I'm a ‘Pantser' (aka ‘Discovery Writer'), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants.'
In other words, I've no idea what I'm writing until I've written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don't stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I'll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.
Once I'm done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I've had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I've gone over dozens of times, and I'll still find something to improve, on occasion.
So it is that I've self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories collected into four completed volumes and another five still being written, completed a novel, and am still working on two more, plus a novella. My genres cover science fiction, space opera, fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism, horror, fairy tales, fairy stories, slipstream, interstitial, noir, detective fiction, action, thriller, humour, YA, and children's stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there's a second self-help book in the works, too.
I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain't going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can't help putting words on paper.” That's me because I've already written over 1.2 million words since I began. I'll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.
Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!
Stephen was utterly sane until he was born to totally normal parents. Having been precipitated into this insane world without his permission, he decided that the only logical response was to become crazy.
He hid the craziness successfully while at school. However, when he started working, he came to believe he could speak to machines. The only possible solution was to train to be a software developer.
After more than three decades of this, he completely lost his mind and decided to become a writer. Over 1¼ million words later, he’s seen the publication of fifteen short stories, a dark urban fantasy anthology (“Paranormal City”), and a space opera novel (“Shuttlers”) in a single year. He’s now madly working on another eighteen books, some ready for publication, the rest still being written.
He says he’ll only stop writing when they peel his cold, dead fingers off the keyboard. “Mind you,” he quips, “knowing the kinds of stories I write, it’ll be one of my own creations that does me in!”
His present philosophy is, “Only those crazy enough to believe they’ll succeed, will!”
You can follow his lunatic rantings here on www.stephenoliver-author.com and https://twitter.com/AuthorStephenO.
Longer (and Probably More Boring) One
I was born in London in 1956 as the eldest child of a British father and a Swiss mother, while my father was still a dental student. Once he qualified, he joined the Royal Air Force, and our family wandered around Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, and England for the next 21 years. This has given me an insight into other cultures, as well as an enduring wanderlust.
It was while I was studying chemistry at university that I discovered computers, which were to become my source of income for over 3 decades. Even as a computer programmer, systems analyst and software engineer since the beginning of the ’80s, my aim has always been to improve the quality of life for myself and others.
After taking part in a government retraining course for computer programming in England, I travelled to Switzerland (where my parents had moved after my father left the RAF) for my sister’s wedding in 1980. I had no prospects of working in England, since finding work without experience was impossible, and gaining experience without work was equally impossible; it was a real vicious circle. I was persuaded to try to find work in Switzerland itself. This proved easier than I thought, and I started working for the first of a series of banks and software houses that were my employers for the next 17 years. After 7 years I had the chance to become a Swiss citizen.
In 1997 I decided to go freelance and founded my own company at the beginning of 1998. Times were good, and I included amongst my clients a large Swiss bank, a regional Swiss bank, a private Swiss bank and its investment daughter company, the Swiss Stock Exchange, the Paul Scherrer Institute (an international research centre for nuclear and quantum physics, number two in Switzerland after CERN), a medical insurance company, plus a variety of smaller customers.
At the beginning of 2011, my last contracts began to dry up. Companies were feeling the credit crunch and stopped employing so many freelancers. They deemed it cheaper to buy in hugely expensive new systems, pay more to have them adapted to their own requirements, and then pay even more when they didn’t do exactly what was required. Strangely enough, many of my programs, which I was told would no longer be required, are still running and being used every day.
Due to Swiss law, I had to dissolve my company in order to be able to claim unemployment benefits. In the meantime, finding new contracts was well-nigh impossible. Potential new clients wanted my 30 years of experience but wanted to pay the costs associated with 25-year old programmers, so I started to work towards becoming an Internet entrepreneur. When my parents announced that they were returning to England to be nearer my sisters and their families, I decided to leave the country myself. I was getting the feeling that I was like a transplanted organ being rejected by the recipient’s body. We finally returned together in September 2012.
My father's health had been failing for some time, and I was glad that he was able to spend time with my sisters and their families (including his great-grandson Connor) before his death from pulmonary fibrosis in August 2014. Since then, I have been taking care of my mother.
I have been interested in personal growth, and bringing out the best of people’s potential, since my early teens. Of course, in the beginning, I didn’t realize that that was what I was getting involved in since the terminology and concepts were not in common usage.
