Friday, 14 February 2014

Author Interview || Joseph Delaney

About this author
Joseph Delaney is a full time writer living in Lancashire, in the heart of Boggart territory. He first got the idea for the Wardstone Chronicles series when he moved to the village where he lives now and discovered there was a local boggart - ‘a man like me needs boggarts around’. He made a note in his notebook ‘a story about a man who hunts boggarts’ and years later when he had to come up with an idea at short notice developed this into ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’, the first book in the series. The Spook's Apprentice, The Spook's Curse and The Spook's Secret have all been shortlisted for the Lancashire children's Book for the Year Award. The Spook's Apprentice is the winner of both the Sefton Book Award and the Hampshire Book Award.

The Speculative Daily: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and your books?

Joseph Delaney: The ‘Wardstone Chronicles ’is the story of an apprentice, Tom Ward, being trained by a spook to fight the dark. They deal with ghosts, ghasts, boggarts and lots of witches who drink blood and crunch bones.

I was a teacher of film and media studies before becoming a full-time writer. But I began my working life as an apprentice in a factory. I carried a tool bag for an older engineer but we didn’t fight the dark. We just repaired machinery.

TSD: Which books inspired you to start writing?

Joseph: Every time I read a great book I think ‘I wish I’d written that’. There were so many – far too many to list. But I enjoyed ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Dune’ both of which probably influenced my writing. They certainly inspired me!

TSD: Nowadays, YA is a very popular genre. Did you grow up reading YA? What are your opinions about the conditions of the genre at present?
Joseph: When I was growing up there was no such category as ‘YA’. I got my books from the local library which had a children’s section although I really wanted to borrow from the adult library! I used to read two books a week from about the age of six. The ‘YA’ genre is thriving and some of its books can be read by much older people. Recently when I signed a book for a teenager she said: “It’s not for me. It’s for my mum!”


TSD: The movie for ‘Spook’s Apprentice’ is scheduled for release early next year. How involved are you in the filming process? Is it going to stay true to the book and what are your expectations?

Joseph: I have not been involved in the filming process that much. They asked me a few questions and I visited the set in Vancouver and watched Jeff Bridges in action. It has gone through a process of three directors and even more screen writers. It took eight years from my signing of the contract to the post production of the film. It is different from the ‘Spook’s Apprentice’ but it will be a good action film and Jeff Bridges will be a good convincing Spook.

TSD: With a book a year, you must have a very busy writing schedule. Do you still find time to read? Which books have you recently enjoyed?

Joseph: My schedule is busy but I still read a lot from a range of genres. Recently I have read:

The Wool Trilogy Hugh Howie

The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers

Success Martin Amis

The Green Man Kingsley Amis

Goldfinger Ian Fleming

Butcher’s Crossing John Williams

The Luck Uglies Paul Durham

(This last one was a proof copy. It is published in July 2014)



TSD:  In the “Curse of the Bane” the body of the Quisitor who burns ‘witches’ floats showing that he is the evil one. As a former educator, do you leave subtle lessons in your books for the benefit of young readers? If so, how do you manage to balance the part meant for pure entertainment and the one which is meant to teach your readers something?


Joseph: I don’t deliberately leave any lessons at all in my books but they probably do reflect the way I think. I am just trying to tell an interesting story and scare my readers.

TSD:  You completed an apprenticeship just like your protagonist Tom Ward. Do you see other similarities between him and you?

Joseph: There are a few. For example my mother believed in duty. I hated being an apprentice but she made me go to work on cold rainy mornings. That’s what Tom’s mam does too. He has to work with the Spook and fight the dark whether he wants to or not!

You can buy Joseph Delaney's book "The Revenge of the Witch (also published as The Spook's Apprentice)" from

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Author Interview|| Laura Michelle Thomas

 Laura Michelle Thomas is an author and professional copywriter and ghostwriter. She has been mentoring young writers in workshops, camps and courses since 2007.  More recently Laura formed a communications company through which she fosters the development of young writers worldwide through quality contests, conferences, blogging, books, and educational resources. She has been kind enough to give us an interview about her book Polly Wants to Be a Writer: The Junior Authors Guide to Writing and Getting Published.


