The Rambling Post

Nano Fiction: Am I Old?

The Ontario Writers Conference hosts a monthly blog called Story Starters. It’s 100 words or less and is reflective of the posted artwork. I label 300 words or less as Nano Fiction. Here’s my story “Am I Old?” as inspired by Joe Cebek’s posted artwork.

Fan PlantAm I Old?

By Darryl Foster

Semi-naked bodies frolic in the waves. The smell of coconut and rum fills me. This youthful allure brings tears. Their hard bodies flit along the shoreline, supple, college aged, and I—old as the sand beneath me. My eyes dash from the youth. In a dune to my right ferns rustle, blown by a salty breeze, and their end-of-day silhouettes resemble plant fossils engrained in bedrock. I’m that fossil, but am I old? I glance to the fit bodies playing on the beach. I smile. No, I’m not that fossil, not on the inside. Youth keeps this old heart alive.

10 Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors from HarperCollins Canada Editors!

From the horse’s mouth! A great post for aspiring authors, dig in and eat it up!

At the beginning of the year, we asked some of our fellow Savvy Readers what their New Year’s resolutions were. In addition to reading more, many of you said that you’d like to focus on writing in 2014. As the halfway point of the year approaches, we want to motivate you to work towards your goal… and asked 10 editors from HarperCollins Canada to help! Below, professional editors (whose expertise range from Cookbooks to Fiction, Non-fiction to Children’s Books) share their #1 piece of advice.

Read on, because regardless of whether you write for pleasure or are an aspiring author, I’m sure you can find something helpful from the tips below.

1. Read! 

“Read, read widely and read for your enjoyment. Read outside of your usual genres, read books on the bestseller list and talk about the books you love.”

—Brad Wilson, Editorial Director (Collins).

2. Don’t Focus On Your Ending

“In fiction, there is a temptation to write…

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What Lurks in The Deep? A Book Review of Nick Cutter’s, The Deep

TheDeep TPB frt v2ABOUT THE BOOK: From the acclaimed author of The Troop—which Stephen King raved “scared the hell out of me and I couldn’t put it down.…old-school horror at its best”—comes this utterly terrifying novel where The Abyss meets The Shining.

A strange plague called the ’Gets is decimating humanity on a global scale. It causes people to forget—small things at first, like where they left their keys…then the not-so-small things like how to drive, or the letters of the alphabet. Then their bodies forget how to function involuntarily…and there is no cure. But now, far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, deep in the Marianas Trench, an heretofore unknown substance hailed as “ambrosia” has been discovered—a universal healer, from initial reports. It may just be the key to a universal cure. In order to study this phenomenon, a special research lab, the Trieste, has been built eight miles under the sea’s surface. But now the station is incommunicado, and it’s up to a brave few to descend through the lightless fathoms in hopes of unraveling the mysteries lurking at those crushing depths…and perhaps to encounter an evil blacker than anything one could possibly imagine.

THE AUTHOR: When I was introduced to Nick Cutter via Twitter in February 2014 I was on a business trip in San Diego. My Twitter feed was on fire with this Nick Cutter fellow whose book came with a Stephen King endorsement “…scared the hell out of me and I couldn’t put it down…” –the King had spoken, and my book-alert siren went off like the Starship Enterprise was under attack. Number-One, set new course for the local book store, engage. Warp drive is a little slow on the San Diego transit system, but soon my cash-energized tractor beam brought The Troop into my hands. The book proved to be an incredible novel of raw horror…and I couldn’t put it down.

Flash forward eight months to October 25, 2015: Creemore, Ontario and the IFOA had come to town. When I first met Nick Cutter (aka Craig Davidson) I thought I could wrestle him for an ARC copy of The Deep, but his tall gait and suspicious armband tattoo told me I was dealing with an Alpha Male, and it kept me civil in my seat. At the end of the author presentations I approached Nick to sign my copy of The Troop, and to my surprise “because it never hurts to ask” he had an ARC copy of The Deep for me. Inside my eyes went puffy, red and teary like a Ren & Stimpy cartoon, oh joy, but on the outside a cool composure, and a modest “thank you” prevailed. Mr. Cutter, you have a fan for life.

