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

They shoot horses, don’t they?

Indeed, yes, they do.

Not a spoiler, but a thinly veiled hint of what is to come with the continued adventures of Miss Amy Grace.

Most folk have been going slightly mad with the whole Covid-19 thing.

Me, I’ve discovered that my cold wasn’t just a cold, it was in fact Covid-19 – which is nice to know and I’m now suffering the aftereffects of a nice lung infection thing!!!

Go me!

It seems that all the coughing and spluttering I’ve been doing wasn’t attention seeking Man-Flu after all.

Maybe that’s why my creative output has been so miserably low???

It would be nice to blame my lack of creativity on the current virus of choice – but alas personal accountability has to come into play, and truth be told, and shame admitted, I just haven’t been putting in the effort.

Not the Alcoholics Anonymous revelation it could or indeed should be.

It’s not as if the imaginative juices have become a dried up river bed in a dust bowl of ideas, quite the contrary, ideas a plenty continue to flow.

I just haven’t utilised this ever present bounty… 

So, of all the creative problems that exist with writing, it seems mine is that of actually writing!

Oh, and to top it all the clock has ticked, days have passed and the old “if you don’t here from us, assume it’s a no” has happened (again).

Colouring In

Some call it editing, some proof reading, and some a million other things.

This exercise has more descriptors than are alleged to exist for snow – 50 words, a certain album would have us believe. 

Whatever we decide to call it (and I’ll stick with ‘colouring in) it is my current creative focus.

My process isn’t quite ‘Industrial Light and Magic’, but in my mind it’s a remarkably close second. 

Depth needs to be added, descriptions fluffed, details polished.

What is the prison like?

How does it smell?

How bad were the bad men?

The storm came, and rain it did fall – are we happy with how we’ve illustrated that point?

Has my imagination been adequately reflected with the written word?

Questions, questions, and more questions.

It’s good to review.

I enjoy this process.

It’s nice to accept what was good, what is good, and it’s equally nice to add those little flourishes of detail. 

So that’s me.

Oh, I have stumbled upon the joy of twitter and #writngcommunity

It is encouraging.

Some share similar struggles – yet persevere.

Some achieve success and are applauded.

Social media, in this instance can be uplifting.

The hate anger and bile that you have to filter through to read the human joy less so.

Anyway, its Wednesday and we are colouring in.

My imagination the provider of a rich palette of colour tone and hue.

One day others my share my joy.

Possibly others will read my work and enjoy the tale being told.

One day the lights will go on in the big auditorium and it won’t be empty, some of the seats will be occupied… 

Until then we mix away with the blues and the greens, the reds, and the yellows.

4th Album Syndrome

The first is the easiest, it’s the one you always wanted to make, it contains your most precious rifts; ideas that you’ve cherished for years that now have form.  You love this album.

The second was a mixed bag to produce.  It held onto the themes of the first but didn’t repeat them, it wasn’t a tribute album, and you avoided the risk of the indulgent concept album – indeed you love this as much as you do your firstborn.

Album number three was a difficult child.  She had all the proceeding baggage of one and two but needed to be both fresh and comforting at the same time.  It could expand, but couldn’t really deviate too much lest you lost all that was good about one and two.  She worked hard with these songs, this album was forever in the studio being remixed, but yeah you love this one too. 

Number four is a difficult wayward child.  This wants so very much to be the debut album that it cannot be.  This collection of songs should easily build on what has gone before, the difficult ground has been broken, the hard sweat and toil to create a theme achieved.  It wants to tell the world about the gaps and edits in the albums one to three, it wants to avoid self-indulgence, but it so badly wants to expand the narrative and add depth…  

Yet Thursday’s child she has so very far to go. 

They’re not albums I know, they are books.

My books.

My tales.

I’ve tried to cover some major themes with each book.

Thomas Payne was the fast-paced chase movie about revenge.

Magic was the dark tale of cruelty and love.

Gotham, this is loss, this is suffocation and sadness.

Prison is revenge, it is wrapping three into the fourth, but it isn’t the end.  It is a chase movie about revenge, it is a tale of lost love, it is also so much more.

And maybe that’s the problem.

Maybe pulling all those tales into this one book is the reason I’m struggling to get over this metaphorical hump.

Maybe.

Maybe it’s because I know with this tale the differences between the good guys and the mustachio twirling baddies isn’t so clear cut.

In this book we have good people following the system, doing their lawful job but delivering injustice as they do.

Maybe this is the book the others should have been?

Possibly not.

I’ve broken 50,000 so that must be a good thing.

I know what I want to happen – it is just that perennial problem of a fast mind and slow keys…

Knowing the problem is the first step to finding a solution.

Accepting procrastination is what it is, is indeed another leap towards salvation.

Over analysis has blighted this book.

Maybe I’ll just type away and let the cards fall where they will?

I should.

Wish me luck!

49,462

Numbers on their own are meaningless, open to interpretation and sometimes just alien to the original question (42?).

However, this one references The Amy Grace Adventures Volume 4: Prison.