The Speculative Daily: Can you tell us what this book is about and who you wrote it for?

Laura Michelle Thomas: Polly Wants to Be a Writer is a YA fantasy novel based on the materials I used to teach an eight-week short story workshop for young writers in which the students go from having no ideas on the first day to a fully polished short story of no more than 2,000 words that is ready to submit to a publisher. Several of my students have gone on to publish the stories they wrote during this class, and what is most helpful to them is walking with me step-by-step through the writing process: from idea to formatting and submission. Readers will be able to do the same as Polly, a fifteen-year-old wannabe writer struggles with the same issues.

TSD: What inspired you to write your book?

Laura:
Not what, who. I talk to aspiring young writers, writing teachers, and parents with talented literary kids every day. Everyone needs realistic advice about becoming a professional writer. I simply cannot help them all individually, so I wrote a book that will.

TSD: What was your biggest obstacle during the writing process? How did you overcome it?

Laura: 
Time and space. Writing a novel on speculation (which means that you work on your book for almost a year and have no idea if you will sell a single copy) is very risky, so I always put my paid writing work first. I had to make a choice this year to put my novel first. I have to remake that decision every day. Hiring a talented team of young freelancers to help me serve my copywriting and ghostwriting customers was a really smart thing to do.

TSD: What advice do you have for writers who are thinking about writing a novel?

Laura:
If you are serious about getting a book into reader’s hands, be realistic. Are you really ready for a major project? Have you had success publishing and getting paid for smaller pieces of work? If not, try that first. However much time and effort you think it is going to be, multiply that by ten. Also, be sure that you understand the different stages of the writing process. They are all different and will challenge you in different ways. Knowing your inner dragon (that voice in your head that tells you that your writing sucks) and how to use him will truly help if you do decide to tackle a big project like a novel.

You can buy Laura's book 'Polly Wants to Be a Writer' from
Amazon.com|| Amazon.co.uk
IndieBound|| BookDespository

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Amazing|| Photography

Since this is a very small version of the real picture, it doesn't do it much justice.
To see the full sized image click here.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Author Interview|| Michelle Sagara West

Michelle Michiko Sagara is a Japanese-Canadian author of fantasy literature, active since the early 1990s. She has published as Michelle Sagara, as Michelle West and as Michelle Sagara West. She lives in Toronto and is employed part-time at Bakka. She was generous enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer our interview questions.

The Speculative Daily: What inspired you to start writing?

Michelle Sagara West: Like most writers, my inspiration for writing is a direct result of my love of reading. Books were like entire pocket worlds for me as a child; I loved them. I loved the stories and I loved the words. Sometimes I had to struggle with the words to understand and appreciate the nuances they contained--but unlocking them always opened up new avenues for me as a reader, and new ways of seeing both myself and the world around me.

I wanted to write books at a very young age--I thought, at the time, books were all made by hand, and I was frustrated because my writing and drawing didn't look like a real book.

But eventually I understood off-set printing, and printing presses, and publication, and at that time, I started to write, because I wanted to tell a story that readers would fall in love with, just as I’d fallen in love with the stories of others.

TSD: What were the major hurdles in getting your novel published and publicised?

Michelle: The major hurdles for me were writing and revising a novel. This isn’t as simple an answer as it at first seems. Writing for yourself is a simple act of creation; it’s not so much an act of communication. You understand how you think; you understand who your characters are. But when you’re writing for other readers you need to make certain that some of that knowledge is actually on the page. Too much, and it slows the story down; too little and it becomes confusing and possibly even seems pointless.
But learning to write is very individual, because literally no two published writers I know work the same way. Each of us has a process that works for us. Some are heavy outliners. Some can’t outline at all. Some write long, detailed character sketches; some learn about the characters as they write them. There’s no right way to write a novel; there’s only the way you’ve discovered that works for your novels - and so much of that is stumbling around in the dark looking for glimmers of luminescence. But that was the hard part, for me. In 1991, when my book was published, publishers accepted unsolicited (i.e. unagented) books, so I sent my book to Del Rey books. The editor liked my writing, but didn't like some elements of the book, and asked to see anything else I had either previously written or would write in the future.

