How The World Has Vanished Into The Middle Distance.

We live in interesting times.

There are omens, portents, gurus and lunatics guiding us to the future. There are plagues, whether manufactured or naturally occurring, scaring the bejeezus out of the elderly. There are rumours of wars to come: wars of culture, race, economics, or even land (the oldest one). There are pressure groups using violence and asylum logic instead of rational argument to convince and individuals who can hear nothing except the echoes of their own opinions. There seems to be a feverish, oddly evangelical desire to tear down and destroy, without any idea of what might emerge from the rubble. There are bandwagons rolling and wealthy celebrities clamber aboard for fear of being uncool or because not doing so will hit the bank balance. There is a strong desire to harm amongst people who until recently were calm and gentle. Twitter is a good example of the propagation of opinions founded only in hatred and a sense that injustice has been done, or a feeling that the Tweeter has of being deprived of something or other by someone or other. When the real or imagined abuser cannot be found alive, then the nearest individual or group with whom the Tweeter disagrees is placed in the spite circle and surrounded by barbarians baying for their blood and a plague upon their house.

Has it always been so? Am I only noticing it at this moment?

Is it a natural phenomenon or are there dark forces working to erase logic, reason, democracy and a sense of fair play?

If, for a moment, we agree that the above is true, then how does this affect writers? Answering my own question, perhaps not at all. Depends on what you write, who you write for, what you write for and whether you consider your writing to have any relevance to contemporary times.

If it does not, then you can laugh gaily at my meanderings and move on to something more interesting.

But I would contend that there is nothing more interesting than examining your own writing. My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that every word ever written has a contemporary relevance, since you, as the writer cannot help but make it so with your treatment of your subject matter, how your characters react to problems and obstacles, the outcomes you choose, the methods by which the outcomes are reached… and on and on. You are, after all, a creature of your time, whether your work is set in the past, the present or the future.

Your bias will show. You are human. Mine is on every page of my modest output. I try to see events from other viewpoints and sometimes succeed at a cost, but I have noticed a distinct similarity of world view from one of my protagonists/antagonists. As an example, currently I am converting several screenplays of mine into novels or novellas. As I sorted through the stuff, the same character appeared in all but one of the scripts. At first, I thought it was a direct reflection of me, but it was not. It was someone else. This was a little puzzling at first. We all include traits into characters with which we are either familiar or with which we have some empathy (usually the heroic ones!). I came to the conclusion that the character was an ideal version of myself, but with flaws I had spotted in others. I have plenty of flaws, I can out-flaw anyone, but it was a purposeful destruction of perfection and had been, until my realisation, subconscious.

My point, made laboriously, is that it may not be the world that has vanished into the middle distance, but me. I reflect my age, class, gender, ethnicity and a set of human sensibilities, the latter modified by the accretion of experience. The world and its opinions represents what it wants, when it wants, dependent on a mystery beyond my intelligence to comprehend, although as a writer of sorts I am allowed to guess.

The world is no longer what it was and neither am I.

It went ahead and changed whilst I wasn’t looking. It became this perceived bedlam because I, the observer, observed it differently. Or perhaps nothing substantial changed and one tiny particle a million light years away decided to appear simultaneously in my cheese and pickle sandwich and I ingested it. I have 50 trillion cells and some of them might be sharing quarters with any other or every other human being because of this one non-existent particle that is only there when I am there to observe it.

Quantum physics has a lot to answer for.

If you have a moment between blockbusters, take a trip through your work and examine the opinions and action of your characters to see if they have a contemporary corollary – sorry about both the alliteration and the pomposity – see how they fit in the current reality we call the world, or do not. Also check if you can identify you, or the perfect you with added flaws, or the character who is unlike you but with whom you have empathy.

Last time I did it I was a Japanese Tozer.

What for you might ask? I think it will improve your writing and stop you writing the same character with and without a beard.

I am hoping it will improve mine, but I have a cupboard full of beards and many hats and false noses, so I have a feeling it will not.

Then there’s your motivation to write what you write… but that’s another story.

Good luck. The writing journey never ends. Even when you try to end it.

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IT’S BEEN A WHILE…

Hello Everyone!

To all those who think I died or was incarcerated in a home for the confused, you are entitled to your opinion. It may be right.

I have been absent from this blog for several years because I could not remember my really clever password and WordPress would not tell me it unless I logged in using my really clever password. I could have started a new blog, but life only has a certain number of beads on its rosary.

