Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Three Days in Syrupville




Not for me your package holidays, with the sunshine and the beer and the food and the dysentery. Not interested. Nor do I entertain the notion of a couple of weeks travelling this or any other country in search of new cultures and experiences. Pah.

I’m a writer you see, and that means, above all else, that I have no money.

Normally the closest I get to a summer holiday is avoiding incompetent suicide bombers as I drop various members of my family off at Glasgow Airport then pick them up again two weeks later, pretending not to be bothered about their tans, stories of adventure and stress free state of mind as I break the news that I’ve forgotten to re-stock their fridge, water their plants, record CSI Miami or feed their pets (or children, in some cases).

This year was different though. I actually left the city for more than an hour. I took it upon myself to suggest to a dear friend and fellow writer that we might venture forth on a trip to the fine hamlet (I should point out at this time that I have no idea what a ‘hamlet’ is) of Wigtown, which is somewhere in Scotland but quite far away from Glasgow and therefore counts as ‘travel’.

Wigtown is known as ‘Scotland’s Book Town’, because it has more book shops per head of population than anywhere else in the country. It has twelve, which gives you a rough idea of its size.

This would be reason enough to visit the place, but Wigtown also hosts a Book Festival every year and it just so happened that this year’s coincided with one of the weeks annual leave I randomly assigned myself in January (I’m a writer not an idiot, of course I have a proper job).

More important than any of this was the fact that I found online a really cheap hotel with a couple of rooms to spare in nearby Newton Stewart - cheap but extremely well run, I hasten to add.

And so, I went on holiday. It was great.

The festival lasts for ten days, though for reasons too financially embarrassing to go into we were only there for three. It was only going to be two originally, until I discovered that one of my favourite writers, Iain Banks, was making an appearance on the Wednesday and hastily decided Jake the dog could survive on Cheerios for another few days (hey, I did too). Another of my favourite authors, Christopher Brookmyre, was also appearing but that was on the previous Saturday so he had no chance.

We booked tickets for Iain Banks in advance, but, to be honest, nothing else really grabbed out attention for the days we’d be there. I did spot, though, that there was going to be a special showing of The Wicker Man on the Thursday and booked a couple of tickets for that, too. You should never turn down the chance to see Christopher Lee in a dress, I always say.

By way of an apology to Mr Brookmyre I listened to the audio version of A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away on the drive down, coming to the uncomfortable realisation as I did so that I’ve stolen far more from him in my own writing than I’d previously realised, heh. Anyway, moving on …

Iain Banks did not disappoint. As soon as I saw how horrible he viewed the idea of doing a reading from his latest novel, Transition, I knew he was a good guy. He read the prologue. As he put it, the only point in favour of the existence of prologues in novels is that they allow the author to read something without having to explain any context to the audience beforehand.

Following the reading, which was executed with eloquence and grace but enough of a sweaty brow to prove he wasn’t having any fun, Banks was interviewed by a man from a newspaper (I know, I know, I should remember who it was but I can’t, and research isn’t, and never will be, a strong point. Literary editor of one of the posh papers, I think). Three things struck me about Banks over the course of the interview. One - he’s a very, very intelligent man. Two - he’s a very, very Scottish man. Three - he’s a very, very funny man. Oh, and four - he’s happy to say ‘fuck’ in front of a live audience (that probably just reinforces the second point, right enough). He was brilliant.

One of the big fears I’ve always had about attending such events is that writers, in the flesh, tend towards the introverted and, dare I say it, boring. I know I am. But I urge you to go and see Iain Banks if you ever get the chance, you won’t regret it. Oh yeah, his books are fucking (that was a tribute) superb, too.

Over the next couple of days we also ended up seeing Nick Nairn talking about food (funny, smart, slightly smarmy but refreshingly honest), and David Aaronovitch talking about how conspiracy theories are a load of rubbish (probably got a point, to be fair). More importantly though, we went to all the bookshops.

As previously mentioned I on occasion pretend I’m a writer, and words are therefore important to me. They should be carefully, surgically even, chosen to esure they elucidate precisely the point one wishes to make, leaving no room for doubt or confusion. With regard to the bookshops of Wigtown, then, I can phrase my reaction in only one way - Holy Shite!

I could, happily and forever, live in any or all of those little havens (especially the one with the free coffee). They were all, all, second hand stockists! Is there a finer thing on the planet that a room (or several rooms found via winding corridors and unexpected starways) full of old books? I don’t think so.

I held, opened and yes, bought, books I didn’t know existed, I’d forgotten existed and was delighted to discover still existed.

I went to the counter in one shop and was served by two dogs, for God’s sake! Okay, their owner (and the shop’s as it turned out) soon appeared to shoo them away, but that just isn’t going to happen in Waterstones, let’s not kid ourselves.

Here’s to the small things; be they towns, shops, writers, festivals or egos. And yes, I spent a bloody fortune on books. Jake is still on the your-owner’s-a-twat diet, but I don’t regret it for a second (other than when he gnaws hungrily at my elbows).

As I drove home, still listening to Christopher Brookmyre’s amazingly prophetic pre-echo of my writing style (the man must have a time machine, it’s the only explanation) I thought several things: One - I’m glad I have a good friend who’s willing to put up with my whims, wistfullness and the fact I’m a bit of a wanker. Two - I’m glad my car’s exhaust held out. Three - I’m glad one of my heroes didn’t disappoint. Four - I’m glad places like Wigtown exist.

My advice? Go.

* this article was first published in issue 1 of Words With Jam

Sunday, November 29, 2009

So, Is That Me A Journalist Now?




Sadly not, but I did write an article for the first time recently, and it was fun.
A new, free, e-zine aimed at the writing community called Words With JAM put out its first issue this weekend, and, who'd have thunk it, it only includes a couple of pieces from yours truly. Don't be put off though, it has good stuff in it, too.
I'd love to say I was head hunted by a major magazine publisher desperate to print my words of whimdom, but that's not quite the truth. What actually happened was that the editor in chief/owner/omnipotent ruler of fledgling outfit Quinn Publications, JD Smith, turns out to be a mate of mine, and therefore felt no compunction whatsoever in commanding that I help out with a couple of bits and pieces to fill some gaps between the proper writers.

