A Writer’s Day

Today I had a chance to go to Helsinki together with my dear husband. I packed the laptop and decided to do something authors do – write in a café.

I could do this because I finally bought the said  laptop this spring. The credit card gave a squeal any self-respecting pig would have envied, and tried to escape by jumping to the floor but it had no chance. I walked out of the store with a silly smile on my face. The credit card was mumbling obscenities in my wallet.

So, I was yanking the beautifully designed door handle of the oldest and biggest bookstore in Helsinki at 9 AM sharp. I headed upstairs to the café (because surely a bookstore café is The Place for any author to write their book) and at 9.01  AM I was their first customer. Really, no other author was around, hunting for the best table where the next War and Peace would be born.  I settled myself on a quiet table (Oh well, one of them, as there was no one else but me there. I suppose the full-time authors had not woken up yet, having written all night.) I decided to order a latte.

I checked the price on the menu and my eyes refused to go past what was called the “Poet’s Breakfast”. No writer can resist that, I am sure you understand. And besides, if you write with an empty stomach, the result won’t be too good. So for the benefit of the quality of my writing I ordered the said breakfast. Which is here:

poets_breakfast

With my stomach full, I took my laptop out of my bag, and put it on the table. I enjoyed the moment for a few seconds, feeling all writerly / authorly, hoping the few people who had arrived by then would see the laptop and say to one another that I must be an author. I wasn’t quite sure if the laptop itself would have such an effect and for a while wondered should I have a glass or red wine to underline my creative status, but there is no way I could get wine down my throat in the mornings. So  I simply opened my Scrivener file and started typing.

I have to say there really is something to this – if I was a full time author, I’d do days like this just for my own mental health. Other people arrived and their discussions did not disturb the writing in the least. I stayed there for an hour, sipping my coffee, orange juice and water. I took my time with them so the waiters would see I was not done yet and start hovering about. (I did minimise the chance of that by paying when I ordered,) Worked well.

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I had plans to visit the National Museum of Finland so once the hour was up, I closed the laptop and rose. But did I make it to the front door? Anyone who knows me, knows the answer. I was in a bookstore, after all.

I navigated to the history section, telling myself firmly I was NOT going to buy a single book. I mean I can easily walk past designer shoes and bags and makeup counters, but just you let me loose in a bookstore…

I think I managed pretty well, despite the foul language my credit card used when I took it out of my wallet and it saw where we were.  Only three books this time, and surely that counts as no books, doesn’t it? And I have to keep up with the Egyptology publications, now don’t I? Plus we have a new bookcase coming soon. Can’t leave it empty, now can I?

egyptology_books

It had started to rain and I walked to the National Museum trying to shelter my bag (which held the laptop) from getting wet, and noticing that knowledge is heavy. The books weighed a ton or thereabouts. Well, I put it under exercise. At least some of the calories from that brie-cheese melted away.

After leaving my books in a locker (eyeing everyone around with suspicion in case they were after my books and would break into the locker as soon as I turned my back) I went to see the exhibitions I had come to see (photographs of the old private palaces in Venice). And then I suddenly found myself at the Museum café. Oh well. As long as I was there… Out came the laptop and I sat for half an hour, happily typing away, sipping iced tea. (Too much coffee tends to make the characters in the story make sudden movements I have trouble following. Referring to my earlier post here)

I could get used to a life like this… And Nephilim Quest 1: Shadowhunter should get the sequel this year, if all things go well. (I have just spent two days checking and correcting historical details regarding the royal family of the 18th Dynasty of New Kingdom, ancient Egypt. Interesting how many chapters need to be tweaked when you realise you got someone’s birth year all wrong.)

Well, here’s hoping the day will come when I can write full time. And go to cafés to write, should the mood hit me. It was a great day!

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When The Bookstores Are Closed

What a great idea – what if we had such vending machines at schools, cafeterias, malls…?

Travel Between The Pages

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Singapore bookstore BooksActually has launched the first two of a new series of book vending machines. The machines are located at the Singapore Visitors Centre and the National Museum of Singapore. The book vendors will be rotated every three months to new locations. Each holds about 150 books, with titles from local authors. Subject matter ranges from novels and short stories to poetry and graphic novels. According to BooksActually manager Renee Ting, the inspiration for the vending machines goes back to the 1937 Penguin Books Penguincubator.

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When Characters Just Won’t Behave…

So. I decide to write a book. I have it all planned out to the extent of knowing exactly what is going to happen in each chapter.

I begin to write, all writerly, holding a cup of coffee as any serious author would. Feeling all important, and excited about finally getting to the writing stage after all the planning. The story flows nicely and I tut-tut myself for not making such pre-planned stories before. This is so easy!

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Then, almost at the beginning, a surprise characters hops into the story. Ok, I say, when I see my subconscious knew better and the character is actually needed to move the story along believably. Good job, subconscious, for writing him into the story.

Then another character – again at the beginning chapters of the story – announces he won’t be playing by the book. Now that would be the First Vampire, and his plan is… scary. Insane, would any psychologist say, but then again I’m sure not many psychologists have had the chance to evaluate the dark depths of a vampire’s mind.  There were hints to his motives in the first book, so his plans fit those. Ok, thank you, subconscious.

All right… Nothing major…  I tweak the plot accordingly, not much tweaking needed… Change the order of some chapters… Add some necessary details to some… aaaand… done!

I sigh, content that I have the project under control again. A sip of the all important coffee that keeps me ticking, and I resume writing. Only there is no place to put the coffee cup anymore. The desk that was rather neat when I started is now under a pile of Egyptology books, as historical details need to be checked. Not to mention the cats who do their best to help in writing.

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And then another main character suddenly develops a skill I did not expect. It just wrote itself into the story. And of course this veers the plot into unexpected directions. This would be Shuet, who can only go out at night when the sun doesn’t touch her. I stare at the sentence that appeared on the screen and say WHAT THE HECK did you just say you can do? Why, oh why? But then again I realise my subconscious knew exactly what it did when the sentence just flowed into the story. Of course, of course it has to be there. Subconscious knew it all along… (I mumble under my breath that it could have told me this earlier…)

Tweaking, planning, sighing, removing, adding… Ok, finally the rest of the book is planned again. My hair is standing up from me pulling it while staring at the chapter plan, and I am having symptoms of caffeine overdose.

Seriously, characters – and my subconscious mind. Would you please start behaving and follow my nice plan for the story? It took me a month to make!

Sometimes writing a book and trying to make the characters follow orders is like herding cats… The subconscious remains nice and quiet when you analyse and make timelines and chapter plans. It gives a few nice tips what might happen, when and where. And when you start writing it begins to behave like a kid in a toy store. “I don’t want that after all! I want that! Oooo, and that! And that one from the upper shelf as well!”

Oh well. I continue with the story. Resigned to the fact that no matter how much I love calendars and careful planning to stay of top of my projects, the sequel to Nephilim Quest 1: Shadowhunter just snorts at such plans.

But I have to say I can’t wait each day to start writing again, to see how the story develops.

Back to the old keyboard (Shoo! Get off, cat!)