There’s no right way to write a novel; there’s only the way you’ve discovered that works for your novels - and so much of that is stumbling around in the dark looking for glimmers of luminescence.

TSD: Do you base your characters on real life people?

Michelle: I don’t base most of my characters on real life people, in part because some of the stuff the characters go through is so personal it could wind up being awkward. And I don’t really do character sketches before I start to write. This doesn’t mean that there’s anything at all wrong with character sketches. Some people find them necessary--and writing is really all about finding your own process.

TSD: How do you deal with writers block?

Michelle: Writer’s block is interesting. Until I started working on two projects simultaneously, I used to think that I had stretches in which my creative brain was on strike. But I discovered that while it might take me 6 hours to write 400 words in one book, I could switch projects and write 1500 words in two hours, and I began to realize that sometimes the slowdown - or even the dead stop - was very much based in individual projects. Sometimes I can’t move forward because there’s something wrong with what I’ve just done, and I’m too close to it to see it.

When I first started writing, I couldn’t have worked on two projects simultaneously. But the way through, for me, was to set a minimum number of words that I had to write during a writing day--and to write those, no matter how long it took. This was probably as much fun as it sounds. 

                                                                  -----------------

We thank you Michelle, for taking out the time to talk to us about your journey as an author. There were some great tips for aspiring writers.

Our favourite from Michelle's books are the Chronicles of Elantra series (yes all nine of them !) and next in line to read is "Silence" book 1 of ' The Queen of the Dead' series. Reviews for Cast in Shadow is going to be put up soon, so stay posted.

Click on any of the following links to buy book 1 of Chronicles of Elantra :

Want us to interview your favourite author? leave a comment


Friday, 10 January 2014

Some Awesome Libraries|| You Don't See These Everywhere

1) Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai- Egypt
This one is our favourite because of its unique design, one you could imagine to be similar to Great Library of Alexandria. It is home to some of the world's most ancient manuscripts written in different languages of which Greek and Arabic are prominent. Due to its religious importance a small town has grown around it.

 2) Centrale Biblotheek- Amsterdam
Giving the warm effect of a perfect library, Centrale Bibliotheek is the place to relax amidst books of whatever genre you like. Strange, really, that such designs aren't more common since it seems so fitting for a library.
3) Stuttgart City Library- Germany                                                                           
Wow,this is one cold library! Even the books and visitors don't bring any colour to this 'White Wonder'.The neutral theme and intense brightness lower the ratings of this one otherwise the sheer amount of books in this 5 storey building is simply amazing. It has a grand feeling to it that few buildings can claim to match.                         



4) Library of Congress- USA
Boasting a collection of over 32 million books in some 470 languages, the Library of Congress is one of the largest libraries ever. Apart from printed material much of the library's data is stored electronically. A copy of 'Old King Cole' measuring 1/25"x1/25" has such tiny pages that they can only be turned over with the help of a needle.





5) The Trinity College Long Room- Ireland
Can you imagine how awesome it must be to walk through this room. Books as far you can see, crammed in their shelves just waiting for you to pick them up. Ahh...Bliss. Housing 0.2 million of the main library's 6 million books, it is part of Ireland's largest library. With marble busts, thousands of rare books and an ancient harp, it is a major tourist attraction.
The Jedi archives in the Star Wars movie bears close resemblance to the long room but officials declined to take any legal action.












5) Stockholm Public Library- Sweden
With tens of thousands of books and even more audio books, CDs and sound recordings, the library is one of Stockholm's most notable buildings. In the 'International Library' section, containing material in other languages, Arabic, Persian, Spanish and Russian are the most notable languages. With a friendly, self-serve atmosphere, you could spend the entire day just looking at the books.




