Last Saturday, was the first time my writing group, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County attended an in-person event since the pandemic started. In conjunction with Recreation, Parks & Culture the event gave residents the opportunity to try sports and discover the multiple cultural organizations within the county.
As a writing group, we always encourage all ages to delve into the delights of the written word and explore their imaginations. We promoted our annual children’s writing contest, which has a deadline of 30th April, 2022. It is a great opportunity for young people to enter their stories and have it published in a ‘real’ book.
We had many visitors to our table and several took the contest details home with them to begin their story entries. I’m looking forward to reading all the entries and the expressions of imagination from the clues.
I also attended the AGM for the Arts and Culture Council last night. Meeting with other people passionate about the creative arts and exchanging ideas and views is always a treat.
The next big event on my calendar is a Spring writers conference (virtual) on 23rd April. Registration is required via the website: http://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com Details so far are:
Sabrina coxed Juniper, her pet duck, into her special backpack on Saturday morning. The white duck ruffled her feathers in anticipation of an adventure, being accustomed to these trips from a duckling. The plan was to meet Sabrina’s friend, Alison and meet another duck fancier. The back pack allowed Juniper a view of the world with a clear plastic panel with strategic air holes so the little duck’s nostrils could pick up the various aromas as they walked. The path from Alison’s house was a steep downhill trek, boarded by a low stone wall and many shrubs and trees. Juniper quacked as the backpack moved side to side in time with Sabrina’s steps. Soon the sounds of traffic and the bustle of the small town overtook the birdsong. The two friends looked across the road before stepping out and making their way to the special waterfowl event.
Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane
I really enjoyed the building tension, the red herrings and the characters within this narrative. Skillfully plotted and written with great twists to get the reader guessing.
The Doll’s House by A.J. Arlidge
Once again M.J. delivers a tension packed, fast paced, twisting tale that elicits page turning. His skill with short chapters packed with characters and their journey is exceptional. I highly recommend these stories of DI Helen Grace.
The novel originated as a short story that I wrote in a creative writing class my senior year of college. The character of Lazer was loosely based on a friend of mine who played in a heavy metal band in the 80’s and never quite moved beyond his rock n roll heydey. Lazer isn’t just a carbon copy of him though, but rather an amalgamation of several people, a list that seemed to grow the more I worked on the book. But ultimately, at the start of the book he represents the downside of staying too firmly in your dream for rock stardom. When we meet Lazer he has hit rock bottom and is stuck in a loop of meaningless flings and surface level friendships, all while playing the same songs over and over and over again. He’s something of a prisoner of his own failed ambitions. I would meet a lot of people who suffered from this sort of stunted personal growth when I played in bands and was heavy into gigging. The folks who never said die even though they should have moved on decades ago. I’m all about living the life you want and staying true to your passions, but its always good to make sure you don’t lose yourself in the process.
2. Did you have fun creating Lazer and Streek?
Giving dimension to Lazer and Streek was a lot of fun, because you’re not just -, but building the relationship between them. A lot of times when they are bantering back and forth it’s almost like different aspects of my personality are having a conversation with each other. Lazer, as he developed really kind of took on parts of my own history of being in a band and how I approached that lifestyle. Streek meanwhile has more in common with my wife; this sort of introverted, second-guessing nature that acts as a counter balance to Lazer’s shoot from the hip and hope for the best ethos. Having them play off each other is one of my favorite parts of writing these stories. I really want the growth of their friendship to feel organic as the story unfolds, not in just this novel, but in the rest of the books in the series to follow. Friendship dynamics shape-shift over time and it’s a really interesting topic to explore. Even though its a story set in space with all sorts of fantastical elements, at the end of the day its a story of finding out who you really are once the comfort of routine is stripped away from you, and how your friends can help you get there.
3. Have you always had an interest in sci-fi stories?
I absolutely love science fiction. I feel like you can go anywhere or do anything with it. As long as you stay consistent within the rules you set up, its an excellent vehicle to give commentary on everything from politics to personal relationships. I grew up with things like the twilight zone, outer limits, tales from the crypt and the x files. I’ve always loved stories about aliens and monsters and the unknown. My wife is wonderful, she’ll watch the most ridiculous B movie nonsense with me just because she loves me. Though lately its mostly been kids programming. I’ve got a one year old and a four year old. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen Encanto.
4. What or who influenced your writing?
Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite writer of all time and really kind of opened me up to new concepts of narrative, like how slaughter house 5 is both fiction and memoir, or Galapagos is told out of order from the perspective of a ghost. Absolutely brilliant.
5. Do you see a sequel to the novel or are you happy for it to stay a standalone?
The Sunset Distortion series will be 5 parts. Part one is “The Pyramid at the End of the World.” Part two will be titled “Live! From Valhalla” and is maybe 3/4’s finished. Though that being said, I put that one on pause while I work on a collection of short stories. I sort of follow where my creativity takes me, and right now, its horror and sci fi short stories with a few novellas thrown in the mix. I’m currently finishing up a 10k word story about a piece of recycling equipment that becomes self-aware and decides that the best way to sort non-compliant materials from recycled bottles is to murder the entirety of the human race. Fun stuff!
6. What is your writing process? Plotter or panster?
Both. It depends on what I’m writing. I like to plot out the sandbox first if you will. The world, the characters, and the broad strokes of the plot. From there I’ll sort of freewheel it from point A to point B and see what comes out.
