Wearing Purple

When I’m old I will wear purple – It’s a good poem, and a better philosophy.

Oscar Wilde is an eternally quotable man, a true legend of whit and the pithy one liner – oh to be almost as good…

I was reminded of the attributed quote “to be yourself, as everybody else is already taken”, and when combined with the Jenny Joseph poem that titles this missive I was mindful to be both the last stanza of the poem AND to be myself – thank you Oscar [you never disappoint] and thank you Jenny Joseph.

So, scribbler of tall tales where is all this going?

Do we have a point, or are we just typing words to meet a production quota?

The point, the crux of all of this is that we should be ourselves, as writers we should acknowledge those that inspired us to release the inner demigod, but that we should avoid at all costs the risk of being a poor facsimilia of something that isn’t the unique being that is us and us alone.

Imposter Syndrome stalks the land like a giant stalking thing – critical daylight has us recoil with all the ham overreaction of a poor Bela Lugosi caricature [and as Bauhaus remind us – he is indeed dead].

Some will NOT like your work, to some it will be that burning daylight, but to others it will indeed be the daylight that removes the shadows and illuminates the endless possibilities that once were hidden!

So, furrow ploughers – wander your own way – you are not lost, you are on your own unique voyage of discovery!

Everything worthy of achievement takes effort, sacrifice, a little disappointment, a tad of pain, but mostly perseverance.

This wasn’t supposed to be a self-help pastiche, and if it reads that way it is purely accidental.

Every great book you’ve ever read was something you enjoyed because it was different, it was a fresh voice, a identifiably new take on the human condition, and that is what I suppose I am hoping to get to.

The unique jigsaw piece that is your work will find its place, you may need to rattle many boxes to get there – but the satisfaction and beauty that will be created when you do will be worth it in the end.

Don’t change, don’t blend in.

Stay uniquely different.

Stay safe and remain sane!

Beard Stroke

I’m a poor blogger – intermittent enough to be seen less than one of those comets that so excite astronomers!

For me blogging, doing this, is akin to taking a trip into my own secret midnight garden, a place where only I go – occasionally there are signs of other visitors, but they are few and far between, and they generally tidy up after themselves.

I initially compared blogging as being like standing on a dimly lit stage in a huge dark auditorium – maybe out in the darkness there are people listening, but maybe there isn’t.

Do I scribble to obtain clicks of approval, second guessing what I think is trending and popular – and then do I chase more clicks and start an ever-escalating need for validation from people I’ve never met, and am very unlikely ever to…?

Or do I let myself vent because it is a simple release?

I scribble because it helps me organise my thoughts (not that reading these posts would give credence to such a claim), once it’s been written down I can process the thoughts, agree, disagree, expand, retreat and even dismiss.

I create a reference point in time purely for myself – well mostly for me…

I’m struggling with the whole getting published thing, it is my quest, my holy grail, and this should be a record of my process, but mostly it’s not.

I wite because I genuinely enjoy it, the whole process, the blank staring at the wall frustration seeking that one word that you can taste but cannot articulate, the frantic typing – hands desperately trying to keep pace with my imagination;  all of it gives me pleasure.

My product I think could be improved, but I’m sure all who write fail to reach true satisfaction with their work – so for a scribbler of words to say that is the next best thing to a true throw away comment I’ll ever make!

Covid-19 is taking its toll – sanity for many is a vaguely distant memory.

For me, the distinction between workplace and home has now disappeared – the blessing of working from home has borne strange fruit, an outcome I genuinely never expected.

I used to seek my sanctuary in my ‘study/mancave’, but this is where I now earn a living, obtain money to pay my bills, and as such it is no longer that bolt hole from the realities of life – it’s just not.

I will adapt, I will because the urge to vent my imagination at this desktop machine surrounded by my books will eventually win out – normality of a kind will return – it will.

But until it does, I will accept what is happening, acknowledge the change that is my new (first world problem) reality.

Volume 4 has been held back, restrained by so many things, that now I have acknowledged my issues, maybe the path to recovery and productivity is closer than we think?

Stay safe – keep sane!

Because I can!

