Letting It Go

Anyone would have suspected that some kind of happiness would follow the completion of the revised draft, but for reasons unknown it been an anticlimax. It all came together so fast, tied up nicely and then just dropped off. I had arrived at the destination with such speed no one else was there yet. I blinked and looked around, then scratched my head. What now?

LETTING IT GO

I knew it had to be done. I had to let go. It needed reading. Easier said than  done. Just making the announcement was difficult. It’s the acknowledgement that you’re lowering your defences, that the fear inside you is saying “come on, savage my efforts.” It should have been a moment of triumph, but instead was an exercise in gritting my teeth, waiting for the kicking to start.

I sent out the first copy  and the first thing I did upon sending it was spot a small error. Nothing really. Just wording, but I set about fussing over it with a will until I forced myself to stop. So crazy, to have finished yet knowing that I still had work to do….

It reminded me of a video I had watched where the gentleman says of scriptwriting: “Show me someone who is happy with what they have written, and I will show you an amateur.” Just got to remember – IT’S NOT PUBLISHED YET DAVE!

So, resisting the urge I sent out a couple more; paper copies went to friends, family and assorted others. A nice age range and a mix of fantasy/sci-fi fans and people who weren’t. Different perspectives and all…..

I’d let it go. It was out there. All I need do is sit back and relax.

Right?

PRAISE!

Wrong. One of the first readers enthused that it was “bloody good” and that he was “impressed with the writing style.”

Oh my days! I tried to keep calm, but what came to grow inside me wasn’t more confidence. It was the reverse. It was anxiety that it was all going to fall apart, that days later he’s said nothing , well, that first bit, yeah that was awesome! But then you went and did this thing and the story went over here and it all kinda sucked arse in the end……

I’m constantly waiting now for any word, checking email and social media, but more often stopping myself from checking. It’s only been a week I say to myself. People have lives that don’t entail the same level of obsession about the book as I do.

Got to let it go. Sit back, and relax…….

LIMBO

Instead of relaxing, I’m waiting. This is the impatience of completion. It’s a limbo where I don’t know where to direct my efforts, like the energy has sort of bled away now that I have arrived at that point. The party wont start until everyone’s caught me up.

So here I am, floating around in space, directionless. I consider that the reason it’s so hard is that I’ve been travelling in one direction so long it takes time to realign myself.

And it’s certainly not improving my mood as I find myself regularly standing about, wondering what in the Hell am I doing? I’m short tempered and impatient. Worse, I’m resenting my partner even though I have no right. I’m relying on her to not only give me criticism, but to help me gauge how much work I need to do for the book to fit its niche/genre. Her understanding is key…..

But like I said, I have no right to be angry about it. I’m just so impatient because this feedback will be the decider. It’ll determine the next step……

Publishing. Which path to choose? I’d like to say, that with the nice things that have been said by one or two people, that this work deserves to be taken up by a specialist publisher in the field of fantasy. It means they soak up some of the cost (as I have no real money to undertake self publishing) but I’ll need to find a literary agent. It equally means not receiving most of the revenue from sales, but balanced against that is the promotion and returns over time of a series.

It should be exciting, but instead the feeling seems to have drifted off into that limbo zone….

AND IN THE MEANTIME

So, in the meantime? What to do? Time to turn to a task that needs some love. I have dubbed it the Newman Project: several years ago I was approached to write a biography. It’s a long story, but the core of it revolves around false imprisonment, a contract killing and a vendetta, all mixed with a little reincarnation, petty crime and a hangman’s noose outside of Mitcham police station.

I’d put transcribing the interviews off because they’re a real pain in the arse to do, and like most people I hate the sound of my own voice.

But…..

Needs to be done. I couldn’t turn the work down, because it was free material that, no matter what, is gold dust for a writer. It was mainly that I needed to finish my own work first, and that I hadn’t been paid for what I had done so far (there’s often problems of cash flow when your income is from a questionable source and you’ve never had a bank account).

On top of the monotony of catching up on this admin, there’s the next book in the series to contemplate. I’ve got a few neat ideas, a set of characters and a situation that stems from the book I just finished, so it’s already shaping up in my mind. The circle is complete: back to the drafting process. As Burroughs says “destroy all rational thought.” Do it as fast as you can and don’t think about it until you’ve finished.

It’ll be my new rocket to ride, speeding off into my own little kingdom of clouds inside my head…….

