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Crazy Mind Interview

Interview with author and blogger Steve Costello

Steve Costello is an author and fledgling blogger although he had over five thousand engaged followers when he sent up a motivational blog back in 2000. His passions are many but in particular he loves to use fictional writing to introduce matters relating to human beings and their spiritual nature. We interviewed Steve recently.

How relevant are your personal experiences (such as of sleeping in bomb shelters and the travels/stays in Germany, Greece, Turkey, UK, the Netherlands, Devon, France) on the unearthing of a long-hidden secret in your book ‘Beyond the Pyre’?

My personal experiences are all a part of my life path and they have led me to believe strongly in humanity and the absolute love that resides in all of us.
Sleeping in a bomb shelter was a frightening experience that felt very personal at the time until I realised that I was a lucky one; I had the luxury of a shelter and others like me did not. Those thoughts began to hurt.
I met several groups of people ‘The News’ would describe as coming from both sides of the conflict. We all shared love and hope, we all had families who we loved, we all hoped for peace. None of us were concerned with politics; we saw that as a warning flag that could bring harm, fear and division.
Wherever I have travelled I have seen the same; poverty and corruption exploited by fear. Lies told by politicians and secrets held to achieve their own agendas also creating division and fear of other albeit innocent groups, a minority of whom chose to defend themselves in ways that only exacerbate negativity.
Perhaps The Secret in Beyond The Pyre was placed there to highlight how the threat of something terrible might come about by exposing a “closely guarded secret.” Alternatively, it may be there to say, “go ahead, expose that secret and show the world that the stories are hearsay.” Whatever it does, it creates an “us and them” and denies the universal love that exists between us.

How long did you take to conceptualize the story for ‘Beyond the Pyre’?

Many aspects of the story have always been with me and fermenting until I put fingers to the keyboard in December 2014. Writing and editing was complete by March 2016. Although I found a publisher quickly, the process took fourteen months to publication.

Who inspires you on the character of ‘Catharine’ and the woman who looks exactly like Catharine?

I have a sign close to my desk, “Warning, writer at work. Innocent bystanders may be written into the story.” All of my characters are developed from people I know, have met or have seen in passing. Often I just know that a person or part of them has to form a character. Although they are unaware, Catharine is a mixture of two women I know. The woman who looks exactly like Catharine is another aspect of the same personality.

Which part of the writing process challenges you the most?

I love the writing process. It’s the most natural thing to do. Of course it has its challenges but I believe in Positive, Dynamic Solutions. There is always a way to overcome a challenge.

How did you imagine the setting in your book ‘Horando – Going Home’? If this book has been chosen to be made into a film/movie, where and which two locations (scenes) would you choose to shoot for the trailers?

If Beyond The Pyre or Horando – Going Home were selected by a film-maker I would be thrilled. There are three settings in Horando. One of these is the place where the children who feature in the story live. Their home consists of locations on the Greek island of Rhodes, and The Yorkshire Dales in The UK. The other two locations are purely fantasy although if pressed, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that some areas would be places I have visited on my travels. In the early part of the story, four children and a small herd of horses are pursued through a cave from their world on earth to Horando. Maybe tricky to film but this would be a very atmospheric and thrilling trailer. For the final scene of Horando, I would choose The Pic de Bugarach, the highest summit in the Corbières mountains in the French Midi. Bugarach has an uninhibited 360° view which would give complete security for the finale that needs to take place. Despite the magic, I am only aware of one character that can fly. With a cloudy sunset this would be a perfect trailer and it would be a considerable way into the movie before any viewer realised where the trailer came from.

More info:

Twitter: @SteveCostello8

Writing Rules

A news report about the storms in The USA on BBC World yesterday evening made me squirm and hide behind my ten year old daughter. The reporter used four adjectives in her opening sentence and it really did sound rather silly when I should have been concerned about the content of the report rather than the way she opened. Sadly too much clutter put me off.

The same is of course true in our writing and there is supporting evidence according to a study by The Times Higher Education. Elmore Leonard also had a few things to say. . .

Elmore Leonard: Using adverbs is a mortal sin

1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”

3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “Ameri­can and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

If you have any writing tips, send them in and I will include them in future posts. Don’t forget to add your personal details, book links, etc.

Namaste and have a beautiful day

SC

Let it Flow

One of my favorite things to do as a writer is to ‘Just Write.’ No aims or goal in mind, just me, fountain pen and paper. Some of the results have found their way into my novels, others sit waiting to be called upon.

Of course this will be entirely familiar to every writer but I thought it might be interesting to share my process which starts with a mind clearing meditation. Why? Because the mind is always too busy applying its thoughts relating to things going on in the world around me. The soul however is a different matter and the blocks need to be sent away for universal recycling so it can shine through.

The soul knows its place in the universe and has a wonderful way of surprising the mind and feeding new data. The problem with the mind is that it has too many circular thoughts and bin loads of useless information because it is not directly connected to the Whole. You might say that it’s infected with mundane poison.

Imagine yourself floating in space (don’t worry, you have air). While you float along, you can’t fail to notice the magnificence around you, the detail in the stars, the colours and of course, our beautiful planet earth. Notice how peaceful she looks as she follows her path around the sun. Stop! Keep the mind at bay, don’t let it remind you about what’s going on down on the planet. There will be time enough for that later. You see what I mean? One moment you are in a place of infinite beauty, the next you are transported to the dark corners of the earth.

No, of course we can’t ignore the mind. But, what we must do is to make sure that our beautiful soul is not smothered by it because the more we allow that, the further we drift away from our true path and divine nature.

Sadly though, some people are so smothered by the activities of the mind and in particular the dark spots that serve only to block out their true nature that they become lost in forests of negativity. Often they are unaware but for those who sense that they are in the wrong place, help is at hand and it doesn’t need to be in the form of somebody expensive.

Mind cleared, now I can just write and that is one of many wonderful things that connects me to the universe. Oh don’t worry about my mind, it is not completely ignored. It will be required to add experience to my writing, it’s just that it is not allowed to control all that I am.

Call for Backup

Disaster has struck and this is a call for backup. Yes seriously dear friends. Fortunately, all the files on my computers that matter are safely floating around in the clouds or are securely backed up on various hard drives. There is a however . . .

I own an old Vista PC that contains old files, partial stories and research and although the PC is very secure, it has a vulnerability that I discovered on Saturday evening after my daughter put the machine into ‘sleep’ instead of ‘shut down.’

The machine happily sleeps, even after I removed and replaced everything that would move, disconnect, unplug. I even hoovered out the dust (and there was enough of that to give me a new hair style). Hmmm, older daughter just said, “no dad, you have no hair, it would make you a wig though.” Ouch. Whatever, the machine still sleeps soundly.

Yes, I have trawled The Internet and while I have found some acknowledgement of the issue, there do not appear to be any working solutions. Refusing to accept that, I do believe there must be a solution out there somewhere.

Please Help. Can you think of anything that might put this problem right?

Namaste and Peace, Love and Happiness to you always,

Steve

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