One of my included rambles is a reproduction from this blog (the moan about publishing), and the other, on my recent trip to the Wigtown Book Festival, I wrote specifically for the magazine, but may steal and put up here sometime, for purposes of symmetry. I have JD's permission to do this, but not until she's sure everyone who might remotely care has already read it (or not) in the magazine.

Issue one has loads of excellent content, including an exclusive by best selling author of Caligula and Claudius, Douglas Jackson, on his inspirations and influences.

There's a great piece by Dan Holloway on the art or rewriting, probably the trickiest part of the entire writing process, and questions and queries are answered by Lorraine Mace, all round expert on the technicalities involved in stringing words together and co author of The Writers' abc Checklist.

Other highlights include Perry Isles having a wee rant about names to avoid having to work on his current novel, Derek Duggan telling Irate from Chester to fuck off and a short story from the masterful JW Hicks among others. There's even a poem (don't panic, it's short and there's only one).

So, if you're one of the three people who sometimes read this blog and you haven't yet subscribed to Words With JAM, I suggest you do so now. Actually, I order you to do so now. If you don't I'll have you killed (I know people, me).

It's funny, informative, entertaining and, most importantly to writers (if you're anything like me) it's free!

Words With JAM - it's sticky, but not in a bad way.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Perilously Painful Path to Publication

This isn't a moan, honest. Well, maybe it is a bit. I am very proud and thankful that something I've written has made it into print, I genuinely am. But, the process of getting there isn't always pretty, or fun, or stress free, or in any way enjoyable at all. Thought I'd share my own experience:

WYLMT - a history

In 2005 I spotted an ad in the paper for a competition called Undiscovered Authors. I hadn’t finished WYLMT at that point (I was about halfway through), but the comp only asked for a single chapter to be sent in, so I thought I’d give it a try.
A couple of months later I was informed that, although not a winner, my chapter had been shortlisted for the West of Scotland region, which was nice.

In 2006 I learned that the competition was being run again, and this time they wanted full manuscripts. I had finished WYLMT by that point and failed to get any interest from agents etc, so figured I might as well have another go, sending the book in, I think, October 2006.
In around March/April of 2007, I learned that WYLMT had been placed first in the Scottish region, and come third in the UK overall. The prize was a traditional one book publishing deal plus £1000. Happiness!

My contact with the publishers was a lovely, helpful lady called Natalie. She informed me that over the course of the next few months I would be assigned an editor and cover designer to work with. Cool!
The initial plan was to roll out all the winning books, one per month, between autumn 2007 and early 2008. The order of publication to be decided by which manuscripts were ready first. Fair enough.
Then the contract arrived. I had an actual publishing contract in my hands. I did read it, and noted that the prize money wasn’t due until ‘within’ six months of the book’s publication. It would have been nice to get it there and then, but bugger it, I could wait a few months. I signed.

The draft I entered in the comp was 145k words long (hey, the first draft was 170k!) and Natalie gently suggested I might want to try to cut the word count a little by myself, before it went to the editor. Being a na├»ve idiot who knew nothing about the publishing world, or average first novel word counts, I was of course incredibly offended by this. Still, I figured she must know what she was on about, and duly started combing through the MSS for bits I wouldn’t miss too much. Every lost word, phrase, sentence and scene was like being stabbed in the heart with a knitting needle, but I struggled manfully with the task set to me, and, eventually, managed to get it down to around 138k. That was the absolute minimum I was prepared to accept.
Then it went to the editor, who promptly cut another 12 thousand words. Some of the bits she got rid of were, I thought, essential to the story, and couldn’t believe they wanted me to take them out. I was wrong, of course.
Ah well.

Then, in, I think, September 2007, I got an email from the cover designer assigned to work on the book, and, over the next few weeks, we worked together (by which I mean he did all the work, and I made a couple of colour suggestion so as not to look too stupid) and came up with a cover that I am still extremely proud of. It was the highlight of the whole publishing experience up to that point, seeing that finished cover layout.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be the only highlight I was going to get, for quite some time.

At around the same time as the cover was being put together, Natalie informed me that she was taking an extended sabbatical from the company. I was sorry to see her leave, even though she assured me she would be back in a couple of months, and that her boss, Jennie, would be looking after me in the interim.
Fair enough, I thought. After all, the edit and cover were locked, so there wasn’t much more to be done, and I was looking forward to seeing the book published within a month or two. I joked with Natalie that it would be out before she returned. I turned out to be right about that. I never heard from Natalie again. At the time I didn’t realise this was about to become a trend.

I received an email from Jennie in October 2007, letting me know everything was on schedule and she would let me know the publishing date soon. I was on my way! I was about to become a published author and, the painful edit aside, I had loved every minute of the process.

And then, well, nothing happened. A lot. For ages.

I emailed Jennie, oh, about 3 dozen times over the next month or two, but got no reply to any of my queries. Christmas came and went. The seasons changed, but the silence in my inbox didn’t.

Being a level headed, mature and sensible individual, I of course started panicking quite considerably. Where was Jennie? Why was she ignoring me? Why wasn’t I a bloody published author yet?

By February, I was a wreck. I had googled the publishers, and discovered they were being lambasted by writers, customers, former staff members, by pretty much everyone. They were called a fraud, a vanity publisher with delusions of grandeur they couldn’t follow through on. They owed people money, they owed former staff wages, they owed everyone.
They owed me a bloody published novel!
With a little more digging, I learned that they’d lost their partner/backer and their finances were in a mess.
Throughout all of this, I was still emailing Jennie, desperate for a response, for some reassurance.

Finally, it occurred to me that phone calls are slightly harder to ignore than emails, and I made the call. The person who answered the number I had for Jennie was a. not Jennie (the clue was in his name, Alan), and b. said a completely different company name to the publisher’s when he answered. I was not encouraged by this.

I explained my situation, and he assured me that yes, the publishers were still active and in business and that he actually worked for their sister company, a wholesalers, and was just manning the phones temporarily. He also explained that Jennie had ‘moved on’ several months previously and that the reason I hadn’t got an answer to any of my emails was that her account, although not cancelled, wasn’t being monitored. Bit of a screw up that, I thought but didn’t say. Alan assured me he would pass on my details to the appropriate person that day, and someone would call me back by the next morning at the very latest.
Three weeks later I still hadn’t heard anything. I phoned back. I’m convinced it was Alan who answered again, though he denied any knowledge of having spoken to me previously, and subtly failed to give me his name. Again, I explained my situation, and again I was assured that the appropriate person would call me back within the day. Have a guess if they did.
Another three weeks later, this was repeated, exactly.

