Night Market Anthology Official Book Launch

This past Sunday the writers of Taipei Writers Group gathered once again for a book launch, this time for our second anthology, Night Market.
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Hosted by author and poet CK Hugo Chung, our event was held at Rue 216, a lovely French Bistro in the bustling Zhongxiao Dunhua area of Taipei.

11947447_10154145862133696_5850635620231696862_nWith stunning cover and chapter art by the talented Hannah Charlton, and stories by ten local and expat authors, our second publication of short stories has sold quite well in Taipei since its July release.

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Taiwan Tales, our first anthology, has also continued to sell well nearly a year after its release, with sales increasing in Taiwan after the announcement of our special deal with Night Market, offering a discount for the purchase of both paperbacks sold locally.

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At our Sunday afternoon event, anthology contributor J. J. Green also read the gripping opening of her recently published novella, Death Switch, and Brian Q. Webb read a rather humorous excerpt from his own science fiction novel set to launch later this year.

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Special guests included Bradley Verdell, who spoke of his thrilling steam-punk series, TWG friend Mark Chapman, whose Blue Prometheus we were excited to learn more about, and Patrick Whalen, a Taiwan Tales contributor and the commander-in-chief of our long-standing crew, who recently published his second novel, Deadman Bay.

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It was an excellent event and a full house! Stay tuned for news on more TWG events, and announcements about our dystopian-themed anthology coming Christmas 2015!

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Comics, Part 1: Writing in Two Dimensions

A confession for my writing group friends: I tried my hand at prose in middle school, starting my own fantasy series with sword fights, strong women, and shamefully overwrought love stories. Eventually I realized that I would have to start writing political intrigue, this being a fantasy story, and the thought of writing political intrigue was distasteful enough for me to abandon the project altogether.

About the same time I stopped drawing swords, I started reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. With comics, I could tell stories, but I could tell them visually. Before you think your story would never work as a comic (or think that comics are just for superheroes), let’s look at some of the advantages to telling your story in two dimensions.

Point of View

Consider the problem of “head-hopping”, when an author constantly switches between different point-of-view characters. It’s very difficult to keep the distinctions between the characters clear enough for the reader to follow. In David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp, each character’s point of view is drawn in a different style, showing very literally how people “see the world” differently.

thecribsheet-isabelinho.blogspot.com

thecribsheet-isabelinho.blogspot.com

There is also the possibility of giving each character a distinct font to speak in, which help the reader keep track of complicated, even overlapping, conversations.

thecribsheet-isabelinho.blogspot.com

thecribsheet-isabelinho.blogspot.com

Quick! Set a scene!

Setting a scene in prose can be difficult, since you don’t want to spend too many words or too much momentum on it. A skilled writer can make the description interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention, or weave details throughout the story. Let’s take a look at how we could set a scene in, say, a pink, shining clockwork palace on Mars in a comic:

Wallpoper.com

Wallpoper.com (yes, a wallpaper site, I’m sorry.)

You’re on Mars! OK, that’s a silly example. And I am not trying to say that writing a beautiful passage is any easier or more difficult than drawing one. Look at those clockworks in there! This is taken from writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins’ Watchmen.

While big panel like this does function as a “pause” in a story, people can read images quickly.  The artist doesn’t have to waste panels or beats establishing the scene, and the reader can spend as much time staring at this panel as they like, and move on whenever they’re satisfied.

Especially fun is how an artist can put in details people know by sight but don’t necessarily have the vocabulary for. If you’re an architecture buff who loves writing about Gothic buildings but get frustrated at the average reader’s mental image of “Gothic,” an image can be as specific as you need it to be without spending words on it.

Flashbacks

Changes in style, color, and framing accomplish complicated tasks like flashbacks with ease. Lucy Knisley’s autobiographical webcomic, Stop Paying Attention, is full of stories aobut her childhood and adolescence. In “Think Back,” I count three ways she draws flashbacks. The comic is very big, so I’ll use a link for this one.

https://www.lucyknisley.com/comic/?offset=1412275670377

How many flashback techniques did you find? I found these:

Panel 6: 22-year-old Lucy, with slightly shorter hair, stands in the same panel as 25-year-old Lucy.

Panels 11-13: The flashback panels recede inside each other, each receding memory drawn with lighter, washed-out lines.

Panel 15: Lucy sits on a bench with a transparent self in the same place, seven years earlier.

Check out Lucy’s other comics while you’re there!