By a strange quirk of something or other I have been able to regain my account and will be posting stuff of no interest soon. I will apologise in advance.

It also means I can read what you are posting, which will be far more interesting. I would love to know how you progressed with your writing or whether you too are incarcerated, or currently existing.

I wonder if there is anyone still out there…

 

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Review – Northman

A lovely and honest review of ‘Northman’ by Christine (@YoungByrhtnoth). Bucked me up no end. I thought it had sunk without trace!

Byrhtnoth

“843 AD. A Viking raid on an Anglo-Saxon village in England sets into motion a train of events that results, 1200 years later, in the release of an eternal evil into the lives of two unsuspecting and damaged people: archaeologist Kate and ‘B’ movie film director, Michael.” 

Sounds a bit like last week’s blog post? It’s not, but there is a link. Having written a review of a book combining Anglo-Saxon and humour, why not continue the “Anglo-Saxon and …” theme? I decided on Horror – I fancied a bit of gore. I don’t know where I came across this book, Northman, by J D Hughes. It might have popped up in one of Amazon’s lists of recommended books. The description continues:
Then, their descent into absolute terror begins. Ultimate conflict. Ultimate sacrifice. But more is at stake than their lives, or their love. Are you ready for terror?…

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The End of the Affair: How I Fell In and Out of Love with Social Media

A friend of mine recently developed an interest in transhumanism, the belief that the human condition will, in the future, be enhanced and transformed by the appliance of science. As a matter of course, then, I am regularly told all about the future that awaits us, a future that is either a dream or nightmare depending on your point of view: evolution as a directed and willed progression, rather than a series of random but useful mutations; bionic limbs and implants; artificial intelligence and superintelligence. I listen carefully, and on many levels am attracted by the idea. Who wouldn’t want to have a brain that encompassed both the imaginative and innovative capabilities of the human mind and the memory, speed and efficiency of a computer? Who would say no to having what are, in effect, superpowers?

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It’s Not Always Possible to Be Happy, and that’s OK

amyhenrybooks

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Robert Frost

The first house I owned was built in 1760, located on what is today the edge of the Quabbin Reservoir. As someone who had never lived in a home built before World War II, I was enchanted by all the colonial details: the 12-over-12 windows, the enormous block of local rough-hewn granite that sat above the fireplace (rumored to have taken six men to carry and install). I marveled, too, at the wainscoting in the living room—single boards measuring 3’ x 16’—made from King’s Pines, the oldest, tallest New England white pines reserved exclusively for ships’ masts by the Crown in 1691, but frequently nicked by local colonists for their own building purposes.

Discovering the history behind my new home made me curious about the history of the community. Who were these people…

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NORTHMAN Trailer – Finally!

Over four years after the first edition of Northman was published I have given in and made  a trailer. It cost next to nothing apart from a little time and could have been better with an actual budget and a few actors, but it is what it is and as such I quite like it.

Strangely, when I look back at the edit some of it was actually done in 2013 on an incredibly slow and ancient Mac, so I must have lost faith somewhere in the process, or in the geriatric Mac. I remember going to a Viking re-enactment and talking to a very nice Norse berserker who gave me his card and said he offered financial services for authors. I told him that very few authors made any money so he might accumulate more untaxed income as a berserker. Incidentally, I can endorse the TV show, Vikings, written by Michael Hirst, which in my opinion is as historically accurate as a TV drama about Norsemen could be. The acting is exemplary, particularly from Katheryn Winnick and Travis Fimmel: Lagertha and Ragnar in the show.

Anyway, as always, I welcome any opinions, brickbats, bouquets or abuse, short of stalking or publicly burning copies. If, by some quirk of reality, you do like it, maybe you might give it a ‘like’ on YouTube. I have no idea if doing so means anything at all…

To those of you who have made a book trailer, perhaps you would let me know if yours had any effect on sales or visibility. I’m not convinced, but you may think differently and as  I contemplate doing a trailer for And Soon The Song, you might save me a lot of energy that I could  have put into not writing.

ps If you want to see it full screen, just click the YouTube icon after pressing the red Play button.

 

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When The Writing Goes Away…

A blog post by my friend, author Mari Biella, in which she spoke of her current inability to write and the feeling of loss that accompanies this unpleasant and temporary bedfellow, prompted me to re-examine my writing – or lack of it over the last two years. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t doing any because I didn’t want to.256px-Gustave_Courbet_auto-retrato

After two novels, in one of which I went to dark places that I would rather have avoided, I knew on an unconscious level that I did not want to revisit any of those places. True, there are characters in that particular book I love, none of them human, but the book is all too raw and despite my best attempts to avoid exploitation I don’t think I succeeded. I am better pleased with my first novel, but even it has edges that, like paper, cut secretly and silently.

