Streetwriters: Micro-blogging for authors and poets.

This week I’ve been spending time evaluating Streetwriters, a new writing app for Android devices. I spotted a tweet from the developers under the #writerscommunity hashtag on Tweetdeck and decided to give it a try.

At first blush it wasn’t great. Lots of functionality just didn’t work, and being one of the first users to take it for a spin meant I didn’t have many other writers to interact with. I counted less than a dozen on the apps ‘Discovery’ feed.

But, I stuck it out. Primarily because the developers promised an update within days that would sort all the bugs out, and secondly I was intrigued by what kind of unique content other users might eventually generate. I’m a veteran of Tumblr, and Streetwriters as a platform looks rather similar, but there are reasons I’m not on Tumblr any more. It’s infested with gif spam for starters, and secondly it’s overrun by the thought police (official and unofficial). I wanted to see what a platform in the hands of genuine content creators could do.

Luckily, the Streetwriters developers were as good as their word and an update came through within two days of me downloading the first version. Now the app has real potential.

To begin at the beginning, you have your own Streetwriters profile page with a short, customisable header. The main nav bar at the bottom allows you to navigate to different pages.  There is a home screen, which shows you all the posts from the people you follow, plus your own posts in chronological order. The discovery page shows you posts from everyone, regardless of whether you follow them or not. Finally, your notifications page shows you all the activity that’s taken place on your page, who’s decided to follow you, who’s liked or commented on your content and who’s re-blogged you.

The add button allows you to select a variety of different post formats, including story, poem, quote or article. Each format can be customised with your own choice of font, background image, colours and gradients. All your content can be tagged with relevant hashtags, making it searchable and copyright can be claimed on your own prose, non-fiction and poetry.

Once your content is up, other Streetwriters can locate it on their Home or Discovery screens. There they have the chance to leave you feedback, like your posts or re-blog you.

You can check out how popular you are via your Notifications or Profile screens. The app will buzz you if your device is idle when there’s any activity on your content.

The good news is, even though the community is currently small, the content is all unique and all relevant to the craft of writing. And even with a low number of users right now, the level of engagement is high. If you’re used to shouting in to the void on Wattpad, Streetwriters might come as a pleasant surprise.

The app uses established navigation conventions, such as pull down to refresh, so the learning curve is fairly shallow, and it’s not fussy. The developers have obviously decided that the user generated content matters more than the app, because the design is clean and graphic content is only there to enhance the words. The only drawback is that it’s currently only avilable for Android devices, which may limit uptake for a while. However, the developers tell me an AppleOS, and a browser based version will be available later in 2019.

But, if you’re looking for an alternative to Tumblr and other micro-blogging sites, something that’s specifically geared to writers and the written word, give Streetwriters a try. It’s available to download from your device’s app store.

The 500 Word Weekend Write In

Back in the days when Amazon ran their own writers community, Amazon Write On, there was a weekly flash fiction contest called the Weekend Write In, run by Amazon’s moderators.

I took part on a few occasions and it was always fun. There was a strict 500 word limit and the one word prompt meant a wide ranging collection of responses, across multiple genres.

Amazon Write On has been closed for a couple of years now, but luckily a few of its former residents decided to keep the Weekend Write In going on Wattpad.

This year I’ve decided to jump back in and my first piece for this weekend’s Write In is available to read now. Just click the link below.

“I Wish I Hadn’t Seen Your Smile”

The Evolution Of A City

science fiction cityWhen I first started outlining my thoughts for The Regulator one of my priorities was to get the setting right. Although it’s a space adventure most of the action is set on a single world. A world whose native population has been decimated by plague and whose principle city has now been taken over by a criminal network of smugglers and pirates.

I had a few criteria in my head right from the start. This would be an island city, linked to the mainland by a causeway. The founders of the city would be a bird like species and the motifs of the nest, the egg and the roost would play important roles in the development of the architecture.

