Thursday, 16 May 2013

Local arts centres and readings

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (from  most of you) there is a small town.

In the small town, there is a cinema.

This is where you go to watch films. Duuhh!

It’s also where you go, apparently, to read your works in progress. They have open-mic nights and writers’ workshops.

This Sunday, I’m going to read something of mine to an audience. It might be one, it may be hundreds.  This is a new experience for me. I’m used to public speaking, but I’m not used to reading my stuff. Will it do anything for anyone?

I’m not used to writers’ workshops either, but there is one at the tail end of July. Any use? I don’t know.

I have my doubts about both these events (little sceptic me) but I’ll give them a go.

If I survive maddened throngs, I’ll report back on the experience.


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

New Routines

This is the start of my last era. It is to be hoped I’ll have a quarter of a century of writing, leisure and enjoyment.

To refresh your memories, I retired from employment at the end of 2012, vowing never to work for anyone else again. Over thirty years with a variety of employers, I found I always ended up working for a bunch of assholes.

So, I’ve become self-employed, because, as my wife says, I’m a complete asshole. So now, I’m working for the best.

It has taken us about six weeks to get a phone line and Broadband. We’ve had the wiring and electrics sorted out. All that remains is double glazing and some small bits of building work. Oh, and an ambitious water garden project that I can probably stretch out over the next decade. Well, proper planning is vitally important, don’t you think?

We have now developed (perhaps fallen into is a better description) a nice routine that allows for all facets of life to be enjoyed to the full.

I get up about half-six, do the usual—mugs of tea, cigarettes, shuffle round looking for my spectacles (I have three pairs now, and none of the pairs is ever to hand when I need them. They’re always in that mythical place ‘Elsewhere’.) Then wash, dress and breakfast. I start writing at eight o’clock (-ish) and carry on till eleven when the post arrives.

An hour of dealing with bills and incompetence, answering emails and so on, is followed by an afternoon that can involve reading, walking, fishing, gardening, household repairs or pub lunches (or any combination of those elements). Next Sunday, it will involve taking part in a beach clear-up, disposing of litter and plastic waste.

Then it’s time for supper, followed by a couple of hours writing and a couple of hours reading. Sometimes we go to the cinema instead. Recently we’ve seen Die Hard with a Vengeance, Welcome to the Punch, Oblivion and a remastered version of Lawrence of Arabia. Next week it’ll be Star Trek. I’ve been out with my wife more often in the last six weeks than in the previous six years.

To bed at pumpkin time and repeat the following day. I tend to lose track of what day it is, since they’re all the same and all so good.

The cinema also doubles as an arts venue, but more on that in the next post.

I’ve finished compiling an anthology of short stories called Darkstone Tales, Volume One, to be produced on the Internet (POD or download). Sadly, it’s about forty thousand words too short, so I’m writing a couple of novellas to round it out. More on that later as well.

So, a full and oddly satisfying life. It’s strange how contentment grows in inverse ratio to debts and in direct ratio to free time. Being in control of your life, able to decide what you do every hour; choosing how little or how much to do every day—these are the things that lead to true fulfilment. I think the psychological term (Maslow and his hierarchy of needs) is ‘self-actualization’.

Until the next time—enjoy!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Yet another year!

It seems a long time ago I wrote wishing my readers a happy new year.

Well, it was a long time ago! January 1st, 2012 to be precise. I haven’t posted anything else since.

Mea culpa and all that…

Anyway, happy new year once again.

Things in my life have changed a lot since a year ago.

My mother died in late March, and I’ve had to spend a lot of time sorting out legal stuff – probate, executing the will and preparing to move to the house we inherited in Wales.

Work at Worcester College of Technology got more and more intense, with fewer staff and an increased workload for those of us that remained.

I gave up smoking for six months, started again, gave up again and started again. (Have I counted those right? Stop, start, stop start… yes, I think that’s correct.)

My wife celebrated, if that’s the right word, her sixty-fifth birthday in November.

At about the same time, probate was sorted out. With some money come some options and work became intolerable.

I resigned from Worcester College of Technology in December. At the end of March this year, my wife and I will be moving to Mid Wales for good, after selling the house in Malvern. The plan is to spend six  hours per day writing/editing/rewriting and submitting manuscripts. Add to that some third party editing, some website design and creating interactive educational resources and I’ll be as busy as ever. It’s just that the emphasis will have shifted much more to the writing side.

A few years ago, I wrote a post describing a production-line style of writing, applying standard times and operations for the various phases of fiction production (rewrite, line edit and so on).

It is with a degree of humility (a rare feeling for me, don’t get used to it) that I look back on the confident predictions I made at the start of last year. None of them came to pass. But now, at least, I have enough of a backlog, with the recent addition of a Nano first draft, to implement this industrial approach to the writing process.

