Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Writer

As a full time writer, people often ask me what it is I do all day. Looking around my house, it’s clear I don’t spend all my time cleaning.

So what does a typical writing day look like for Ash Oldfield?

I just want to preface this by saying that I make up my income via teaching Science at evening school. This means I do not get to bed until late. Please keep that in mind when I tell you that I wake up at any time between 10am to 11am (alarms are for the masses, not for me!). When I first quit full time work I was made to feel guilty about my late starting hour, but I have since come to realise that I don’t live the same schedule as everyone else, so of course my sleeping patterns are different.

I often lie in bed and have ‘imagination time’. In the first half hour after waking I have been known to plot out an entire scene, sometimes even a chapter, word-for-word. Once I have done with daydreaming I roll out of bed, fix myself a cup of tea, and sit for a bit with my cats. In Winter I put the heater on and wait for the house to heat up, huddled under a blanket. This is the time, in between waking and lunch that I devote to social media. My brain struggles to word properly, so I avoid writing unless I am truly desperate to put words down on a page. Once it hits around 12 or so I make myself some lunch.

After lunch I really get stuck in to my writing. I can sit for 5 or 6 hours on a good day, 1 or 2 hours on a bad day. How many words I get down depends on where I am in the writing process – planning, rough draft, rewrites or editing. Where I sit also depends on my mood – generally this is anywhere you can image other than a desk. I have even, on occasion, written whilst in the bath! If there is any sun out I take a chair outside and write from there, otherwise I huddle over my stable-table in all manner of places.

I try to finish writing by 4 or 5 o’clock. As I said, I teach in the evenings and find it impossible to have my students understand what I am saying when I am still in writing mode. I feed the dog, the guinea pigs and the rabbit, read for half an hour or so, then head off to work in the evenings.

Of course, this schedule is often mixed up a bit. Some days I catch a bus or train somewhere to work from a library, a cafe or my husband’s office. Other days I head off to see my Mum or my girlfriends. I believe it is vital for writers to leave their nests every once and a while. I have noticed that, if I have not socialised recently, my writing becomes stilted and staid. I also play indoor soccer (futsal) twice a week, and go for walks when I can be bothered. My bad back requires the exercise, and I find I can plot out some tricky scenes or dialogue when I’m walking. Unless I take my dog with me, in which case every stranger wants to stop me so they can say hello to the adorable little fluff ball (okay, so he’s a big fluff ball).



Am I being entirely honest here? Am I really that productive over all, every day of the week? Well, no, to be honest. Some days I spend my time researching topics for new ideas, studying online courses in history and the like. Some days the words just won’t come and I loll about on the couch in utter frustration. Sometimes I spend days, weeks on end doing nothing but reading. Some (very rare) days I clean the house from top to bottom, cook gourmet meals or even dance around the house like I’ve lost my mind. Some days I think I have lost my mind.

I am truly lucky with my lifestyle. It is varied and interesting. I can dictate how my days happen, if at all (pyjama day, anyone?) and I really, truly appreciate the opportunity.

So tell me: Is this what you thought a day in the life of a writer would be like? Did you somehow think it would be more exotic? Less exotic? Leave your thoughts in the comments below :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

5 Steps for Researching Story Ideas

Whenever I meet new people, and they find out that I am a writer, one of the first things they ask me is: "Where do you get your ideas from?"



I often don't know what to tell them. I mean, ideas are cheap, it's the execution of them that's the hard work, so I never really think about it.

Sometimes I get my ideas from weird dreams I have. I'll be honest with you, though, these never really amount to much because there isn't any substance to them.

I suppose most of my ideas, usually unconsciously, comes from spending many happy hours researching topics that pique my interest. I have been known to get lost in an infinite Wikipedia loop of fascinating information.

I am actually on the lookout for a new story idea as we speak. I am writing book 3 of a series (which I hope to release in one go), and when I am finished I want something that I can move on to straight away. Rachaya is about dragons, and I have probably spent around 10 years on and off researching these mythological creatures. The thought of moving on to a topic that I have not got as much in-depth knowledge of scares the bajeebuz out of me. So I have begun research on a whole new area.



But how do you do that without getting mired down in the unimportant?

Here are the basic 5 steps I follow whenever I am researching a new topic of interest:

1) Pick a topic that is of interest to you. What have you always wished you knew more about? What sorts of ideas are always click-bait for you?