As a result of my initial criteria, the image on the left was one of the first I collected. It made me think of a home built by the descendants of a nesting species with bowl like living spaces, arranged in an organic fashion, sympathetic to the landscape.

Another of the first images I collected for how the city would look was this one, but I was never really happy with it. It’s too compact and doesn’t offer the space I required for my story. I wanted distinct districts for domestic and commercial life. The architectural style is also wrong. My native species were not spacefarers and I had in mind a city and a culture that was in a more medieval stage of development.

Hunting through Pinterest for images with a more appropriate architectural style I was able to collect these two artistic concepts, and they really helped develop the infrastructure of my city further.

Now I didn’t have an island city, I had a city of islands, connected by elegant bridges and traversed by canals and waterways.

This put me in mind of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, and I briefly turned away from the medieval old world and looked to the new world for inspiration. This gave me further ideas for the local geology and ecology, and my lake was transformed in to the flooded remains of an ancient caldera, where a mountainous crater rim reflected the all important nest motif of the local people. Now my city was not just the last remaining habitable environment on a plague ravaged planet, but a religious holy site, where the principal bird goddess of the native people had first made her home.

Finally, and completely coincidentally, as I was searching for a new look for my blog yesterday I stumbled on this image for a fantasy city.

Badr City

Now I’m back in the old world, a fantasy version of Venice it would seem. I still have the look for my domestic architecture, from the very first image I collected, but now I have a commercial and ceremonial district too, with clusters of domed civic buildings reflecting the egg motif of their builders, and open spaces showing the first signs of neglect as a result of dramatic population loss. This is Badr City, ancient religious capital of the planet Ierus, home of the bird worshipping Pavonians, and the biggest pirate stronghold on the Orion Spur.

Looking Back On 2018

Gaiman quoteIt’s been a frustrating year writing wise for me. At the start of the year I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, which meant my writing went nowhere for six months, while I tried out various solutions that would help get me back on track.

By mid-year I was starting to feel better, but the project I had been working on for NaNoWriMo 2017? Well, I’d fallen out of love with that. I’d had a crisis of confidence, thanks to the fatigue. What did I know about writing science fiction? I would be crap at it. I don’t have the attention to detail required for world building. Blah blah blah.

So, I decided to go back to the one thing I do know about; folklore. I thought a modern fairy tale would be right up my street. Turns out I was wrong. Really wrong. But maybe I needed to spend a few months sweating bullets over a story that was going nowhere to realise that actually my first instinct, for science fiction, was the right one.

So for NaNoWriMo 2018 I decided to dust of my project from the year before and have another crack at it. So far it’s working. I also decided to put my reservations to one side and open a Wattpad account, where I could showcase finished pieces and get feedback on works in progress. It does become a time suck every now and again, but I’ve made some great contacts with other aspiring SF authors and established a pretty solid critique circle for SF writers. I’ve also signed up for a 300 Word A Day challenge which will hopefully keep me on track in the New Year.

Whatever your writing plans are for 2019 I hope you find the success you’re looking for.

My Main Character Finally Shows Up

For months I have been searching for an illustration or photograph that encapsulated the look of my main female character. I was painfully aware that my Pinterest board for the Regulator had plenty of source images for other characters, even the minor ones, but I still hadn’t found the perfect Commander Haas.

I had some pretty firm ideas for her look in my head. She’s an alien / human hybrid so that had to be expressed in some way, dark red hair, golden eyes and pale skin with some kind of mottling, freckles or tattoos that hinted at her alien ancestry.

Finally, whilst plundering the rabbit hole of special effects make up I found her, courtesy of make up artist Nichola Bendrey. In fact this look is so close to what I imagined for Commander Haas that it’s spooky. The hair colour, the skin mottles, the facial tattoo and alien bone structure are all there. The fishtail eyelashes won’t make it in to the Commander’s make up bag. She spends months in space chasing down bad guys. Elaborate mascara is probably not in her skill set or high on her list of priorities.