I’ve mentioned before that Dublin warbler and his ‘roller-coaster’ instruction – so we will accept that premise as a given.

I write because I enjoy it – simple, but true.

I get excited when people read my scribbles – I do, and if they enjoy it, I get happier than a dog with two tails – that’s how I roll folks.

Writing is so many things to me, it is a cathartic outlet for creative frustrations, it is a release of emotional tensions and the purging of banshee ideas from my imagination onto (metaphorical) paper.

But above all it is an activity I truly enjoy.

Maybe after my fifty third international bestseller I’ll become a bit jaded – maybe… but I hope not.

I have been rereading and editing for the last two weeks and it’s reinforced my belief that my tales have merit and value.

Thomas Payne is a good story, it is an emotional journey that will cause you to wipe the odd tear from your eye, tears that Magic will have you again seeking the box of tissues.

My stories are good emotionally sympathetic tales of the darker crueller aspects of life – not as slasher horror stories knee deep in gore, but as intelligent engaging tales of decisions and their intended and unintended consequences.

I discuss and describe rape, the aftereffects and the emotional suffering that continually echoes with the victim, I also tell of the resilience of surviving.

We discuss sexuality, we trundle into same sex relationships to confirm that love is indeed love – and the loss of that love hurts all without favour.

We throw sexual exploitation into the mix, and we add self determination to make the best of what a less than perfect world has to offer as a counter discussion…

Thus far every tale I’ve written has contained a heavy dosing of emotional injuries and how people survive them.  From the distant mountains of Afghanistan, to the city scape of New York, and innumerable stops in-between I’ve waxed lyrical about these injuries, and the coping mechanisms that folk use. 

Maybe it’s my subgenre – my theme – or indeed maybe it’s not…

I mentioned that I’m proud of my tales, and I am.

Yes, the tales are what they are – the subject matter what it is, but the journey is more that worth it if you ever get the chance to follow Amy. 

Do it – you won’t’ regret it!

I’m currently scribbling away at volume four, at the tale of our heroine being cast into prison and the adventures that follow.

I’m also (still) looking for an agent – that job opportunity is still unfilled… 

Stay happy, enjoy what it is that you are doing, and hopefully that joy will transfer onto the pages that you write and be enjoyed by those readers that discover your works!

Stay safe – remain sane!

Reflection of Self

There is a wonderful near paradox going on in the world.

People want to be entertained (told stories) but a vocal minority want to own and filter these tales through an ever-changing counter intuitive sluice gate of some nebulous moral revivalism. 

Can a black man be the murderer?

Yes, why not?

Can a left-handed ginger woman from Glasgow with a lisp ever be the killer of children?

Again, yes why not?

The rebuff, such as it is, seems to stand and quickly fall on the premise that the author is appropriating black men and or ginger women – notably if they are neither!   

Does this marginalise or steal agency from ginger Glaswegians or black men, not if the character is fully rounded, how can it?

I’m sure James Herbert was never actually a dog – yet he wrote Fluke!

If the accusation is the regurgitation of lazy stereotypes – then against the writer the complaint would have merit, but only that the character was poorly formed, not that the subject couldn’t exist – there is an important difference!

Fiction is an invented narrative, it may contain truths, but it reflects imagination more than it is a verbatim mirror of society.

Characters, and the scenarios the envelop them may have resonance, but they are still first, and foremost, products of imagination designed to turn pages.

There are exceptions to this, satire makes deliberate reference, as too does historical fiction, but mostly, mostly, fiction is just that – a tall tale interestingly told.

Although bizarrely science fiction and fantasy seem to get a free pass – the myopia against fiction and appropriation in these cases doesn’t apply – which when you consider 9/10 females in these genres are large breasted Amazonians forever wearing skin tight catsuits you’d have thought they’d be target number one – seemingly not. 

Where was I?

Ah yes, if my protagonist is an Irish female, am I, as a male stealing the agency of Irish women? 

Am I attempting to act as a conduit for the female experience?

No, I’m not, I’m just witing a tale with what I believe to be an interesting character – nothing more, and nothing less. 

Am I being sympathetic to my characters plight, not coat tailing tried tropes and cliches – I sincerely hope so!

