#Writing Adventures: Neil Gaiman On Writing

A little while ago I wrote a post titled, “Stephen King on Writing the First Draft“. It was an interesting post to write because it allowed me to compare my own experience with advice from King.

Today I have a video from Gaiman where he talks about writing generally, but he also includes a section on writing that dreaded first draft. Gaiman said something very important, I think. He said no one will ever see the first draft. Only you. Just write it. (That is mostly true, unless you’re in a workshop and you’ve submitted your first draft for critiquing like I did. Don’t worry, I survived, but I did grind my teeth a couple of times).

Now, on the face of it, it seems like obvious advice, but as someone who looks at his own writing critically, I can tell you: when you write that first draft you judge yourself constantly. It’s natural of course, because you want to write the best damn story you can. You want to use the words in such a way they’ll awe readers. That is what you want, and so you torture yourself while you write.

As I’ve recently discovered, switching off the editor and shutting up that judgmental asshole that keeps telling you how you suck, works so well you actually manage to get into that elusive writer’s trance King talks about.

And when you finish your story and Mr. Asshole starts up with you again, you just look him straight in the eye and tell him, “It’s only a first draft, idiot. From here on out it can only get better.” That should shut him up for a little while.

Anyway, watch the video. It’s about two years old and I’ve heard some of the advice before, but I never grow tired listening to Gaiman. As always, he provides wonderful bits on writing, and the way he communicates that advice alone will inspire you to start writing.

From The Nerdist Podcast:

#Art of Fantasy 11: Simon Bisley

simon_bisley_044-625x1024I first discovered Simon Bisley‘s work many years ago while reading 2000 AD. He illustrated ABC Warriors and Sláine. He later also did Lobo for DC. Yes, if you think I was and still am crazy about Sláine (the character is roughly based on Irish lore), you would be correct. He also did a variety of other comics like Doom Patrol and Batman and many others.

Strictly speaking, Bisley is a comic book illustrator, but Sláine and Death Dealer falls well within the broad genre of Fantasy, and plus this is Bisley and I like his style.

Talking about his style, Bisley’s style is…quite unique. Visceral and raw and savage, like with Frazetta and Brom, you’ll immediately know if you’re looking at something Bisley did. His style is that recognizable. That unique. I love it.

As usual, a few selected samples below showcasing this artist’s tremendous talent:

620926_346382038777443_1069799241_o322797_205841892831459_1265770738_o1015606_479307405484905_941593352_o1147610_500705600011752_656086870_oconan___dated_19952520death_dealerslaine_original-768x1024rLiJ1nR5_04041420365211There you have it. I hope you guys enjoyed this one. I should prepare a special Frank Frazetta post, I think.


10 Things Not Widely Known About Me

I’ve been tagged by Jessica West and Tom Knighton to write 7 things about me and/or about my writing and post it on Facebook, which I did. Jessica then thought my revelations entertaining enough to reproduce here. I’m not entirely convinced it’s that entertaining, but it’s a fun thing to do, plus I get to post an old photo of me from my arrogant days. I’m very much a humble soul now, so it’s good to see how far I have come. Also, I’ve added a further three things just to make the number even.

Kibbutz 3

Let’s start:

  1. Woelf DIetrich is a pen name. My real name is Melt Strydom and I created Woelf in case I started lawyering again. I’ve invested so much time and emotion in my pen name, and sometimes refer to myself as Woelf or sign my private emails with Woelf, that I don’t see myself ever writing under any other name. I took the name from Wolfdietrich, and given what I love to write about, I thought it apt.
  2. I was born in South Africa and tried my whole life to get away from there so I travelled a lot.
  3. My first ever story was at age 12 or 13. My teacher asked us to submit a story no longer than one page. I gave her eight pages. The plot, if you can call it that, involved a soldier in Vietnam out on patrol who is called back to protect his base from enemy attack. Having him chase back to camp to defend it against a “horde” of terrorists certainly wasn’t a deep story and it had no political message. It couldn’t have. I was young (and no Internet) and didn’t even know why there was a war in Vietnam in the first place. In my young mind it was perfectly acceptable for my hero to patrol the jungles of Vietnam alone in a jeep. In those eight pages he drove over and through “bad guys” while mowing down the ones left standing with his “machine gun”. He crashed through walls made of bamboo and forced his way in amidst enemy gunfire and explosions. Nothing could stop my hero and his trusty jeep. Adjectives were aplenty: bloody mess, bloody pulp, bloody tangled mess, and I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the carnage left in his wake, or rather, my vision of it. To keep the story “grounded” I allowed my hero to get wounded a couple of times. He survived and received a medal for bravery and the pretty nurse who attended him. She gave him a kiss and I thought it was hardcore because it was a full-lipped kiss.
  4. Hemingway, Gaiman, L’Amour, Howard, Burroughs, and Gemmell inspire the crap out of me, and they are also the reason why I constantly doubt my writing ability.
  5. I skinny-dipped in the Red Sea twice.
  6. I do not recall a time I didn’t want to be a writer, but I’ve been severely undisciplined with a really noisy brain and instead of writing I did stupid things. I once considered a career in Marine Biology. I was spearfishing a lot at the time and loved the ocean. Well, I still love the ocean. Before that I wanted to be Indiana Jones.
  7. The year before I went to law school I started making stained glass terrariums and vases. I sold enough to scratch out a meagre living.
  8. The first time I ever smoked Hashish was in Egypt, in a backpackers called Happyland Camp. The second and last time was in Harare in Zimbabwe. That was twenty years ago (Shit, I’m getting old).
  9. I’m planning a great historical novel about the Maccabees.
  10. I long for writing success so I can provide for my family. I’ve come to realise writing is the only thing I can do that provides peace to my mind, and yet I constantly fight against the fear that I’m not good enough.

