Pretentious, Moi?

So, you’ve given the world your synopsis, and that was no mean feat, an achievement worthy of considerable note.

Folk now know the broad direction of the narrative. 

But now they want to know ‘what’s it like’?

Them: Whose tales are similar?

Me: Deep intake of breath, reply with something along the lines of Amy Grace is probably told in the same manner as Wilbur Smith tells his historical tales, key historical events creating a timeline against which the story is paced.

Them: Okay, but what of the heroine, who’s she like?

Me: Hmmm, if you’ve read Philip Pullmans Sally Lockhart character, now imagine her being written by Stieg Larsson, more grit, more independence – more pain suffering and vengeance!  Oh, and with more violence, definitely told with a very lot of violence!

Them: Anything else?   

Me: Yeah, we’ve sprinkled a fair measure of James Herbert/Clive Barker darkness and gallows humour between the pages.

Them:  So, you are comparing yourself to…

Me: No, no, not at all.  I’m merely providing the most prominent signposts I can think of to give you a full as possible flavour of the tale that I’ve told.

Them: So, Peter Jackson is doing the screenplay?

Me: I cannot possibly comment…

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name, do titles count?

Seems they indeed to.

If the title of the book was Adventures in Toyland, you’d like more than just a passing reference to be made to the realm of playthings.

Artistic licence and imaginative twisting’s notwithstanding, if the title became a mere opaque reference, it could annoy more than it indeed should whet any appetite.

Relevance being the undertow at play here, I’d better quickly attempt to create some.

The latest incarnation, the current work in progress, is the continuing adventures of Miss (Mrs) Amy Grace as she crosses the immense body of water that is the Atlantic Ocean. 

Originally, we were titling this fifth instalment ‘Dublin’, as after all, that was more or less where she was heading.

I say originally, because we have now changed our mind, and with it the direction of the tall tale being told. 

What was once a story named after a capital city is now titled with the more emotive ‘Home’.

It’s not as if ‘Dublin’ was a shackle restraining the creative process, but it did create an air of expectation that somehow it would be pivotal to the tale…  and it’s not, not now, I’ve changed my mind.

Home gives me a flexibility to drag the narrative somewhere else – and so dear reader we have done just that. 

I hope that when this instalment lands in your hands that you will enjoy it and that it will all make sense?!?!

As ever, thank you for listening, stay safe, and in paraphrasing ‘Wild Stallions’ – be excellent to each other. 

It’s a bloody horse!!!

I remember a friend of mine telling me how they’d spend hours just staring in frustration at the blank canvas in front of them, tears of impotent rage running down their cheeks. 

For years I never understood the sheer depth of that struggle – now that I write, now that I watch the cursor blinking for hour after hour in the same spot, now I get it!

Now I too know that struggle to create, not just to mark the canvas with splashes of paint, but to leave something that is truly mine, something that is a near perfect reflection of my imagination.

And, just like the artist, brush in hand, I too stand before my canvas sheet fearful that I may not get it right, that my colours will be too bland, too bright, too messy…

But if I don’t dab the paint, dawb some colour, who will ever know that my creation is indeed a horse captured in abstract majestic splendour?

And therein we add a further layer, an additional nuance to our struggle to paint – what if our art becomes Dorian Gray, discarded in an attic never to viewed?

Our imperfections, our flawed creations need to see the light of day – they need to be viewed.

And like clockwork our theme returns to the ever so predictable beginning of so very many of my musings – the near primal need to be published!

I have written.

I have created my tales.

But they are not read…

I can stand back from my canvas (like many do) and spot where the colour has accidently bled from one stroke into another, where the detail isn’t as sharp as it could be – but it is unmistakably a horse, my horse. 

A horse not by another name, but a horse clear and obvious.

I have listened to the critics how say how this art should be approached, and often, how it most certainly should not be done. 

And of the latter wisdom in abundance abounds!

A tale should NOT be long.

NEVER create a series without selling book one.

It should NOT cross genres.

A man CANNOT write from the POV of a woman.

NEVER be different…

NEVER stray out of your lane…

These rules they say are proven maxims, sacred edicts beyond debate – KNOW your place little writer!

Maybe I should know my place…

Maybe I shouldn’t. 

Pee, or get off the pot.

Excuse the crudity, but we are that tipping point moment where we need to either initiate something, or politely shuffle away into the shadows…

The books have been written, polished as much as a scribe such as I can manage, and now they need either the printer or the shredder!

Hours, untold multiples of hours have been spent expressing our imagination, creating prose, tempting fate and all those associated acts.

And, we have often stated that an unread book is tragically just paper and cryptically arranged ink smudges…

We want to offer our best version of the tale to the world.

If not our best, why are we bothering?

Help is needed, and the available avenues binary.

We can hope for professional assistance via the ‘traditional route’ of an agent and obtaining editing/creative correction as part of that relationship, or we can plough our own furrow and procure the needed attributes ourselves. 

The first option has the smallest outlay, but potentially the least artistic control.

What price artistic integrity?

Option two gives total artistic control (for better or indeed worse), but it also means to achieve such we need to gather our coins together and pay this diligent third party the worth of their hire.

And therein is part of the rub.

Lucre, filthy lucre in all its glory.

Counting coins and ambition are now locked in combat.

To achieve one thing under my own steam I must have piles of little gold coins – and these alas I do not own.

So, we either continue the thus far unsuccessful attempts at attracting a publisher to bankroll my art, or indeed we find a nice pot of gold at the end of the rainbow… 

Pride month it may indeed be, and rainbows aplenty do indeed abound – but associated pots of gold less so.

What to do, what to do?

New Dawn Fades

I’m struggling to kill the children – a statement that were I not a teller of tall tales would no doubt have my collar very robustly felt!

Context officer, context!

I’m just that, a teller of tall tales whose imagination took him down a very dark alleyway, a narrative that added to the existing tale, and then took it somewhere very nasty.

A stop over in a town to recover from a snake bite, a small town with a nasty dark secret, a town determined to protect both its ‘shame’ and the profit it generates… 

As a thread to the tale, it is a good addition, but as a subject to write I find myself in a conflict between what is ‘art’ and what is my emotional reaction to the subject matter.

I have added, deleted, and then re added these passages time after time.

The telling is good, the descriptive powerful, but the subject awful…

It’s a bizarre conflict.

I can imagine the scenario, scribble away to capture my imagination, yet sit repulsed by the results.

We do indeed suffer for our art!

Captain’s Log – #87

I officially started this little blogging venture on the 21st of June 2017, and to date I’ve issued 87 little missives chronicling my ‘journey’ as a scribbling teller of tall tales, towards that mythical Avalon of becoming a published author.  

Have we made progress, are we inexorably moving forward – even if we must stand aside to let tectonic places rush past us?

I think we have.

About ourselves we have learnt so very much – about the craft of writing so very much more.

The request for a full manuscript remains as ever elusive – and we have had near instant rejections, and some many months after submission – but we learn, adapt, improve and move onwards. 

The destination remains the same, the route taken an at times frustratingly tortuous and slow – yet as ever our eyes remain fixed on the prize of standing teary eyed in Waterstones Belfast (Fountain Street – next door to Boots) with my book in hand. 

Some seek prizes, public adulation, fame and fortune, me I just want to stand in the foyer of that book shop, and see the result of my labour for sale on one of its hallowed shelves… 

Perseverance is king, maybe one day soon the third table on the left will carry my book – we can only hope. 

As the great wit and raconteur Oscar Wilde quipped “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”  

Stay safe – keep sane!

The best laid plans of mice and men!

So, if your non-fiction offering MUST be in or around the magical 80,000 words, and your current scribble is a little over 135,000 do you cull the difference or enact the epiphany and split the book into two? 

I’ve opted to divide and conquer!

The theory is so enticing with its near genius simplicity – it’s just that finding a mid-point (or as near as dammit to one) and then neatly ending phase one…

When you generalise, all projects are overly simple – put a man on the moon, a little bit of brain surgery – you get my drift. 

The natural break in “Thomas Payne” isn’t at a nice halfway point – more it sits at about two thirds – so if I cut there, I’m still going to be a reasonable chunk over the desired 80,000.

What was initially greeted with near euphoria and cries of eureka, is now viewed with considerable trepidation and near panic…

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how I get on!

Lost and then found.

I think it’s probably true that writers lament the loss of their mojo with a greater regularity than blues guitarists sing about losing theirs. 

Me, I tend to lose mine with the regularity many misplace their car keys, and luckily like them I too seem to rediscover what once was misplaced.

Granted then latest period of loss has been longer and deeper than any before, but this period wasn’t me flouncing around in a frilly shirt chugging opiates while writing dark emotionally profound poetry – not least because I don’t own the necessary frilly shirt!

We have accepted our ‘experienced truth’; and that honesty being that we write tales with a nasty cruel and dark undertone. 

To our own selves we MUST be true!

What was once ‘edited’ from a tale because it was too dark, has now been reintroduced. 

The previously omitted narrative of the murder of children is indeed dark and troublesome, and potentially fertile ground for a therapist and a collection of ink blots, but for a writer and teller of tall tales it is indeed manor from heaven. 

So, were my lack of productivity keeping you awake at night, worry not, should you ever get to read what has reinvigorated me, you will indeed be still awake fearing the darkness and shadows and the evil that it may be concealing… 

Confessions from a charlatan…

I think the edict goes something like ‘I write therefore I am’.

So, if that is our ‘code’, our universally given and accepted ‘credo’ as writers and tellers of tall tales, then ladies and gentlemen, against that measure, I am a fraud.

It has been weeks, far too many weeks since I last typed one word after another.

Confession is good for the soul, and as such I must also add that I haven’t read anything in such a long time either.

I have no technicality to wriggle on.

I haven’t been knee-deep in editing, or indeed any other associated creative musings.

I have been, and I remain, absent from that wonderful dream sea in which I so often bathed…

It’s not that I’m stuck in self destructive cycle, more a peculiar rut of self-denial.

Why?

I have no idea.

Other than teaching the world to sing, I’d like to see my scribbles read and hopefully enjoyed. 

I know, understand, and accept that the road to such a goal is long, steep, covered in potholes, and that it has a troll with a penchant for bludgeoning travellers under each and every bridge.

Yet, it is a journey that up until now I have voluntarily and joyfully taken.

I have…

But now I feel empty, almost as if I am laying cold and naked on the floor, a husk of what once was so driven and focused – so singular of purpose…

So, if psychobabble colonic irrigation can wash that image out of your mind, can something similar work for me?

Is this just a glorified self-indulgent manifestation of ‘imposter syndrome’?

Or, have I indeed travelled my journey, finished my quest, taken this as far as I can?

Do I now say those immortal words ‘so long and thanks for the fish’?

It’s been a wild crazy ride; maybe indeed we are at journeys end…

Empty Nest

And just like that it’s all over.

The months of emotional investment just come to an end, the last correction is completed, and you stare blankly at the flashing cursor…

What now?

Book four is now complete, and until you eventually sell book one in the series, it will sit forever queued behind its earlier siblings.

And that family of 450,000 impassioned words are very frustrated!

Triumphs tears and disasters fill those accumulated phrases, words so thoughtfully chosen, individually picked, and carefully placed just where they need to be…

A tall tale complete, but alas not.

No story is ever happy until it has been read, until it has thrilled the reader, dared you to turn the next page, to not turn the next page…

Amy has travelled so far, and yet at the same time she hasn’t moved an inch.

Adventures have been had in Khartoum, in the high mountains of the Khyber Pass.  Electrical storms have been flown through, time folded, love found, and love tragically lost…

All though, to no avail, because no one knows.

Her tales are well kept secrets.

But they shouldn’t be.

They need to be told.

And I do her a continual disservice with each rejection letter.

She deserves so much better.

Maybe tomorrow, maybe…