Monday, 5 October 2015

Life As a Small Blogger

Why yes, I am a planner when it comes to my small blog...

And my blog here is precisely that - small. You're not likely to see Miss Cole Seeks Publisher topping any huge blog award listings anytime soon. I have a lovely small audience who I try and tailor the majority of my posts to... Although some of my non-writing passions come through from time to time (or, y'know, constantly).

Some blogs will be huge. Others will be small. You've got to find your level. If you want to grow, work hard. And think about why you're blogging. Are you blogging just to gain a bigger audience or are you doing it out of a passion for your subject matter?

I am very grateful to everyone who takes the time to read my blog. I write this because I enjoy it. It's not making me any money, but it's a great way of reaching out to other writers and staying in touch with them. I know I'm not alone. And I kinda hope some of the stuff I've learned over all my years of writing could be of use to others. That's my blog's purpose - to share what I've learned, connect with others, and learn something from fellow writers. Blogs need a purpose, and you need to stick to it.

The thing about being a small blogger is it's very hard to get noticed to begin with. Look around your blogging community for events you can join in on. You'll soon make friends!

These days, I plan my blog at least a month in advance. It really takes the pressure off me trying to think of something to post last minute when I'm also working, writing books, playing the violin, and doing the other ton of stuff on my daily to do lists. I like to think I've become a more reliable blogger.

Blogging should be fun. It shouldn't be something you dread or something you struggle with. Find your niche and go from there. Work hard and put in the effort to reap the rewards. Like all things, it's easy to be discouraged when you put a lot of time and effort into your posts and don't seem to get much of a response. If that bothers you, keep on reaching out to others. Comment on their blogs and see if they'll check yours out. Just don't pressure people - "hey, I followed your blog, now follow mine!" Let the readers come of their own free will.

When starting this blog, I made the very firm decision to keep it focused on writing. Thankfully, that allows me to incorporate other things - such as music and tea - because they're part of my routine. Sometimes I really want to write game reviews (very out of date game reviews because I'm still a console generation behind), and occasionally the fangirl gets the better of me (I JUST HAVE SO MANY FEELS ABOUT THINGS), but on the whole, I've stayed on topic. I've tried things that have worked and dropped things that haven't, but on the whole, I really enjoy blogging and I intend to keep at it. And if my audience grows, that'd be just lovely. But I'm happy as a small blogger. I've made it fit into my life this way. And I can always get better at it!

Friday, 2 October 2015

October Game Soundtrack Celebration!

It's October, hooray, and I'm going to celebrate videogame music every Friday. I'll share some old favourites and some new discoveries. Some of it will be easily available via iTunes or Amazon. Some of it may be available from the game's original publisher. Square Enix are very good for selling their OSTs online THANK GOODNESS. Some of it won't be available to buy at all, but thanks to Youtube and SoundCloud, I can still share them. I'm also going to share some of the best fan arrangements I can find, because I really appreciate fans who put together their own albums out of passion and talent.

Today, I thought I'd share music to inspire the beginning of a story.

The Last of Us

If your story starts amid a tragedy, or in the aftermath of one, the main theme from The Last of Us will get you in the mood to write a haunting story.

This soundtrack is available on iTunes. Hooray!

Dearly Beloved

I've chosen to use Project Destati's rendition of the main theme from the Kingdom Hearts series because it's absolutely beautiful. A great piece for stories with a quieter beginning that are heading for grand adventures.  

Be sure to check Project Destati out here if you're a fan of the series. They do amazing renditions of the Kingdom Hearts soundtracks and if you can't afford to buy the whole soundtracks, these are the perfect alternative option.

Final Fantasy VII Main Theme

Also known as "Ahead On Our Way", this is great inspiration for those of you whose characters are about to embark upon a life changing journey.

Metal Gear Solid - Main Theme

I'd say I'm sorry to anyone who's had to sit through all of my Metal Gear Solid 4 tweets, but I'd be lying :P

If you have an action packed story full of chase scenes, characters cheating death, and maybe a bittersweet subplot, the MGS4 version of the series' main theme is for you. While you can't buy the whole album, this theme is available on iTunes. It's part of the Metal Gear Music Selection album.

Zelda Medley

And finally, a classic of video gaming, played by one of the most amazing violinists, Lindsey Stirling. This is her own arrangement of music from the Legend of Zelda series. She makes playing it look so effortless. (Note to self - practice harder!!!) It's amazing, she's amazing, and if you're writing high fantasy, this is the music for you.

See you next week for more amazing game music!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Miss Cole's Tea Time - Infusers!

Today, I thought I'd take a look at the different kinds of infusers on offer. Why? Because it turns out I own a wide array of tea making devices! Shocking, I know ;) What? It's easier to have multiple options rather than wasting water with constant washing up...

This isn't even all of my infusers... ^^;

From left to right, there's my main tea infuser, a Tea Duck (I also have a Tea-Rex!), an old school tea ball infuser, the teapot, an infuser that can go in a teapot or a larger mug, and my (second) Ingenuitea.