Somewhere in between all of this (I can’t quite remember when, possibly December 07) I did get one email, from a lady who’s name I can’t recall, telling me that she was now in charge of my book, Love You Tomorrow [sic]. I answered her enthusiastically, relieved at this lifeline. She never answered, and I never heard from her again. I presume she also ‘moved on’.

By April/May of 2008, I had given up. It was over, I decided. It was a nice dream but it wasn’t to be. My thoughts turned to figuring out if I still owned the copyright of WYLMT, or if that was lost, too. This was not a happy time.

And then, in late May/early June, I got an email from Michaela. She was, apparently, now in charge of my book, though she didn’t have any of my previous correspondence, a copy of the MSS or the edited version on file. She had the cover though, thank God!
I pulled a bit of a sneaky at this point, I have to admit. As she didn’t have the edited version on file and needed me to send it to her, I took the opportunity to put back in a few of the bits the editor had removed. I know it was wrong, but it was only a few hundred words, a particular scene I was very fond of. Okay, maybe a couple of scenes. Okay, it was 2000 words worth. Bugger it, it was still nearly 50k shorter than the first draft!

Suddenly, we were back on track. I would have a proof copy for me to check within a matter of weeks. Result! I was elated, obviously. Then the proof copy arrived. The cover looked great, it has to be said.

Instead of sending me digital galleys (is that the term?) to proof and correct, they sent me a physical copy of the book, and asked that I list any corrections required and send them to the typesetters. Okay, how hard can that be, I thought? Well, discovering that every single instance of italics had been lost somewhere in translation made it pretty bloody hard, to be honest.
It took more than two weeks to list all the corrections. As well as the italics there were missing quote marks, missing para indents, line breaks where there shouldn’t be, no line breaks where there should, etc etc.
The final list of corrections ran to 32 pages and 12,000 words. Not my happiest writing experience, that.

Still, I got it done, and we were on our way again. Michaela estimated we could publish by September. She even asked if there was a particular date around then I would like to go for. Well, my birthday’s October 1st, so I figured I’d give myself a present.

And that was it, it was a done deal. I would become a published author on 1st October, 2008. Nothing could stop me now!

My thoughts turned to organising a launch. Well, more a celebration party, to be honest. In the book I mention a few Glasgow pubs, and a couple of real life local bands. One of those bands happen to play every Thursday in one of those pubs. Seemed an obvious choice. I booked The Scotia Bar’s lounge for Thursday October 9th. Mary, the lovely manager, not only gave me the venue for free, but let me bring my own wine and did some sandwiches on the house. Plus, as the band were playing anyway, the entertainment would be free, too. Result!

Then Michaela went on holiday for the entire month of September. And, you guessed it, no one monitored her emails while she was away. I needed forty copies of the book to sell at the launch. I sent email after pointless email, to no avail. When, by the last week in September, I’d still had no response, I had to cancel the launch. Mary very kindly offered me the option to rebook at a later date.

When Michaela returned she was hugely apologetic. Although the ‘official’ publishing date would still be 1st October, it would take a couple of weeks to actually get some copies together. She assured my that if I rebooked the launch for Thursday 23rd October, all would be well. She was nearly right.

She did indeed arrange for my forty copies to be posted up to Glasgow in good time. Unfortunately, she put the wrong address on the boxes.
I spent the 22nd, while I should have been at work, touring the greater Glasgow area desperately trying to find the delivery company’s depot. Finally, at 6pm the evening before the launch, I got my copies.

The launch, incidentally, was a great night. The band were great, the sandwiches were great, the pub was great, and they were all free! I had shrewdly avoided the necessity of doing a reading by hiring an actress friend of mine to do it for me, and she did a great job (she wasn’t free, cost me a bottle of Jack Daniels and a bag of chips, that one). All forty copies were sold, and I was a happy man.

And that was it, finally I was a published author. The book was there for all to see on Amazon and everything! The price was wrong, right enough. And it was worryingly showing as ‘out of stock’.
I had cannily asked a few friends and family members to order the book through shops, rather than buying it from Amazon. The publishers being not too large, established or, frankly, competent, I figured this was a good way to bring it to shop managers’ attention. As writers will know, to get a book from a shop it has to go via a wholesaler, in this case, Gardners.
Shouldn’t be a problem - the shop places the order with Gardners, they order it from the publisher, the publisher sends it to Gardners, Gardners send it to the shop, and the job is done.

Seven weeks later, not one of the shop ordered copies had arrived.

Turned out Gardners had been making the same fatal mistake I’d made myself in the past - sending the order to an email address that no one in the publishers thought it wise to monitor. Oh, how I didn’t laugh.

For the first time (amazingly, not sure how I held my temper up till then) in my history with the publisher, I sent a very rude email, detailing just how disappointed and shocked I was at their apparent lack of even basic business acumen.
That did the trick (I sent it to the MD).

Now, the book is readily available on Amazon (at the correct price), Gardners have a holding stock and it’s on the shelves of a number of Waterstones stores. It’s even in libraries. It got reviewed in the biggest selling Scottish daily newspaper (The Daily Record), where it was described as one of the best debut novels of 2008.

So, all’s well that ends well.

Heh.

The prize money (you didn’t think I’d forgotten about that, did you?). The book was ‘published’ on October 1st, 2008. Which meant that, according to the publishing contract, my prize money was due to be paid on, at the very latest, April 1st, 2009.

Want to bet if I’ve got it yet?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

People Are Lovely

Don't worry, I've not become a weird hippy, everyone's still a bunch of bastards, of course.
I may be a slightly more normal sort of hippy, though.

Children and impressionable people look away now, I'm about to get x-rated again and say something unconscionable:

Talking to strangers can be good.

Not the puppy worrying sort, obviously, but I met a man with a whippet at the weekend, and he turned out to be a very fine fella indeed.
He had been battling food poisoning and small town apathy for days, yet still managed to be the finest host a drunk could ask for. I have never before witnessed such an expanse of bottled beer and, eh, ... something else beginning with 'B' ... oh yeah, books.

