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.

An echo of an echo…

For the astute, yes that’s a Nine Inch Nails reference – but it’s also an admission of history repeating itself, of lessons that were hard learnt being acknowledged and applied.

I have pulled a thread (10,000 words) about organized child murder most foul (any other kind?) and a justified cataclysmic reaction to its discovery.  I had written all of that, I had struggled for weeks upon weeks to complete that narrative, and now I’ve finally decided to delete it*!

The thread was an accidental creation that just developed a life of its own, a story that flowed from an initial idea and then became a near orgy of violence – which although well written (takes a bow), wasn’t where I wanted either myself or Amy to be.

It was a hard storyline to run with – probably because of the subject matter, and it was one that was subject to innumerable separate internal debates.

Was it a good enough story – was it sympathetic and not exploitive sadistic voyeurism? 

I genuinely struggled with the subject matter, and in the end for editorial reasons I’ve decided that such cruelty will be omitted from this tale. 

We did go to similar pastures in Magic – so no need to revisit such blood sodden ground. 

I have obviously lost innumerable weeks and words while I’ve debated what with the benefit of hindsight was a foregone conclusion. 

My heart just wasn’t in such death and sadness… 

We’ve gone back to a theft and a single murder.

We haven’t’ abandoned death, we’re just not being swamped by it.

Hopefully this change will lift (a wee bit) what has been a hard tale to tell.

We have focused on the emotional, tried very hard to give due credence and space to the psychological damage that lingers long after the violence that has been suffered ends.

That is my hope, one once you read that you too share…

A man can but dream!

(*Just so you don’t worry, delete in this instance only means removed from the story and saved as a separate file for later use.)

Freedom to Fail

It’s a simple phrase, yet it’s an infuriating theory to put into practice. 

We all love success, we revel in it, idolise and sanctify it, celebrate and bask in the glory of its light. 

We do indeed love a winner! 

Effort alone though is rarely the path to success, so we persevere, get knocked down but get up again, we fall, and yet we continue to rise.

And so, we come back to the ‘freedom to fail’. 

Without failure, with out seemingly unrewarded effort we cannot achieve.

Popular culture is awash with tales of musicians who never made it until their third album, and now they comfortably sell out stadiums…

And we love these bands. 

Overnight success is (exploitive talent shows notwithstanding) indeed such a rare commodity that we do indeed call it a phenomenon.   

So, it is the man in the arena, it is the triumph of high achievement, it is the refusal to be a cold timid voyeur on life that gives us success through perseverance, and it is the freedom to fail that allows it all to happen.

We are still not published, and I am still very much wiping the dust and blood of as yet unrewarded effort from my face.

I am still looking up into the crowd acknowledging those warm gestures of encouragement and support, and still refusing to surrender, still looking for that one face in the crowd who is leaning forward helping hand outstretched… 

The breath stealing sucker punch of rejection does hurt, does hurt because we have invested effort and emotion in our project, but we MUST keep the mantra that failure is only a temporary option.

We must be free to celebrate failure.

Still typing away – still trying!