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Beyond the Pin: A Small Taste of Hong Kong

Over on The Martini of Destiny Pinterest Board, there’s this photo (outlined here in red):

The Martini of Destiny Pinterest Board

A street more clogged with little red top van-taxi-things than New York City is with yellow cabs.

Bright signs that I can’t read, hanging between buildings.

A sense of much going on in a very compact space.

It’s a street scene from Hong Kong, a city I visited only briefly, but that has a hold on me still.

It’s an image I like a lot. During 2003, on the way to India, I had a brief stopover in Hong Kong. A 12-hour glorified layover, really. Just time enough to get lost in the city for a while. I wandered those packed streets. I watched people walk through a park in the middle of a neighborhood whose buildings could’ve been cut out of London. I took the ferry across the harbor. I got a haircut (with free head massage!). I went down the alleys between the massive buildings, and wandered the temples and vendor stalls.

I got lost, and felt lucky to make my train back to the airport in time to catch my flight to New Delhi.

That small taste of Hong Kong has stuck with me for over 10 years now. I want to go back, wander those streets with my family. I want to see where the suit-and-tie businesspeople are going for lunch, and follow them inside another small streetside little eatery, where the noodles are fresh and the air gleams with the scents of chicken and pork. (Sadly, we wouldn’t be able to see the trippy, otherworldly Aw Boon Haw Gardens—they were torn down in the 90s for apartments.)

Hong Kong is a major city—but its vibrancy is beyond many other major cities. The world passes through here. And one time, long ago, I did too.

When I started working on The Martini of Destiny, it doesn’t surprise me at all that it had to be set in Hong Kong. It also doesn’t surprise me that, in my wee fantasy world, Hong Kong is a bit different from what we know today. For starters, in the Rucksack Universe, Hong Kong is an independent country.

The Martini of Destiny needed to be set somewhere not American or European, not Western—but with a touch of the West to it. Hong Kong is that. Chinese, British, Asian, American, European—and ever and always, itself. Which never stops changing.

This photo is just a small reminder of a place I’ve only gotten the tiniest taste of.

For now, that will do. But even if it’s just in another story, Hong Kong, I’ll be back for more.

Available now as an e-book, The Martini of Destiny comes to trade paperback worldwide on Dec. 10.




Travel fantasy stories: new Rucksack Press blog

Road trip! Travel fantasy stories from Rucksack Press »

When it comes to globetrotting, you can always do with a good book. After all, when you’re riding a rickety bus around windy mountain roads for 10 hours, a good book can at least keep your mind off whether or not you’ll go from a slow ride to a fast drop.

And as you may know from my various novel-in-a-month endeavors (2005, 2008, 2011), I’m working on some travel fantasy stories.

More details are on my new publishing site, Rucksack Press. I also recently launched a news and stories blog, and here’s the first post:

What is the Rucksack Universe? »

Now, back to editing and rewriting…

Photo: grabka dot org




The trials and travails of writing travel fantasy novels

Photo by ironmanixs - http://flic.kr/p/gqkmw

Varanasi, India - part of the basis of the fictional city in my novel. Photo by ironmanixs http://flic.kr/p/gqkmw

If my pen were a match, it would be wet

This is not a day where I’m fired up to write a new scene, delve deep into a character, or get into the mystery and nuance of the plot, all the while subtly laying groundwork for the crucial twist at the end of the story.

This is the kind of day where I want to curl up in my favorite chair with a cuppa coffee and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. (Which I’m halfway through, as of this writing. It’s feckin awesome. I can hardly focus on my own story because this one is so compelling.)

This is the kind of day that is just damn hard to be an author.

Which brings us to the end of Act I

Over 30,000 words later, I’ve roughed out the novel’s first act of three. I can feel the book is in transition. Relationships are set, villains and heroes are established, major and minor characters are in play. Complexities have begun forming.

Now what?