OH, ONE LAST THING

I said I’d learn People Are Strange didn’t I? Well, the splint is off and I’ve been getting involved in the local music scene in the nearby town. I’ve made some new musical friends and I’ve started playing guitar again. So, no more excuses. Time to step forward. In much the same way as the book, it’s no good sitting at home practising. I’ve got these songs (even one or two I wrote myself) and if I don’t let them go, if I don’t let people experience them and (hopefully) enjoy them, then what’s the point of it all in the first place?

DJC

(PS, why Parquet Courts? It’s just been on the radio lots. Love that bass!)

 

 

 

 

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March Madness: The Shadow Over Spring

I’m sorry I haven’t written you sooner. Life has been crazy, tenuous and suddenly full again. Let me tell you about it…….

It started while I was reading Erich Fromm’s The Sane Society. It brought back concerns that had occupied my thoughts as a teenager and that would eventually take me into anthropology:

“[M]any psychiatrists and psychologist refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity. They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of ‘unadjusted’ individuals, and not that of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself.

The Sane Society, Erich Fromm

THE WORLD IS DEEPLY NUTS TODAY…..

I’m standing in the supermarket; the strip lights are cold and bright, the consumers wittering away and all those check outs are going beep….. beep….. beep! I feel a little like Bruce Willis in Breakfast Of Champions when the tarmac turns to rubber. For a moment I see it all clearly, objectively, not as a shopper but as total of the human  journey to this moment in time. It has an aspect of madness, this lens of clarity, and it’s saying that this spectacle just cannot be normal. Humanity’s evolutionary environment has never seen something like this. It’s so very recent. There is nothing natural about this sci-fi utopia with its unimaginably vast amounts of choice in food, drink, clothing, medicine and nappies and cultured yogurt……

I take my Energizing Smoothie and Vegetarian Sushi rolls and get the fuck outta there……

At home I’m rolling my eyes as I wonder why the news on the radio wants to troll me every day. It’s just relayed an opinion that Trump should get a Nobel Peace prize for his North Korea diplomacy.

Wrong on so many levels…..

Meanwhile our glorious leaders have desperately tried to convince us to support them in their latest geopolitical posturing by cooking up some truly fantastical bullshit. It reminds me of the lawyer in Robocop 2 when he says, “whether the evidence exists or not, I know I can find it.”

Worse, these people have nukes. Lucky for me that they probably wont push the button just yet, although I recall an article that there have been around 12 near misses since the 50’s, once when a Russian radar computer showed incoming missiles that weren’t there, or when a US naval ship dropped a practice depth charge on a Russian submarine for a laugh.

One has to wonder what kind of sane society would stock pile such things. No wonder life is feeling tenuous…..

Anyway, most likely they won’t be using them just yet. They’ll wage their wars over the last scraps at the table first, the last oil and water and minerals. Then the loser can have the final word as we all disappear in a blinding flash.

Later I’m standing in the chippie waiting for an order of cod, chicken goujons, chips and onion rings because it’s Sam’s birthday. Someone picks up a paper, rustles through it while they’re waiting. The staff are shouting orders. The food hisses into the fat fryers and I think to myself, “please don’t let the world end while I’m in a chippy”. It would really put a crimp on the day to be hit in the face by a nuclear explosion without getting off a snarky comment.

This reminds me that some years ago I had a strange dream: I’m in the city, standing just outside some building when the person next to me turns and says “someone just let off a nuclear bomb”. I turn to the horizon and see the mushroom cloud, and just before I awake I hear myself say with exasperated disappointment one single word: “Meh.” (Perhaps my subconscious is just better at summarising).

The days go by and I don’t do myself any favours by reading about Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd fame). He claims to have been approached by a Saudi business man who wants him to support the White Helmets, an NGO purportedly created by an ex-member of MI6 and funded with millions of £ and $ of taxpayers money. They ask him if one of their representatives can take the stage before his Barcelona concert and give an address in the name of Syria’s children. Waters ignores the request and instead tells the audience that they’re nothing but the PR arm for the jihadi head choppers. I wonder at the notion of militant fundamentalists having a PR campaign. Later still I’ll wonder at the notion of Libyan rebels taking time out from fighting Gaddafi to set up a bank.

And the day before yesterday (last week or so) I heard that Iran just rejected the dollar.

Oh dear……

…….AND TIME IS SHORT

Sometime’s you should just turn Youtube off. That way you wont get to see a video where a scientist is telling a day tv host that humanity could very well be extinct in 10 years due to the severity of temperature changes that are occurring. They are exponential. The tv host is flippant, blasé,  but what can he say other than ask what is this guy going to do with the rest of his (short) life? The scientist says he’ll “live it as fully as possible”.