And that is that. I hope you guys had a good laugh.


Young Adult Sci-Fi Event

I have another promo post today. I am told these authors are uber talented and they are selling really well. So, if a lot of people like them, maybe you should check them out. See below for details.

Science Fiction is the hottest genre right now. Add in some best selling authors and Young Adult books and you have an event not to be missed. So come celebrate these awesome YA Science Fiction Authors with us! Giveaways, book exclusives, games and more! Young Adult Science Fiction Multi-Author Event March 19th from 5:30-9PM. You can enter the big $100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway at the bottom of this post! Don’t miss it!

YA Banner FB Header

Join the event!

The authors are excited to see you on the 19th but in the meantime, check out these amazing titles!



The Legacy Human (Singularity #1) FINAL




Kay-BrokenSkies-17612-CVR-FT-v1 (2)

 Schedule of events!

5:30-6:00 – Angela Scott
6:00-6:30 – Laxmi Hariharan
6:30-7:00 – Theresa Kay
7:00-7:30 – Lee Strauss
7:30-8:00 – Pavarti K Tyler
8:00-8:30 – Susan Kaye Quinn
8:30-9:00 – Joel Ohman
9:00 – Pavarti (Announce Rafflecopter winners – Enter at the bottom of this post!)

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and join the event here!



#Wallpaper Wednesday: The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros

Screenshot 2015-03-18 09.20.28Upon reflection I’ve decided that “#Wallpaper Wednesday” will not happen every week, but when it does happen it’ll be on a Wednesday.

Today’s wallpaper is a grungy map titled, The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, in honour of the looming fifth season of A Game of Thrones, which will broadcast worldwide early next month. The artist calls himself AKA Doom and you can download the full resolution wallpaper here, and this link will take you to his gallery on Deviant Art. Oh, and he is also from New Zealand.



#Art of Fantasy 10: Stephen Fabian

9d8c013f81d77c95e80c6af7dfdfed0eStephen Fabian is another of those artists whose work I used to admire without knowing who the artist was. Fabian has been artistically active for decades and specializes in science fiction and fantasy illustration and cover art for books and magazines.

He also did work for  TSR‘s Dungeons & Dragons game from 1986 to 1995. He is a self-taught artist, and two of his primary influences are Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok. Fabian’s style, to me, belongs to another era and encapsulates the sword and sorcery genre I enjoyed so much as a child. There’s mystery and magic and strangeness to his work as if it hides something, and I’m unable to unravel the mystery.

Fabian received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2006 and has also been a two-time nominee for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist (1970 and 1971), and a seven-time nominee for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist (1975–1981).

Collections of his work include Ladies & Legends (1993) and Stephen E. Fabian’s Women & Wonders (1995).

As is usual, here are a small selection of his art:







Hope you enjoyed it!



Neil Gaiman and Writing by Hand and Fountain Pens

WatermanI have tried once, but not seriously, to write a story by hand. It didn’t work for me. I do not include the attempts made during my youth when I first started writing, when times were different and my mind drifted in different places, when life seemed far less complicated. The irony is I love writing by hand. Always have. I remember in school I used to jump between different styles, later settling on three which I used interchangeably, depending on my mood and laziness of hand.

Until I reached law school. Everything changed then. The sheer volume of notes and information I had to record forced me into a style that was both easy to maintain and practical for use over long periods of time.

Funny enough, it was a fountain pen that helped me find my true handwriting. I still have it. The pen that is.  It’s a silver Waterman and it served me well in my law practice where I used it everyday. I took notes during interviews with clients,  wrote questions and answers during hearings and cross-examinations. I’ve had this pen for almost fifteen years now. It’s the one above.

I haven’t used it in a long while, though, mostly because I type my stories and the notes I make and plotting I do–if any at all–I do with cheap pens. I should actually consider another attempt at writing fiction using only my Waterman.

It writes smoothly and glides over the page, and there is no traction when you do fast writing. The thing about a fountain pen’s nip is that over time it gets honed to the writer’s style of writing. If you use a different handwriting, you’ll feel the nip scratch the paper and that is why a lot of people don’t like using the pen. They think it uncomfortable.

I have a few fountain pens in my collection. I’ve also the very first one I ever bought. A black Parker. The plastic of the barrel worn dull now, has a slight reddish, rust-colored tint to it and a fine crack is visible where it screws into the nib assembly. Every now and then I might get an urge and refill it and use it in my journals. The same with the Waterman. I should pay them more respect, though. They came through harsh times with me and survived.

You’re probably wondering why I chose to write about fountain pens today. I found an article where Neil Gaiman talks about writing by hand and about fountain pens and about fiction, and that got my own thoughts going on the subject. Gaiman enjoys writing his stories by hand. He writes his first draft in a journal with a fountain pen. After that he types it up. He loves how the story develops when he writes it with a fountain pen. To him it feels like playing while typing feels like work. On a whim he wrote Stardust by hand. That hooked him.

I still love writing by hand. I really enjoy it. I don’t do it as often as I should, but then I do use my notebooks and journals.

I guess it’s not the same thing.