“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” - Mark Twain


Friday, 10 May 2013

Dialogue in Consciousness || Understanding Reality ( Well, trying to, at any rate)

What  is reality? Is it an illusion, a creation of sensory perception, a projection of our minds which has no existence of its own. Or is it independent of human experience. This has been one of the foremost questions I have had for a while now and have sought to theorize and frame answers now and again. Not that any possible explanations can be verified due to the nature of the subject.
The following is an article I found while aimlessly searching the net and was astounded by its relevance and insight. I don't agree a hundred percent with this but still, some of the explanations within this piece match closely with my own personal theories so here goes enjoy:


Dialogue in Consciousness

1.  What is the difference between a concept and Reality? 

a. A concept is a thought of a separate object together with a name or identifier of the object.
b. Thoughts begin to arise in early childhood. The infant's mind contains few concepts whereas the sage's mind sometimes may contain many thoughts but the sage always sees directly that separation is an illusion.
c. Without thoughts, there are no objects (e.g., in dreamless sleep, under anesthesia, or in samadhi) because, by definition, an object is the thought of it.
d. Reality is not a thought. Rather, It is absence of separation.

2.  What is meant by true and untrue concepts?

a. A belief is a concept which contains the concept of attachment.
b. A belief that cannot be verified by direct seeing is always subject to attack by a counter-belief. Therefore, it must be constantly reinforced by repetition of the belief. 
c. Since Reality is absence of separation, It cannot be perceived. Therefore, concepts cannot describe Reality (but they can be true, see g and h below).
d. Example: A material object by definition is separate from other material objects. Therefore, material objects are not real. The belief that material objects are real is constantly reinforced by materialistic culture, and is sustained only by a failure to see the distinction between objects and Reality.
e. Although concepts cannot describe Reality, they can point to Reality. 
f.  A pointer is an invitation to see directly the distinction between an object and Reality. 
g. If a concept asserts or implies the reality of any object, it is untrue. If it negates the reality of an object, it is true (but not a description of Reality). A true concept can be a useful pointer to Reality.
h. Example: The concept that material objects are not real is true, and is a pointer to Reality.

3.  What is the world (the universe)? 

a. The world (the universe) is the collection of objects consisting of the body-mind and all other objects. The world appears to exist in time and space.
b. However, time and space are nothing but concepts. They are not real.
c. Time is the concept of change. Since all objects change, all objects are temporal concepts.
d. Space is the concept of extension (size and shape). Since all objects are extended in space, all objects are spatial concepts.   

4.  What are polar, or dual, pairs of concepts?

a. Thought always results in inseparable pairs of concepts (dual pairs) because every thought has an opposite.
b. Reality is apparently split into dual pairs by thought. However, no thought is real since Reality cannot be split.  
c. The result of apparently splitting Reality into dual pairs of concepts is called duality. 
d. The two concepts of a pair are always inseparable because the merger of the opposites will cancel the pair.
e. Example: "I"/not-"I" is a dual pair of concepts. If the "I" and not-"I" merge, neither concept remains. 

5.  What is Awareness/Presence?

a. Awareness/Presence is not a concept or object. It is what is aware of all concepts and objects. 
b. It does not change and It has no extension so It is time-less and space-less.
c. However, It is said to be space-like because all concepts and objects are said to appear in It.
d. The terms “Awareness/Presence” and “Reality” are equivalent conceptual pointers.

6.  What are We? 

a. We are not a concept or object because We are what is aware of all concepts and objects.
b. Therefore, We are Awareness/Presence.
c. Because the body-mind and the world are objects, they appear in Us--We do not appear in them.
d. We do not appear in the body so We are not contained or restricted by it.

7.  What is existence? 

a. An object is said to exist if it is believed to be separate from Awareness/Presence. It then also appears to be separate from other objects.
b. Existence is only apparent because Awareness/Presence always remains unsplit.
c. The apparently real existence of objects is called illusion (Maya).
d. The sage, being only Awareness/Presence and knowing only Awareness/Presence, knows that he/she is not separate from anything.

8.  What is the "I"-object?

a. When an "I"-concept is believed to be separate from Awareness/Presence, it is said to exist as an "I"-object.
b. However, clear seeing shows that there is no "I"-object.
c. We are not objects and We do not exist as objects. We are Reality (Awareness/Presence). 