Now what is what I feel I’ve been putting off: reviewing the first act, and filling in some major blanks:

  • More color and sensory detail. The novel is set in a fictional city by a fictional river in India. I want the novel to appeal to people who like travel. To support that, India needs to come alive on the page. The noise and vibrancy of the culture needs to be in the reader’s face, because India is always in a person’s face. Every moment is every sense on overload. I need to establish that more, and that means filling in good detail.
  • Surrounding narrative. My rough drafting tends to focus heavy on dialogue and action. My brain sees scenes in vivid detail, but when drafting I take for granted that I need to present that vivid detail to the reader. I get caught up in speech and movement, plot progression and narrative unfoldings, and forget to fill in visual blanks. Now it’s time to enhance conversations and action with a better sense of place and setting.
  • More travel. The world of this novel is a world for people who like travel. While keeping things relevant to plot and story progression, I need to weave in more actual traveling. Meeting people, seeing sights, doing the things that you would never do back home but can’t wait to talk about when you get back.

Yeah. That’s all. And I’m still just in the rough draft stage. Coffee and The Hunger Games is looking mighty appealing again…

But not yet.

Touch up. Fill in. Move on.

Even more important is what I must make sure not to do: over-revise. I want to touch up the first act to help me be better prepared for the drafting of the second act. That doesn’t mean the first act needs to be ready for typesetting. There still will be big revisions to come once the full draft is written.

That is my mission: touch up, fill in, and move on. There’s writing galore to do — probably about 60,000 more words, for a rough draft totaling about 90,000 words, equal to about 360 pages.

Time to fire up the printer, the legal pad, and both the drafting and editing pens.

Act I, I’m coming for you.

Act II, you’re next, buddy.

Now I’m fired up. Hunger Games will just have to wait till lunch.




You’ll See

Australia-xxxx-bar

Ten years ago, I moved to Oregon. I'll be reflecting on that throughout 2010.

"I'm moving to Oregon," I said in 1998 to my friends and family in Virginia.

"Well, sometimes you have to get used to disappointment," some said. "You'll see."

I moved to Oregon in 2000 and have lived here ever since.

"That's
good that you're doing all this globetrotting now," I've heard so many
times over the years, between trips to Scotland, Ireland, India,
Thailand, China, Tibet and Nepal. "Once you get married and get a
house, well, that'll be it. You'll see."

In 2006, my soon-to-be
fiancee and I bought a house. In 2007 we got engaged, and joked about
our "pre-honeymoon" trips to New York and Australia in 2008.

We married in 2009, and are planning trips to Canada and Scotland.

"Well,
sure, you're doing all that traveling, but wait till you have
kids. You just can't do that sort of thing with a family. You'll see."

Once
my wife and I start a family, we'll be studying the atlas harder than
ever. We're thinking some time living abroad — New Zealand, perhaps —
would be a memorable, unique learning experience for our kids, and a
great time for us as a family.

We'll get there.

You'll see.




Near death at Everest Base Camp

One of my friends, Erik, nearly died at Everest Base Camp.

It was Oct. 20 — also the 1-year anniversary of his round-the-world trip. He was at 5200m, about 17,000ft. At that altitude anything can happen to anyone. In his case, Erik’s “cause of death (would have been): high altitude pulmonary edema, high altitude cerebral edema”. The victim’s only chance of survival is to get them to a lower altitude, and immediate medical attention.

He’s doing okay — I’ll be raising a few toasts to Erik, his swift recovery, and every yak, angel, sherpa, oxygen bottle and bit of luck that got him through.

What’s freaky about this for me, is that Claudia and I were at Everest Base Camp only a few months ago, in May (albeit on the Tibetan side, whereas Erik was on the Nepali side). We were short of breath, and could hardly walk to the bathroom without needing to rest. But the worst thing to happen to us was that Claudia spent the entire night hallucinating reincarnations of the Buddha (“I saw crazy whirling green goddesses EVERYWHERE,” she told me in the morning.)