Bathyscaphe_TriesteMY REVIEW: How deep is The Deep? Oh, it’s crushingly deep. The Trieste submersible platform (the island of this novel) is deep in the Mariana Trench where life has to evolve to withstand the pressure of 15,750 pounds per square inch (thank you Wikipedia). But as deep as the Trieste is under the Pacific, there is another deep, one that also has crushing depths and it’s found in the fathoms of the human mind: madness.

The Deep has a tagline, “…the Shining meets the Abyss…” and that intersection is both chilling and surprising in the book.

The Deep follows the main character Luke on a thrilling ride to the bottom of the Mariana Trench to the Trieste platform where his brother Clayton, a scientist, is researching a substance called Ambrosia, found on the sea floor. Ambrosia represents a possible cure for a disease called the ‘Gets that plagues the surface, and is the reason why Cutter has us swimming in the deep end of the pool. Before and after we dock with the Trieste, Cutter has us strapped into a narrative-roller-coaster that tunnels deep into the darkest depths of Luke’s consciousness. The novel is both a trip to the bottom of the ocean, as it is a trip through the hollows of a tortured mind. Throughout the book brilliantly written flashbacks pick away at the fears we all carry in ourselves, and those fears are amplified in Luke, escalated by the airtight confines of the seemingly haunted, metal-creaking Trieste.Lurker

Nick Cutter scuttles any chance for a life preserver and holds nothing back in The Deep. He’s a Literary Artist hell-bent on painting grotesque images with nerve-shattering detail, bringing to life scratch-and-sniff scenes that will make you feel like you’re experiencing the book through your senses. The madness, the horror, the tight claustrophobic places intended to strangle your mind are all key in setting the stage for a classic horror novel under the sea with a surprise ending that hits an even deeper note than you can imagine.

The Deep, as was The Troop, are my top horror reads for 2014. Publication date for The Deep is set for January 13, 2015 from Gallery Books. Order here from Amazon.

Darryl Foster

Writer Health: A Sitting-Society

First of all, credit where credit is due: thank you to ASAP Science for a vital (signs) reminder! And thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for retweeting this topic, one all writers should take to heart, literally. Puns aside: watch the video from ASAP Science then commit to changing your life with a fitness plan. Do it for you, and for your love of writing.

So, we’ve become a Sitting-Society. Most of us hold down full time jobs at a desk and add more hours to the time we sit by plopping down in front of our writing desks. My survival instinct tells me it’s time for a change. A healthy life will extend your years and the time you have to sow your prose.

I find, during and after, a good 30 minute workout in the gym, my blood is pumping and there’s a surge of energy coursing through my veins that leaves me feeling energized all day. Activity invigorates the mind and creates an emotional bond between your spirit and physical being. For me, that bond translates into discovering my best writing ideas when I’m engaged in exercise. When you workout your body, your gray matter benefits, so does your writing. Exercise is up-time, an opportunity to visualize and plan your writing while staying fit. Developing scenes and story in your mind while sweating on an elliptical machine will keep you on a healthy plot-track, stimulating imagination and motivating your writing.

I encourage you to find 30 minutes a day to exercise. Take the ‘write’ steps now, get up and walk away from the Sitting-Society.

Darryl Foster

When the Story Spark Ignites

Explosion of planet or starI finished outlining a new novel, while editing the novel I need to finish. I’m convinced my ability to multi-task projects is born from my wavering attention span, and being hyper about any new idea that crosses my mind. But this time it feels different, and my attention is unwavering.

I’m sure some or all of us (including myself) believe our unique story sparks will burst forth the next big book deal: an international book tour, signings in every city, a publisher with a marketing engine that never sleeps, and of course the movie premieres next week (sounds lovely). Whether that happens or not, the story and writing process has to start with a spark.