I am not debating the need to elevate marginalised voices – nor indeed the requirement to avoid promoting any sort of ‘isim’, but we must stand as a vanguard against restrictions on the creative.

What is bad should be called out on an individual basis and treated accordingly.

But we must passionately avoid censoring creativity to please a god who doesn’t care and who is now in all likelihood angry about something else!

A fictional body of work should stand and fall on the tale being told, and not the chromosome mix, Melanin quotient, or sexual orientation associated with the name on the jacket. 

For if it doesn’t, if we refuse to allow the story to be told, then how will anyone ever tell tall tales?

Delusion

Some say writing is the greatest vanity, for as a scribbler of tales you stride as a colossus over a world of your making. 

Characters live and die at your whim; happiness is a blessing and sadness a curse – all the gifts of your hands alone.

The temptation to bathe in this near messiah scenario is great, the ego at times hard to rein in and keep in check.

But then reality comes crashing as a white capped storm wave against your empire built on sand.

Your kingdom, your realm, all you would surrender to be printed, but the repeated echo returns a steadfast NO.

Is it you?

Are you just out of synch with what the market is looking for?

In a market seeking the next left-handed ginger stepchild, are you yesterday’s silver haired outcast? 

It could be you…

It could be your tale.

Maybe action adventure with a strong female lead isn’t ‘a la mode’, maybe the whole Irish thing is just so last year. 

You didn’t see the boat leaving, didn’t hear last orders called, but the harbour is indeed empty – just ominous looking waves on the horizon.

Flares in a world of skinny jeans…

It could be both you and your scribble.

Maybe it isn’t – maybe you are a poor salesman (you are!), possibly your pitch is atrocious.

In a world where it seems the attention span is a mere 280 characters, and only the bold type headline is ever read (the article always ignored) you need to up your game – front load your pitch – drop the tease!

We can learn, we can adapt, we will improve!

Stay tuned.

A Kick Up the Arse!

Pity parties, most of us have attended them, indeed a fair few of us have hosted them.

Not big brave or indeed constructive – but still we go…

2020 has been a bit of a rutty road, a byway in need of drastic resurfacing, not just for me, but for many others too.

Echo culture is a dangerous corrosive environment, when all you hear back are the comments you shout out, you can validate nothing.

Topography returned what I gave, and what I was giving wasn’t positive, was nowhere near being constructive – so it was no real surprise that it was all I heard echoing back to me!

Cabin fever had me, isolation removed the much-needed reaffirming validation that we all need, the corrosive insular cycle fed itself, devoured itself, almost destroyed itself and me with it.

A leather warped foot connects, and the scales fall from your eyes, you are no longer the trapped blind fool listening to the whispers and echoes of doubt.

You see, you see the beauty that you had for so long ignored.

Self-indulgence is a privilege of the living – and against the living is the debt from the dead to live.

So, missive over, have we made a point, articulated a clear theme?

I hope so.

Grip the shoulders, shake vigorously and then hug with all the love and passion that you possess.

Fall seven – stand eight!

Mojo Rising

It could be innumerable things, it could be the latest rejection – it could be, but it’s probably not. 

It could be Covid-19, but it isn’t. 

I know what it isn’t, even if I don’t know exactly what ‘it’ is.

Fellow scribblers probably now this intangible ‘it’, some may have a name for it, some a colour, others possibly leave it unnamed so as to hopefully not summon this intangible beast from its lair…

Avoidance is probably a sound strategy.

But for me it’s too late.

It’s been here, it’s still here…

Focus is hard, additional word count minimal – distractions prevalent!

Like a receding tide so my tale progresses.

Canute could not command the waves, and currently neither can I.

Energy is invested, then somehow just washed away.

Ideas flourish but are not nurtured.

We have a woman talking to a fairy, a fairy sitting comfortably in her handbag, yet this mine of possibilities isn’t being plundered?!

I have Nemeses converging on a singular timeline, yet…

Maybe I need a break from it all – possibly.

A change is as good as a rest – I’ll take both, maybe after a break my Mojo will rise again?

Who knows?

Stay sane – keep safe!

Furlough

The power of words don’t take it for granted!

