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!

Far from the maddening crowd!

Anonymity Overkill

Ever wanted to fade into the background, to drop out of the rat race and chunter away free from any consequence? 

Ever wanted to become that figure standing at the bus stop casting both pearls of wisdom and laminations with reckless abandon…? 

Me, I never thought I would, but here I am mumbling into the big empty auditorium that is the world wide web!

Just goes to show you never can tell what the future has in store for you – here I am wittering out loud to myself. 

Granted many will claim that they foresaw this deterioration, this inevitable fall from tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist into fully blown ranting nutter.

But here is the groovy thing, nobody is out there, so no one will ever find out, my façade of normality, such that it is, remains intact!

Go anonymity!

So free from critique I can openly admit that my laissez faire application of real constructive result producing effort has come home to roost, I have typed away like a true fiend, but produced NOTHING!!!

I have allowed by attention to flutter from flower to flower, and in doing so I have ignored the true rose in the garden… 

Amy has been neglected.

Cruelly she has been cast aside while I flirt with the new easier attractions – oh how shallow we have become…

It is admittedly simpler to create a new character than to continue to develop the narrative of an existing one.

On this I am most definitely guilty as charged.

In mitigation – I have nothing worthy of note to offer.

One that has served me so well, one who at my hand has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; yet she has remained doggedly loyal…

I must, and indeed I will do better.

I vow to thee my country that I will endeavour to produce, that I will strive to deliver, that I will struggle to overcome distractions, overcome all of these things that pull me away distract and delay me, and I promise that I will produce a completed narrative; a story that ends.

But as no one is listening… 

Spoiler Alert!!!

Well okay its not really a spoiler alert, maybe its a poor attempt at some sort of click bait

Okay, its not a spoiler, it is pure click bait piffle – apologies.

Book three (Gotham) has been my focus, but then again, I’ve also spent time scandalously flirting with Prison; The Big House; Gone Ghost Gone and now The Men Who Killed the Stars!

We are scribbling, adding momentum to tales, pushing narratives from where they were to that little bit further down the road.  Focus hasn’t been complete; my attention hasn’t been selfish or peculiar to any isolated or favorite tale. 

Ideas that are good in 1880 spark ideas that are good in 1920 Ireland or indeed modern-day Nigeria, and indeed the idea that sparked The Big House has become the genesis of a reflective tale on the plight of a young woman in modern day Iran. 

Stories about prison have dominated my reading, crime and punishment themes that will dominate three of the above tales.

I’ve also been reading on how a modern civilised society (Ireland 1920) turned a collective blind eye (and still holds a large level of denial) to the murders of those accused of being enemies of the revolution.  Tragically such events are common in every civil rising, grievances and paranoia become dominant forces, wanting to prove loyalty to the new masters a vehicle that carries such murders through a community.  And the victim, well they had it coming, sympathy is scant, the fear of any guilt by any association driving many a good man to become silent.

It is tragic, it was indeed a true tragedy by any yardstick, but it is a scenario that is a gift for anyone looking to weave a good tale in this complex vortex of emotions and fear.  So, yeah, The Big House is plodding along nicely. 

For those who’ve been following the adventures of young Amy Grace me confirming that I have happily created the scenario that sees her ‘banged up’ won’t be shocked, nor indeed that she isn’t the victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice (point of view dependent). 

The much-needed link between Gotham and Prison has now been thrashed out and is very much in the process of being fleshed out and finished. 

Gotham hasn’t gone where I originally intended it to go – nor indeed where I assumed it was developing towards.  The change from page two hundred to page last took me by surprise too; characters I’d assumed would either die or be discarded did neither – which, in the end I think is more than acceptable.

I hope that Gotham isn’t the predictable narrative play by the numbers story it could have been.  I hope that when it is read, that its accepted as the logical twisty turn story that surprises and entertains as much as Magic did after the frantic chase movie that was Thomas Payne. 

I’ve tried to avoid the obvious connections/conclusions between the characters, and I’ve tried (honestly) to inject some humour into a tale with a very dark narrative vein is running through it. 

