Pandemic Padding…

Ever watched Apocalypse Now? 

Which version I hear you say…  and that is a fair point.

Which version indeed.

It may be annoying when they add those extra five minutes of footage, when that extra monologue is included, but if it brings you closer to the imagination of the artist, I’m kinda all for it. 

Edge of Darkness isn’t a great book, its not, well not in my opinion.

The loosely adapted film, whichever version you see, is indeed great art. 

And therein, by a round about route is my current undertaking.

I am again offering my wares to the world, and I am accordingly reviewing and adjusting my masterpiece. 

I’ve been adding words, removing words, adding commas, removing commas.

Passages have been left as is, passages have been ever so slightly ‘adjusted’.

The story it remains the same.

The story I am absolutely convinced is a good one, a page turner in the truest sense. 

Amy is different, she is a referenced blend of so many things, and she is her own indisputable character.

When she hits popular print, she will be enjoyed.

When she is enjoyed, she will be a subject worthy of discussion.

People will see things that others miss; nuances will be discussed.

And for those counters of beans, money will be made.

So, working from home I am working on my ‘Redux Version’ of Thomas Payne.

You will enjoy it.

Patience.

It will be printed.

You will be able to buy it.

Stay safe!

Stay sane! 

Time

It’s the stuff of life, or so a very wise Benjamin Franklin would have us believe – and I think he indeed had a point, we should spend it wisely!

Anyway, time is my current focus.

Prison is the first book that has a forced timeline – events MUST happen against a dictated and unmoveable rhythm.

Thomas Payne was easy; the siege of Khartoum lent a good series of dates to dance around.

Magic and Gotham played the easy flow of a storyline, with only one glorious summer needing structure.

Now, now that I’ve created a storyline (you’ll like it) and it has an implacable timeline.

I’ve looked back over the whole narrative (from birth) and tried to tie it all down to months, weeks and years.

There is a distinct possibility that I’m being far too forensic – maybe nobody has noticed, perchance if they have, they don’t really care…?

So, I am mapping Amy’s life from 1864 – 1890.

She is no longer the 21-year old debutant, she is a woman of substance, maturity and wealth, she is an independent woman who is galloping towards the end of her twenties

So that’s me typing away at my keyboard, I am mapping the life of a fictional character – oh the joys of writing!  

A Teardrop Explodes!

It’s a beautiful image, something that you can play with, I just need the opportunity to plagiarise it.   

I find it beautifully visual and wonderfully emotive all at the same time. 

And as it’s a reference to an artist of some renown, Julian Cope, who will appear as a character somewhere in ‘Prison’. 

This little missive was provisionally titled with reference to Mister Edgar A Poe and his dream within a dream poem, especially the grains of golden sand line, but indie guitar pop won out in the end – take a bow Julian Cope!

Time has inexorably plodded onwards, and the waves still crash on my shore, and the sand still falls between my fingers, and we’ve now had another silent refusal, another aspiration nullified… 

I know in sending my script that I agreed to the ‘if you don’t hear from us, consider it a no…’, I did, and I do. 

However, rejection is bad enough, but the silent rejection is harsh – it really is!

It is constant amongst my musings, a theme that will probably remain up and until I strike it lucky…

We have the next application in draft, we continue unabashed. 

I’ve been writing, moving stories along, reacting to reviews, and where possible making the necessary amendments. 

I was trying to move The Big House along, research was flowing, but no typed words were produced.

Whenever I warmed up the keyboard, it was a little fiery woman who near exclusively dominated.

We are four complete books to the good, scribbling with a purpose number five, and titivating six, seven and eight. 

My passion to tell tall tales continues, I am still enjoying the whole putting my imagination into structured form, and despite the rejection(s) I still take succour from the support of those who’ve read and enjoyed my stories.

The next step is a big one, but a small one too.

My hands are on the ladder…

Cruelty Without Beauty

It’s a play on the Bodyshop tag line, it’s also a lyric from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, and it’s an adept turn of phrase to describe my current internal musings…

I’ve tried very hard to be fair to those that suffer violence. 

I’ve made deliberate and conscious efforts to ensure that abuse is never voyeuristic entertainment, never given as some sort of sadistic side show, or written as a titillating exploitation to belittle the victim. 

I’ve tried very hard to ensure that such violence is appropriate to describe the emotional suffering that follows. 

I’ve tried very hard to be sympathetic (and empathetic) to those who survive trauma, to give validity to the struggle that continues long after such events have happened. 

Have I overstepped the mark with the scenarios that describe cruelty?

