people you meet overseas. Sure there is a bit more in the way of culture when you're overseas, and the smells and textures of the environment will probably be quite different. But as far as people go, the group I most enjoy watching when I'm traveling ... the group I get the most inspiration for my stories from, are the foreigners. Other travelers. People just like me.

See, I like to throw my characters into situations they’re ill prepared for, and ill-prepared-for-experiences are a dime a dozen along off-beaten travel paths. It might be something as common as watching exhausted travelers dredge up just enough energy to play their thousandth game of charades with the hotel/guesthouse/hostel desk clerk in order to get a room. Or perhaps it's the couple who’ve just returned from their first Tuk-Tuk ride, thrilled, clearly, to be alive, but also confused because they have no idea why the driver forced them into half a dozen jewelry and tailor shops on their way to their destination. Or maybe it's the guy in the restaurant who stares in disbelief at the meal he has just received, and you know he's trying to sort out, a) how he’d managed to mess up his order so badly, and b) how one goes about eating a soup made up of live, swimming fish.

It's an interesting experience  to observe your fellow travelers. If you get the chance, I highly recommend it.

What about you guys? Where do you find the best place to observe people? Where do you draw characterization ideas from?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Travel Inspiration II - The Ordinary

Travel and inspiration are the themes for the next couple posts. I mentioned in a previous post about Ruins, and how they’re like a bolt of lightning to the creativity centers of my mind, but ruins are almost too obvious a source for inspiration. Another way travel inspires, is in experiencing the mundane in a foreign country. Those things the locals take for granted.

It is the ordinary that can really have an impact. I italicize “ordinary” because the one thing you learn when you travel is that “ordinary” is an entirely subjective term. Case-in-point: We moved to Victoria a couple years ago, and I asked everyone, "So, is there anything cool to check out around here?" We were told the typical stuff, "Parliament building, gardens ... etc"  but no one, not a single person, told us that two blocks from where we lived, tucked just a bit out-of-the-way, was Craigdarroch Castle ... A real castle. It's where I now take my son so he can play on the grounds.

Oh, and here's a picture:

It needn't been something so grand as a castle though. It could be something as simple as a view, or an item  hidden in plain sight (or hidden out of sight). I remember waiting for a bus in Japan and looking down at manhole cover (picture below) and wondering why in the world the city would spend the money on making such unique covers to manholes. I'll throw up a few images of the ordinary places/things I’ve seen that I’ve found inspirational.

How about you? Have you come across anything while traveling that everyone seems to take for granted? Something remarkable that no one notices? Maybe you live somewhere that most people seem to miss.

Door in Venice (there are lots of doors)

Bamboo Forest
Manhole Cover in Yokkaichi, Japan
Himeji Castle - I used to jog around this place at night.

Venice, Italy
Door knob in Venice


Monday, July 16, 2012

What Inspires You?

I took this picture on Naxos - in Greece

I’ve blogged about this before, but I thought it was time to revisit the topic. What inspires your writing? Where do you pull your ideas from?

I was thinking about that the other day and for me, the answer is travel.  I’ve been really fortunate to have traveled a great deal in my life, and a number of the places I’ve been have really had an impact.  There is something really exciting about finding yourself in a place where you don’t understand the culture, or the language.  When I start itching to travel, it's usually that feeling that I'm looking for. The feeling of being awestruck, confused, and frightened in the same instant. 

So, for the next few posts on my blog, I’d like to talk a bit about how travel has inspired me.

First up: RUINS.

Nothing quite invokes my imagination like standing in the middle of a ruined structure. What was it like a thousand, two thousand, four thousand, eight thousand … years ago? What did people do when they came here? Could historians have it all wrong? It’s that last question that really gets my mind working. It’s also where dozens of book-ideas come from for me.

Here are a few of the ruins I’ve seen, and here's where I issue you a challenge: Without using the internet, how many of these places can you identify? Or, can you at least name the country where they're found? (I'll put the locations beneath the pictures in a couple days). ETA: I noticed that hovering over the picture told the locations :/ so I decided to just put the locations down.

a) Thailand
b) Greece
c) Turkey
d) Greece
e) Myanmar (Burma)
f) Guatemala
g) Italy
h) Mexico

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Public Service Announcement

By far the funniest "ALOT vs. A LOT" post is this one! I'm sure every writer has seen it, as it did it's rounds a couple years ago, but it's worth checking out if you haven't: CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In which my son needs a hair cut!

My wife seems to be under the impression that our son is like Samson, from the bible. You remember Samson, right? The guy who had all the hair and his hair gave him strength. She's refusing to let me, or anyone for that matter, cut his hair.  

My son has gone from looking like this:

To this:

(And yes, that's really him in the first picture. Cute, right? I know. Also, that is my wife behind him … I know what you’re thinking “Dude, she’s way too hot to be your wife.” Trust me, I know. One day I’ll post about how I managed to convince her to marry me. It involves a sound proof basement, and a really bad case of Stolkholm Syndrome … Wait, let me check the statute of limitations on something ... It involves a lot of flowers and superior skills in romance.)

Point is, my son now has A LOT of hair. It’s in his eyes, it’s over his ears.  When I take him for walks people always tell me what cute little GIRL I have. But for some reason my wife will not allow me to cut his hair. I just don’t get it. Yeah, I know babies kind of stop looking like babies when they get their hair cut, but the boy has hair in his eyes. Unless he’s going to start singing alongside Justin Bieber (and he just might), I think it’s time for a trim.

Now, I have a lot of nieces and nephews, and I’ve watched my siblings go through this stage before, but I never paid it too much attention on how they dealt with it. Still, I've given it some thought, and I've decided there are really only two options here:

Option One)  I wait until my wife leaves the house, I plug in the old hair clippers, and give my son the Mohawk he deserves


Option Two)  Give my son a haircut, but put the clippers in his hand so that when my wife sees it she thinks he managed to do it on his own. It could happen. Might even be cute … right?

I'm leaning towards Option Two....

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Middle Grade Book Covers .... because I said so!

I’ve been thinking a lot about book covers lately. I tend to do that when I've finished a new project. I like to dream of being one of the lucky authors who really gets a stand-out cover. One that's like a right-hook to the attention-center of a reader (not that I'm suggesting anyone punch a reader ... that would just be mean and uncalled for!).

I generally write middle-grade fiction, and as a result, I also read a lot of middle-grade fiction. And I really believe that some of the best covers on the market right now are those designed for the middle grade audience. 

So I decided to take a few minutes this morning, and post a few of the middle grade covers that I've seen lately that have left me seeing stars. Now I feel I should say that some of these books I’ve read, some I’ve seen in shops and libraries, and others I’ve only seen online.

Here they are, in no particular order:

 What do you think? Do you have a favorite book cover? It doesn't have to be one of these, but throw a comment and link below, I'd love to check it out. 

Oh, and before I sign off: Happy 4th of July to all you Americans in the room! I hope your day is filled with fireworks and celebrations!