Contrast

Of all the image-word interactions in comics, my favorite is how the images can either support or hold a debate with the words.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes occasionally switches to a “serious” soap opera style, the joke being the splendid dissonance between the pictures and the words.

nothingbutcomics.net

nothingbutcomics.net

Sometimes the contrast is a bit more subtle. In Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, a sad story about two painfully shy men is set against the 1889 Chicago World’s Fair and the 1989…Michigan.

thehoodedutilitarian.com

thehoodedutilitarian.com

The story is a long series of awkward encounters and heartbreak, but the backgrounds are drawn in such gorgeous detail that the reader might decide that, despite everything, the world is still a beautiful place.

thehoodedutilitarian.com

thehoodedutilitarian.com

thehoodedutilitarian.com

thehoodedutilitarian.com

So what do you think? What tricks do prose and poetry have up their sleeves? What tricks in comics would you like to try?

Next week, the difficulties of comics! How do you “show, don’t tell” when comics are all about “show”…but don’t always have a lot of “tell” to back it up?

On Coming Home – Paula Morris Explores What it Means to Be a New Zealand Writer

The declamatory return; a homeland as a “wearying enigma”. This all makes sense to me. The New Zealand that’s home to me may be a place of sheep and rugby and number-eight wire, whatever that is, but it’s also none of those things. Am I still a New Zealander?

Award-winning author Paula Morris‘ 80 page essay On Coming Home explores her own return to New Zealand, articulating questions that have been swirling in my own head since I came back home in December 2014. What does returning to New Zealand mean? Do I belong here? Can I write here? Is there a set of rules to being a New Zealander? To being a New Zealand writer?

When [Janet] Frame decided to return to New Zealand, she recalled the advice of Frank Sargeson. “Remember you’ll never know another country like that when you spent your earliest years. You’ll never be able to write intimately of another country.”

Then, why is it, Frank, or Janet, or Paula, after six months at home, I am still afraid of writing about it?

Even after my second reading of this book, I cannot squash the jealousy I hold for Morris’ ability to make a personal reflection into an essay with worldwide appeal. Linking her experiences to writers of the past who have found themselves in similar states of flux regarding their own sense of belonging gives the book substance far beyond what I had imagined writing myself. Jealousy aside, I recommend this essay to any expat, and particularly expat writers exploring their own sense of belonging.

*BWB texts are “short books on big subjects by New Zealand writers”, available primarily in digital format.

One in the Bag and Two on the Way

At Taipei Writers’ Group we’re very excited to be writing our third anthology, which is set in the dystopian future of The Collector, a story that appears in Taiwan Tales. The anthology is based on a global warming phenomenon called Peak Heat, where extreme temperatures make life unliveable, and it includes stories set in countries around the world during Peak Heat and in its aftermath, when civilisation has collapsed.

Meanwhile, I’m proud to announce the publication of my science fiction collection, There Comes a Time, and two forthcoming works: the fantasy collection, Dawn Falcon, and a novella entitled Death Switch.

After writing and publishing science fiction and fantasy stories for the past two years, I’ve decided it’s time to put on my big girl knickers and write a novel. So I’ve bundled my published and unpublished short stories into two collections, and I’ve written a novella. My science fiction collection, There Comes a Time, is already on sale at Amazon. Dawn Falcon is the title of my fantasy collection, and it’s available for pre-order along with my novella, Death Switch, before publication on September 1st.

There Comes a Time - A Science Fiction Collection

There Comes a Time – A Science Fiction Collection

There Comes a Time includes stories such as Return of the Prodigals, where Martian colonists return, not as heroes, but as refugees; and The Last Days of Duane Dayton – convicted murderer Duane thinks the worst that can happen is that someone deletes the file that holds all that remains of his consciousness. He’s wrong.

Dawn Falcon - A Fantasy Collection

Dawn Falcon – A Fantasy Collection

Dawn Falcon is named after the lead story. A young woman called Keia finds a child’s skull in a well, but she little suspects how it came to be there or who is responsible. In another story, five-year-old Max has a genetically engineered dinosaur pet with extraordinary powers.

Death Switch - A Sci Fi Novella

Death Switch – A Sci Fi Novella

Death Switch tells the story of Yi Ling, a downtrodden genetic technician. Hoping for freedom from her controlling parents and fiance, she creates a clone of herself instead of the donor body she should have been growing for a wealthy client. When the client falls ill and needs her transplant immediately, things start to go sour for Yi Ling.

Belonging to Taipei Writers’ Group and attending the meetings has been instrumental in writing and publishing the above works. Without the feedback and support of the group members I couldn’t have achieved half the volume of writing I have in the last couple of years. I’m very much looking forward to our next anthology and I’m itching to start on my comedy scifi detective novel. Back to writing!