Drip drip drip…

The say a river creates a canyon through gentle perseverance – and maybe that is indeed the answer to the question?

I’m not too sure, or indeed consistent with the question, but I think, in this instance I know what it could be. 

In the last 12-months I have purchased more ‘on demand’ books than traditional – and it has been invigorating, it truly has.

‘Vanity Publishing’ is such a terrible statement, it is, so many snobby overtones…

‘Traditional Publishing’ isn’t about getting good stories to the world (odd exceptions exist), it is unapologetically about getting profit from investment, an investment that has both the minimal of risk and maximum anticipated return.

There is noting wrong with this – it is the vey heart of business, and against this I have no complaints.

I wonder in years to come, with social historians wax lyrical about the freedom that ‘on demand’ has created in the literary world?

I hope so.

I hope they will celebrate the wonderful tales it has enabled to be told.

Look on your own bookshelves and wonder what joy could have happened sooner if your favourite writer hadn’t waited all those character forming years in a damp bedsit waiting for that unicorn finding moment of Literary Agent acceptance? 

Would JKR still have been a phenomenon on a global scale without industrial advertising? 

Who knows?

Arguments are equally valid and compelling whichever way you take the proposal.

And therein is the great unquestionable conundrum.

Do you publish on demand as agent of your own destiny, or hold out hoping that one day ‘Agency’ will arrive to assist in your noble quest?

And which will be the river, and which will be the unmoving stone?   

Alt Ctrl Del

It’s been one of those years, and indeed it hasn’t. 

We are doomed to be living in interesting times, norms are fluid, and yet they aren’t. 

Plans, mice, men…

We have scribbled, yet we are still where we started.

‘Prison’ isn’t finished, and ‘The Big House’ is still a pile of research books/notes, and I’m no closer to that mythical status of being a ‘published author’.

The first two points are well within my control, the latter I’m not too sure.

I could KDP, it would pop that pimple, but somehow, it’s not what I want.

I don’t know if I’m seeking some validation from an industry that can never provide that all soothing affirmation – and it is highly possible (probable) that I am procrastinating in some deliberate defence mechanism to avoid embarrassing disappointment – that and I’m most definitely overthinking everything.

Fortune indeed favours the brave.

Fall seven, stand eight – gotta be in it to win it etc.

I know, and I read, and take heart from those who have struggled for years to achieve the recognition that their work so deserves – perseverance is indeed prevalent.

Yet a continuing theme, the writing running through every bite of rock of my being is that corrosive monkey of self-doubt.

This isn’t a negative Treatise on the whole mechanics of the publishing world, it is just a snapshot in time of my inner musings.

I look forward to 2021 with enthusiasm and vigour –   and I wish to myself, and to others, success in their endeavours and peace in their lives.   

Vanity, it’s all vanity!

So, we are in the midst of a conundrum, a problem more complex than Gordian and his knot – and I seem to lack the wisdom to cleave with a sharp sword…

I am a writer of tales, a scribbler of narratives that need to be read.

Books that are unread die a little bit each day they are ignored, the pyre and flames don’t destroy as near as many stories as never being read does.

A story is alive, but to remain so it needs its pages turned, its adventures indulged, tears shed and laughter roared as the reader travels all the way from ‘once upon a time’ to the very last turned page of ‘the end’. 

Books can be forgotten and then resurrected, a neglected classic can be reborn as a spine is creaked and dust blown from musty smelling pages – the adventure remains as keen the day of discovery as it was the time so very long ago that it was first written.

Stories are resilient.

They can watch the rise and fall of empires, the lowering and losing of hemlines and the fads and fashions of taste can all be endured – but only if they’ve been committed to print, if they have form.

And therein lies my particular plight.

A long way over half a million words creating narratives of daring do, of chases, fights, pain, laughter, and love all have been written, but perilously few have been read…

I entered this process with a clear goal of walking into Waterstones in Belfast (next door to Boots) and seeing my book, the physical manifestation of my effort, for sale (or theft) on a low table or staked in a black bookcase.

It remains my goal, but now maybe I need to adapt improvise and overcome my scandalous failure to attract ‘traditional publishing’.

Maybe its time we opted for vanity, for self-publishing, for Kindle Direct [other options exist – this is not a promotion or endorsement] and took control of my desire to give my tales the life they so deserve – maybe it is!

Thank you for listening.

Wearing Purple

When I’m old I will wear purple – It’s a good poem, and a better philosophy.

Oscar Wilde is an eternally quotable man, a true legend of whit and the pithy one liner – oh to be almost as good…

I was reminded of the attributed quote “to be yourself, as everybody else is already taken”, and when combined with the Jenny Joseph poem that titles this missive I was mindful to be both the last stanza of the poem AND to be myself – thank you Oscar [you never disappoint] and thank you Jenny Joseph.

So, scribbler of tall tales where is all this going?

Do we have a point, or are we just typing words to meet a production quota?

The point, the crux of all of this is that we should be ourselves, as writers we should acknowledge those that inspired us to release the inner demigod, but that we should avoid at all costs the risk of being a poor facsimilia of something that isn’t the unique being that is us and us alone.

Imposter Syndrome stalks the land like a giant stalking thing – critical daylight has us recoil with all the ham overreaction of a poor Bela Lugosi caricature [and as Bauhaus remind us – he is indeed dead].