So, in order to celebrate my finally tracking Neylan down, I spent the morning procrastinating, by building a collage of all the main characters in The Regulator. My addiction to graphics programmes is one of the many reasons I’ll never complete NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo 2018 – An Exercise In Accepting Failure.

I do it to myself every year. Every year I sign up for NaNoWriMo, knowing full well that I’ll fail. I write for a living. When I get home at night, wringing an extra 1667 words from my brain, when all I want to do is eat and sleep is just never going to happen.

But at least participating encourages me to sit down and write, even if it is only a few hundred words a day. This year it also encourages me to rediscover my love for my 2017 project – The Regulator.

I fell out of love with it after a major case of writer’s block, and ended up on an ultimately fruitless dive in to the realms of fairy tale and fantasy. Choosing a project for NaNoWriMo that would not leave me banging my head against the wall in frustration forced me to face the fact that I’m not cut out for fantasy writing. Space ships and big fucking guns are way more my style.

So, I got a new cover sorted out, dusted off the file in Dabble, mended a few plot holes, tweaked a few characters and set off for the the stars once more. So far, so good. Now, if I could just nail the look for my main female character. Despite hers being the principle point of view I’m still a little sketchy on her look. Perhaps that’s something I need to place in the hands of fate. If I find her I’ll know I’m on the right track.

Challenge Season Is About To Begin

I admit I’m rather reluctant to do NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve never found it useful and the daily word limit required to hit 50,000 words is simply out of my reach when I have a full time job that requires me to write. By the end of my professional day I am frequently out of the mental steam required to squeeze another 1000+ words out of my brain.

So this year I’m taking a more laid back approach to the challenge. I’m starting with my Norse Mythology project, something I’ve already written 6000 words on, and in the run up to NaNoWriMo I’m entering the ChapterBuzz 10k challenge. This challenge is much closer to my writing speed – 350 words a day rather than 1667 – and as the ChapterBuzz authors put it on their website,

“By focusing on a relatively small number of words—instead of, say, 50,000—you’ll be able to put more thought into what you’re writing, and end up with a solid foundation for a great novel that you can build on over time.”

Fingers crossed that means I’ll have 16,000 words, or more before NaNoWriMo even starts. Yes, I know that’s cheating, but with no real prospect of doing 50,000 words in a month, this year I’m using National Novel Writing Month more as an incentive to write than an actual goal. That way it won’t be too upsetting if I only manage to crawl up to November 30th with 30,000 words under my belt.

Norse Mythology: The Mother Of All Rabbit Holes

Way, way back in March I wrote a blog post talking about how a new plot idea had bubbled to the surface of my brain and I was intrigued by it’s possibilities. As part of this year’s Camp NaNoWriMo I immediately wrote the opening 6000 words of this new story, before a bout of writer’s block persuaded me that I needed a better understanding of my topic; Norse Mythology.

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Swear Like A Viking: Rings, Swords And Right Hand Men

I was asked by the leadership at Asatru And Heathen Order to write a short article for their Facebook page on the topic of swearing oaths in the Viking period. This was the result, penned over a weekend.

Swear Like A Viking: Rings, Swords And Right Hand Men – by Trudi Hauxwell

Amongst modern Heathen groups the arm or ‘oath’ ring is a popular way to display one’s Heathen faith. These rings, which are worn as an item of personal adornment, are also used as a ceremonial tool in rituals and public declarations of fealty to a group or group leader. But what do we know of their use in the Viking period and how much do modern practices reflect the beliefs and customs of our ancestors?

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A Surprise Plot Makes An Appearance

About a month ago I was in a bit of a rut with the story I was working on, a science fiction tale set on a distant planet. In order to head off an approaching case of writer’s block I decided to take part in a few Twitter challenges, which resulted in the micro stories you can see on this blog.

The one image that stuck with me the longest during that couple of weeks was of Lucien and Aldous, my vampiric characters. It was enormous fun to come up with little vignettes for them and it got me to thinking about vampire fiction in more detail.

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