The launch of Moffat Book Month in the Chambers Gallery in Moffat's High Street was an invitation only do, and I was one of the lucky ones. Put it this way, if you weren't invited you wish you were. If you were invited and didn't turn up, you're a fool and I hope you're already making plans for next year.

A very successful art gallery has decided to devote one month a year to the art of writing, as opposed to that stuff people do with paint and pictures.
If you're a writer and you're reading this, get yourself involved.

Not only did I get the opportunity to discover some very interesting books, I also got to have a few beers with some very fine writers, some of whom I'd met 'online' previously, and some I hadn't.

Biggest surprise of the evening for me: There's not a single one of them I wouldn't happily go for a pint with, or trust with my dog.

People are lovely, it seems.

It's hard to be cynical at times like this. I hate nature for that.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Moving Across the (On)Line

I'm going to this thing tomorrow, in this place, where I'm going to meet these people.
I'm a bit worried.
It's a thing I know about but have never seen; it's a place I've heard of, but never been; they're people I know of, but haven't yet screened.

The thing and the place aren't the issue, to be fair. The people, though...

I spoke to them all, but only looked one in the eyes. We've all shared our secrets, and sometimes our cries.
I'd better stop rhyming, as I've just realised ... that this isn't a bloody poem. Sorry.

In actual fact, I'm looking forward to tomorrow a great deal.
Perry Isles, a good guy (I surmise) and a great writer (I know for a fact) is hosting a writing event in his shop/gallery in Moffat, during August.
The month will be dedicated to celebrating (and hopefully selling a few) books by authors who have found their way into publication by the less traditional routes, i.e. via indy publishers, competitions and self-publishing, etc. Perry has very kindly invited several writers, myself included, to the launch party tomorrow.
I envisage a piss-up of great magnitude, as does Perry, given the amount of alcohol he's apparently bought in (yay!).

But, I am going to meet in person for the first time, a few people I've only known online up till now, including the aforementioned Perry.

I'm not overly worried about this, as, so far, my experience in this area has been positive.
I have, up till now, met two people in 'the flesh' who I'd previously only encountered in the ter net. I'm delighted to report that, on both occasions, it went well and I have, hopefully, made a couple of good friends there.

Tomorrow I'm going to meet a few more. All at once. And they're all writers. And (shh, don't tell anyone) better writers than me!

Some are published, some are self-published and some are unpublished, but they're all bloody good, I know that.

Is this, I find myself thinking, when I get caught? Is this when it becomes obvious, to people who know, that I don't have a bloody clue what this writing malarky is all about; that I've been winging it?
I don't know the first thing about literature, never have. When I was writing WYLMT I had to keep a published novel at my side at all times so I could check if I was formatting the paragraphs properly (and I still got it wrong). I was on chapter 28 before I finally figured out the its/it's thing, and still don't have a clue about passed/past.
I'm the guy who read somewhere that all writing should be double spaced when submitting to agents etc, so put two spaces between each word, for an entire novel. It never occurred to me that it meant an extra space between lines. That was not a fun edit, believe me. Took me months to get out of the habit of hitting the space bar twice.
The writers I'm meeting tomorrow, on the other hand, are, well, clever fuckers.

The one thing I do have going for me, thankfully, is that, a. one of the two people I mentioned earlier I've already met is going to be there, so I can hide behind her if it gets dicey, and b. I get the distinct impression that everyone else who's going is intending to get really drunk too, so hopefully they won't remember a thing I say.
Thank Christ for alcohol (which is hopefully what those folks at that wedding did).

Anyway, once again I've completely failed to make a point. Becoming a habit with me, that.
I'd hate to be an advocate for meeting up with people you've met online, because there are so many ways that could go badly, but, for me, so far, it's actually been a very positive experience, and I have no doubt Perry's event tomorrow will only reinforce that.

Which just goes to show, I'm a rubbish moral guardian. Shit, I've never even robbed or stabbed anyone when I've been drunk or on drugs.

KIDS - Don't listen to a word I say, ever!


Moffat Book Month, Chambers Gallery, High Street, Moffat (it's in Scotland)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Critiquer's Guilt

There's a tacit agreement between writers on various critique sites across the cyberland. The deal is - you do your bit, we'll do ours, i.e if you have something you want some help with, you should be helping out others with their stuff. It's not a tit-for-tat thing (or shouldn't be, at least). It just says that, to make the world a fairer and more just place, you should put in as much work helping others as you expect others to put into helping you.
It's not important who you actually help, as long as you're seen to pull your weight, in a pay-it-forward sort of way.
This is a great system, relying as it does on people's inherent altruism and faith in human nature, which is always going to work out for the best, after all.

A problem occurs on those sites where there's an element of competition, of course. What if you need the goodwill of others to push your work up the chart/ladder/pyramid of misery? But, they're all also trying to find their way up there. How does that work?
Is it actually a crit they're looking for, you find yourself thinking, or just a shove up, a nudge closer to the perceived prize?
Is it possible that, by trying to help and point out things you may think aren't working in their work, you could actually be seen as a saboteur? You'd think not, but ....

You said you quite liked it, but didn't give me 5 out of 5 in every category!

You mentioned problems I don't agree with, and only gave me 3s! Don't you know how this site works? By not giving me 5s in every category you've destroyed my chances of ever...

... ever what? Winning? Winning what, exactly?

There are other sites where numbers aren't involved, you just 'back' a writer, or you don't. Sorry, got that a bit wrong, there, you 'back' a book, not a writer.
Yeah, of course you do.

I imagine you're now expecting me to gibber on about how 'good' writing never rises to the top under such circumstances.
I wouldn't know 'good' writing if it slapped my syllables.

I just like the stuff I like, no intellectualism required.

For me, anyone who professes to be 'literary' is already so far up their own arse that I fully expect to see them peering at me from inside their own mouths, as they scream in outrage at a world that dares to ignore them.

Bugger, did I have a wee rant, there? Sorry.

The original point I so clearly failed to make was this: I cannot, for the life of me, be arsed doing any more critiques. I honestly can't, at least not for a while. And I feel bad about that.

There are sites where there is no competition, and the only goal is to help writers become better at their craft. These are places where you know anyone offering a crit is sincere and truthful, and has taken a lot of time and effort in order to help you out. There are many kind people who've held up their side of the bargain and critted my stuff, even when I'd forgotten I'd put it up there (which is no excuse). I know I owe them, or at least the sites, the same amount of effort.