Could I have just stated ‘she was attacked’ and left it at that, let the imagination of the reader fill in the blanks with whatever level of depravity they were comfortable with?

I don’t know.

Critics will decide.

I have for whatever rebuffs follow genuinely and, in all sincerity, attempted to be kind, to be honest about those who are cruel and those who suffer cruelty.

I never wanted to produce a “Disneyesque” tiptoe through the tulips that avoided the harshness of sexual violence, and now self-doubt sits on my shoulder as the proverbial drug monkey whispering such things in my ear…

Bugger, bugger bugger!

Trains Planes and Automobiles

Well, all but the last two…

In book four of the Amy Grace Adventurers (Prison) our heroine is riding the rail, she’s looking like a hobo, but not smelling like one (spoiler – it all makes sense and is explained). 

Despite my protestations to work on other projects (The Big House), Amy like a sweetly singing siren – she keeps calling me back… 

For every word I type for ‘The Big House’ I must type ten or twenty for Amy.

I’m not complaining – I enjoy the scribbling of plot for both projects, yet Amy definitely dominates. 

The trials and tribulations of a young soldier in the 1880’s are indeed fertile ground from which to create a good yarn.   The scope to saturate with blood and thunder action is immense, and is definitely being indulged. 

Our protagonist in this tale will fight the Mad Mahdi in the Sudan; the truculent Boer in South Africa, suffer the industrial carnage of the trenches in France and Belgium before finally coming face to face with the terror of insurrection and civil war back home in Ireland. 

We are debating fighting the Reds, for the Whites, in 1919, we shall see if I can stick that lesser known part of history into the plot – at this point I hope so. 

We have also deviated into unrelated research into Orientalist artists, and although it is a wee bit off-piste, it does explain, or at least throw some light onto the choice of character names (John Fredrick Lewis).

So I’m now looking to insert Giulio Rosati and Ferdinand Max Bredt into the mix, names that I’m sure I’ll be able to happily create interesting characters around. 

So, that’s about it.

Been scribbling.

Job offer still stands!

Inshallah إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللّٰهُ

Well it’s the roaring/flapping twenties, a new year, a new decade and possibly a new opportunity for me and my long-suffering travelling companion – young Miss Amy Grace. 

Yes, dear folk we are once again indulging in the self-flagellation, disappointment and delusion that is submitting our fayre for thirty second scan scrutiny. 

Rejection has thus far followed a pattern of silence; comments politely saying ‘no not for me’ are less than 50% return on investment.

Yet still I’m again setting myself up for rejection.

I’ve read biographies, looked at profiles, tried to select fertile soil…

For my work I know I have all the bias of an indulgent parent seeing their child playing the robin in the school Christmas play.  My child, the skinny brown tights and red jumper, my child alone carries the tale, not the spotlight hogging tea towel wearing pillow up jumper pairing – my child is the undoubted star of the show! 

Delusion is my illusion (another musical reference?), but if we don’t offer nobody can eventually see with my eyes, read the tale that is worth both telling and reading? 

Amy is a story worthy of reading.

I’ve started to tell it; we just need folk to read it.

It is indeed what it is – Inshallah إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللّٰهُ

Resting on my laurels

Blog output has never been significant, more sporadic than prolific. 

I haven’t been ‘resting’ or indeed anything akin to sitting on my hands. 

Amy has been progressing, has been reviewed and reflected upon – maybe changes to completed parts of the saga will follow, maybe I’ll just amend and add detail where I think it is light.  Probably the latter. 

The Big House has dominated output. 

The opportunities for adventure, daring doo and all that for a Victorian soldier were fantastic – it would almost be a crime NOT to exploit this impossibly rich period. 

In the late 1800’s you have battles in Central Africa, Southern Africa, India, Afghanistan and China.   Then if you’ve survived all of that, all those scrapes with the fickle gods of fate, you have the opportunity to play the dice again in the great carnage of the early 1900’s, the Boer War and the industrial murder that was World War One. 

Then of course you have the associated social upheaval back home.  The Suffragette movement is up and running, Irish independence is boiling away under the surface…  With all this material it would be near criminal to ignore it; and I haven’t.

My average output – per novel – is about 300 pages.  To deliver ‘The Big House’ I am going to run so far past that number. 

I’m not too sure if the world likes ‘long novels’, if the attention span will last, if the story is sufficient to maintain focus.  It is the second that I can control, and it is one that I am working on. 

I have (through necessity) had to write a detailed time-line, work out who was where and when, long before I’ve written the story telling details down. 

This story has necessitated a more methodical approach, so many details need to be told, but for all of that, in a deliberate effort to maintain focus I’m trying to keep the character count down to a minimum. 

