Jumping the Shark

There is that moment, I suppose that point of time that unifies all people who write a series, where they look back and ask themselves that question ‘have I jumped the shark/nuked the fridge’? 

Star Wars, good god, it most definitely did that so long ago, yet perplexingly it still makes money‽

We digress…

Big empty auditorium I have a character who has been beaten, abused, suffered almost intolerable pain, and yet survives, survives, and thrives (all be it with nightmares and crippling bouts of sadness). 

Is it all so-so pedestrian predictable rehashing?

Have we passed the shark jumping moment?

Is it a tale with recurring themes or rehashing old tropes? 

Self-doubt is a crippling monkey that happily climbs on your back to whisper incessantly in your ear… 

Good art is not its own reward – it just isn’t. 

Words are written to be read, paintings to be seen.

Creations aren’t finished when the paint dries and the keyboards stop clicking, bizarrely these are the moments that only confirm the true beginning of the project.

To be relevant Art must be enjoyed.

To be enjoyed it must be seen, be experienced.

The monkey is telling me all the doubt, all the negative. 

There is a chap called ‘Harvey Andrews,’ a Birmingham (England) folk singer of some considerable ability.  This chap wrote a song called ‘Writer of Songs’ which articulated better than I can ever hope to express the urge to create written words, for him it was songs, for me tall stories…

So, Amy, is it cliché trope overload? 

Is the (absent) reader sat there mouthing the plot before it has happened?

Do we invite others into our world to ‘spice it up,’ ‘keep it fresh’ or are indeed those actions as predictable as the preceding ones? 

Henry Winkler is poised; the speedboat is revving its engines…

Once more into the breach, once more to submit our wares.  

And so, it continues.

Validation is again sought.

A glutton for punishment?


The email inbox dance resumed.

Nothing today, maybe tomorrow?

It is masochistic, it is a bizarre relationship with the Id and ego, but it is one that unifies all scribblers of tall tales.

We want to be read, we want to be appreciated, but mostly we just want to be read – the plaudits and five-star ratings will be nice, but primarily we just desperately need to be read!

So, the near impossible one-page synopsis sent.

The letter of introduction crafted, and chapters 1-3 polished as much as our skill permits to whet the appetite, to compel the reader to ask for more – these too we have sent.

We are simple folk, our demands are not (yet) for world domination, they are simple, our manifesto uncomplicated, our plea to St. Francis de Sales that he will intercede on our behalf…

“Please sir may we have some more, may we read the rest of your manuscript”?

Nothing in today’s inbox, maybe tomorrow?

Maybe tomorrow…

A Stalking Horse

We all do it.  

We all seek approval for our scribbles.

When someone asks to read our work, we are all a flutter…

Our words will see the light of day, the passion on the pages released!

But stalking that euphoric landscape, in that vista of bliss lurks a distant figure on a horse.

The rider has always been there – he existed before you started writing.

The horse isn’t black, the rider doesn’t wear a cloak and hood – no scythe can be seen.

This rider isn’t death.

The man’s name no one knows for sure – for he has many and yet he also has none.

Yet all who tell tales know who he is, all instinctively recognise the rider.

Sometimes he stays on the peripheries, sometimes though he rides up close and tramples the seeds of you work under steel shod hooves.

Sometimes you destroy your own crops first…

You can see him; you could scare him off – you could wave your arms and shout at him to go away – but you don’t.

You stand rigid.

This rider knows your secret shame.

He knows you are scared and so he can slowly canter from the far hill – time is on his side.

You have a small stick and a heart full of passion for your work…

He’s getting closer…

Will you stand your ground, defend the seeds you have sown – or will this crop suffer the fate of so many other failed harvests?

The bark is rough in your hand…  

The last safe refuge.

The timid can use their imagination to give strength to a royal hand they are too afraid to play.

Scribblers of tall tales can stride like a colossus over the environment of their own creation.

It is liberating.

Fears can be exorcised, terrors purged – others can fall while the writer can remain strong.

Creativity is the release for the captivated soul – the mundane can become fantastic – even for a few hours…

Beautiful women, handsome men – all can be approached, the legacies of reality temporally suspended.

Ideas that you would never discuss in ‘polite society’ are given free reign.

Angels may indeed stand aside afraid of placing their next footstep, but the writer has no such inhibition – the writer in the midst of collective terror is calm.

Errors can be corrected, mistakes deleted leaving only the chosen purity remaining.