And yet, I can't be arsed. I'm at a point, currently, where I don't want to read stuff and be critical, I just want to, well, read.
I want to read for fun, not for work. Is that bad? I don't know.

It shouldn't be, I don't think. Surely it's okay just to want to read, for reading's sake. Why on Earth should I feel guilty about that?

Must be the Catholic in me.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bring the Funny

Someone (her name's Phillipa, feel free to have her shot) asked me to talk about writing comedy, recently.
Huh?
How can you talk about writing comedy?
What does it even mean, the word comedy? What's funny, to you? Yes, you, the person reading this. What do you find funny? I'm serious, please tell me.

I learned what was funny through my dad. He introduced me to Monty Python, and Peter Sellers, and Spike Milligan and, through all of them, the art (and it is an art) of being daft.
Then he allowed me to meet Billy Connolly (I was six and terrified, bloody Banana boots), and Rikki Fulton; and Chic Murray, and Dave Allen and, basically, some of the funniest people who had ever lived till that point. My dad introduced me to all of these guys before I reached double figures.

To be fair, I was only really interested in Spider-Man, back then.
Still am, if I'm honest.

But, something must have leeched through because apparently I write funny stuff now.
I do remember, when I started on the first scene of WYLMT (a suicide scene), getting to a point where I wanted to make a joke and having to make the decision - should I? Is this a situation where a joke is appropriate? What's this book about, for God's sake? (at that point I thought it was going to be boring). And I do remember very deliberately saying to myself - fuck it, make the joke. So I did. I wrote the words -

The geriatric GP had, after overcoming his instinctive urge to prescribe a course of antibiotics, embarked on an epic journey of discovery in a bid to find out just how many different combinations of anti-depressants and sedatives it was possible for one man to take without noticing any beneficial effect whatsoever.

Not that funny, I know, but that was the exact moment I became a writer of humour as opposed to a chronicler of mental illness. Funny how that works. Antibiotics made me the writer I am. Weird (cured a couple of embarrassing infections too, so I can't complain).

After that point, WYLMT became a determined exercise in trying to make tragedy funny, without dismissing the tragedy. It's for others to decide if I managed it, but that was the plan.

Then came Scratch, book two. That started as a short story about my memories (very fond memories) of my first love, and an internal debate about what's best - first or last? You know, first kiss/last kiss, first hug/last hug, first fantasy/last fantasy etc. The phrase Champion the Wonder Horse appeared, and suddenly that was a comedy, too.
Scratch then, for various bizarre reasons, became an exercise in comedy (cos laughing at it was easier). And, oddly, it seemed to work - people laughed, a lot, apparently.
And that was it. I was a 'funny' writer.

And now I have people asking me to talk about writing comedy. How the hell did that happen?
What do I know about it?
Eh, at best I know this - people are funny. REAL people are funny. Every conversation I have, with anyone, everyone's going for the joke.
Doesn't matter if it's at work, in a meeting, in the pub, with a mate I've known for twenty years or a manager I've only just met - everyone's looking for a joke. It's human nature.
Bottom line - How does one person make another person like them/not hate them/ feel predisposed not to axe-murder them? Make them laugh, that's how.

So, how do you write funny stuff? Easy, write about real people. It really is that simple.

And, if you need a couple of your characters to have a boring conversation to move the plot along, give one of them a hangover or, at the very least, make something else be happening - a lost necklace or a bitey pet should do it.

So, having managed to write an entire post about comedy without a single laugh (told you it's not something to be talked about), I should probably end with a joke. Very well:

In a small town, an elderly couple had been dating each other for a long time.
At the urging of their friends, they decided it was finally time for marriage. Before the wedding, they went out to dinner and had a long conversation regarding how their marriage might work. They discussed finances, living arrangements and so on.
Finally, the old gentleman decided it was time to broach the subject of their physical relationship.
"How do you feel about sex?" he asked, rather trustingly.
"Well," she said, responding very carefully, "I'd have to say... I would like it infrequently."
The old gentleman sat quietly for a moment, then, over his glasses, he looked her in the eye and casually asked ...
"Is that one word, or two?"



sorry

Monday, July 6, 2009

Writing

Writing is funny. By 'funny' I mean 'odd and distasteful', not actually humourous, obviously.

I'm not talking about the end result, but the act itself. The end result could well be funny, or thrilling, or enlightening, or beautiful, or scary, or rubbish, or, well, any number of things. That's for readers to decide.

The 'act' of writing, though, is weird.

I've had what I believe is known as 'writer's block' for an age, now. I finished Scratch two years ago. I kept editing it for another year or so. I think it's finished, now. It isn't, of course, but I'm sick of it so chose to move on.

What did I move on to? Eh ...

I moved on to Facebook. And Twitter. And stuff.

Writing wise, I didn't move anywhere. I was resolutely stumped.

I remember, long before I was pretending to be a writer, the phrase write what you know.

I assumed that was a credo, and followed it.

In WYLMT I wrote what I knew, or some of what I knew at least. I knew about being an unsuccessful musician, I knew about working with people with learning disabilities, I knew about, sadly, depression. I knew about dogs, I knew about drama students, I knew about disappointed but ever hopeful parents. I knew how it felt to get a terrible haircut. All the serious stuff, I knew.
That was a pretty easy, if painful, book to write.

Then came Scratch. What was left to write, that I knew about? Hmm...
Dead end jobs? Yep. Being a barman? Yep. Not knowing the meaning of the word 'adult'? Yep. Managing to screw up relationships, even the second time round? Yep.
That was a pretty easy, if painful, book to write.

So, what's next? What else do I know? What else do I have to comment upon? Answer - nothing. I'm done. The shallow quarry of me has been fully excavated. Two novels did it, they were enough. There's bugger all left in there, it's a vacant lot.

But, I apparently still want to write. Is that just because it's become a habit? A hobby?

I've done my demons - depression is dead to me now, I wrote it out, I killed it (in chapter one). WYLMT achieved its purpose in that respect. The fact that it ended up getting published was, and continues to be, a bonus.
Scratch let me write my way out of relationship hell. Job done.
Both books were about normal people dealing with, sometimes, not ordinary situations.
So, what do I write next?

Jesus, I've been searching for something, and getting it wrong. Badly wrong. I've made the mistake of trying to create extraordinary situations for characters to react to. That's no bad thing, but the mistake I've made is to come up with the circumstance first, not the characters.
I have, so far, had an earthquake, a bomb blast, and a guy who can read other people's minds, but only when they're thinking about him.

These are not things I'm likely to be good at writing about. Why did I come up with them? Because they weren't things I knew about. That was a good reason, a couple of hours ago. It isn't, now.

It occurred to me tonight that there's no point in denying what you're good(ish) at. I can do real people in real relationships who get life wrong a lot.
I can't do bombs, or sci-fi, or crime.
The only thing less interesting to me than the striations on a spent bullet is the mind of a person who finds the striations on a spent bullet interesting.

I'm going back to writing about people. Normal, real people, who swear, make mistakes and don't solve problems with pithy one liners. Or guns. Or talent. Or skill. Or ever.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Slightly Fewer Heroes

I went to see one of my all time musical heroes in concert tonight.
He was superb. His band was superb, the sound was superb, it was a, you guessed it, superb gig.

It was the exact type of music I used to play myself, and a genre I've always thought was about as good, musically, as it's possible to get.

I was a not that great but okay guitarist. The guy playing guitar tonight was roughly eighty thousand times better than I ever was.
The drummer was as good as I've ever heard; the bass player was verging on genius; the keyboard player found notes, chords and sounds I didn't know existed.

And the man himself, the main man, was (and is) a legend. He played the finest harmonica, the most beautiful piano and organ, and when he sang - Jesus, did he sing.

My reaction?

Unmoved.

I don't know why, and it worries me.

Okay, it wasn't the biggest crowd I've ever seen and that affected the atmosphere. But, still. This was both a hero, and a man who had possibly the finest musicians I've ever heard on stage with him, and my honest reaction was - meh.

I was bored.

So, what does that say? Does it say something about me, or him?

It's my blog, so I'm going to go with me (I can't imagine he gives a flying fuck).

My point, if I have one, is this: A thing I thought I cared deeply about is suddenly boring, apparently. Even when the best in the business does it, it's boring. Not terrible at all, but boring.
How bloody boring must I have been when I was trying to do the same thing, but not nearly as well?

Is this a sign I've moved on? That my tastes have matured? Sadly, I don't think so. Yer man tonight is older than my dad, and he was loving it (yer man, not my dad).

Is it a sign I've clung on to things I should have let go long ago? Should I be listening to more modern music? Almost certainly. I hear that Duffy girl is very cutting edge.

So, that's how music has got me a touch disillusioned, tonight.

As for writing ...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Interview with Danny Gillan

Interview with Magdalena Ball from compulsivereader.com. I fear I may have waffled just a tad!


Interview with Danny Gillan

Shared via AddThis

Monday, June 8, 2009

Two Things

Couple of things to report, both good.

Least important first:

An anthology of short stories I'm included in has finally found its way onto Amazon etc. I mentioned it a while back, it's the one lots of people had fights over. It's called (appropriately) Short Fuses, and contains stories by some of the best writers I've never met. It's a product of the Bookshed, a writing and critiquing site with several reputations, all of them justified.

If you choose to purchase it, you'll be confronted with twenty stories that have absolutely no unifying theme other than that the people involved thought they were worthy of public consumption. We may have been wrong about that, but I don't think so. There are tragedies, romances, thrillers, comedies, literary reflections, thought provoking dramas, Sci-Fi mentalness and sexual perversions (you know who you are).

Okay, JG Ballard might have been able to do all of that in one novel but give us a break, we're new, we're still learning.

The Bookshed has fans in the writing community. It also has non-fans in the writing community. I'd go so far as to say it has people who fucking love it and thank it for saving their writing lives, and others who despise it with so much venom that they'd scare a Black Mamba with their spittle.

I joined the Shed in June of last year, and have since met so many talented writers and made genuine friends (yes, I've even met some of them in real life), that I can't help but love the place. Add to that the seriously in-depth critiques, advice and reality checks I was offered, and I can't ever be anything but positive about the place.

A schism occurred in the Shed recently, and it was a damn shame. The reason for it is still a little vague to me, to be honest, but I think I can sum it up in this way: re-read the previous paragraph. Some members viewed the first sentence as the most important, others viewed the second as being paramount. Most valued both sentiments - some only valued the second. It's possible that some only valued the first, but I doubt that - they wouldn't have got in if that had been the case.
And so, being writers and therefore inclined to reasoned argument and discourse, there was a big fight and everyone called everyone else a cunt.
Who won? No one. We all still have places to go to meet our friends. More places, indeed. But each of them contains fewer of our friends. Instead of being in one big inclusive gang, we're in several slightly smaller gangs, with crossover.

Ho hum. Luckily it's not the same as real life. In reality, we would never turn on those who'd given us a chance, who'd made it possible for us to climb out of the pile not by standing on the faces of others, but by combining forces with them, and linking arms as we made our way together to the top, the stronger at any given time offering extra help to the weaker, when and if.
Do the people who created those opportunities for us ever fuck up? Yes they do. They're human. Humans always fuck up, eventually. It's in our nature - we're idiots.
The question becomes - if all you have to choose from is idiots who know they've fucked up, or idiots who think they're right, what do you do? It's tricky, and I don't know the answer. I do know this, though (obviously this is all a bit late):

BNP - Vote for them and we're all fucked
UKIP - vote for them and we're mostly fucked
Tory - vote for them and we're also mostly fucked (especially if you ever need help from your elected officials, as opposed to making money for them)
Lib Dem - Kinda undecided, to be honest. I wish Vince Cable was my uncle (but not my dad).
Labour - Goodbye Gordon, hello hope?
SNP - still not a clue what they stand for (apart from the obvious abstract)

Anyway, where was I? How did I get on to politics? Must be drunk, I guess.
So, my message is this: Buy Short Fuses, it's really good (link to the right).


I did say there were two things I wanted to mention. This is the better of the two.