The shadow of mortality falls over me. It’s relentless, enervating, humbling. I’ve read enough to know that ‘experts’ call this era the Anthropocene Extinction. And those leaders I mentioned earlier, well they dont want to do anything to upset the markets, to upset the money men and the oil industry. No, all they can ask you to do be a bit more gentle, recycle and buy an electric car even as the crops are withering in the fields. They are the epitome of procrastination, literally putting off reality until tomorrow. If ever a species could win the accolade it must be us, number one for mass delusional procrastination, a metacrastination if you will. We are ‘homo procrastes‘ and we all know what’s happening, but there’s always something more important to do than worry about global auto-genocide.

And so the shadow darkens even as Spring is in bloom because the oceans will rise, the deserts will spread, the supermarket shelves will be empty and I’m suddenly recalling the horror of the Mountain People, Colin Turnbull’s account of a society self-destructing. There is no society, no family, no hope…… and it’s likely that I’ll starve to death with my son.

He’ll be 14.

ONLY IN DARK THE LIGHT

Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky.

A Tale Of Earthsea, Ursula LeGuin

Feeling heartbroken I took a break from working and a little later picked the little guy up from pre-school. That afternoon I took him for a walk over the local hill, the space and light and air providing a welcome relief. It was such a pleasant afternoon, not too hot with fresh air blowing over the slope. I stared out over the rolling green landscape. The sun was shining through gaps in the cloud and in the background I heard Bruce burbling about something that I didn’t quite catch. For a moment there’s that sense of clarity again, the perception of something real and natural that’s all so alive, so enduring, and I wonder “How can this ever end?”

I give Bruce a hug and remind him that I love him….

The truth is that no one can say how much time there is left, and even if it as short as might be claimed, well, the burden is on us to make the most of it. This doesn’t mean abandoning ideals or ceasing to give a shit about anything, but rather it is about finding a new motivation to live a full life without worrying. It is a continuation of the path that I started on in March (see last blog) and a development of the personal need for change.

So, more than ever, I’m getting myself out and enjoying what time is left. I’m done with hermitting away because faced with death I’ve found a great desire to live. Suddenly I want to be with people, even if we might not share the same ideas, but it’s healthy to remember that you’re not always right. Faced with possible extinction, does it even matter? It’s just so much pointlessness to care what anyone thinks when time is short. I’m not going to worry about the madness. Hell we might as well embrace it and feel alive instead of worrying.

So I’ll try to make the world a bit brighter, try to love a bit more and promise to stop wasting time being critical of everything around me. It’s time to make the most of the good fortune that I have been given.

And so, as I started with Fromm, I’ll finish with this from The Sane Society, written over 60 years ago:

“A new question has arisen in modern man’s mind, the question, namely, whether ‘life is worth living’, and correspondingly, the feeling that one’s life ‘is a failure’, or is ‘a success’. This idea is based on the concept of life as an enterprise which should show profit. The failure is like the bankruptcy of a business in which the losses are greater than the gains. This concept is nonsensical. We may be happy or unhappy, achieve some aims, and not achieve others; yet there is no sensible balance which could show whether life is worth while living. It ends necessarily with death; many of our hopes are disappointed; it involves suffering and effort; from a standpoint of the balance, it would seem to make more sense not to have been born at all……

On the other hand, who will tell whether one happy moment of love, or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies? Life is a unique gift and challenge, not to be measured in terms of anything else, and no sensible answer can be given to the question whether it is ‘worth while’ living, because the question does not make any sense.”

The Sane Society, Eric Fromm

DJC

 

A Self Reflective Inquisition

Here we are, on the cusp of a new venture for me and only three weeks on from the last post. This will be the first post that goes up on the new Facebook page I’ve created. As much as I’m happy to be pressing on, being proactive in the manner that authors must be, I can’t say that I’m thrilled at the prospect of social media. It’s the hermit in me, and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard about the introvert writer, but as hackneyed as it sounds, there is a shred of truth in it for me.

It’s a question that I’ll return to in good time.

Severed

Three weeks ago I might have made (somewhat) light of cutting my finger. In typical fashion I hadn’t gone to A&E, being blasé about just taping it up. “It’ll be fine.” It wasn’t. I’d severed the tendon and wouldn’t be able to straighten it. The lovely NHS lady that saw me at Caterham Dene was shocked that my GP hadn’t referred me. I sat waiting for news, reading HP Lovecraft in the hope that other-worldy horrors would take my mind off the prospect of having my finger cut open and the tendon sewn back together.

It didn’t happen and I was referred to the finger specialists at Queen Victoria in East Grinstead. But no operation. I was splinted up and waited for Physiotherapy to contact me. Another week. By now I was deep into No One Here Gets Out Alive (the Jim Morrison biography) in the waiting room. Not long and I’m sat down for the good news. The tendon is apparently only partially severed and give it about eight weeks of being in a splint and it should be okay.

Probably…..

I went home, frustrated, but with a discrete, molded splint. At the end of the week I was in Brighton at the Concorde for Jonathan Wilson, drinking Blue Moon on tap and trying not to break down in tears……

The Inquisition Begins

As this situation developed I became increasingly unbalanced, and it triggered a difficult, depressive state that left me much awry. Attempts to communicate this were met with frustrating disinterest.

And as I began to question, those questions seemed to go deeper and deeper…..

Firstly, I considered whether or not I would play music again. In something like self pity I considered that it might just be a signal to give up. After all, I hadn’t really done much with it in the 15 years I’d been playing guitar.

It was, very clearly, all or nothing. Moreover, what began to surface were the historical moments connected with it, going back to when I was at school. I remember being made to do a talk in front of the school that damaged my confidence, and then how a friend turned on me just as I was gonna play bass in his band. Years would go by and perhaps my musical highlight as a performer was a karaoke rendition of I’m The Urban Spaceman (which was included in my current repertoire, of course).

It wasn’t until I returned from New Mexico that I picked up a guitar proper, and over time my aspirations developed; I picked up bass again and I eventually started trying to learn and write songs. I could be in a band…..

But now I was faced with the reality that my aspirations might not only be unobtainable, but might have just been wishful thinking all along. Why hadn’t I done more? I didn’t get out there and play, I was barely trying to do anything about finding a band. I was afraid. I fully realised the nature of my hermitting, that fear was part of the hermit in me. I was cut off, had done so with some intention, and now I was wondering where all my friends had gone, why I avoided people and whether it was just the nature of home life.

Therapy

So it was with great relief at the end of that time that I actually went out, kicked back and cut loose. I remember checking into the B&B, sitting in the bay window and feeling the faintest hint of lingering unease. Then  Sam and I walked up the road, checked out part of Brighton I’ve not really visited before. We ate in a great restaurant then hit a local bar called the Sidewinder for a pre-gig beer.

I was beginning to get into it.

We strolled down to the Concorde, down at the sea front, a place where I’d seen many bands in the past (most notably Love). It was damnably cold, but there was no queue and we strolled in to find the place quiet. Two pints of Blue Moon and no support band, just straight into two hours of Jonathan Wilson.

And goddamn it went fast.

I bathed in that sonic goodness, and it was a catharsis for me because I always feel a real connection with JW’s songs, as if he’s one of those artists who’s caught a glimpse of life’s deeper aspects, of what’s just beyond the door of everyday life and although he can’t quite explain it, he hints at the greater wonders that he found there, like a great vivid dream or strange trip……

I had more beer.

And I loosened up, all the pent up angst and memory that was bottled found vent, and as it was washed away I felt elated and emotional. It was a healing experience.

And when the encore was over we were wandering back to the bar for another round where a DJ with a Misfits t-shirt on played a variety of music at great volume (but no Misfits – bummer). Sam and I spent some time talking (or rather, shouting), getting things off our chests. This time I was listened to which was a relief, but also, I got to hear about my partner’s fears and anxieties. We purged it all in a drunken shambles that helped reaffirmed the strength of our bond, as partners who work together to get through the weeks and months.

We are, after all, a team.

Through The Door (The Guide)

And as this new wave of energy rolled on I fell into reading No One Here Gets Out Alive. I’d had it for years, bought in a charity shop for 80p, but I’d never got around to reading it. At this point I was past the childhood story and into the formation of the doors.

So entered the Lizard King……

Reading about him, about the rise of the Doors, it was like the next step in the mental process. Jim reminded me that I too had set out looking for something and yet I’d become somewhat negligent.

Jim Morrison was so social, always out drinking with others, and he seemed to understood people. I wondered then that perhaps the cliché of the introvert writer might be a bit of a problem. I had hermitted away, and that can’t be good for those of us who are writers. We lose something of the reality of people, and perhaps the need for just a little more thought and tolerance that rounds us out as individuals. Perhaps I had just forgotten how strange and multifaceted people were. It was, after all, one of the reasons I studied anthropology, so that I might meet and better understand people, and by extension know myself a little better.

So for the past week I’ve been listening to the Doors a whole lot, and I fell in love all over again with their music. I don’t think I’ll grow out of it as I recall one journalist saying she had, “that it was cool when she was young but then you grow up and see it for the pretentious twaddle it is.” (I might have misquoted, but that was the gist)

Nah! I’ll always remember that People Are Strange was once something of a theme song for me among certain friends. Who knows, now I’m on Facebook I might even see one or two of them again. Whether that’s good or bad I don’t know just yet.

And as to the question of whether I’ll play music again, I know that I have to follow Jim’s advice and break on through to the other side. I’ll find a way, keep playing and once this finger is healed up I’m gonna learn People Are Strange, resist the hermitting instinct and go down the open mic.

Who knows, I might even share a video of it in a post some time this year.

DJC

Absence, Exposition and Pitching

Pardon my absence dear reader. I have been busy, I promise. It’s what everyone says, I know, but the truth is that I’ve been deep in the revised draft. Day and night! Well, at least when I can and I’m not bingeing on Altered Carbon and it isn’t half term for my little boy and I’m not nearly cutting my finger off on a baked bean can…..

It was the Branstons baked beans. It amazes me that in this day and age there are still cans without ring pulls. Lesson learned – always cut the lid off completely.

So, in honour of my wonky finger, I thought I’d stick Dr. John up there as his”fickle finger of funk” has been on my mind of late (I believe that he had it shot off and surgically reattached.) I’m hoping that it will heal up straight and wont effect my guitar playing too much. Hell, Tony Iommi lost the tips of his middle and ring finger and he did alright…..

But enough of that. I thought I’d get back in the groove with a quick update on how things have been going.

Hunting Down Exposition With An Orbital Laser

So, well into draft v3.1, going through my work with a fine tooth comb, teasing out the snaggled prose and working out those little narrative knots. It’s slow going but I’ve found a great amount of reward so far and I think it’s much richer, and it’s in part thanks to the advice I was sent: how to make exposition my bitch.

I received this under the premise that I would find it interesting and useful. The result so far? I’ve been fascinated by the exposition that I have found, and while it certainly didn’t destroy the story, there is little to lose in cutting it out. It sounds strange but removing sections of exposition did little to really deflate the progression of the narrative, and even better, once you know it you can tease it in with references and flash backs and characters remembering that time when this and that happened. Overall, the process has been a great workout, both educational and satisfying.

The funny thing is that when he says remove the back story, well, that’s what I did and it turned into a whole book, the one that I’ve just written a pitch for…..

Pitchapolooza 2018

So I had a go at writing a pitch for my book as the Book Doctors (in conjunction with Nanowrimo) were running Pitchapolooza 2018. Twenty pitches are randomly selected, critiqued and voted for. The winner gets an introduction to a publisher suitable for their manuscript.

Might as well give it a shot right?

I worked tirelessly on iterations of this and then repeatedly sent them to my partner who was busy at work, asking her thoughts on this version and that. Her response was pretty much always “too wordy?”. Every time.

But it helped me. I tried to boil it down again and again, editing and reducing until it retained the flavour without the bulk.

(I mentioned this in a comment on the Book Doctors video about the pitch – they replied with: “You’re partner is a smart woman. Excellent advice!”)

Anyhow, I just want you to know that I’m thinking of you here! You, the reader, checking a copy on the bookshelf because I know you don’t have much time and you want the nitty gritty in under 200 words or else you might pick something else up.

So here it is!

Welcome to Asclepius, trading hub for more than a hundred worlds…..

When a smuggling operation is busted two petty criminals must find a new way to recoup their lost investment. Shale wants to sign up for a prospectors ‘dive’ but her best friend isn’t so sure. Unimaginable riches might be theirs, or at the least a quick death if they’re lucky.

Meanwhile Harlech Truckle, leader of the Birdeaters, makes plans for another illegal shipment or else face the displeasure of his mysterious benefactor. But just what is it they’re being asked to bring in, and who’s toes might they be stepping on this time?

As the consequences begin to unfold, a street hustler, a possessed automaton and a hapless warehouse technician will be drawn into a spiral of duplicity and revenge while in the shadows of the Shining Spires there are those who’s designs had yet to be fully understood…..

Red Star Rising is the first in a series of exciting, modern pulp fantasy novels set against a backdrop of lost epochs, cosmological improbabilities and strange destinies.

So, what do you think? Needs some work perhaps……? Damned if I know. Hell, it was harder to write than the damn book is!

The Future?

With that all out the way I want to say a little bit about future posts – yes, I actually do have some sort of plan – and while I don’t want to say much more, I should put up a post about Alter Ego’s in response to JA Allen’s post and the comment I made. Hope to see it within a fortnight.

I also have a sketch for a pair of world building posts that I’m rather excited about, but – yes, sigh! – it’ll be consigned to the vagaries of the crystal ball as to when those will appear.