So you pull out your mind-flint and strike your metal pen against your gray matter to make a story spark. Most times the story is easy to create: a news article catches your attention, an idea presents itself, an unlikely experience happens to you. How ever the spark comes, you eventually find the story you want to write. You were seeking the story, and found it. But perhaps what you found doesn’t gel? The story matter doesn’t seem to flow, and you find yourself backfilling the plot with regurgitated story-stuff that buries you in nothing but burden. The three act structure has become the ten act flop. If the story has become a labour of love, then likely the passion to write it is just as labourious. The spark has died.

But not all stories are prone to snuff-out. There are stories that kindle, and the story spark ignites into a supernova of imagination. The story explodes in your head and writes itself. I like to think of it as finding love when you’re not looking for it. You know that feeling of surprise, awe and amazement when you find someone so wonderful. Love at first sight? There’s an energy in those moments, and although we try to put a finger on it, it’s not anything we can grasp; it’s wild and wants to be free. This type of story spark is something you can’t control. When that happens the story will write itself, twisting effortlessly around the plot like a helix: forming scenes, chapters and acts, seemingly at will. This story spark has a life of its own and ignites passion in the writer. It becomes a raging inferno, St. Elmo’s fire, crackling with characters, burning with emotion and radiating with meaningful elements. This story will speak to you. It knows how it wants to be written. It will have passion and purpose. This is the story that’s in you to write.

In my infinite wisdom (which really tries hard to break out of my skull) I found myself trying to simplify what I’m talking about in as few words as possible, and perhaps someone else has coined the quote, but here’s my two cents:

“The writer doesn’t find the story one yearns to write ~ rather ~ the story finds the writer and yearns to be written.”

I believe story sparks are alive in all of us, and the right one will burn brighter in your mind-sky than all of them. That’s your story, move toward it, fuel its fire, and bring it to life.

Darryl Foster

Flash Fiction: A New York State of Mind

A New York State of Mind

By Darryl Foster

 

Did they dread forecasted pockets of air—too poisonous to breathe? A photo drifted onto my retina; a frame of augmented reality. New York City, 2025 a chaotic place: dead air, depleted oil, food shortages, and they must’ve been horrified when the honey bee became extinct.

I think, and a new photo appears—solar panels and windmill farms, 2031. Too bad the switch to alternate energy wasn’t enough to feed their capitalistic consumption. Must’ve been tough to survive in a crumbling ‘supply and demand’ society. I believe this was their undoing, greed; a path to global wars and famine.

Next frame—not my favourite—a photo of a quarantined home in Harlem, a reminder that humans were not at the top of the food chain. Millions died, and it took a hundred years to find a cure for the Pectin virus, an airborne contagion that gelled blood. I’m not sure how hope survived in their plagued world, nor can I contemplate the failure of concrete. By 2150 most buildings had exceeded their life. The skyscrapers crumbled first. Water rusted rebar had led to the disintegration of whole cities. The good thing was society had to shed its chrysalis and emerge with a new way of thinking.

A final photo appeared—New York, June 16th, 2375. It was today’s celebration commemorating the Age of Awakening in 2175. A time when human consciousness conceded to reform society out of necessity—change or face extinction.

My retina display hibernated. Crowds gathered. Being the Mayor of New York I was honoured to be in New Battery Park removing the last ceremonial brick of an old civilization. It took 200 years, but we did it, we had terraformed Manhattan, replacing all structures with green fields and trees for as far as the eye could see.

NaNoWriMo Half-Time Tribute

I doff my hat to every valiant writer who has made it their mission to push aside everything this month to complete a novel. This is a daunting endeavour, but one proven to be achievable. The absolute mind blowing 50,000 words in one month makes NaNoWriMo the Ironman race of the mind.