My friend is out of hospital. He's eating soup and pureed potatoes. He's getting speech therapy (apparently he's not allowed to ask for a new accent, which could have been funny), and he's feeling, if not exactly good yet, at least better.
It seems he made enemies of the nurses in his ward by cajoling the other patients into daily Scrabble competitions (with forfeits) as opposed to sleeping all day. Apparently they were due to throw the defibrillator machine through the window today and make a bid for freedom. Now he's out, we'll never know if they went through with it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happily Sad

Good news, bad news. Both require dealing with differently.

Good news - how happy should we be towards the person who's had the news? Dunno. We don't want to be too sycophantic, obviously. We want to express joy at thier news, but not jump in there in a way that suggests we hope they'll share whatever good fortune they've earned with us, cos that would be tacky, and a bit pathetic. Tricky. 'Congratulations' is generally the best way to start, I find. That's heartfelt, it's truthful, it contains no inherent jealousy (depending on how much sarcasm you lace it with of course, but sarcastic typing is a whole other subject). Assuming it means what it says on the screen, 'congratulations' can't go wrong as an initial reaction. What do you follow it with, though? That's where it can get sticky.

Please note that all of the reactions listed below are things I've said to others, not things that have been said to me, or said by people I know. The only fuckwit in this room is the one typing.

Told you you could do it - there are issues right there. 'I told you' - oh did you now, you patronising twat? How many other people did you say that to who didn't make it, eh? Just cos I found a way through the pile doesn't mean you're a prophet. Throw enough arrows, you're bound to hit the bullseye eventually. That's probability, not prescience.

About bloody time! - sounds both safe and friendly, and it mostly is. Sometimes, though, it means what it says, ie - thank fuck you're out of my way. Maybe I'll get a chance, now!
See you, you're a bit too talented for my liking, it can mean. Now that you've been scooped up I don't need to feel so inferior now.

If it was going to happen, I'm so glad it happened to you - means: It should have been me, ME, I tells ya!

But, that's all bollocks. It's meaningless. This post isn't about being sarcastic, that just happens to be my default mode.

I had a day, today, where I had friends get good news at exactly the same time as another friend got bad news. What do you say to bad news? That's my real question.

It went as well as it could have - eh

He won't be able to eat for 4 days - eh

He won't be able to speak for a few weeks - eh

After that, we'll see - eh

A person I care deeply about is in a hospital bed unable to speak, right now. And he's a mouthy cunt so I know it's killing him. I'm not a believer in prayers, but if you chose to send one his way I'd believe in that. And I'd thank you.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Slave to the Rhythm

DAY 4
We’re tired, but the supplies are holding out well. We still have plenty of tinned goods to work through, and even a few luxuries; though I don’t expect the chocolate will last too long with Melanie around. It’s early days yet, but I’m hopeful we might make it all the way this time.

DAY 7
Back to basics, now. The chocolate is gone, as is the fresh fruit and veg. Strictly tinned and frozen goods from here on, but that’s okay, we’re used to it. Bread and biscuits are the key, I find. If you have them, even if they’re a bit stale, you’re fine. Beans for the bread, tea or coffee for the biscuits.

DAY 12
Biscuits are all gone, now. Melanie has a guilty look about her.

DAY 15
We argued today. Nothing unexpected about that, it’s common enough under these circumstances. Luckily we were able to come to a compromise - the remaining tea is Melanie’s, I get the coffee. We share everything else equally. We agreed not to mention the tomato soup again.

DAY 19
It’s getting more difficult, for both of us. I know I’m just as much to blame as Melanie, but I can’t help feeling aggrieved that she so obviously took the lion’s share of the tinned stew last night. Although it’s true enough that I sneaked a tin of spam outside with me. The joke was on me, though. The stupid little key thing snapped and I was unable to open the can. I had to throw it away, afraid that Melanie would catch me out if I took it back inside. What a waste.

DAY 22
I dreamed of beer and sausages last night.

DAY 23
The atmosphere is raw. We’re both feeling it now. We try to remain civil, and manage it for the most part, but the tension is always there. Food remains the biggest issue, but we’re both concerned about how long the cigarettes will hold out. I’ve taken to smoking only half at a time then nipping it for later. I hate baked beans with all my dark, dark soul.

DAY 25
The cereal is finished! Good God, what I’d do for a pizza.

DAY 26
I’ve forgotten how it feels to be drunk with a full belly. I miss it so. Personal hygiene is suffering from lack of shampoo and fresh razors. Melanie is giving me the look. She’d be better off looking in a mirror, I feel. My own hair may be lank and greasy, but at least it’s short.

DAY 27
We’re within days of reaching our goal, but bitter experience has shown that this is the most dangerous time of all. Stocks are low, and so are our tolerance levels. Melanie hasn’t spoken to me for three days. I don’t mind.

DAY 28
Melanie used the last of her teabags this morning. She’s taken to staring at the meagre remnants of my coffee. She won’t ask, she’s too proud for that. Should I share? It would be the chivalrous thing, the right thing, even.

DAY 29
Ugliest day of all, today. The silence ended and it became an outright, bloody battleground between Melanie and me. Only one more day till we reach our goal, but we couldn’t retain our dignity. She thought I hadn’t noticed the missing spoonful of coffee, but I had. She denied it, of course, but I knew, I knew. We both said things we’ll no doubt regret, but I for one feel justified. It was my coffee, she had agreed to that. It’s going to be a long, cold night, and I have no cigarettes.

DAY 30
Thank God, an end! We’ve made it. Last Friday of the month. There were some shamefaced apologies from both of us this morning, but the knowledge that we’d survived made forgiveness easy.

*****
DAY 4
So far so good. The supplies are holding out. Pizza, sausages and beer last night. It’s a four week month, too.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stop It!

There's a lot happening in the world at the moment that it's valid to be angry about. There are people, and things, on this earth that I reckon it's justifiable to hate without having to worry if you're being a reactionary twat.
They can be boiled down to one thing. That is: choosing a course of action that you know will result in someone else being detrimentally affected.
That's it, really. All the world's ills are summed up, right there.

So, you know, stop it.


You want clarification? Why? It's all there. If I ever run for office that'll be my campaign slogan: Stop It! (and yes, I will capitalise the 'it')

Macro/micro, obviously.

Macro - if you're a banker, stop banking so much, you'll only hurt youself in the end, and leave stains you'll struggle to explain.

If you're religious, in any shape or form, stop thinking that means everyone who doesn't happen to subscribe to your particular beliefs deserves death, scorn or placards.