Which one's the best? While I do prefer infusers that give my leaves room to swirl, there are times when I really want to contain the amount of stuff at my desk while I make my tea. The big infusers are the best for getting the most out of the leaves while not taking up too much space, but when the writing or editing is going well and I don't wanna keep getting up for tea, I need to have the teapot and a jug of milk on hand. Oh, and a tea strainer. Don't forget those if you're using loose leaf in a teapot without an internal strainer unless you enjoy picking leaves out your teeth. Ugh!

I do have a beautiful Jing tea set, too, and it's perfect for making tea at my desk because of its drip tray. I would've included it, but there's only so many infusers I can get into one photo :P

Tea Duck, as you can see, comes with a little chair to catch the drips. If I use the old school ball, I'll take a little bowl to drop it in because that thing will drip. The big metal strainer either goes in my teapot or I place it on its handy coaster. As great as tea stains are to give your desk that well used, hard working look, you don't want to run the risk of liquid getting into your electronics.

Do you have a favourite strainer? Would one of these tempt you away from using bags?

...Tea is the real reason I needed a bigger desk. It was nothing to do with my external monitor. It was all down to the tea.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Getting Back to Writing - Revist An Old Idea

There's a lot of old ideas in that box...

When you're getting back to writing after a break, sometimes revisiting and old idea could be the prompt your imagination needs.

I speak from experience.

When I started this blog in 2011, I was working on Resistance, the first book I ever queried. Getting past that book took a very long time. Everything I went through with Resistance was an essential learning experience for my on going quest to be published.

Thing is, even though I moved on from Resistance, I still loved it. And distance from it meant all its issues were clear to see. Last year, in the midst of querying Colony (<3), I got very nostalgic about that old book while also revisiting an idea of mine from early 2014 that hadn't worked out. I realised I could rewrite Resistance using that stalled idea.

So, over autumn and winter 2014, I rewrote Resistance. I referred to it as Magical Girl!Story. I solved some of the plot problems and thought I was steadily working towards my next querying project.

And then Ghost!Story came along mid-edit and Magical Girl!Story now languishes mid-edit.

I do not regret that rewrite or the work I put into editing it. It gave me something to focus my creative energy on.

Will I go back to it again? Maybe. Everything you write, from the big projects to the scraps that never go anywhere are great exercise for your writing skills. It's not always fun to abandon a project, but there's often a good reason - and you can go back to it later.

And don't forget, sometimes the only person you have to write for is yourself. Revel in being unagented! We may long for an agent to say "Yes!", but right now we only have to answer to ourselves. Got a totally unmarketable idea you need to get off your chest? DO IT. Not quite ready to let go of an old story? Write more. Returning to writing because that new idea is the next BIG idea that might land you an agent? Go for it!

After a long break from writing, do whatever writing you need to do to ground yourself once more.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Monthly Soundtrack Reviews - Final Symphony

Soundtrack: Final Symphony
Year: 2015
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu (Arranged by Jonne Valtonen and Roger Wanamo)
Stand Out Track: Final Fantasy VII: Drowned by Fireworks (Part of the Second Movement)
Works Well With: Writing. That's it. Just writing. ALL the writing. 

After the wonder that was this month's Final Symphony II concert, I had to go back and review the first concert's album. Right now, this is still my album of the year. Will anything top it? Hard to say. I've had it since February, and I still feel every emotion when I listen to it. That's how powerful this music is.

Final Symphony is a symphonic arrangement of music from three Final Fantasy games - VI, VII and X. This is the greatest videogame album of all time. For people who've never played the games, you're in for a real orchestral treat because the London Symphony Orchestra are outstanding. For those of us who have played the games, not only will you love these renditions of classics, but you'll keep hearing cues from some of each game's greatest and most popular themes.

This music is perfect for writing with because it takes you through every emotion. It has beauty, tension, greatness, sorrow, loss, and triumph. Every track has something to offer a writer to work with. The thing I love about the Final Symphony albums is how every piece of music contains its own story.
The Final Fantasy VI Symphonic Poem: Born with the Gift of Magic has such an grand opening. I adore how it goes from Terra's Theme, a really beautiful piece of music, to a waltz with Kefka. The character's madness is utterly ingrained in the piece. From those contrasting but magnificent themes we go into a soft, delicate harp section. Slowly, the sense of mystery and wonder takes hold, only for it to build and build into the battle theme. It really encompasses the game's mid-point and quite astonishing plot twist... which I can't spoil here. From there, hints of earlier themes wind around the huge bass and brass notes until the music reaches its explosive peak. With the battle won, the music slowly winds down, reminding us maybe we've lost people on the way to our ultimate victory. Nevertheless, the world is safe again.

Next up is the Final Fantasy X piano concerto. It was arranged by Masashi Hamauzu, one of the soundtrack's composers. It's split into three tracks - Zanarkand, Inori and Kessen. To Zanarkand is put to beautiful use here. Even with the more upbeat tunes surrounding it, the theme's melancholy edge slips out from time to time. In Inori, you'll hear a stunning piano rendition of Hum of the Fayth, underpinned perfectly by the rest of the orchestra. It starts so softly, builds up to quite a jaunty melody, before the orchestra drowns it all out, like we're heading for battle ourselves, leading into the third and final piece, Kessen. This is a combination of the game's more action-packed moments. You might have a chance to catch your breath halfway through before the piece builds to its finale.

