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!


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…. 


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.

She’s lost control!

She has, and it’s understandable.

Imprisoned for something she did/didn’t do – pick your poison.

Amy is behind high stone walls, and it’s not nice.

In and era when solitary was hoped to provide the fallen time to reflect upon their errors and fix themselves Amy isn’t doing that.

She is crumbling.

She is suffering.

She is alone.

Joy Division quote notwithstanding, nor indeed the thought-provoking book ‘House of Dolls’ allied to that song, I hope (as I always do) that I can do justice to the theme I am trying to convey.

I hope I do justice, and I hope I tell a good tale…

A small cottage industry of readers now exists to critique and hopefully enjoy my work – fingers crossed that no matter the level of the former that the latter is the lasting sensation. 

So as Thousand Yard Stare play in the background, I will close this little note with a reminder that the job (for suitable candidates) is still open.

4 O’clock in the morning…

And still we cannot sleep!

It is indeed true that there is no rest for the wicked, and indeed that the devil does indeed find work for idle hands.

But, all suffering is not in vain – indeed not; for in our torment we have finished a draft version of ‘Gotham’.  Copies of which will be given to all good proof-readers and critics in due course. 

So, one chapter of Amy put to bed we can now work on the 4th instalment in our little saga and take our heroin through the mercies and kindness that were the American penal system (late 1800’s). 

I have to admit that I’ve been looking forward to putting Amy through a prison regime for most of this year, and now the time has come I am genuinely excited to get going.

Amy #3 now has the ending I think it deserved, and one that I hope doesn’t come across as a filler merely waiting for book four – it is I hope found to be a good story in it’s own right. 

We shall see.

So, the job offer still stands – I still seek representation. 

I have booked myself on a ‘how to sell yourself’ course, this may help, it may not. But if I want to reach an audience greater than the empty auditorium that is my sporadic blog, then help and correction I will both seek and take. 

Celebrating the Bullet

Yes, another musical reference, yes obtuse, but one that kinda makes sense. 

We are celebrating the delivery of a bitten bullet.

A bite that is rejection.

Silent rejection, it annoys beyond its value; I should get over it, deal with it, accept it, but hey it’s a foible come idiosyncratic failure of mine that I must manage.

So, this time we celebrate an actual fully-fledged rejection.

An actual email.

A simple “Thanks – but hey, it’s not for us!”


Made my day.

A yes would have probably induced a cardiac event given the giddy nature that this rejection created.

So, Selecter album reference aside many heartfelt thanks for taking the time to say no.