9.  What is it that makes other objects seem to exist?

a. Whenever the "I"-object appears to arise, the not-"I" object also appears to arise.
b. Then, desire for completion also arises, including the desire for the not-"I" object.
c. But, because fear/desire form a dual pair, whenever desire arises, fear also arises, including the fear of the not-"I" object.
d. Thus, the not-"I" object seems real.
e. Thought also splits the apparent not-"I" object into a multitude of apparent objects, and fear/desire makes them all seem real.  

10.  What is the true nature of all objects?

  a. All apparent objects arise in Awareness/Presence.
  b. Because physical space and time are apparent objects, they also arise in Awareness/Presence.
  c. No apparent object is separate from Awareness/Presence. Thus, all apparent objects consist of Awareness/Presence.
  d. Objects are not real as objects but they are real as Awareness/Presence.
  e. Awareness/Presence welcomes/loves all apparent objects that appear in It.

11.  What is the personal sense of doership

a. Along with illusory "I"-object, arises also the sense of personal doership.
b. However, since there is no "I"-object, there is no doer, no thinker, no chooser, and no observer.
c. Therefore, "we" have no control. Thus, whatever happens, happens. Whatever doesn't happen, doesn't happen.

12.  If there is no doer, how do things happen? 

a. Everything that happens is only an arising in Awareness/Presence.
b. Only one arising is present at any moment. No other arisings are ever present to affect the arising that is present.
c. Since no arising is present to affect the arising that is present, there can be no law of cause-and-effect.
d. The concept of causality, i.e., that one event causes another event, is only an arising in Awareness/Presence.
e. Since causality is only a concept, "I" can never do anything.
f. Because "I" can do nothing, neither can "I" choose. Thus, free will is nothing but an empty concept.

13.  What is suffering? 

a. The feeling of being separate is an arising that carries with it a sense of shame for feeling isolated, alienated, lonely, and disconnected.
b. The sense of free will is an arising that carries with it the feeling of personal responsibility for "my" past and "my" future.
c. The sense of personal responsibility is an arising that carries with it guilt and regret for "my" past and worry and anxiety for "my" future.

14.  What is awakening (enlightenment)? 

a. Awakening is the realization that I am not separate and I have never been separate. Therefore there is no shame.
b. Awakening carries with it the realization that I do nothing and I have never done anything. Therefore, there is no regret, guilt, worry, or anxiety.
c. Awakening is the awareness that Reality, which is what I am, has never been affected by any concepts.
d. Awakening is the awareness that my true nature includes a sense of Welcoming/Love.

15.  What can we do to awaken?           

 a. Since direct seeing shows that there is no doer, there is nothing that the "individual" can do to awaken.
 b. Since awakening transcends time, no practice that occurs in time can bring about awakening. Thus most practices do not bring about awakening.
 c. However, direct seeing can bring about awakening because direct seeing is timeless seeing.

16.  Does this mean that there is no hope for the sufferer? 

a. Definitely not. There are many practices that will lead to less suffering. However, like all other actions, they are never done by a doer since there is no doer. Therefore, "we" cannot do them. If they happen, they happen. If not, they don’t.
b. Example: To see that there is no “I”, look inward for it and see that there is none. See also that everything that happens, including all thoughts and feelings, happens spontaneously so there can be no doer.
c. Example: To see that no object exists, look and see that all objects are nothing but arisings in Awareness/Presence. Then, look and see that no object could ever bring "you" peace. Finally, see that nothing can affect You who are Awareness/Presence/Presence Itself.

17.  What else can we do?

a. We can go inward and downward and feel the breath. This takes us out of the head and the thinking mind and puts us in the body and the senses.
b. We can practice mindfulness and see that our attachments and aversions are nothing but arisings in Awareness/Presence.
c. We can become aware that all objects are nothing but arisings in Awareness/Presence and therefore cannot affect Us.
d. We can see that there can be no suffering in pure Awareness/Presence.
e. We can trust Awareness/Presence, which is our true nature.
f. We can rest in Awareness/Presence, which is our home.


This piece is taken from the following link:

http://faculty.virginia.edu/consciousness/Dialogue.htm
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