So, for now, I’ll sign out and wish you all well.

DJC

The Festive Chasm, The (Alleged) Snub and The Bio

With a toast to you my readers, and a merry commencement of 2018, we begin afresh the vital work of storytelling with renewed vigor. This is going to be the year that I get something finished and out, the year that I move forward with projects to a new level, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll even play an open mic. Meanwhile, on the horizon, there already a few treats to look forward to. Jonathan Wilson brings his new songs to the UK in March, and award for Best Christmas Present 2017 goes to Sam (you better be reading this!) for getting me a ticket.

It certainly perked up the festive period as in recent years I’ve found Christmas to inspire in me a certain attitude of humbuggery, and whilst not being a total curmudgeon, what I usually sense is the yawning chasm of the holiday period in my mental calendar, that dark void of inactivity where I’m in limbo. Thankfully this year there was also a certain levity to it as my little boy reminded me of what it was like to actually be excited for the festive period. Master Bruce oft seems to reveal things that I had forgotten, to clear away the jaded cobwebs of middle age. He is enthusiasm personified.

In the run up to that point I had been working hard to conclude the draft and as I came to the final confrontation between protagonist and antagonist I needed to give shaped relative to the themes of the book. This would make it feel meaningful. So I stopped writing and printed the whole lot out, feeling that by going over it from the start I would be able to simply roll into the resolution with all that I needed to sculpt a satisfying ending.

But…..

I thought I’d find it made more sense. It’s the weirdest thing because I know the story, yet reading it back gave me no idea of whether it worked or not. Certainly I found errors to correct and small plot details to tighten up, but it was strange that it felt so ephemeral. I assume that my understanding of the narrative took away the enjoyment of building an unfolding narrative in my mind. So, with it all marked in red, I’ll just have to go through the rewrites and edits and then give it out to my test readers in the hope that their feedback will furnish me with the knowledge of whether it works or not.

Anyhow, with everything on the shelf for the holidays it was into that temporal chasm I dived with sweet surrender to the festive spirit and nary a thought to liver nor waistline. Amid the tinsel, wine and mince pies I unwrapped a copy of Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, a book that was recommended to me by Kat (the writer I met working for the Council). I’d seen Hobb’s books many times and got the impression that she was another cornerstone of the fantasy genre, but never picked her up.

Then Boxing Day rolled around and off we went to visit my partner’s family where I received two more books: the first was The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway, for reason’s of which I am unsure – it’s fantasy (from the New Weird subgenre)? Or perhaps they had read it and thought I would like it? It’s popular? I don’t know. The second was written by, ostensibly, my brother-in-law and self published through Amazon. It was comprised of two short stories. My first thought was to wonder if it was some kind of snub or dig, inspired by my belief that my partner’s sister in particular is somewhat ambivalent towards me.

Of course I dismissed the notion almost immediately, suspecting that I had just stung myself because of the pressure I feel I’m under;  both from that which I heap upon myself and that which I perceive (rightly or wrongly) to come from the expectation of others (my partner, my family, not to mention ALL THE PEOPLE WHO I EVER TOLD I WAS A WRITER!).

Yet it had sparked a momentarily brief amusement with the initial allegation because I felt a certain….. bulletproofness. It didn’t matter to me if it was a snub because I knew one very important thing: my voice is unique, and that’s what counts. No one can write what I have written. In that sense I’m untouchable, and although it doesn’t mean my work is necessarily good, it did help to diffuse the sullen impatience with not having my work published.

Typically the swirl of thoughts bled into each other as I sat on the Boxing Day couch and whiled away the wait for lunch. Flicking through the two books I read Nick Harkaway’s bio, and then was surprised that the self published book didn’t have one because from what I’m given to understand is that one’s bio will be like a shadow, a spectre haunting a writers every move. It’ll be in my submissions, it’ll be on the inside cover of my book, it’ll be online via social media (and on this blog when I actually settle on what I’ve written) and it’ll be in any press releases about me.

So it appears that I’d better make it good right from the start…….

The inevitable question then is what do I say about myself? Can I make myself sound interesting without come across as a pretentious twat? So begins the examination of my life, and just how interesting a person I am. It feels a little strange to rake across all that has come before, sifting memories and achievements in order to (modestly) boast about them.

And writing the damn thing is almost harder than writing the book itself, despite there being plenty of advice out there. At it’s core I think this is piece of advice is pretty key:

…..your bio should not be a dry, dusty affair. Even more important, it must make the case for why you are the ideal person to write this book and to sell it to the reading public……The bottom lines is, if you don’t toot your own horn (albeit in a way that drips of humble sincerity), who will?

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

So, by way of example, let’s look at the biographies from the two books I’ve mentioned:

Assassin’s Apprentice:

Robin Hobb is one of the world’s finest writers of epic fiction. She was born  in California in 1952 but raised in Alaska, where she learned how to raise a wolf cub, to skin a moose and to survive in the wilderness. When she married a fisherman who fished herring and the Kodiak salmon-run for half the year, these skills would stand her in good stead. She raised her family, ran a smallholding, delivered post to her remote community, all at the same time as writing stories and novels. She succeeded on all fronts, raising four children and becoming an internationally best-selling writer. She lives in Tacoma, Washington State.

And The Gone-Away World:

Nick Harkaway was born in Cornwall in 1972. He likes deckled edges, wine, and breathtaking views. He does not like anchovies or reality television. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

What the fuck, may I ask, is a deckled edge? More importantly, who cares? This bio seems to reflect the book itself, my first impressions from the first couple of pages being that it was all too damn smart for its own good (and perhaps worth mentioning that I later found out he’s the son of John le Carré and had a good amount of money spent on his publicity).

So the big question then is which one sounds better? Which one sounds like someone who’s story is worth reading? It’s amazing to think that there is so much emphasis on building a one paragraph persona that will be your projection into the literary world, and it must clearly be done with some finesse if it is going to shadow my every move.

It’s tempting to put the problem on a shelf for a time, but I suspect that it would be best to keep it in mind and jot down any ideas that crop up during the days, week and months ahead.

And there’s always one’s friends and family to ask about just what it is that makes you interesting…….

Then again, maybe not eh?

Suffice to say dear Reader that if you stick around here long enough you’ll find out just who I want you to think I am.

DJC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Uneasy Question of Why I Write

Salutations once more dear reader.

Upon the return from a little holiday I found that the postman had left some extreme technical black metal in the post box. Not everyone’s cup of tea I’m sure, but a part of me always feels a sense of awe at the effort that lies behind being able to perform such musical gymnastics.

Such an aural assault requires, surprisingly, skill……

Anyhew, as I mentioned I had the good fortune to have a holiday, a feat only made possible via friendships and those small windows of opportunity where busy people can organised a respite. I hoped I would finish the basic draft before hand but with the finale playing hide and seek I couldn’t quite close it. However, the end isn’t far off now and then I can begin one last round of edits and alterations before Christmas. Then into the New Year with the first round of test readings.

Updates aside, I thought I’d write a little something regarding a conversation I had during my sojourn. I became (inadvertently) embroiled in a grilling about my goals and aims as a writer, partly because of my attitude towards JK Rowling and George RR Martin (no, I’m not a big fan of either). What interested me were the notions of fame, envy and pride that came to my mind. I found these worthy of consideration as I wended my way through the wine sodden days.

What it prompted was a question I’ve considered before: why do I write? For fame, for fortune, for recognition or some sense of superiority? Do I care how much money either of these authors made? Maybe I have some romantic notion of “seeing myself in print.”

Let’s start with the money, and the obvious; If I wanted to be rich then writing probably isn’t the best option to making my millions. There are certainly less risky endeavours. But that isn’t to say I don’t believe it unreasonable to consider it as a means to securing some kind of financial harvest at the end of the day. After all, we all have to pay the bills.

Still, I’m certainly under no illusions that I might never be a big earner. Let’s just say that money isn’t the driving motivation, more of a back seat driver. That isn’t to denigrate anyone who writes professionally as a career. We all have our place in the world, but I would suggest that if all of us only created with the aim of profit, then it would certainly stifle creativity to a point where every creative endeavour was completely homogenous. With reference to the above video, there would certainly be very few bands like Inferi. It would no doubt dull the palette and we would never get see such quirky gems for us fantasy/sci-fi readers like: The Iron Dragons Daughter, Little Big, The Anubis Gate, The Year of Our War, Lord Of Light, Rogue Moon, Roadside Picnic, To Stand On Zanzibar, the Blue World etc.

Otherwise every book would be dystopian futures and medieval swords and sorcery…….

(Curious thought here – sci-fi is perhaps far less generic than fantasy in that respect and with regards to the public arena………)

Anyhew, so if I’m not in it for the money, why do I write? One idea that came to me was that, as a fan of the genre, I care about it. I’m in a relationship with it. It is why I feel bad for fans of Game Of Throne who started reading the books  and wondered if they’d ever get a written conclusion. No one likes to be left hanging, suspended, just as in a relationship where you’re waiting for that resolution to the moment, for that message that says,  “I’m safe”, “see you at 8” or “I do.”