Yes, I know I’m looking on the bright side of things. Well. why not? With such a complete change in lifestyle, location and occupation, I have to be excited. Or dead.

In various stages of completion we have:

  • 6 novels
  • 1 novella
  • 5 screenplays
  • 3 anthologies

In later posts I’ll let you know how the production cycle is working out. Right now, I’m finalising exactly how the factory process is to be put into action.

When I’ve worked out the snags and am ready to get into full flow, which should be Monday 28th Jan, one week away, I’ll share the details with you.

Yes, I know you were going to ask for the details,  so I thought I’d save you the embarrassment Smile

Till then, enjoy!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Another year...

Let me wish all my readers a happy new year. I hope 2012 brings you all you would wish for. I even hope it brings all you wish for other people. I'm guessing that's mainly good things...

Me? Well, I've been busy planning. Ask me what I should be doing on, for example, October 17th at 20:30. Go on, ask!

I'm glad you asked. I should be about 70% through writing a query letter and crafting a synopsis for a novel entitled "Innocent Error".

You see, this is the year I get rid of the backlog.

A less anal person might look at some items in their backlog and delete them. Chalk it up to experience and move on. Fragments (oh, yes, I have many fragments) might, rarely, be slated for completion. More likely, they will be ditched. That first book they wrote will garner a fond smile before being burned. It served its purpose as a training exercise. Now it can be forgotten. This sensible, efficient writer will be focused on the future. They are going to produce one novel and twelve short stories this year, all of which will be rewritten, edited, sent out to beta readers, tweaked, honed and given a final polish before being submitted. All of them. A work, once started, will be completed and sent off.

I salute this efficient, unsentimental, effective writer. I wish them well.

I'm not doing that. Oh, no. I'm going through the entire backlog: rewriting, editing, gaining critiques, honing, polishing...

All of them.

I will start 2013 with no backlog. All my works to date will be out there, fighting for attention and sales. That's five novels, four screenplays and three anthologies of short stories. I can just about finish them all, go through the entire production process, submit them to carefully chosen agents - having regard for location, genre, other clientele and general suitability - and maintain a database of submissions. I should submit the last novel on December 30th, just short of midnight. I can look at the database on 31st December 2012 with a degree of smugness.

A sceptical reader might think - oh, poor dear. He's got writer's block. No new ideas, can't face the blank page anymore.

Not at all. I have plots for two more novels, two screenplays and ideas for about 130 other works stored away. I like to say they're maturing nicely. If past experience is anything to go by (and let's face it, at my age, past experience is frequently all I have to go by) I will generate another twenty or thirty good ideas this year.

Talking of past experience, all my hard-earned knowledge of plans and schedules tells me this plan will last perhaps one week before something happens to throw everything off track. Timetables will go awry, word counts will be hopelessly lacking, I'll have to face change of job, bereavement, moving house and the complete demise of Western society as we know it. Ah well, no change there.

Which is why I've restricted my New Year's resolutions to these three:
  • I will submit two different novels to agents this year
  • I will submit two different screenplays to agents this year
  • I will self-publish one anthology of linked short stories
I like the ambiguity. About fifty percent of theoretical maximum output, and I don't specify which novels, screenplays and anthology. Because I know in one year's time, I'll be writing:
"I will start 2014 with no backlog. All my works to date will be out there..."

Until the next time - enjoy!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

You thought they were dead?

In good olde Britain, many years ago, there was a bunch called the Puritans.

They started out with good intentions; they wanted to strip away all the ritual and flummery from Church services. Good on them, we cry!

But then they got into power. And, big surprise, they didn't stop there. They ended up being extremists. They banned singing, dancing and enjoyment. "You are here to praise God, not to enjoy yourself," some of them might have cried. Then we had the restoration; King Charles I, the Merry Monarch, came back and all was well with the world. The Puritans slunk away into the dark, and all was well.

Aye, and all manner of things would be well. No more puritans. The world would never hear of them again.

Did you think that? No more puritans?


They are back, and they run our lives - or try to.

Oh sure, they don't step up, bold as brass, and say "We are Puritans, and we will now control your lives!"

If they said that, OK, fair play, they set themselves up as a target to fight against. But no, not these new puritans.

They sneak in, via unnoticed bye-laws. They infiltrate well-meaning special interest groups. They crawl into local government, or perhaps masquerade as innocuous MPs, disguising their true intent until they have a sniff of power. They recruit naive but eloquent speakers on their behalf.

How to spot one?

Their message is always the same: "Thou shalt not..."

I write this as a man, straight, approaching sixty. I eat meat and fornicate with women. I am of middle height, fat (though I prefer the words stocky or robust), don't exercise much, drink alcohol and smoke.

They hate me.

Daily I am exhorted, stridently, to do things for the sake of: the planet, the environment, my neighbours, my society, my friends, information security, the future of mankind (sorry, personkind) and above all, for the sake of people living in places I can't even pronounce.

If I don't comply, I will be shunned, reviled against in general, and probably taxed. My carbon footprint will be held up to appall the doubters; I will be denounced, heaven forfend, as not green.

These new puritans go further. They will dumb-down any TV serial I might enjoy, because it might give offence to vegetarian, one-legged, vertically-challenged, differently-sane one-parent Esquimaux.

Now, to all vegetarian, one-legged, vertically-challenged, differently-sane one-parent Esquimaux out there who are outraged by my life-style choices, I say: get a life.

To the new puritans out there protesting on their behalf I say: leave your life.

To the rest of us I say: be warned. They haven't gone away. The bastards who would stop you living as you wish are still around, and they mean to stop you.

Give them the sign - you know, the one that means they're number one!

Yes, that finger!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Reality versus perception

This post has been triggered by the Amanda Knox / Meredith Kercher case.

Now, I don't know the details of the case, so I'm not going to comment on the initial verdict or its overturn in the subsequent appeal. But what has struck me is the opposing views of Amanda Knox.

To much of the American media, she is a heroine, unjustly accused, fighting for a thousand days to clear her name. To most of the rest of the world she is evil, manipulative and a sociopath.

Whatever the truth, she will profit from it, no matter how just or unjust that may be. But why the discrepancy?

Why do the American public view her as a clean cut, pretty, young American girl and therefore innocent, persecuted by depraved and corrupt Italian officialdom? Why do the Brits feel she's slithered out of her conviction because of incompetence on the part of - yes, you've guessed it - corrupt Italian officialdom?

Perceptions. That's why. Most of the world regard the Italian police and judiciary as hopelessly corrupt. Most Italians probably think the same. But that does not make it true. Most Americans regard clean-cut American girls abroad as incapable of being criminals. Doesn't make it true. Some people believe the Moon is made of green cheese, and if it isn't then it's really, really unfair. The Moon doesn't care. It isn't made of cheese and isn't going to change for anyone. It has no motivation to make the change. It is made of rock and dust and it's staying that way.

Reality is what it is, and no matter how you view it, it will remain unchanged.

What about the Observer Effect? I hear you cry. You know, where the act of observing (perceiving) something alters the fundamental nature of the thing being watched.

Deep philosophical point. The effect of bombarding sub-atomic particles with X-rays in order to discern their structure might well change their structure, position, spin, charge or any other properties. True. The act of looking at Amanda Knox as an innocent victim does not make her one.

If a branch falls in the forest and no-one is there to observe, has it fallen?

Duh, yes it has. Does it make a sound? Well, who knows. And, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

So the true role of a PR agent is to change our perception of reality and thus influence our actions with regard to that (apparently) altered reality. Not Public Relations but Permeable Reality.

Cool job!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The arrogance of youth

o tempora, o mores...

First let me say if you are reading this, are young and not at all arrogant, this doesn't apply to you. But I bet you can recognise several of your friends. Also, if you're reading this, are not so young and very arrogant - well, welcome to the club.

This post has been inspired by a seventeen-year-old recent member of the Goodreads community. This person, who shall remain nameless save to say he goes by a shortened version of Shakespeare's first name, has apparently never encountered the concept of spellchecking. Neither has he discovered the shift key. Punctuation? Never heard of it.

R u stil wiv me? lmao.

That sort of language, in and of itself, is perhaps excusable. Maybe he missed many years of schooling due to some loathsome and socially embarrassing disease. Maybe he has an old keyboard and the shift key doesn't work. Or maybe he has merely fallen into bad and lazy habits while endlessly texting drivel about American Idol.

What is not excusable is that when it was pointed out to him, gently at first, more scathingly later, that in a group devoted to fiction writing and the improvement thereof, it behooved him to use such basic constructs as sentences; that it was impolite to pour out meaningless, illiterate drivel riddled with errors of spelling and syntax; that complete ideas are often possible even in the most difficult of circumstances; why, what was his reaction?

'i wrt how i wrt lol; lmao; its my ideers thast re impotent.'

When it was mentioned that asking a question like 'how do i publish an e book' showed an arrogant reluctance to do even the most basic of research for himself before asking other people to spend their time on him - same response.

A lazy, arrogant youth with, apparently, precious little to be arrogant about. Maybe he thinks he looks like Brad Pitt.

I have to say he is only the third example of such feckless idiocy I have encountered in three years as a Goodreads member. They generally are self-selected out when they realise it's a site devoted to books.