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 noting 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.   

Vanity, it’s all vanity!

So, we are in the midst of a conundrum, a problem more complex than Gordian and his knot – and I seem to lack the wisdom to cleave with a sharp sword…

I am a writer of tales, a scribbler of narratives that need to be read.

Books that are unread die a little bit each day they are ignored, the pyre and flames don’t destroy as near as many stories as never being read does.

A story is alive, but to remain so it needs its pages turned, its adventures indulged, tears shed and laughter roared as the reader travels all the way from ‘once upon a time’ to the very last turned page of ‘the end’. 

Books can be forgotten and then resurrected, a neglected classic can be reborn as a spine is creaked and dust blown from musty smelling pages – the adventure remains as keen the day of discovery as it was the time so very long ago that it was first written.

Stories are resilient.

They can watch the rise and fall of empires, the lowering and losing of hemlines and the fads and fashions of taste can all be endured – but only if they’ve been committed to print, if they have form.

And therein lies my particular plight.

A long way over half a million words creating narratives of daring do, of chases, fights, pain, laughter, and love all have been written, but perilously few have been read…

I entered this process with a clear goal of walking into Waterstones in Belfast (next door to Boots) and seeing my book, the physical manifestation of my effort, for sale (or theft) on a low table or staked in a black bookcase.

It remains my goal, but now maybe I need to adapt improvise and overcome my scandalous failure to attract ‘traditional publishing’.

Maybe its time we opted for vanity, for self-publishing, for Kindle Direct [other options exist – this is not a promotion or endorsement] and took control of my desire to give my tales the life they so deserve – maybe it is!

Thank you for listening.

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?