And we get passionate about it just like anything that we care about, and yes, maybe there is a sense of egotism, a superiority to me that says I can do better, but moreover I want to bring something to the table that’s worth reading, something that as a fan I would enjoy reading myself, something that would invest me in the characters and their exploits, in their highs and their lows.

So maybe there is a sense of self satisfaction to my creative endeavours. I like to think that my ideas are, if not special, at least good enough to praise – otherwise there’d be no point trying to create something.

Now, I’ve already written about the origins and inspirations of these stories but I’d like to add to it. Bill Fay (a bin man turned musician) once said that good songs aren’t written; they are discovered, that the musician is in themself an ear to the cosmos listening for melodies to write down.

Begging the essential question: “Who is the sender?”

This seems to me to be salient as  to where my ideas come from. When I’m writing I’m in a flow and often it all just seems to pop out of me into existence. In this moment of creation, there is no sense that my objective is fame or money or recognition. Nor is there, initially, a sense of a plan, and so I wonder if I act like a vessel waiting to be filled, an antenna to creativity, a radio operator waiting to hear the crackle of signal over the cosmic airwaves.

Which leads me onwards to the (perhaps overdue) conclusion: the question is itself irrelevant. All attempts to answer it require raking over the muck of vanity and egotism, over notions of accomplishment and respect, over fame and material accumulation. To me the question is moot because writing is something that I have done and continue to do as a process now as natural as breathing. I might be better at breathing of course, but I’m getting better at writing every moment I spend working on it.

So maybe I act as a relay for the stories floating around in the aether, catching them and transform them into words that can be delivered to those that want to read it, hoping that I might get paid and just enjoying the creative act.

After all, it’s all out there, and all I need do is keep listening with the volume dial turned up a notch.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear some thoughts on the subject.

DJC

 

Kat’s Manuscript Revival and the Denouemont

Greetings Reader,

Last week I mentioned that I was working for the Council as an ‘electoral canvasser’, the goal of which was to visit homes and verify the names of the residents against the electoral roll. According to the handout I received it’s an “interesting and rewarding job”. Mmmm hmmmm…..

It’s also a lot of walking.

Well, chasing up people who haven’t filled in their Council paperwork wasn’t the worse job I’ve ever done – at least I’m not sitting in an office – the last time I did that I got harangued for “making [the job] look too easy”. Surprisingly, menial labour and data input wasn’t exactly a challenge compared to my lunchtime spent creating the original material for my current project.

Back to the canvassing. I’m working a road and I come upon a housewife with her little boy and I introduce myself – she asks to see my I.D. card and I explain that although I sent the Council a current photo they seemed to have given me an I.D. card with my old picture on it (three years younger, no beard, long hair). This conversation drifts into topics like centralised computers and the inefficiency of bureaucracies, how the left hand doesn’t talk to the right hand (Council departments don’t seem to share and correlate data). When I explained that I was a part timer and my real job was writing fantasy it turned out that she too was a fantasy writer. We talked for about an hour (all part of customer service right?) and she explained that her manuscript had been dormant for a two years.

She’d let it rest and then just couldn’t get the impetus to go back to the beginning and start over on it. It can be tough, and I don’t doubt that it’s a common problem for writers the world over, to know that your work isn’t finished after putting all that effort in.

As I near the denouement of the draft, that grande finale! I too can feel that spectre hovering in the shadows. I’m sooooo close, one final chapter to shape out of the wet clay of my imagination etc etc….. But I know it’s not the end because there’s always more work to do despite my confidence in my own writing. It’s going to need to go through some rewrites, to be edited and proof read, to be checked for consistency and tightened up before being re-editted and rechecked. It’s just something that’s got to be accepted.

Of course, there is help at hand in the form of YouTube videos. Take the one I’ve posted below for example. It came up randomly in the side bar and after I’d given it a watch I took a section of my own work for a little test drive. Sure enough, there was tightening up to be done.

The question of whether your work is ever finished might be another matter entirely, but we’ll never arrive at that question unless we go back to the beginning and start over.

And this was what I hoped that Kat did,  that she got that old manuscript out and resume work on it. I’d like to think that our chance meeting was one of those moments where a random event or meeting might turn you around or inspire you. After all, who knows what masterpieces lay in the raw material that’s been stashed under a bed or that are lingering in digital purgatory, just waiting to be rediscovered?

We certainly shared the opinion that there were some real turds out there that had actually made the shelves, so if we believe that we can do better, why not give it a shot. What have we got to lose, right?

DJC