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?

Delusion

Some say writing is the greatest vanity, for as a scribbler of tales you stride as a colossus over a world of your making. 

Characters live and die at your whim; happiness is a blessing and sadness a curse – all the gifts of your hands alone.

The temptation to bathe in this near messiah scenario is great, the ego at times hard to rein in and keep in check.

But then reality comes crashing as a white capped storm wave against your empire built on sand.

Your kingdom, your realm, all you would surrender to be printed, but the repeated echo returns a steadfast NO.

Is it you?

Are you just out of synch with what the market is looking for?

In a market seeking the next left-handed ginger stepchild, are you yesterday’s silver haired outcast? 

It could be you…

It could be your tale.

Maybe action adventure with a strong female lead isn’t ‘a la mode’, maybe the whole Irish thing is just so last year. 

You didn’t see the boat leaving, didn’t hear last orders called, but the harbour is indeed empty – just ominous looking waves on the horizon.

Flares in a world of skinny jeans…

It could be both you and your scribble.

Maybe it isn’t – maybe you are a poor salesman (you are!), possibly your pitch is atrocious.

In a world where it seems the attention span is a mere 280 characters, and only the bold type headline is ever read (the article always ignored) you need to up your game – front load your pitch – drop the tease!

We can learn, we can adapt, we will improve!

Stay tuned.

A Kick Up the Arse!

Pity parties, most of us have attended them, indeed a fair few of us have hosted them.

Not big brave or indeed constructive – but still we go…

2020 has been a bit of a rutty road, a byway in need of drastic resurfacing, not just for me, but for many others too.

Echo culture is a dangerous corrosive environment, when all you hear back are the comments you shout out, you can validate nothing.

Topography returned what I gave, and what I was giving wasn’t positive, was nowhere near being constructive – so it was no real surprise that it was all I heard echoing back to me!

Cabin fever had me, isolation removed the much-needed reaffirming validation that we all need, the corrosive insular cycle fed itself, devoured itself, almost destroyed itself and me with it.

A leather warped foot connects, and the scales fall from your eyes, you are no longer the trapped blind fool listening to the whispers and echoes of doubt.

You see, you see the beauty that you had for so long ignored.

Self-indulgence is a privilege of the living – and against the living is the debt from the dead to live.

So, missive over, have we made a point, articulated a clear theme?

I hope so.

Grip the shoulders, shake vigorously and then hug with all the love and passion that you possess.

Fall seven – stand eight!

Mojo Rising

It could be innumerable things, it could be the latest rejection – it could be, but it’s probably not. 

It could be Covid-19, but it isn’t. 

I know what it isn’t, even if I don’t know exactly what ‘it’ is.

Fellow scribblers probably now this intangible ‘it’, some may have a name for it, some a colour, others possibly leave it unnamed so as to hopefully not summon this intangible beast from its lair…

Avoidance is probably a sound strategy.

But for me it’s too late.

It’s been here, it’s still here…

Focus is hard, additional word count minimal – distractions prevalent!

Like a receding tide so my tale progresses.

Canute could not command the waves, and currently neither can I.

Energy is invested, then somehow just washed away.

Ideas flourish but are not nurtured.

We have a woman talking to a fairy, a fairy sitting comfortably in her handbag, yet this mine of possibilities isn’t being plundered?!

I have Nemeses converging on a singular timeline, yet…

Maybe I need a break from it all – possibly.

A change is as good as a rest – I’ll take both, maybe after a break my Mojo will rise again?

Who knows?

Stay sane – keep safe!

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!