Shop Window

Back in the summer of 2017, when initially musing about the whole blog concept I said that I saw this as akin to standing alone on-stage in some great palatial auditorium. 

I viewed myself as a one man show casting pearls into the dark, maybe folk are out there listening – maybe they were not.   

Does silence echo?   

Well, undeterred I’ve been speaking into the abyss ever since. 

Occasionally lost souls, looking for the dinosaur exhibition next door, wander in, look a little confused and then meekly shuffle back out.

Me, I persevere.  

This is my shop window, and it isn’t.

It is so many things, and it isn’t.

What it is, I’m still not too sure.

Does it have merit, not too sure of that either…

If this was a big hall in the centre of town, then maybe I’d have validated some parking tickets, or struck up a relationship with a few of the on-site staff – but it isn’t, and I haven’t.

It is easy to say what this hasn’t been, to look at the chances and opportunities imagined and then not delivered.  That bit is easy but offers no real benefit. 

We must look for the positives. 

What this has been, what this does deliver?

This project gives is a release valve, a venting mechanism, an empty room into which I can mutter consequence free!

Nobody corrects or criticises my mutterings, I stride as an unchallenged colossus in a fiefdom of my own creation!

So, part relief valve, part echo, and a little tiny bit of a shop window, I salute this blog.

Scribbles will continue, and you never know, one day a reply may come forth out of the darkness…

So, until the rapture – stay safe and remain sane!

Wave Hello, Say Goodbye.

Parting is indeed such sweet sorrow. 

Four complete tales, 500,000 words. 

An adventure that started in 1884, is now in 1891 offering Amy Elizabeth Grace a real chance of lasting peace and happiness.

Amy has circumnavigated the globe, rode lightning storms, fought enemies in the Khyber Pass, fought more in North America, fought Fairies too, so many battles that her body is a lattice work of scars…

Love was found and then cruelly taken from her, she has given birth to a daughter, but she too has been lost.

Vengeance has been enacted; slights corrected.

All this I have written, and now writing her swan song, the fifth (and final?) instalment I have hit a near insurmountable obstacle; I don’t want to say goodbye.

In 2015 I started telling her tall tale, and now in 2023 I think it’s the right time to let her go.

She is a mere figment of my imagination, and yet at the same time she isn’t.

The emotional investment of the writer shouldn’t be overplayed, but neither should it be ignored.

I hope that I can do justice to her, that I can give her the ending that she so richly deserves (even if I don’t want to).

So that boys and girls is my first world 2023 problem – whatever life brings you, I hope your struggles are as trivial and surmountable as mine. 

Stay safe – remain sane!

And then…?

Okay, so you’ve drafted a book – kudos to you, well done, take well deserved pleasure in your achievement!

Now what?

You’ve browbeaten your friends/colleagues/neighbours/strangers on the train into reading it, and the replies have been favourable.

Next?

You write your one-page synopsis, polish the living daylights out of the first three chapters and scribble that all important cover letter.

Silence prevails, silence only broken by the occasional ‘thanks, but no thanks’ rejection.

Self-doubt and other monkeys climb on your back. 

Imposter syndrome takes up long term residence…

What now?

Is it your letter/synopsis/first three chapters?

Is it your entire project?

So, you edit, rewrite, titivate and do your absolute best to create a silk purse.

Is it your timing, is the publishing world focusing on werewolves and moody teenagers with identity issues?

Is it a timing issue, or does your work just lack merit?

The monkey is still on your shoulder, his extended family over to visit…

Maybe you need to self-publish?

It’s a credible option taken by many.

Okay, to go it alone you’ll obviously have to present the absolute best version of your project that you can – it is a crowded market – you will need to be polished – no half measures will succeed!

An editor, yes you will need one of those skilled practitioners – £0.01 per word (£1,200 for Amy Grace: Thomas Payne).

Artwork – most definitely gotta get some good graphics, despite the adage people do judge a book by its cover – okay £200.