7. Are you part of a writing group? If so, how has this helped your writing?
I’m a part of several writing groups online but I don’t check in nearly as often as I should. I do have a half dozen friends who are writers themselves and we’ll share works in progress with each other and give feedback. It’s absolutely vital to have other eyes browse through what you’re doing. We all have blind spots and our work only gets better from sharing with others. You need to have people willing to tell you that your ideas are garbage.
8. Do you have a favorite place to write?
I write short stories on my phone, usually while putting my daughter to bed. She’s doing this thing right now where she will only fall asleep if I’m in the room with her, longer form stuff is on my laptop. I will honestly write whenever I get the chance. Between running my business and having two small children, personal time is at a premium. I used to have a specific chair I would sit in, but it was so old and natty that I threw it away after book 1 was finished. Now I’m something of a nomad, moving from couch to bed to rocking chair of office desk when time permits.
9. Are you working on another manuscript? Can you tell us a little about it?
I currently have maybe 4 short stories in the can and 10 more in development. My goal is to have at least 60k words worth of short stories assembled before I release them as an anthology. Book 2 in the Sunset Distortion series will probably follow within a year after that. The second book in the series will see Lazer and Streek get drafted by a private security company to stop a terrorist plot onboard a space station that hosts the Galaxy’s collective entertainment complex apparatus, all while helping their new friend escape the clutches of her jerk of an ex-boyfriend who also happens to be the galaxy’s biggest rock star. Like the first book, expect lots of jokes, weird aliens and music references.
PAUL BAHOU is the author of Sunset Distortion: The Pyramid at the End of the World. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Cal State University Long Beach with a minor in music. He began his career writing grants while playing in his rock band, eventually moving out of music and into the sustainability sector. He lives in Southern California with his wife Melissa, daughter Sophie and son, Harrison. He writes fiction, music and the occasional dad joke in his spare time.
If you are like me you have a movie running in your head when you read a book. You can ‘see’ the characters, their surroundings and what is happening. As a writer this is a wonderful tool for my stories. I see everything as I write, getting those images onto the paper is the trick.
So when we watch a movie, sometimes an adaptation of a book or a play we have read or watched, we compare what our vision is or was of the story. Sometimes the director and screen writer get it ‘right’, other times they do not. As you all know I am a Stephen King fan and have watched some of the movies made from his novels. The interpretations can be cringe worthy, such as Shelly Duvall in The Shining. I got angry at her scenes, she did not represent the character at all, she ruined that movie for me. Jack Nicholson, of course, was stupendous in his role, as only Jack can. One movie I watched, and re-watched was The Green Mile, it was expertly portrayed. This is most likely due to Mr. King being on set!
This brings me to several movies I re-watch due to their intriguing plot, my emotional response or the actors characterization. I have a basket of DVD’s that contain many movies, I enjoyed a lot. (This is not all of them though, it would be a very long post!)
The Lake House, which was adapted from Il Mare, a 2006 American fantasy romance drama film written by David Auburn. The movie has a time slip element with the two main characters living years apart but communicating through a mailbox.
Educating Rita, an adaptation of a screenplay by Willy Russell based on his 1980 stage play. I love the two opposing characters in this movie, chalk and cheese as they say. However, as their relationship grows there is a metamorphosis.
Shirley Valentine, this is another Willy Russell screenplay adaptations based on his 1986 one-character play. For many women this is the ultimate ‘escape’ movie. Who hasn’t dreamed of living on the ocean?
Ladies in Lavender, another screen play adaptation, this time based on a 1908 short story by William J. Locke. Superb acting by Dame’s Judi Dench and Maggie Smith bring this delightful story to life. There is heart ache, lost love, new passions and secrets. And, for me, the coastline is memories of home.
Julie & Julia, the film is the first major motion picture based on a blog. Giving yourself a deadline or a ‘monumental’ task can have its ups and downs as is plainly obvious in this movie.
Calendar Girls, based on a true story of eleven members of a women’s institute group raising money for a cancer charity with a nude calendar.
Which movies do you enjoy over and over? Are they adaptations?
When I initially, made the decision to branch out into freelance writing after a couple of paid gigs, I had no idea how it would affect my writing style. Obviously, it was interesting, but also gave it me another avenue to learn my writing skill.
When I write creatively, I am in control of what happens, where the story leads when I write and ultimately when I finish. However, with freelance projects I quickly learned to accommodate another person’s viewpoint, requirements and adhere to a deadline. Fulfilling another person’s vision for their project is about asking questions – lots of questions and then reiterating them to ensure you are both on the same wavelength. Among my past projects, I have written new bio’s, edited manuscripts, created blog and social media posts, written articles and information leaflets, mentoring and ghost written a hybrid marketing book to name a few.
Through this business I have gain experience and knowledge from each project, which allows me to hone my skill. I have also gained valuable insights into other styles of writing, which in turn have assisted me in my creative writing. You may think that cannot be the case, but all writing teaches us something. It can be as simple as writing to a deadline or writing to a specific style or tone to align with current literature or media. It also gives me great backstories for future characters, who work in environments I am writing and learning about so a win-win situation.
Have you broaden your writing into freelance? What has your experience been like?
You can find my freelance website, testimonials etc. here: