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…

Frustration

Frustration, I wear it like a suit, but the jacket fits too tightly, and there’s lead inside my boots…

Those of a certain age and MOD persuasion will recognise the quoted lyrics from the Purple Hearts – cries of teen angst still relevant in my middle-aged years.

The message remains unchanged, if not the source.

The journey into published authorship [is that a real word?] has been a long and troublesome one that has still to find fruition.

I’ve made innumerable errors with submissions, offered up works that were far from suitable.  Tales that needed more than just a bit of spit and polish to shine up a few dull patches.

Delusion hasn’t been the illusion, but I have been naïve.

Optimistic by outlook, pessimistic by result – something like that.

I genuinely believe that Amy Grace: Thomas Payne is a good tale – that it is worthy of time invested to read it, yet it sits as a secret known only to a precious few.

It’s not supposed to be like that, it just isn’t.

Applying to Agents is hard – it is.  I’m not complaining, I’m just stating a fact.

The emotional investment in selection, applying and then waiting and waiting for the eventual reward of a silent rejection takes its toll on even the most hardened of folk. 

This isn’t a pity party – we don’t go there.

But we do acknowledge the drain of it all.

It’s not a victory to have applied – it’s not.

Triumph doesn’t sit with the ignored applications – it’s just not there.

Dogged perseverance does.

So too does faith.

But frustration sits above them all!

Once upon a time…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” ― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

It’s probably the faux pas of all possible faux pas to start a blog with the opening lines from a book you didn’t write. 

But I do so to illustrate a point.

Something something never judge a book by its cover, and the same should be said for opening line, or indeed opening guitar riff.

Mister Dickins [IMHO] absolutely smashes out of the ballpark the ‘give me a good opening’ question. 

His is indeed superb, and if not too controversial, that is where for me his book ends. 

I didn’t like his tale of two cities, wasn’t for me – but flip what an opening!

So, point being circumvented…

Books/covers, great songs opening guitar riffs, good stories, and opening lines.

To all art there is depth, and this is what we should be seeking – we search for a tale in which we can bathe, a narrative that surprises and shocks, that pulls us in directions not anticipated by not following the preconceived narrative we created from either glossy cover or opening phrases.

On the edge of each horizon are hinted promises, tantalisingly hinted at, held just out of reach – if only we keep on reading…

Think of all those books that took you on magical adventures, made you a King a thief or a possibly a lost lover… 

If you were to judge and condemn on page one, line one would you honestly have moved to the second line, the next page…?

So, my badly made point, perceiver, wait for the second reel, somethings are just worth the wait – they just are!

Stay safe- keep sane!

Drip drip drip…

The say a river creates a canyon through gentle perseverance – and maybe that is indeed the answer to the question?

I’m not too sure, or indeed consistent with the question, but I think, in this instance I know what it could be. 

In the last 12-months I have purchased more ‘on demand’ books than traditional – and it has been invigorating, it truly has.

‘Vanity Publishing’ is such a terrible statement, it is, so many snobby overtones…

‘Traditional Publishing’ isn’t about getting good stories to the world (odd exceptions exist), it is unapologetically about getting profit from investment, an investment that has both the minimal of risk and maximum anticipated return.

There is nothing wrong with this – it is the vey heart of business, and against this I have no complaints.

I wonder in years to come, with social historians wax lyrical about the freedom that ‘on demand’ has created in the literary world?

I hope so.

I hope they will celebrate the wonderful tales it has enabled to be told.

Look on your own bookshelves and wonder what joy could have happened sooner if your favourite writer hadn’t waited all those character forming years in a damp bedsit waiting for that unicorn finding moment of Literary Agent acceptance? 

Would JKR still have been a phenomenon on a global scale without industrial advertising? 

Who knows?

Arguments are equally valid and compelling whichever way you take the proposal.

And therein is the great unquestionable conundrum.

Do you publish on demand as agent of your own destiny, or hold out hoping that one day ‘Agency’ will arrive to assist in your noble quest?

And which will be the river, and which will be the unmoving stone?   

Alt Ctrl Del

It’s been one of those years, and indeed it hasn’t. 

We are doomed to be living in interesting times, norms are fluid, and yet they aren’t. 

Plans, mice, men…

We have scribbled, yet we are still where we started.

‘Prison’ isn’t finished, and ‘The Big House’ is still a pile of research books/notes, and I’m no closer to that mythical status of being a ‘published author’.

The first two points are well within my control, the latter I’m not too sure.

I could KDP, it would pop that pimple, but somehow, it’s not what I want.

I don’t know if I’m seeking some validation from an industry that can never provide that all soothing affirmation – and it is highly possible (probable) that I am procrastinating in some deliberate defence mechanism to avoid embarrassing disappointment – that and I’m most definitely overthinking everything.

Fortune indeed favours the brave.

Fall seven, stand eight – gotta be in it to win it etc.

I know, and I read, and take heart from those who have struggled for years to achieve the recognition that their work so deserves – perseverance is indeed prevalent.

Yet a continuing theme, the writing running through every bite of rock of my being is that corrosive monkey of self-doubt.

This isn’t a negative Treatise on the whole mechanics of the publishing world, it is just a snapshot in time of my inner musings.

I look forward to 2021 with enthusiasm and vigour –   and I wish to myself, and to others, success in their endeavours and peace in their lives.