So, to launch my project I’ll need a few coins over £1,500.

Do I have £1,500?

No and nope. 

Is it a lack of belief, or just an overriding necessity to pay the bills? 

Ah the mundane of life…

The piper needs to be paid. 

We chase rainbows, pick up pennies, and we debate the sustainability of our project that is doomed to be in perpetual ‘pause.’

Maybe it’s a cosmic statement – maybe it’s telling me to take up golf, or it’s telling me to persevere because nothing worthwhile is ever easy? 

I’m currently looking at option B.

Stay safe – remain sane!

Inciting Incident (courage of your convictions). 

And so it begins, chapter one, page one, we write our first line, and we start our tale.

My original draft made the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan look like a teddy bear’s picknick.

I pulled no punches, spared no blushes, the opening incident was intentionally cruel in its delivery.

I added no trigger warnings – gave no option but to be immersed in what was happening. 

Some subjects work well with kid gloves – and some don’t.

Amy’s tale deserved the honesty I gave it.

Time passed, the tale was completed and then offered out for critique.

I presented the first chapter to a writing group.

It wasn’t the rape, wasn’t the violence or indeed the cruelty that they balked at – nope it was why would a woman go walking/exploring on her own???

I tried to explain, to defend my rational, but they were not for turning – there was a credibility collapse with a young woman walking alone through Cairo at four in the morning – change it!

So, I did.

No longer was she off wandering (alone), now she was stolen from the middle of a crowd.

As the huddled masses jostle for taxis home Amy is plucked from the crowd and the tragedy that initiates our tale is carried out.

Version ‘new’ was carefully crafted to explain every act – to reinforce the notion that Amy as a blameless victim – no naïve culpability [?] in her own tragedy. 

And as well written as the new version is, I don’t like it – but I’m now scared to change it back because the ‘credibility’ of my first incarnation was so universally rejected.

To my own self be true, or to the critics do I surrender?

I don’t know.

Stay safe – remain sane!

Haircuts and Hairshirts

Strange title, that much is true, but it seems that since my last confession, this is all I’ve achieved. 

Participants and acolytes of the scribbling craft set themselves targets, decide upon numbers of words to be written, and the time allocated in which to achieve it. 

Many will claim to have hit these targets, to have written tens of thousands of words, to have dug drainage ditches, manned a food bank for the poor and deserving, and indeed many will also have learnt to play the cello.

Me, I’m sporting a new haircut, and wearing a metaphorically uncomfortable and itchy shirt as penance for my lack of discernible output. 

It’s not that I haven’t been trying, and we all love a good tryer, it’s just that my efforts have borne little or no fruit. 

I’ve tried to hide behind the ever popular “I’m editing” as some sort of defence – and to be fair it works up to a point, but only up to a point. 

So, in my defence I have rewritten a passage here, a phrase there, and added a few new ones at the end of the current scribbles, but I know its not enough, not something I could proudly stick on the fridge next to my potato print paintings. 

I have sat down, fingers curled poised to pounce, hot tea within easy reach, and written practically nothing. 

And today I’m looking at my lack of progress, debating the wearing a hairshirt and considering flagellation (both scouring, and shirt are obvious metaphors).

Although, truth be told, I’ll probably just go for another cup of tea and browse social media for another hour or so!

Perchance that is the problem…

Stay safe – remain sane!

Confessions from a Pantster.

I don’t plan, not when I’m writing, and truth be told no too much in life either.

But this is about my scribbles. 

I have a rough idea, a conceptual imagining of where I’d like to be at some abstract point – but I’ve no roadmap, no plan or detailed scheme mandating how I get there. 

I have every admiration for the spreadsheet creating, post-it-note posting, notebook referencing organised writers who know every twist and turn before they type so much as ‘Once Upon a Time.’  I do.

Me, by contrast, I open the door, and I am as surprised as the reader about what’s on the other side, or indeed that in the middle of the field there was a door.