Have I succeeded, as ever, only the critics will decide!

The quest for an agent it continues too, yet with less success or sense of achievement that we associate with our scribbling. 

And it is one that deserves a greater slice of our focus, we will see…

Down in Albion….

Yes, another musical reference – this time we are nodding towards those indie rascals Babyshambles!

Hey ho! 

So, despondent we indeed were. 

The shadows of self-doubt were indeed dominant.

An eclipse was in process.

I was, and I remain, more annoyed at myself for my reaction than I do towards a legitimate and polite rejection. 

We also have to remember why it is we are doing this.

This isn’t a job, this is a hobby, something we enjoy – if we lose sight of that anything and that may flow would be pointless; I already have a job that I’m not too enamored about… 

We hope that my escapism may one day become enjoyable distraction for others, but if not, then the first principle must remain true – we must be happy in our work!

[Image] A frantically typing Jack Nicholson “All work and no play etc. etc….”

So the buoy has bobbed, the post fall bounce has happened, the sulk is indeed over!

We’ve also gone back to re-write (changed the plot) of book three.  It wasn’t the coherent narrative I was after, and so back we have indeed gone and simplified and focused things – naturally we have kept all the original drafts just in case we (again) change our minds.

So, yeah, that’s it. 

Was feeling a bit ‘meah’, but we are okay now.

Anyhow, big empty auditorium, thanks for listening!

Something something flip side, something something smoke me a kipper…. 

The Big NO!

I have in my mind that ‘the big no’ is a children’s character – and if they’re not, then they indeed should be! 

So, quickest ever rejection has been received!

Normally we wait weeks.

This one, BY RETURN!

Flip!

By coincidence I was reading a blog that said if you’ve had more than 10 rejections, maybe it’s a consensus from those that know, and probably your book just isn’t up to it.   

BUGGER!

What to do…?

Is it a reality check from the cosmos?

Is it my approach, or is it my product, or is it possibly both that fail the grade?

Nagging doubt sits on my shoulder, perseverance along with self-belief are retreating to the sanctuary of shadows…

Is this another hurdle to be jumped, or a reality check against my delusion of ever becoming commercially published? 

I’ve had rejections before – yet somehow the speed of this reply, the emphatic nature of this particular NO; this is different.

I will try not to wallow – I will try, but dam –  by return!!!

Writing is good therapy, but maybe my therapy just isn’t good commerce?

On the plus, and in all situations you must always seem the positive (no matter how small) I have achieved, I have written that mythical book that we all have inside – kudos to me.

Maybe that success should be enough.

Maybe.

Bugger.

The Big NO!

Petard Hanging!

So we said we didn’t write plot lines, didn’t do story outlines, that we were some kind of anarchic write it as it comes and dam the readers kinda rebel! 

Well that may not have been the picture painted in your minds, but in mine I was indeed a wee bit of a rebel without a plotline!

And then, as with all things flimsy, it all comes crashing down to the ground… 

I haven’t finished book three, but here I am typing away like a daemon at the story that will be book four!

Three now has a new end point, a different destination from the one originally envisioned and now we need to create a suitable journey that takes us there. 

Ideas have the most spurious of beginnings, but the one for ‘Prison’ has now become a bit of a wildfire in my imagination. 

How did it begin?

An off the cuff remark about suffering not being exclusively or even predominately physical – and where and in what circumstance could we engineer such a scenario?

Answer – Prison.

Not just Prison – but a Victorian (late 1800’s) prison!  

All other projects, side or otherwise, have been placed in stasis.

This story wants to be written.

This tale needs to be told.

So, book with three I will complete a journey that needed to be taken, book four a narrative now in need of telling!   

Will Amy triumph?

Have no fear, I’m sure she will.

But as ever it will be hard won bitter and painful.

Misery…

One day in your life you’ll realise why you’re here… and so the song goes.  The purpose of life being to give life purpose – that’s either deeply profound or a facile distillation of the complexity of existence – and I’m not too sure which (if either) it is!