The typed word, the collection of pages upon pages of narrative, a world of their creation – it is an achievement that has them standing next to Sheila taking that long deserved bow…

But the escape only lasts so long.

The auditorium that was impassive while the worlds were created now takes an audible intake of breath…

The footlights become bright, the crowd becomes visible – are they about to clap, or is this silence not a pause before accolades rain down, is this moment about to become extended indifference, or an exiting audience confirming their rejection of your works?

Such a scenario can be avoided.

If you never offer up – you can never be rejected.

Logic can be cruel in its simplicity.

But if rejection can be avoided, then so too the opportunity for applause…

So, we stand in the auditorium, the lights begin to rise…

Are they shuffling to give an ovation, or standing to exit…?

Falling in love again!

Falling back into love is realising that you never were ‘out’ of love, that you’d just forgotten just how important that person is to you.

And, as it is with life, so too is it with writing.

Some random spark, some unforeseen act reignites the passion that was only ever patiently waiting in the wings.

The honeymoon period is reimagined, the passion familiar, even if the touches are already known – nothing for being revisited is stale, love allows everything to be continually reborn, reinvigorated – and it’s awesome!

I am an unapologetic romantic – and art does indeed imitate life.

I am again writing random out of sequence scenes for Amy Grace. 

Phrases toying with your imagination become pages of action.

Joining these snippets together is an act of love.

And this ladies and gentlemen is where we are – and it is good.

Stay safe and remain sane!

And then…?

And that is indeed the whole point.

We scribble, we strive, we do all of this to achieve this seminal singular moment in the space time continuum.

Both we and the reader sit there with bated breath, edge of our seat (metaphorically and literally).

I, the scribbler of this tale, have no more notion of what is going to happen than you, the reader, do.

My imagination is racing the same (similar) fanciful scenarios as yours.

I am a gardener (not like the ones in The Year after The Flood – thank you Margaret Atwood), a pantster kinda writer. 

Some plot meticulously, some know each twist turn, every phrase that will be uttered – me I have no more idea what’s behind the door than the reader does…

Okay, by the time the reader picks up the manuscript I know what’s happened – so let’s not get too carried away with the analogy – suffice to say when I write I am like the reader on the same voyage of discovery.

And I like it!

I get the thrill writing, that I hope you get reading.

Sometimes that thrill gets lost, misplaced, forgotten about – and those are dark Mordoresq days. 

But passion wins in the end, the love of the craft overcomes everything, and once again we sit with our inane grin beaming back at the flickering cursor.

So, buckle up fellow travellers – we have our mojo back, adventure awaits, and we have just taken delivery of a brand-new Pith Helmet!!!

Telling Tall Tales

Why do we do it, what’s in it for us?

Is it fame, fortune, nubile young women of adventurous intent?

To be fair they all sound good reasons to scribble away – more fantasy than reality, but sound enough reasons all the same.

I’d like to say I’m typing away with some altruistic noble intent, that I am sacrificing my life blood to bequeath unparalleled wisdom, wit, and exploration of the complex human condition…

I could say that, but much like the bevy of enthusiastic gymnasts with a penchant for middle aged scribblers, I think we can agree that these ideas are at best fanciful illusions.

I scribble away knowing that these ‘rewards’ will never be mine.  I accept that I will never buy that ‘castle in Scotland’ or engage in an orgy that would make a rocker form the 1970’s blush – but I scribble all the same.

My aspirations, like my rewards are indeed modest.

I’d like to be read, and once read I’d like to be enjoyed.

I scribble away because the challenge is something I enjoy – the scenarios I create become problems that need solving.

But, most of all I’d like so very much to be read.

No matter how doe eyed I stand, no matter how appealing I make my submission to the publishing gods – the answer remains as it always seems to be… a silent NO.

The clocks tick, time passes by, and the ‘if you haven’t heard from us in eight weeks’ comes, and then goes. 

My first attempt at submitting my work wasn’t the best – we have learnt, adapted, and improved – but still the echo is silent.  

Chapters 1- 3, pages 0 – 30 have been written, rewritten, scrunched up, thrown away and polished as much as my limited skill will allow – yet still the silence screams after each submission NO.

Is this a test of perseverance to see if I’m worthy – or is it the publishing world emphatically telling me to try my hand at pottery?

To this question I have no answer…

I think my project has merit, has potential, and that it is worthy of being read.