Altitude sickness is a fickle, fickle thing. Erik, I’m glad you’re okay, buddy. Swift recovery and better health to you, and you’ll be in my thoughts.




36 hours in Bend, Oregon

Bend stopped being a secret some years ago; if I remember correctly, the population has gone from about 50,000 to 63,000 during the past 5-6 years alone. Bend is one of my favorite places anywhere, much less Oregon. It was also the catalyst behind my decision to move from Virginia to Oregon in the first place.

The New York Times mentions some of the best about Bend — Drake Park, Deschutes Brewery, the Three Sisters — and a lot more:

Travel > Escapes > 36 Hours: In Bend, Ore.” href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/15/travel/escapes/15HOUR.html?ex=1255579200&en=93bf402bbda9cd67&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt”>The New York Times > Travel > Escapes > 36 Hours: In Bend, Ore.
(Free registration or BugMeNot required)

If you’ve never been there and want to go, drop me a line. At the least I’ll be happy to give some tips and suggestions. Though if you’d like some company, I’m always up for a trip to the dry side of the Cascades, especially this time of year.




What can you read about on here?

Thank you Jon Meyers for asking what I’m going to be writing about.

A feature of blogs is that you can set up categories to organize your ramblings. Once there’s a post under that category, you can look at any and every post in that category. Here are categories now on or coming soon to AntSaint:

  • Beer & Wine
  • Books & Reviews
  • Coffee
  • Daily Miscellany
  • Food & Recipes
  • One Word, 60 Seconds
  • Stuff I Use
  • Stuff I Want to Read
  • Travel
  • Web/Tech
  • Weblogs
  • Work
  • Writing

This will change over time, of course. Categories are in the right-side bar on every page. Enjoy, and let me know if there’s anything you want to hear about.




So It Begins

What this blog is
If you’re interested in books, travel, writing, food, coffee and quirky perspectives on the world, then you’ll find something here worth sticking around for. AntSaint.com is about anything from writing novels to backpacking through Asia, from a good microbrew porter to an average day on the range in my home of Eugene, Oregon.

There’ll be off-the-cuff smarty-pants remarks, and some serious musings. There’ll be reflections on ol’ day-to-day life, and overall curiosity about the world and its general nuttiness. There’ll be links and book reviews, photos and lots and lots of stuff that I can’t yet even imagine.

What it’s not
What there will not be is endless why-blog?-navel-gazing (it’s like writing a novel about why people write novels) or eye-glazing second-by-second retellings of my day (Oatmeal. With chocolate chips. Wore my red shirt to the office. Remembered pants, but just barely).

I hate that crap. If I lapse into this rot, slap me (antsaint at myway dot com). I’ll thank you in a post.

Why it’s here
I’ve set up this site for a few reasons –

  • It’s good practice. AntSaint is personal and professional. I’m a writer and editor by trade, and there are projects I’m working on that I need a website for, both now and down the road.
  • It’s the 21st century – not having a website is like not having a phone number.
  • I have something to say, even if I don’t know what it is until it catches my attention and doesn’t let go.
  • What I have to say will be different. At least, people around me say that I look at things, and talk about them, a tad on the out-there side. I’ll just post and spout, and we’ll see what happens.
  • It’s fun. ‘Nuff said.
  • I’m hoping that the end-but-ongoing result will be some good, not-too-clean fun. Have a good time, thanks for coming around, and if you’ve got 2 cents to add to my 2 cents, leave a comment or send it to antsaint at myway dot com.




    Hi.

    Anthony St. Clair - Travel Fantasy Author / Craft Beer Writer / Business Copywriter

    Author and copywriter Anthony St. Clair has specialized in online content since 2000, blogged since 2004 and is the author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series.

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    Anthony's third book, FOREVER THE ROAD, is a Best Books 2015 Fantasy pick from Library Journal's SELF-e, and a 2015 Oregon Book Award nominee.

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    Rucksack Universe

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