Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sources of inspiration

Author George Bernard Shaw once mentioned Dubrovnik in present Croatia being a heaven on Earth. I don't know if he was ever particularly literally inspired by the place. I can imagine it probably gave him inspirational power just like some other places for people, especially artists, writers, composers.
Author Karen Blixen spent a lot of time in Africa and was deeply inspired by the continent. Even so much that she quit painting after coming back to her home country Denmark. In her earlier years, she had considered becoming a painter.
I can easily imagine how certain cities, towns, villages or regions have had a strong impact and are in many ways shown in artists' artistic outcome. Some places are not necessarily connected to any known major works. But would deserve it.
I've been lucky to live in places that have that inspirational atmosphere. You can almost see the streets and corners, parks, beaches and alleys being placed in the stories. The kind of places that make the imagination take off, creating new shops in the side of the ones existing in real life, new fictional people starting to live their lives as if they really existed.
I understood it last year, when a truck blocked New Street in my home village Malahide to give space for evening concerts as the crowd gathered together with their beers and cheerful mood to have a good time. That atmosphere had to be caught somewhere. At least a slice of it.
Since Malahide has the summer festival starting again today, there's no better time to give free a short story about a summer festival weekend in a village, similar to Malahide. You can read it here ->

Friday, July 6, 2012

Overcoming reader's block

I'm a mood reader. Recently having several phases of reader's block. I don't know how I'd cure it. Fully at least. One treatment is to go back to those old books that I've once categorized as highly content, personally inspirational, touching, meaningful, entertaining.
I don't know if they have much in common. Some of them have well-thought plots, off the beaten path language often with that poetic "sing", which tells about the atmosphere, humanity, writer's desire to write, finding in a natural way the inner vulnerability of the individual in place. The no-super hero human being whose skin you can crawl into.
Often my favourite tone is somehow melancholic, maybe having slight quiet sadness, still not necessarily having the story ending unhappily. I love ambitiously written survival stories. Or the ones that end up with the protagonist having inner peace, some kind of harmony.
The most important books for me have a strong touch and taste of life. Some of the books that have brought back my trust in the power of literature have been from my country of origin, Finland: The Home of the Dark Butterflies (Tummien perhosten koti) by Leena Lander, To Steal Her Love (Harjunpää ja rakkauden nälkä) by recently deceased Matti (Yrjänä) Joensuu,  Two Cities (Kaksi kaupunkia) by Harri Sirola,  Train to San Pellegrino (Juna San Pellegrinoon) by Jukka Pakkanen.
I've had similar feelings when reading certain works from authors like Raymond Carver, Anton Chekhov, Kahlil Gibran. And watching movies, which add more to it with the whole atmosphere: pictures and well-selected soundtracks.
If I went to list the films that have had the same affect on me, I'd have to mention two of my favourite Italian films: Cinema Paradiso directed by Giuseppe Tornatore and Mediterraneo (by Gabriele Salvatores).
Some of the more rough ones would include Seven Pounds (by Gabriele Muccino), Dead Mans Shoes by Shane Meadows, Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, Four Friends by Arthur Penn and City of Hope by John Sayles among others.
I sometimes go back to read the full books or certain pages that have that strong emotional affect on me.
The first chapters of Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren. The pages where the big brother dies when jumping from the window to escape the fire with the little brother on his back. To save him (true brother Lionheart). Meeting again after passing to the other side, Nangijala.
It's not about that moment only. Some of the highlights in literature live in my mind again and again. But I want to find new, earthshaking reading experiences. That would make me read the whole pile of books of some amazing author new to me.
I don't know why I recently haven't found anything totally touching and new. I've browsed piles of books I've taken from the library shelves trying to make a connection to some new, touching, intelligent authors who have "that something" in the story, language and tone. Apart from some excerpts from Paul Auster and Tobias Wolff, and some new names to me such as Haruki MurakamiI haven't found anything that would have blown me away. Therefore I seem to go back to the old ones, to browse those Raymond Carver prose poems that have touched me so deeply all these years.
But I want new ones. Probably with YOUR help. If something moved you or blew you away, let me know.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Testing the e-book revolution

It's been an interesting year.
Last year, around September, I started diving into the world of e-publishing by following what an American author Vincent Zandri, one of the very successful authors in the e-markets, had achieved. Some months later I wrote a story about him and the e-book markets in the big world for a newspaper in Finland.
After having browsed some sites for weeks, I realized I suddenly had a big light bulb flashing over my head. I figured out, why wouldn't I do the same thing. I had had two novels published in the past years, was working on new ones, editing old ones. I had recently finished a short story collection, which I had already partially translated from Finnish to English.
So I translated the rest of the book in only a period of 1,5 weeks, wrote three new stories directly in English to replace the ones I dismissed at this point. Sent the package to my wonderful editor Alisa. After the editing rounds were finished, cover designed, author pictures taken, the e-formatting done, the e-book was uploaded into distributors' meat grinders and sites. It was similar to those holy moments years before. Receiving the package with 12 or 20 author's copies of those just printed novels. Magical feeling of touching the book. Seeing it there. Finally. After all that creative work.
But this time it was different. Books were not waiting in the storage room of some warehouse, hoping someone would order them to their bookshops. Within minutes the e-book was for sale on distributor's website, soon also on Amazon US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain... Then within weeks through other e-retailers such as Diesel, Kobo, Sony, Apple, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith...
In addition to jumping the language fence, it was to be a nice test to see how e-markets would go.
Little did I know where this would bring me. I still don't. The whole market is expanding and bringing new dimensions to it as months and years go by. E-book has a long run.
Somehow I feel it's little uncontrollable, but can bring many chances. There are free giveaways, contests, hooks authors are throwing out to get new readers.
The numbers of books available are enormous. But markets are more open than ever before. You can reach a person in the backlands of Australia in seconds, if they just have internet connection available. There is no need for thinking  if the editions will run out or if the book ordered via mail will arrive in a week, three weeks or ever. Or is it available anywhere anymore at all.
Earlier this week I noticed news about renowned author Margaret Atwood joining Wattpad with some of her texts. I followed Atwood's path and joined Wattpad and added the title story from my short story collection My Hometown Named Love to be read there for free. It can be read HERE. (Remember to vote!) If you liked the story or wish to read more, you will find the rest of the book with its other 19 stories as an e-version on sale HERE.