So, where to? The horror genre is not for me and although I will continue to write short stories in which horror might intrude from time to time – as it does in real life – my last novel was my last horror novel. I see there is another J.D. Hughes on Amazon now, writing Erotica, so that avenue is closed, for which I will thank my daemons!

I think the death of my mother a few months ago was a great influence on my decision. mum-at-wedding2She was the gentlest and most harmless soul who ever walked the earth, a Yorkshire woman through and through with the characteristic ‘say nowt and get on wi’ it’ attitude of her class and generation that made England resilient to successive waves of would be invaders. I was raised in a Yorkshire mining town, so acquired a little by osmosis. It was a stoic resilience exploited by the rich and powerful to ensure the trenches were full of dead, but it was nevertheless an honest and somehow innocent thing that ignored its usage and concentrated instead on its truth.

We were close and her death affected me in many ways beyond explanation, but on a banal level it confirmed what I had known for some time: do no harm, tread lightly and life is short so  we have to fill it with some kind of joy to celebrate the gift. I find myself vague about what I mean by that, but I’m sure it is not the portrayal of the worst elements of humanity in vivid form that enables joy. There is sufficient of that horror every day on our TV screens and although occasionally there is a diamond of light in long form horror fiction, it is, to me now, mostly a gleeful wallowing in darkness and misery.

Those who have read my stories will know that I love history, particularly English history so that might be an avenue I could pursue… but I probably won’t, because it is a relating of past events and I am more interested in the future.

Thriller? Today’s thrillers are visceral and many succeed because of that element, so there is little difference between it and horror, although there are several writers I admire who keep the bloodletting to a minimum with great skill and compassion, yet still manage to weave a compelling and sometimes memorable tale.

I ran through the genres last night and came up with nothing. I considered ‘Literature’, but I have no idea what it is. A beta reader for whom I have much respect said to me once: ‘I love your writing, but it’s way too complicated. Most readers want a story that goes from A to Z with an occasional backtrack into F or P, but not an alphabet jigsaw.’ She did go on to say that all the pieces fitted, but it demanded too much from the reader.

I agree. I get carried away. Mea culpa. I used to like layer cake, too.

I now have a new companion.img_20161107_152048 He came from my Mum’s house (she collected them)  and now has pride of place at my writing desk. He is a simple bear and unsurprisingly his name is Ted. I tried to call him Marcus, after Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, but he refused to take heed when addressed as such, so Ted it is. I have started talking to him, so predictions by one of my more irascible neighbours about my descent into senility are probably not unfounded. It is interesting that he rarely agrees with me, so I have to assume that he is my alter ego, my Id, my subconscious, whatever you want call it, but I asked the question, ‘What should I write?’

It was a stuffed bear moment. His barely visible eyes gleamed a little and I swear his shoulders shook momentarily, but that might have been the whisky – he’s a terrible drinker. His lips didn’t move, since he has an absence of them, but I’m sure I caught a whispered: ‘Whatever you like.’

So that is what I will write. Whatever I like. ‘Like’ is the operative word here. That will be different on different days and will no doubt end up as a terrible mish-mash of genres with abysmally crafted prose and obtuse humour funny to no-one except me and perhaps Ted, after a glass or two.

But I’ve started on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lost for Words

Some years ago, I published a book, Loving Imogen, in which one of the characters, a photographer, says this:

“A photographer is by virtue of what he does, and these days I really manage to do very little at all.”

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Self-publishing and the snobbery issue

Alison Williams Writing

lady-b

I work with all different types of authors, those who are hoping to secure a publishing deal, those who are chasing the self-publishing dream and even a couple who have gone on to secure a deal with one of the big five (or six, or whatever it is). Some of these writers are brilliant, some are really talented, some are steady, dependable story tellers who can spin a good yarn, some aren’t that great, some have accepted help and advice and have improved in leaps and bounds, a few I have advised to go right back to the drawing board and there have been a handful who I have had to advise that writing is perhaps not the path for them (this is at the sample edit stage – I never take a penny from authors in this situation).

You might be surprised to know that most of the authors…

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HOW TO SPEND THREE YEARS PUBLISHING A PAPERBACK

Source: HOW TO SPEND THREE YEARS PUBLISHING A PAPERBACK

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