A title that has become more than a little apt over these last few months.

49,462 words in and…

I’ve gone back to page one, improved punctuation, rephrased and titivated where I can, but the number stays stubbornly at forty-nine thousand and change – no real advances.

I’m stuck; yet every re-read leaves me feeling satisfied with my work.

I like the plot.

I like the little surprises in the plot.

I like the theme of complex retribution.

I like the new characters – I still like the old ones.

Yet I’m stuck in the steel town of Pittsburgh.

It’s the 21st of May 1890, and like Groundhog Day I cannot leave this Wednesday to see the dawn of a new and different Thursday…  

We have so many riches to dine upon.

We have a government agent looking for Amy, and we have Amy looking to kill the government agent.

We have a backdrop of the immensely interesting/tragic/cruel “coal wars” and the killers of Amy’s lost love are the rich industrialists tied up in this rich tapestry.

We even have a fairy.

Yet Amy is till stuck in a stable looking at a dun mare… 

I’ve deleted proceeding paragraphs, but whatever I do I cannot seem to (metaphorically?) get back on the horse.

My only solution seems to be to write chapters in advance of this situation and hope that I can create a union at some point in the future. 

We shall see.

49,462 and counting!

Guilt….

Yeah guilty of something, probably nothing too. 

Words haven’t flowed.

Stories haven’t moved.

Procrastination has been reanointed the undisputed Lord King or everything!

I’ve hidden behind research.

I’ve bluffed with titivation and editing.

I’ve luxuriated in dithering…

Questioning everything isn’t the help it could be.

Self-doubt is a gorilla sized monkey of doubt – and my back aches…

It could be the isolation.

It could be.

It could be so many different things, competing and complimenting each other to stop me typing.

The imagination hasn’t stalled.

It runs in full fettle frustrated at the lack of outlet.

And yet I know all of this.

All of these paths we’ve trodden before.

Not all knowledge is a good thing…

Maybe this public (empty auditorium) flagellation will ease the blockage.

Maybe.

We live in hope.

Whatever you are doing, stay safe and stay sane!

Stasis

Everyone thinks that working from home, being isolated, will be a boon for the writer that is me.

It isn’t!

I’ve been isolated for nearly four weeks – I’m not complaining, I understand the rationale.

Friends have said that production should surely proliferate.

It hasn’t.

Inside my imagination ideas, themes, and all points between continue to flow.

None are written.

I don’t know why this is.

I should be a ‘happy camper’ typing away.

But I’m not.

As a state of affairs go this one is perplexing.

Is it Covid-19, or is it me?

Do I have, if not writers block, then a remarkably close relative?

Am I suddenly averse to scribbling?

Have I developed a Nihilist view of my writing, is it is all pointless and without purpose?

Questions, so many questions – so few answers.

This is an empty auditorium so I can be self-indulgent.

Is it the rejections?

Am I worried by the sooth saying of Gretta?

Am I reinforcing failure – or stubbornly holding out for the inevitable break?

I don’t know the answer, I just know that I’m not writing, and knowing that is somewhat upsetting.

2015

All the time that has passed hasn’t been cheaply spent. 

Back in 2015 an opening line became a short book.

That cathartic first attempt created a need to tell further tall tales; and discussing the difference between Goths and Steampunk was the genesis that gave the world Amy Grace.

And, as ever the original incarnation is a very distant cousin from what we have now. 

Originally a child found amongst the dead of Khartoum, a child that was to grow up and chase a scoundrel around the world in an epic HG Wells/Jules Verne adventure. 

That was the plan.

Flying machines and steam.

It didn’t happen.

Page one, of book one, made an instant and drastic turn in the opposite direction from the pre-written plot line.

The first few pages were brutal (not the version that survives now) and pulled absolutely no punches as to what was going on and the inherent cruelty of such an event.

The premise for this revised incarnation was to write an unapologetic tale about surviving rape – steampunk and flying machines only ever guest appearances from that cruel moment onwards.

Rewrites, critique and further changes toned down the opening salvo, what had been brutal was now told with enough description to understand, but not enough to see each stretched sinew.

Thomas Payne had an ending an ending that was corrected with Magic.

Magic gave us love, and love gave us Gotham and lost friends.

Gotham led us to treachery and had us thrown into Prison, and incarceration is leading us a merry dance. 

Through it all I’ve sent versions of Amy Grace to agents and recorded the replies.

Delusion may be mine, but I honestly don’t think so.

My sales pitch is undoubtably poor – my elevator time is tongue tied frustration. 

Sip tea with me and I’ll tell you everything, I’ll enthuse, and I’ll pull you into the captivating world of Amy Grace. 

But it is the elevator pitch that counts, the application form that rules supreme…

It’s not insurmountable, but it is difficult.

Things of worth are supposed to be hard won, and begrudgingly I accept that maxim.

So, five years of writing continues.

Years of attempts do not end.

Tales still need telling, and the cursor is still blinking.

The Apachean mountains beckon, we have a coal war to survive, men to kill and friends to save. 

Keep the faith, stay safe and stay sane!