It all started with a review of Journeys Out of the Body by Robert A. Monroe, which I read while babysitting. The concept so fascinated me that I ordered the book the next day. Although in all the years since first reading this book I have never experienced a conscious OBE, I have had a total of three experiences in my life that might very well be unconscious ones, which I have written about in a post titled OBEs. Over the next few years, my interest expanded into the paranormal, occultism and magic.
At university, I encountered much more about mysticism and expanded thinking. This culminated in a hilarious evening shortly after Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig was published. A friend and I took part in a discussion group about the book, and were constantly being asked what enlightenment was for, and how to use it to get better grades in class! As if I knew…
Over the years, I have found that my emphasis has shifted from the parapsychological to the psychological. This interest led me to become an NLP Practitioner (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) in 1993. Although I have not taken part in any further NLP courses, I have done extensive reading and practising on the subject.
At the beginning of 1994, I came into contact with Reiki, attending a First Degree Reiki seminar run by a Reiki Master of The Reiki Network® with my parents. Seeing the improvements that Reiki brought to the whole family, we quickly went on to the Second Degree. It became clear to me that Reiki was one of the best tools for the non-invasive support of personal growth that I had encountered, so I applied for training as a Reiki Master within the Network. I finished my year’s training mid-1996, and now give treatments and teach Reiki in English and German, in England, Switzerland and Spain.
A couple of years later, a friend of mine was training to become an Alexander Technique teacher. She remarked on the need for a course on goal-setting, as many of her fellow trainees seemed to have no idea of how to go about it. Since she and I had created a group that had been analysing the problems of such courses, we decided to use our experience to create one ourselves. We further decided that I should write the course, being the only one who had sufficient experience with computers to be able to do so in a reasonable time.
We offered the course and found that none of the other trainees was interested; a couple of years later, not one of them was working, having failed to set goals about their training and subsequent finding of work. My friend, on the other hand, was a rousing success, since she was already applying most of the techniques in the course.
In 2004, I began a training course as an adult educator (“Training the Trainer”), which I completed the following year. I extended the course for more general consumption, based on my increasing knowledge, and eventually rewrote it as a book. As part of my training, I also created the written training concept which is now used by The Reiki Network®.
I published the book in September / November 2013 as Kindle and paperback respectively. The title is Unleash Your Dreams: Going Beyond Goal Setting, and is available from Amazon via the following links: Kindle and paperback. There are also iBooks and Smashwords versions available. At some time in the future, I will also create an audiobook version.
Since then I've been a contributor to Dr Joe Vitale's book The Midas Touch, also available for the Kindle and paperback. This is an unsolicited plug as I don’t get a share of the profits; it’s all about increasing the exposure of the contributors.
I began writing fiction at around the same time, starting a fantasy novel. However, after reading a book about turning Pantsers (aka Discovery Writers, who don't know what they're writing until they have written it) into Plotters or Planners, my novel was dead in the water.
It didn't stop me from writing, however. I had an idea for something that didn't fit into the novel, so I wrote it and ended up with a short story. I realised that I'd created a whole world, an entire narrative universe, so I continued to write more stories from this place. Before I knew it, I had created an anthology with the title Paranormal City. The ideas didn't stop coming, and I continued to write more short stories set in this imaginary city. I've now completed three more anthologies in the series, created another five anthologies which are offshoots of the series, completed a science fiction novel, started another two sci-fi novels, plus a novella. I'm also working on a follow-up book to the original self-help book. Oh, and I've added over 65,000 words to the original novel.
All in all, including the original self-help book and some experimental stuff, I've written over 1.2 million words since I started. My genres cover science fiction, space opera, fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism, horror, fairy tales, fairy stories, slipstream, interstitial, noir, detective fiction, action, thriller, humour, YA, and children's stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there's a second self-help book in the works, too.
I've been supported in the past few years by writing coach Annalisa Parent and the members of the Writing Gym. I also joined a local U3A writers' group that we've named the Whittlesey Wordsmiths. We've already self-published four books of our own writings.
I've recently found a publisher for Paranormal City, as well as another for my Young Adult novel Shuttlers.
These days I spend my time split between reading, writing, working on my computer, helping my mother, and looking for teaching and software opportunities.
Did I mention that I'm also writing…?