So it says on the t-shirt, and so the man sings.

Words, much more than clothes maketh the man. 

And of course, words without deeds are just that – meaningless platitudes.

Take a bow St James!

I have to admit that I’d never heard of ‘furlough’ until this whole lockdown thing started – had no idea of it in either concept or operation, I do now.

Is any of this relevant?

It is, and indeed it is a distraction too.

2020 for so many folks has been a peculiar year on so many levels.

Plans, best laid good intentions, all it seems have come to naught.

Of that I am guilty.

It’s not been writers block, but my writing has been blocked.

I have been ill – but not that ill that I couldn’t type.

I’m looking at a picture of the Shatt Al Arab Hotel and musing – not relevant to this muse, but it is.

Adversity introduces a man to himself (apparently).  

Focus has been lacking.

Lacking so much it’s been totally absent.

Not a proud statement, but an honest one.

Rejections have arrived – and yes, they suck.

I have been focused on editing unfinished works, rather than pushing the story forward, and it shows!

Amy has become a cast aside lover, not while I pursue another, but forgotten because I’ve just stopped chasing… 

Where do we go from here?

Is this the end?

Is this the whimper that the world dies by?

No, nothing as melodramatic.

Fall seven, stand eight!

Vent the spleen, articulate your frustrations – even if incoherently.

And that boys and girls is the whole point of the big empty dark auditorium.

Sins committed here, in this context, are anonymous.

So self-indulgent narcissism is the only way.

I need to write – so write I must.

With due apologies to Shelly “Shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you – Your words needing written are many – excuses, they are few.’   

Imposter Syndrome Returns

Here we are with nowhere left to run…

Like a reluctant dog taking a bath, so too must this aspiring resident of Waterstones struggle against the crippling self-criticism that lumbers into residence whenever it’s time to post those speculative applications.

Pithy posters abound, #hastag support flows like a river, yet the monkey sits firmly on your back forever chipping away at whatever remains of your confidence…

All is NOT doom and gloom, the black dog is just a Labrador.

We wonna be a Flintstone…

Horace Wimp succeeds because he preserves; we can do this.

She’s five foot two, she’s taken all that’s been thrown at her and she’s still standing tall.

The tale is a good one.

It is a real page turner.

Sell the book.

Enthuse your tale.

Keep it simple.

Don’t panic.

Have faith.

Turn the volume up to eleven!

Dance like nobody’s watching – you know the rest!

You are in the arena, celebrate and be happy!

Fishing at Tesco’s

And into our inbox she comes!

A nice rejection.

Sorry, but NO.

These things are as much the life of a writer as swimming is to fish; but even the fish eventually got tired of the water and walked on dry land!

Maybe too I need that evolutionary leap?

I’ve been pushing Amy Grace: Thomas Payne.

Perchance it isn’t them and it is indeed me?

Scary, but possible – the statistics would support such a hypothesis.

Page one MUST be sufficient to draw you in, to lock you into a tumultuous love affair with the story – possibly mine doesn’t.

I’ve changed the beginning before – so why not again?

Back in 2014 when book one was known by another name (Khartoum) our opening page was an instant explosion of violence that indeed made Saving Private Ryan look exceedingly tame.

But we changed it.

We toned it down.

What was an unapologetic single page describing the pain and humiliation of a young woman being raped was changed. 

Versions that followed didn’t alter what was to happen to young Amy, but they did lead the reader to it, they offered some context, they offered a more abstract telling of that tale.

I know that I must pass the 30-second scan when seeking publication, I must INSTANTLY intrigue the (jaded) reader of manuscripts…

A slow burner I don’t think is acceptable.

The gradual building of layer upon layer of intrigue doomed to survive the cursory glance.

I don’t think I can revert back to the original one-hundred and twenty-one words, so I must engineer a solution, or forever fall at the first hurdle. 

I want you to read my book.

I want you to read my book because it IS a good story.

It is!

I will improve it’s telling.

But it is a good tale worthy of reading.

So undeterred, we strive to evolve, we adapt to improve, and we plod ever onwards.

Fall seven, stand eight!

Oh, the title of this missive – a ditty by The Senseless Things