So, Amy followers, where are we now? 

Young Amy Grace is flying with the bogy man as her passenger (didn’t see that coming!) to right the genesis wrong that echoes in all of her adventures. 

She is now in 1888 still correcting a repetitive wrong from 1885, some of the characters have changed, but the tragic concept remains consistent.

And there, or indeed here is where we are, blinking cursor flashing on a white screen thinking to ourselves is this all too predictable?

Are we guilty of rehashing the same story in a never-ending volume of telling’s? 

I don’t think I am, but then sometimes I do…

Yes, I know, and I understand if you distil any series of tales down you end up with the constant telling and retelling of a need for love acceptance and justice.  Themes that are universal from Homer to Billy the Bard James Herbert and so many others.  But…

We are currently reading some Margaret Atwood, and although the comparison is pitifully suicidal and we are doomed to view oneself as a sad charlatan, we still look at the works of those we both admire and enjoy and turn that spotlight that shines upon greatness and turn it into a harsh illuminating self-critique of ourselves.

It could be the isolation that writing necessitates, it could be. 

It could be the frustration at rejections for tales I feel are worth telling, indeed it could. 

Lonely are they who type tales.

Tea is being consumed in copious amounts, ideas for ‘other’ tales are scribbled, but guilt at abandoning the unfinished saga, of being a cheating lover permeates every word I type for the interlopers. 

I have to expunge myself of this story, I have to finish it, find a conclusion.

I’m not looking to kill off Misery Chastain, but I am keen to finish book three.

I know how it ends, I kinda know what follows, but I need to make that journey really believable and above all a page turning thrill for those who’ve travelled with us from Egypt all the way to California (and innumerable stops in-between). 

I have been scribbling away (metaphorically) at ‘The Diary of a Nobody’ and a new as yet untitled ghost story, but all these ideas need Amy’s permission to continue….

I appreciate that this is becoming as coherent and rambling as ‘The Book of Dave’, but as with the scribbles of that taxi driver these words are not a mantra or collection of sage inspirational words to lift humanity, they are my scribbles as I struggle to be published, as I struggle to finish writing.  Definitely nothing more and assuredly nothing less. 

So, the job offer still stands.

Keep the faith.

Introspection Overload

And here we are, a new year, new possibilities, but steadfastly still wearing the same old hair shirt! 

We have invested time effort and emotion reviewing Amy all the way from the alleyway in Cairo to the hazy autumnal sunshine in San Francisco. 

I’ve never wrote (or written) a plan, a plot summary, or an agreed narrative that needs fleshing out prior to the start of my scribbles. 

Sometimes I get carried away with an idea, and write a fully detailed scene and then end up working to bring the existing tale towards it, but as a rule of thumb I just let my imagination take me (and by default Amy) wherever the falling keys take us. 

So, December/January was my opportunity to review the current narrative, to see if the chaos theory had worked, to see if the tale (currently in three parts), as written, made sense?

It is very hard to debate in the echo chamber of a solo review, and that is where I’m struggling. 

But, I was critical.

And I was dispassionate.

One moment we needed more dragons, the next moment dragons are so last week – well not literally, but that is kind of symptomatic of my internal monologue.

One moment we’re all happy with ‘as is’, then we look at the ever growing pile of rejections and look for intangible improvements that I know I cannot deliver. 

The story is just that, it’s as good and indeed as bad as I can create, it can never be anything else.     

And, in the end, after it was over, after I’d edited all those pages from alleyway to hotel I rested happy in my creation.

I like what we’ve got.

I’m happy with the result.

It could be delusional denial – it could be. 

However, we are happy, and currently (spoiler alert!) in book three Amy is also happy.  

Happy in our creation, we will continue to see if others will share this with me.

BTW the advertised job opportunity still stands… 

Notwithstanding the rejections, the pushed keys keep adding black type to the empty white pages, my expression therapy with Amy continues.