2) Narrow down your field of interest into a simple, answerable question. The question I started with most recently was: "How did religion shape ancient civilizations and vice versa?"

3) Gather a whole heap of resources around you that can help you answer this question. I prefer to start with reference books such as encyclopedias before I head to the internet, but that's just personal preference.

4) Take detailed notes in an organised log-book (whether this is pen and paper or online).

5) Allow yourself to be taken along divergent threads of interest. I give myself boundaries with this; for me I only allow myself to diverge down paths that are relevant to the original topic of interest.

Following these steps should give you a whole heap of ideas to work from. In one week of research I have far too many ideas to pursue. One word of caution - never use this research as an info-dump in your story. It is for you and you alone to know.

How do you come up with your story ideas? Do you prefer more or less research before you begin planning and writing?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Author Introduction: Ben Rawlings

Years and years ago I wrote a couple of children's books about Scruffy the Bear ("Scruffy the Christmas Bear" and "Scruffy the Adventurous Bear"). I had them illustrated by the super talented and long-time friend, Ben Rawlings. He has been writing books for as long as I have, and is finally sharing them with the world! I am so super excited about these books. You can check out "Anastasia: The Dream Chronicles" and "The City That Forever Sleeps" here.

In other news, I am this close to completing the rewrite of my dragon book and am beginning to think up tentative titles. I am so relieved that the rewrite phase is nearly complete. It has really tested my perseverance. Next stop: editing town.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Update - 2016 - Where Has The Time Gone?

Twenty-sixteen has already proved to be a hectic year, and it has only just begun! Or has it? It's nearly March already. Where has the time gone?

I have, as always, been plodding along with my writing. In a fit of excitement I took the manuscript for book 1 of my Rachaya series and completely tore it apart, figuratively speaking. It has received the Oldfield Special Overhaul, complete with new characters, action-packed scenes, and of course even more exciting magic. I am hoping to share this story with the world by the end of this year. I feel like there have been many roadblocks with this book, but the only thing holding me back now is the cost of a good editor. Once that has been accomplished it will be full steam ahead, releasing my dragons out into the world for all of you to enjoy!

Late last year I locked myself away in a secret location (a.k.a. my home office) and wrote a really fun little book that is jam-packed with magic and adventure. My protagonist is called Leila. That's all I can say for now because the story is in first draft form. I tend to completely change everything during the rewrite. Instead of dragons my focus has been on witches, and I have really enjoyed researching the topic. If anyone has time to study a Coursera course, I can whole-heartedly recommend the University of Barcelona's 'Magic in the Middle Ages' MOOC.

In other news, I am getting married in a little over a week - eek! This will obviously keep me very busy, but to be honest I can't wait for all the planning to be over. I just want life to return to normal.

Until next time, Happy Reading and Happy Writing everyone!

P.S. What do you all think of the new layout of this website? So far I think it's my favourite.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fact or Fiction? Recalcitrant Prince

I am doing a different sort of Fact or Fiction? this month. I have hurt my back and am unable to sit down for any length of time. So instead I am posting a very short story I wrote a few weeks ago, using the writing prompts from my "Tell Tale Fairy Tales" set. I hope you enjoy!



Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there lived a very exacting king. And this king decided that it was about time his son married and provided him with an heir or three. The son was not pleased about this, but the king was not to be argued with. The prince thought long and hard about his predicament, when suddenly he was struck with a brilliant idea! He would embark on a dangerous quest, the likes of which the minstrels would be singing about for years to come. He would bring so much glory to his father that he would never have to marry if he didn't want!

Without a moment to lose, the young prince armed himself with sword and shield and set off into the dark, scary forest. He was wandering for many minutes, longer than he had ever wandered before, when he spied a huge red mushroom. It had white dots and sparkled with fairy dust. With eyes wide, the prince leaned in close to the mushroom until his face was bathed in golden fairy light. The mushroom smelled fragrant, like ripe strawberries on a warm summer afternoon. Famished from his arduous, minutes-long walk, the prince extended his pink tongue and licked the glittering mushroom.