Some will NOT like your work, to some it will be that burning daylight, but to others it will indeed be the daylight that removes the shadows and illuminates the endless possibilities that once were hidden!

So, furrow ploughers – wander your own way – you are not lost, you are on your own unique voyage of discovery!

Everything worthy of achievement takes effort, sacrifice, a little disappointment, a tad of pain, but mostly perseverance.

This wasn’t supposed to be a self-help pastiche, and if it reads that way it is purely accidental.

Every great book you’ve ever read was something you enjoyed because it was different, it was a fresh voice, a identifiably new take on the human condition, and that is what I suppose I am hoping to get to.

The unique jigsaw piece that is your work will find its place, you may need to rattle many boxes to get there – but the satisfaction and beauty that will be created when you do will be worth it in the end.

Don’t change, don’t blend in.

Stay uniquely different.

Stay safe and remain sane!

Beard Stroke

I’m a poor blogger – intermittent enough to be seen less than one of those comets that so excite astronomers!

For me blogging, doing this, is akin to taking a trip into my own secret midnight garden, a place where only I go – occasionally there are signs of other visitors, but they are few and far between, and they generally tidy up after themselves.

I initially compared blogging as being like standing on a dimly lit stage in a huge dark auditorium – maybe out in the darkness there are people listening, but maybe there isn’t.

Do I scribble to obtain clicks of approval, second guessing what I think is trending and popular – and then do I chase more clicks and start an ever-escalating need for validation from people I’ve never met, and am very unlikely ever to…?

Or do I let myself vent because it is a simple release?

I scribble because it helps me organise my thoughts (not that reading these posts would give credence to such a claim), once it’s been written down I can process the thoughts, agree, disagree, expand, retreat and even dismiss.

I create a reference point in time purely for myself – well mostly for me…

I’m struggling with the whole getting published thing, it is my quest, my holy grail, and this should be a record of my process, but mostly it’s not.

I wite because I genuinely enjoy it, the whole process, the blank staring at the wall frustration seeking that one word that you can taste but cannot articulate, the frantic typing – hands desperately trying to keep pace with my imagination;  all of it gives me pleasure.

My product I think could be improved, but I’m sure all who write fail to reach true satisfaction with their work – so for a scribbler of words to say that is the next best thing to a true throw away comment I’ll ever make!

Covid-19 is taking its toll – sanity for many is a vaguely distant memory.

For me, the distinction between workplace and home has now disappeared – the blessing of working from home has borne strange fruit, an outcome I genuinely never expected.

I used to seek my sanctuary in my ‘study/mancave’, but this is where I now earn a living, obtain money to pay my bills, and as such it is no longer that bolt hole from the realities of life – it’s just not.

I will adapt, I will because the urge to vent my imagination at this desktop machine surrounded by my books will eventually win out – normality of a kind will return – it will.

But until it does, I will accept what is happening, acknowledge the change that is my new (first world problem) reality.

Volume 4 has been held back, restrained by so many things, that now I have acknowledged my issues, maybe the path to recovery and productivity is closer than we think?

Stay safe – keep sane!

Because I can!

I’ve mentioned before that Dublin warbler and his ‘roller-coaster’ instruction – so we will accept that premise as a given.

I write because I enjoy it – simple, but true.

I get excited when people read my scribbles – I do, and if they enjoy it, I get happier than a dog with two tails – that’s how I roll folks.

Writing is so many things to me, it is a cathartic outlet for creative frustrations, it is a release of emotional tensions and the purging of banshee ideas from my imagination onto (metaphorical) paper.

But above all it is an activity I truly enjoy.

Maybe after my fifty third international bestseller I’ll become a bit jaded – maybe… but I hope not.

I have been rereading and editing for the last two weeks and it’s reinforced my belief that my tales have merit and value.

Thomas Payne is a good story, it is an emotional journey that will cause you to wipe the odd tear from your eye, tears that Magic will have you again seeking the box of tissues.

My stories are good emotionally sympathetic tales of the darker crueller aspects of life – not as slasher horror stories knee deep in gore, but as intelligent engaging tales of decisions and their intended and unintended consequences.

I discuss and describe rape, the aftereffects and the emotional suffering that continually echoes with the victim, I also tell of the resilience of surviving.

We discuss sexuality, we trundle into same sex relationships to confirm that love is indeed love – and the loss of that love hurts all without favour.

We throw sexual exploitation into the mix, and we add self determination to make the best of what a less than perfect world has to offer as a counter discussion…

Thus far every tale I’ve written has contained a heavy dosing of emotional injuries and how people survive them.  From the distant mountains of Afghanistan, to the city scape of New York, and innumerable stops in-between I’ve waxed lyrical about these injuries, and the coping mechanisms that folk use. 

Maybe it’s my subgenre – my theme – or indeed maybe it’s not…

I mentioned that I’m proud of my tales, and I am.

Yes, the tales are what they are – the subject matter what it is, but the journey is more that worth it if you ever get the chance to follow Amy. 

Do it – you won’t’ regret it!

I’m currently scribbling away at volume four, at the tale of our heroine being cast into prison and the adventures that follow.

I’m also (still) looking for an agent – that job opportunity is still unfilled… 

Stay happy, enjoy what it is that you are doing, and hopefully that joy will transfer onto the pages that you write and be enjoyed by those readers that discover your works!

Stay safe – remain sane!

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!