Oh, and ‘The Diary of a Nobody’ is plodding along too – more akin to the at times irreverent narrative style of Sisyphus than Amy. Which naturally enough is just another excuse for me to moan about isolation, death greed and the pointlessness of it all, and to indulge in some observational humour and critique about the current societal obsession with transactional consumption!

Yeah – a laugh a minute read; well he is the last man alive – give him a break! 

So there you are, you are up-to-date with it all.

Oh, and I’ve had a fish finger sandwich, and the shop that provided it has gone out of business – whisper from the gods or poor fiscal management?  Don’t know, could be either/neither, could be both, could be relevant, probably isn’t.    

So as Hazel O’Connor sings softly in the background about spilt tea (oh silly me) we warm our hands on our own jealously guarded brown elixir of life, we warm our hands and feel somewhat content with the world. 

Amy is moving forward; progress is being made. 

The curse of the drop-down menu.

Augh – my woes continue!

Occasionall poor attention to detail notwithstanding, my innate inability to create a swashbuckling backstory about myself continues to be my main frustration.

Conversations with folk, face to face meetings, are easier encounters in which to let the blarney flow, the sterile blinking cursor considerably less so.

I understand and accept the need for a pithy author profile – I’m just stuck trying to create one.

The 20 second scan, the ability to instantly stand out, not for your works, but for who you are (a commodity I am definitely NOT selling) is a struggle that I have yet to master (I know first world problems!).

With a little trial error and patience, I’ll crack the ‘who are you’ conundrum; it is the next one that I am struggling with!

Sometimes your favourite book is easy to categorise, some books slot easily into generic groupings – it is their blessing and it is my curse.

Maybe I’m overthinking about it – wait while I procrastinate for a few days.

Mental gymnastics aside, I do worry about putting my best foot forward, about my sales pitch.

I have a passion for my work, a genuine love for the characters’ themes and scenarios that I’ve created, but oh, the ‘drop down menu’ – yeah that currently perplexes and vexes me in equal measure!

genregenreGenres exist, categories exist, they all exist for good reason, we use them continually to help us make informed decisions – what to read, who to listen to, or indeed where to eat.

I get, and I accept the need and benefit.

But, as a loud echo of my struggle to create a one-page synopsis that caused me inordinate thought and debate, so too is my failure to select an appropriate category from the drop-down choice weighing heavily on my mind.

I know I think too much – worry too much etc.

I’ve tried the deleting the obvious incorrect associations; and then looking at what is left – a simple process of elimination.

I’ve looked at Felsch-Kincaid; I’ve tried to make that score relevant against the remaining list and repeated the exercise again and again until the one single ‘commodity group’ remains.

I will re-check my algorithm, as I’m not too sure that under five picture books is correct, but then again everyone loves a story about a trip to the park and a lost balloon!

Punches own face and misses… 

Job applications are always tense affairs, speculative ones that little bit more so. 

It doesn’t help if you make an error in your application, and especially if that error is someone’s name! 

A blunder that couldn’t be more obvious, and possibly more costly – after all calling Steve “Susan” is very unlikely to endear you from the get go.

We then have the notoriously difficult ‘tell us about yourself’ section; a question I assume designed to flush out those media known butterflies or folk who’ve climbed mountains naked.

Me I’m neither a ‘personality’ or indeed a nude rambler.

While we are going through some self-deprecation I’m no salesman either.

However, all is not lost.

All is not forlorn.

We do tell good tales, we do write good stories.

We may not be able to self-promote or indeed formulate successful and proven sales strategies but we can provide a good product for those with such skills to flourish.

Our story about Amy Grace should appeal to so many people; it is historic, it is dark, it is female led and centric and most of all, the number one selling point, it is an engaging tale – a good page turner.

So, what have we learnt?

Nothing that we didn’t already know – attention to detail is important.

We MUST learn to self-promote we MUST master our elevator pitch.

So, if you meet a middle aged bloke in a lift mumbling about rape murder and revenge, please don’t call the police, call a good literary agent – that is the help that he needs!