But sometimes the Chumbawamba tubthumping rhetoric isn’t enough.

Maybe my labour will be rewarded?


Maybe not.

Not with a bang, but with a whimper…

So, with all the overplayed artistic cinematography of a slow-motion car crash 2021 eventually comes to an end.

I doubt in years to come many will look back as this year as a halcyon period (pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders notwithstanding) worthy of song and celebration.

And, as it has been with the stymied lives’ we’ve been leading in and out of lockdown, so too has it been with my scribbling.

2021 should have been a golden opportunity to advance like a true colossus with gigantic strides of progress – but it wasn’t.

Something (for me) went wrong, something intangible interfered…

We wrote, we have written, but for effort in and output out the ratio has been wrong, very wrong.

Effort and frustration should eventually produce results – but this year the bounty of these labours has been pitiful.

Even though 2022 has such a low bar to surpass, St Francis de Sales still has his work cut out, and as such suitable incantations will be offered…

Stay safe, remain sane and may your efforts be both bountiful and rewarded.

2022 – have at you!!

Did they like it?

Sitting down to write, I am again mindful of the ‘Man In The Arena’ speech.  It truly is the dirt encrusted soul in the arena who counts, who knows the highs of success and the many lows of failure.  Yet this intrepid soul cannot operate in a vacuum, and as cutting as the critiques can be, they are an evil necessity. 

We write to be read, we write to be enjoyed, and we wait with bated breath as every head rises from its task, and every hand slowly closes the manuscript.

Did they like it..?

Was the phrasing to long winded, too clumsy..?

The garden scene, yeah I should delete that…

Surely they’ll pick up the running thread, the recurring themes?

A throat is cleared – a fresh coffee offered…

No walk to the gallows has ever been so painful, so pitiful, so tragic as your shuffle towards the kettle…

They liked it, it was pacy, it was dark (where did you get those scenes from), an eyebrow is raised as the head is tilted, eyes look at you as if it is the first time we’ve ever met – the noir of your tale was indeed black…

But, they liked it…

Coffee is drunk.

So many questions are in your head, racing, overtaking, competing to be voiced, but never aired.

You say ‘thanks, glad you enjoyed it’, the nonchalance ham acting worthy of day-time TV. 

Eighteen months of emotional investment satisfied as the second biscuit is dunked.

They liked it…


The seats were uncomfortable, the feel all too familiar, strident echoes of long passed school years.  Blue polypropylene buckets that reminisced youthful buttocks, were now supporting those belonging to an older and more jaded clientele.  This evening’s group was mixed, but also the same.  What they had in common transcended whatever differences life outside this cold church hall had bestowed upon them.  In this group, right here and now they were all the same.  This is a collective of imaginative yet timid souls, this was Imposter Syndrome Support Group.

It should start something like that.  These words should indeed be the opening lines for a voyage of self-realisation.  But they are not.  These are instead the words and musings of an infrequent blogger and (unpublished) writer of tall tales imagining himself sat in such surroundings.

If I, or indeed you, were sat in that group how would we fare?      

Would we sit silently on the peripheries, would be feel that in this solar system of creativity we were indeed the debatable charlatan Pluto?  Or would we inwardly scream Carpe Diem, cough a little and then mumble out our concerns? 

I think I’d be option two…

So, in a room full of rounded shoulders, glasses being continually pushed back from slipping off noses who would my peer group react to my cries of insecurity? 

I imagine nodding heads, voices quietly saying “preach brother, preach…”.

Favour found, or quietly implied, would I then bare my soul, expose the at times crippling insecurity that an unread writer feels? 

Will the emotional outlet become a cathartic cleansing of tensions?

Questions, always questions…

The coffee will go cold, but hands will still hold it. 

Suffering will be recognised; true empathy will flow like electricity between the huddled collective. 

Sparks will ignite the imagination, and these lights will flicker and burn behind knowing eyes. 

This is a road they have all travelled, a maze that at times had trapped many. 

The committee will confirm the route needed to escape, the mantra is simple, it is deliberately short and easy to remember.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole law…”. 

A rye smile is held by all, they share the bookish joke, they know the truth. 

Truth isn’t a glib slogan dropped to seek kudos, the truth that is shared isn’t that kind of prophetic declaration, it’s so much simpler…   

And this truth, what is it? 

Turn up next Thursday, around seven thirty, and we will share it with you.

Stay safe – remain sane!