Sometimes flying by the seat of my pants pays dividend, the tale becomes free flowing – and for me that’s great.

I never planned to have fairies in my tales, but now they are there.

I had a moustachioed twirling villain all but tying the damsel in distress to a train track; but then he fell in love, and everything changed.

Our heroine is the victim, but she can be cruel and vindictive too.

Neither scenario necessitate or preclude being a pantster or planner – but I’m not too sure I’d have been able to plan these depths to each character from the get-go.

This isn’t a VHS/Betamax argument (how old is this writer?).

Plotter or pantster are aspects of the creative processes that suit the individual writer – nothing more.

Me I fly by the seat of mine.

That’s it.

No words of wisdom other than you should enjoy what you do – and if you do that then I’m sure that will transfer to the narrative.

Stay safe and remain sane.

A Warm Coat.

We write, we write some more.

We delete whatever it was we wrote, and then we write some more.

Whatever was deleted is reinstated.

We write a bit more, change our mind, alter the narrative ever so slightly and then redelete whatever it was we removed the first time.

The narrative looks good – we like what we’ve written, and we feel brave enough to offer it out to the world for Beta critique.

Amy Grace: Home is the fifth instalment in our historic fantasy thriller. 

Four Volumes [Thomas Payne; Magic; Gotham & Prison] are in the can – this one we are still kicking around.

From earlier reviews we know certain readers like some bits, and some, no matter what will never like other bits – we take the rough with the smooth.   

We value their opinion.

Critique is the lifeblood of a drafting scribbler. 

For the feedback we patiently wait.

And then someone says “It was so easy to get back into the life of Amy.  It was like putting on a comfortable warm coat.”

That’s it, I am done. 

It’s not a review from the Booker Prize committee – but I’m banking that one. 

That one I’m keeping.

Stay safe and remain sane!

Telling Tall Tales.

I can write.

I can tell tall tales.

I will tell you of the terrible events in a Cairo alleyway, the scars that such things cause; and you will wipe away a tear or two.

I will tell you what it is like to fly through a thunderstorm, the wind, the rain, the dancing with the lightning; all the time screaming life affirming declarations as you do.

I will do that.

I’ll make you angry, probably make you sad too. 

But I will also give you highs.

The sheer joy that is love – this I will tell you about again and again and again.

We will celebrate this love.

We will mourn its loss too.

We will seek revenge.

We will suffer for our desired justice; and then stare into the abyss that is the blackened remnants of our soul.

I will do this for you.

We will fight magic, embrace Celtic folklore and travel to the dreamworld that will stitch it all together. 

All of this and so much more, so very much more will I give to you if only you’ll read my scribbles.

And therein lies the rub.

It doesn’t matter how good the journey I offer if nobody ever takes the trip.

I can write.

I can tell tall tales.

But I cannot get an agent.

I cannot entice someone to take a chance.

If they did, they wouldn’t regret it.

But I cannot get them to.

I can write.

I can tell tall tales.

Play On.

Music is the food of love, so play on.  Billy the Bard wasn’t wrong when he wrote that.  The emotional blanket in which we wrap our words helps so much with the development of context. 

‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M a suitable example.  If this were playing in the background of a scene, it would set it so quickly, it would provide a near universal shorthand for melancholic introspection. 

A kitchen table, a hunched figure reading a letter, Everybody Hurts playing on the radio – you almost know the words being read (almost).

I think it works while we’re writing too.

The tunes that we immerse ourselves in help format the narrative we type – or at least they do for me.

Writing that sad scene, that tear jerking moment where the near crushing enormity of loss that crushes your MC would be hard to write if ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams was playing on a loop.

We have been writing such a scene, and the stripped-down simplicity of the music that accompanied my typing (I think) helped me create a more distilled/raw emotive scene.

The artist that was my muse?

The Cure, the album – Disintegration.

Still (happily) typing away.  

Stay safe – remain sane!