NaNoWriMo is coming up on half-time and you warriors-of-the-word-processors are locked in a daily word count battle that numbs the senses. In my world, you are all ‘Nanimals’ (novel writing animals), and to celebrate your achievements I bring you motivation from the past. I believe if Winston Churchill were alive today, he would be writing alongside you in the war of words, weaving plot, twisting characters and building tension. The half-time tribute: Imagine Churchill giving his historical speech, and imagine if he were a Nanimal like you.

We shall go on to the end, we shall write in our homes,
we shall write in libraries, and in coffee shops,
we shall write with growing confidence and growing strength in our prose, we shall write no matter what the cost may be,
we shall write in our regions,
we shall write and tweet,
we shall write with our pens and word processors,
we shall write day and night;
we shall never surrender!

Good luck you wild Nanimals!

I salute you all.

Never-Never-Never-Never-Give-up-Winston-Churchill-quote

 

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

2013-09-02 14.22.31Something is happening in this world that seems to hover in the shadows of our sensory perception, but every now and then, for a brief moment, that something comes into range. There are many stories in the media of sensible and credible people experiencing paranormal events and witnessing apparitions. The Internet is awash in “true stories” of the paranormal and plastered with ghostly photographs and videos.  Television programming captures empirical evidence of ghosts in the hit show Long Island Medium, where Theresa Caputo has an uncanny ability to channel spirits, and TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) logs ghostly encounters by using instruments designed to capture disembodied voices and movements of the departed. Some footage is astonishing and explainable, but what these shows bring to light is the question: Do you believe in ghosts?

I believe most of us have had some form of engagement with the supernatural (I have), and as frightening as these encounters might seem these events teach us something about ourselves: there’s a lurking monster in our fear of the unknown. The less we understand something and the more it defies natural reason, the more it frightens us.  I attempt to expose that formula of fear in my short story entitled “Danny” (to read click here). The story was written to evoke a feeling in the reader, prodding them with something unknown, something defying natural reason, and I channel this through the main character’s young son. At the end of the story, a thrilling tension bursts into a realization of terror regarding that unknown and without any reasonable explanation for this unknown a chilling fear surfaces in one of the characters. If I’ve done my job well as a writer that fear transfers to the reader. I want that chilling feeling to stay with them after the story, and in the future the reader may nervously second glance every closet door in their home—mission accomplished.

This brings me to note that the reader or each of us has a different way of interpreting our experiences with the paranormal. When we struggle to stitch logic around those experiences we find the boundaries of what we define as normal and preternatural, blurred and breeched. It leaves me to wonder about my opening question, “Do you believe in ghosts?” I have a feeling the answer to that question rests solely with the individual perceiving the experience and how they choose to interpret it.

Take a moment to recall a paranormal experience in your life. Remember that feeling of facing something unexplainable and terrifying. Perhaps it was a ghost, a phantom whisper, a knocking poltergeist or a moving shadow at the end of your bed. You’re a reasonable person, you’re educated, you have street smarts, but still you can’t frame this experience in any logical way. I ask you: if you’ve encountered a paranormal event, or when your time comes to behold something so terrifying, do we really have any choice but to trust our senses, and believe?

Short Story Published

Commuterlit

Click on the image and explore Commuterlit today! Great short stories daily to your email.

I’m honoured and thrilled to have my short story entitled “Danny” accepted by Commuterlit.com for publication this coming week. Spotlight moments like this make me realize that perseverance is a virtue. When writers and authors tell you the most important thing about writing is to write and read everyday; they’re right. You have to own your craft, and that means being engaged. Feed your brain all the available information about writing you can find, then add a dash of don’t-give-up, and eventually you’ll obtain your goals, and a first publication. Getting past that threshold of whether or not your writing is good enough for publication is a legitimate fear, but don’t let that stop you from submitting your work, especially if you’re looking for publication. Rejection is good, and yes it knocks you down, but it teaches you to find a way to get back up, and you learn. You learn a new way, and eventually perseverance will carry you over the finish line. I’m inspired today; I hope you are too.