I’m also very conscious that you can only take so many liberties with history.  I can stretch credibility so far, but at all times I must remain aware that the truth of these events need little tinkering, just the liberty of my added character I hope will suffice and be acceptable. 

So, I hope to have the first readable chunk of my historic opus out for review before Easter, and as with all my scribbles I will take all feedback in the manner it is given.

Oh, and 2020 is the year we get a publishing deal. 

I need to add to my pile of rejections and ignored applications. 

I have stories of ‘commercial value’, I’ve got to polish my offer, refine my sales pitch; put the same effort into selling myself as I do to move Amy across America of indeed Lieutenant Speer of the Connaught Rangers around the Empire. 

Wish me luck.

Two Headed Dog

Okay I was going to call this missive ‘Three Act Play’, but the urge to offer a nod to Rocky Erickson was just too great – so there we go, look him up, he will entertain you!

Anyhow.

Three Act Play.

Yeah, that…

Went on a wee course , an afternoon tutorial which aimed to help/direct me in my submission style and content – and in that aim it was a great success. 

Kudos to the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast!

Oh, yeah, the ‘Three Act Play’.

Part of the feedback was, once completed, you should step away from your work, let it sit for a while, then come back and review it.

Happy with that, although I drip feed my scribbles to trusted critics and adjust accordingly, then once completed I repeat the process. 

But each to their own, and empty auditorium I cannot thank those critics enough!

For me, my direction to those who read my work in progress, is that they focus on the tale, is it any good, does it grip/move/engage?  The spelling errors, the syntax failings, all these things can be corrected after the event, but if we have a poor tale, what is the point in telling it better??

At this little gathering, and I’m sure it was a throw away remark (for all but me nodded), it was stated that you should critique your tale as a three act play and edit accordingly. 

I should look at my tale as a three-act structure; the Setup, the Confrontation and the Resolution.

I am, I know, not the brightest spark, or indeed the most academically qualified scribbler, but seriously WTF?!?!

The rhythm of a story dictates itself, it cannot live and breathe by following some arbitrary construct that mandates the flow – it simply cannot. 

Maybe I need to do a creative writing course, have all those rough edges and ignorance’s corrected, but if I do, won’t I be just another formulaic boy meets girl, does girl like boy, moment of peril and eventual resolution daytime Christmas movie writer?

I’m not knocking daytime movies – bubble-gum for the soul is welcome and enjoyable, but surely it’s not the only way we can tell our tale?    

I am probably over analysing the whole thing, maybe I should indeed take the advice of that North American warbler (of some success) and just ‘shake it off’? 

Perchance I will, but only after I’ve worried about it that little bit longer….

Echo of a Quack

It’s a big empty auditorium, or is it? 

It’s dark and I cannot tell if the seats are occupied or indeed vacant.

So I stand much like the duck at the entrance of the valley forlornly waiting for my echoed reply.   

And then it comes…

The echo rolls back, not as a thunderous roar of disapproval, but as something different, something unexpected.

Approval comes out of the darkness.

The offered pat on the back is genuine.

Yet you struggle to accept honest simple praise…

It’s a close relative of imposter syndrome, self-effacing deprecation struggling with complimentary praise for ones’ scribbles.

Reviews were sought; opinions given and the provider individually respected.

Praise isn’t comfortable.

Collective admiration makes you uncomfortable.

You are waiting for the ‘but’

And unlike a ducks echo, it isn’t coming! 

Pride comes before the fall

Modesty MUST prevail.

Praise must be accepted and not dissected.   

We do indeed live in strange and interesting times. 

A Cup of Brown Joy!

The golden elixir of life, the warm ambrosia that justifies existence isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – pun intended. 

Some will marvel in abject awe at the magic those little black leaves produce, the alchemy that water sugar milk and those humble tips gift the world…

Yet it isn’t for everyone.

Not all will like your blend, some will even prefer crushed and boiled beans…. 

Strange.

But true.

I stand offering my wares to avowed tea drinkers, and I take the structured observations for what they are, for what was sought.

Excitement is tempered not to pressure, not to pry, but eager to know, keen to hear…

It is a hard balance to keep.

Time taken to read is a hard gift to equal.

Ego’s aren’t fragile vampires that perish under the daylight of critique.

No flames, no dust falling to the floor.

We are not the Borg, not trapped in a hive mentality where conformity is king.

Divergence is celebrated.

Opinions are majestic.

We seek, we cherish, we celebrate.

The bloom isn’t fragile.

So please read, please continue to offer opinions.