The Final Fantasy X section also features an encore performance of Suteki Da Ne (Isn't it Wonderful?). I love how the piano flows through this piece. It's romantic, passionate, and just a tiny bit heartbreaking.

The second half of this album is dedicated to Final Fantasy VII. After the beautiful lightness of the previous piano concertos, Final Fantasy VII's opening movement, Nibelheim Incident, really changes the mood of the album. It's deliciously ominous. Snatches of One Winged Angel taunt us throughout. And just listen to how Bombing Mission is entwined with the game's main theme. Even Jenova comes in on strings. Don't be lulled by the pauses or the diminuendos. The first movement is the game's darkest themes in musical form.

The second movement, Words Drowned in Fireworks is a complete change in tone. Gone is the menacing threat of Sephiroth, Jenova, and Meteor. The opening swell of strings is simply beautiful. It's a magical piece. It's that moment of sunshine amid the chaos and terror. The percussion transitions us from the fireworks to the Main Theme again, blended seamlessly with hints of Aerith's Theme. The strings in this piece are so moving. The cellos and double basses swirl from below the melody, adding such warmth and depth to an already emotive piece of music. We descend to the lowest notes as Aerith's Theme becomes a threat, an attack on the senses, because the world is in terrible danger.

We move into the third movement and the bombastic conclusion. Calm bleeds into the panic thanks to Cosmo Canyon's woodwind and percussion. The string section returns with the soaring Highwind theme. Then we descend into Jenova. It is so epic. And after the battle is done, the music floats through one of my favourite melodies of the game's conclusion. Hope is restored. The music gathers into a triumphant and uplifting finale. And listen as they even sneak the Main Theme in as the drums boom out and the orchestra gives one united crescendo before the music falls away to a tranquil fade.

But wait! There are two more encores. Continue? from Final Fantasy VII  was just the icing on the cake because I finally have an orchestral version of one of my all time videogame favourites, Anxious Heart. I adore it because I find it so soothing, and this rendition is wondrous. Like a hug made out of music.

The final encore - because sadly this album did have to end - Fight, Fight, Fight! is a medley of battle themes from the games. If you have an epic fight to write, this will get you through.

If you love Final Fantasy, or if you're in need of some truly spectacular music to write with, this album is a must own. I really hope you all hear it and love it. It makes me so happy.

Will we get a Final Symphony III? I certainly hope so <3

Friday, 25 September 2015

Ever Written A Plot Plan?

My ears are full of the voices of plotters saying "Of course I have a plot plan. Can't write without one!"

Pantsers, this post is for you.

What's a plot plan? A summary of what happens in each chapter. I never do this before I write because 1) I never know what'll happen, 2) I don't separate my first drafts into chapters and 3) PLOTTING IN ADVANCE BORES ME TO TEARS. It's a concept that does not compute to me.

However! We pantsers can make very good use of plot plans when we're editing. Having a chapter by chapter summary is a great way to see what's working, what needs tweaking, and what needs deleting. I have a habit of dumping every possible idea into a first draft, including threads I don't wind up developing. A plot plan can help me weed this rubbish out.

It's also a handy way to remind yourself of the plot. Yeah, sometimes I pants a book so hard I don't really remember what I've written until I re-read it. It's kind of like an out of body experience. "I wrote that? Wow! I'm not so bad at this!"

So, how do I, Pantser Extraordinaire, create my plot plan?

  1. Read the first draft and divide into chapters
  2. During the second read-through, write down what each paragraph does to move the story on. If it doesn't, it gets deleted. 
  3. Go back to earlier chapter outlines when something crops up in a later chapter that requires grounding sooner rather than later.
  4. Same if later chapters reveal plot points never came to anything and need removing from earlier chapters.
As you might expect, my plot plan can change between drafts. Still, it comes in handy as an editing tool. With all things, this is my method. Plotters, by all means feel free to do this before you start drafting ;) As for my fellow pantsers, this is a fantastic editing tool. Helpful when you reach the synopsis writing phase, too.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Miss Cole's Tea Time: Covent Garden Blend from The Tea House

Aaaaah, it's been too long since I had a good firm Assam blend. When I went to London the other week to see Final Symphony II, I stopped off at The Tea House in Covent Garden to pick up, hahah, their Covent Garden blend! Yum!

This is a perfect morning tea. Strong, loads of caffeine, and plenty of kick to get you writing. I recommend brewing for at least three minutes and adding milk. It's also a great tea for the train commuters out there. Take it with you. Drink and write on your way to work. A good, strong cup of tea first thing in the morning can be just the motivation your imagination needs to get to work on your WiP. It'll fight off the post-working day slump, too. If you've had a long day but you need to get some work done, make yourself a cup of Covent Garden tea and you'll find the energy to get the words on the page.