POP! FIZZ! CRACKLE! The prince began to shrink rapidly, and unsightly grey hair sprouted from his face and body. Large front teeth protruded from his whiskered, elongated nose. The prince had turned into a rat! He squeaked with delight. There was no way his father could make him marry now! The rat-prince skipped off into the forest, his long bald tail swinging merrily behind him. He lived happily ever after.

The end.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Captive Prince, by C.S.Pacat

Last night I had the absolute honour of meeting the very talented author, C.S.Pacat at her book signing, hosted by Dymocks Camberwell. C.S.Pacat has been making headlines recently over the publication of The Captive Prince, book 1 in her fantasy trilogy. I had heard of this story, but had been increasingly frustrated by people's inability to describe to me what the book was about. All they could say was that the book was soooooo good that they didn't want to give me any spoilers. So I went to C.S.Pacat's book signing and let the author speak for herself. I was instantly impressed. C.S.Pacat was intelligent, spoke knowledgeably and passionately about her craft, and was immensely humble. I immediately purchased her book.



She was also kind enough to pose for a photo with me!

This morning I idly flicked through the book as I sipped on my cup of tea. Next thing I knew it was 4.30pm and I was reading the final paragraphs of The Captive Prince. It has been a very long time since a book has grabbed me like that.

So what is The Captive Prince about? Annoyingly, I don't want to tell you because I don't want to spoil it for anyone (hypocritical, I know). The story is very dark, very gritty and brought to mind The Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop. Although fantasy, there is none of the stereotypical magic, wizards, elves or goblins one has become accustomed to expect from the genre. C.S.Pacat herself described the series as "Princes in love", but that was not how I found book 1. The book, or rather my take on it, centred instead around political intrigue that had layer upon layer of lies and treachery. Every sentence C.S.Pacat wrote, every piece of dialogue, kept me guessing at a hidden meaning. The writing itself is refreshingly readable. The setting brings to mind Ancient Greece or Rome. The story is told from the perspective of Damon, a slave given as a gift to an enemy country. I can say no more than that!

I had been told that the story is Gay of Thrones. I dislike that term. Although there are homosexual undertones, that to me is not what the story is about, but merely one of the many layers to the story. There are definite Not Safe For Work scenes in the book, but there was nothing gratifying about them. Each scene, rather, demonstrated the power struggle in a treacherous environment where anyone and everyone can be a secret enemy, just waiting for the moment to strike.

I absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend this book. It's just so refreshingly different to anything else I have ever read, the political intrigue has kept me guessing page after page, and the writing style is unique and yet easy to read.

P.S I am completely aware that I have broken my self-imposed book buying ban. I regret nothing!

You can purchase The Captive Prince from most bookstores and online retailers.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fact of Fiction? Oranges



When I was around five or six years of age, I had a bedroom all to myself, whereas my three brothers shared a room. Their room was right next door to mine, and I could hear everything that went on in their room if I pressed my ear up against the wall.

My two oldest brothers, 8 and 10 years old at the time, slept in bunk beds. My little brother, 3 at the time, slept in a bed on the opposite side of the room.

Now, my little brother, he LOVED oranges. A strange thing for a kid to love, but then we were all strange kids in our own way. My parents were also very strict at bedtime. Once you were in bed, you were not allowed to leave it until the next morning.

My oldest two brothers thought one night that it would be funny to lure my little brother out of bed with the promise of an orange.

'Hey, I have an orange for you,' the brother on the top bunk would whisper.

'Really?'

'Yeah, come over here and I'll give it to you.'

My little brother climbed out of bed and went across the room for the orange. My brother on the bottom bunk grabbed my brother.

'DAD!' yelled the brother on the top bunk. 'HE'S OUT OF BED! DAD!'

My brothers listened carefully for my Dad's footsteps. Once he was just outside the door they would release my little brother. He would be scrambling back into bed just as Dad entered the room.

Oh, boy, did my little brother get into trouble!

This happened every night for around a fortnight until my oldest brothers got bored with the game.

Seriously. Every night for a fortnight, sometimes more than once in a night, my little brother would be lured out of bed with the promise of an orange, only to get into trouble for being out of bed.

I wonder if he still likes oranges?

So tell me. Do you think this story was Fact or Fiction? Leave a comment below with your answer :)

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Image source: "Arancia di Ribera byFigiu" by Figiu - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arancia_di_Ribera_byFigiu.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Arancia_di_Ribera_byFigiu.JPG