If you're a politician, well, how's that working out for you?


Micro - If you know you're likely to offend or hurt someone with the things you type on a keyboard in the secrecy of your own home, stop it. It's neither big nor clever. Sarcasm is a wonderful thing. Stop mistaking it with bile.

If you want to be funny, stop not knowing the meaning of the word 'funny'.

And, the best Stop It of all:

Stop bloody judging. Just stop. It.

I've seen people I respect torn to shreds online for no reason other than they expressed an opinion. They didn't judge, just commented on things honestly.

We're still in the 'micro' world, obviously. Someone I regard as a friend typed something awful recently, truly awful. It was typed flippantly, but it made me feel sick.

The lesson it taught me? Other than just Stop It, it was this:

Stop it, and shut the fuck up until you have an intelligent argument to present.

Maybe that's just me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mentor?

I've recently been asked by WYLMT's publisher to act as an 'author mentor' to some of their newer recruits.
I said yes, obviously (hey, publicity's publicity).
My first thought was - what the hell do I know? What the hell could I tell anyone that they couldn't learn from spending ten minutes online?
That's a question yet to be questioned. It will be, eventually. By me.

The thing it made me think about, though, was the notion of a 'mentor'. What does that mean, really?
There are things I do, in life but they're not my life. There are areas I choose to get involved with, but they're hobbies. They're not that important. Writing, music - they matter to me, but they don't actually matter.

In my real life, outwith my family, I've had two mentors. One, I'll call 'A', and the other I'll call 'P', just to be contrary.
Neither of them are writers, but both of them are truth tellers, of the highest order. One showed, and taught, me the difference between being a silly teenager and being an adult, with adult responsibilities.
Okay, at times he showed me by doing the absolutely wrong thing, himself. He knew he'd done it, though, and, through his mistakes, and his honesty about those mistakes, he taught me how to be a better person. And a better barman.

Then I met the other one. What did he teach me? Every, single, thing, I know about the job I curently do. There are a number of fuckwits who do my job. 'P' taught me how not be one of them. While my sense of ethics and morality were still forming, he guided them in the right direction.
He once said something along the lines of - I'd rather have one Danny who doesn't know the rules yet, than ten people who think they do.

I've been lucky - I have two people I admire who choose to spend time with me, and take the time to teach me, in my life. Add to that my wonderful parents and sisters, and I'm a very lucky person.

And not one of them is a writer.

One of my mentors got some bad news, recently. Ill health has found him. Could be serious, we don't know the full extent, yet.
He's joking, we're shitting ourselves.
He's the funniest person I've ever met. He loves, and supports fully, my life as a writer (he travelled several hundred miles to be at the launch), but, he'll be the very first person to call me a twat if I ever act like one.
I'm not letting him go, even if he wants to leave.

How important is writing?

Not very.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Block

It's every writer's nightmare.

The block. The darkness in front of their eyes.
The blank page, the empty screen. That's what we call it, that's what we pretend it is. The page, the screen, the canvas that refuses to fill itself. It's not our fault, ever, it's the fault of the blankness we force ourselves to confront.
Bollocks.
It's an empty brain. A deficit of imagination, a failure of creativity, a lack of, for want of a better word, craft.
Craft, that's the thing. Any writer who thinks they're anything more, anything better, than an artisan, is lying. To themselves, and to anyone daft enough to listen.

When you want, sorry, need, to write a song or a piece of music, you don't wait till inspiration hits you. You play every chord, every note you know, in every combination you can think of, then the ones you can't, or haven't previously thought of, over and over and over again, until something happens that's worth pursuing. Then you chase that little piece of imperfect diamond. You chase that uncut stone down, you jump on top of it and hold it close to your heart. You become its trap, its world.
Then, when you're sure it's yours and yours alone, you explore it. You use whatever tools your talent allows to chip away at it, chip away at it's edges, at it's flaws.
Eventually, after many hours, days or weeks, your ability is exposed, for better or worse, and you make the choice - give it to the world, or keep it safe, in your world, never to be seen by other, judging eyes.
But you finish it, either way. You finsh the thing. You may choose to discard it, but the thing you throw away is complete, with all its perfect imperfections.

Writing isn't like that. It should be, but it isn't.

The block lets you start things. It begins things, but doesn't give you the tools to end them. It gives you characters, situations, scenarios. It doesn't give you stories, though.

Where do the stories come from? The easy, and lazy, answer is - I don't know.

The truth is different. The truth is, they come from exactly the same place as the music and the songs. They come from work.

It's a very rare writer who is a true artist. Mostly we're artisans, and need to work hard for our words.

And that's exactly what I intend to do. After I take Jake for a walk. Then wash the dishes. Then do the hoovering. Then pay the rent. And my road tax. And, well, other stuff that's important.

Once that's all done, I'm writing. Honest.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two Writers

There are two writers I'm currently having multiple wordgasms with. One published, one not.
Charlie Huston has just released the fourth volume of his Joe Pitt series, called Every Last Drop.
He writes about vampires, but not in any way you're used to. These suckers are a bit different. They have a vyrus, and not all of them are happy about it. It's a disease that sets them apart from the 'normal' world, and they hate that. These guys and gals wish they were 'normal', but there are politics involved.
For a new take on noir, with added blood issues, you'd do a hell of a lot worse than checking out these books. They're published by Orbit. Read them, that's an order. Imagine Raymond Chandler without the ... actually, just imagine Raymond Chandler, James M Cain or Dashiell Hammett, with a twist.
From a writing point of view (sorry, POV), Huston does something that I'm entirely in awe of - he creates characters, a world and a history through very little more than dialogue and action. The exposition is in there, but you'll have to be very clever to spot it as you read. You get it later, but not at the time.
Any fans of sparse writing, read his books. They're a masterclass.

Which brings me to the second of the two writers I'm in awe of at the moment.

JW. Hicks.

Jesus, that lady can write.
If you're fortunate enough to know her work, I know you know exactly what I mean.
This woman can say more in a couple of words of dialogue than I could ever say in four paragraphs of prose.
When I was pretendng to be a guitarist in my youth I found my 'heaven' when I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was a heaven I knew I would never attain, but I had something to aim for. It made me more determined to try harder, even if I had to copy him first, before I found my own 'sound'.
That's how I feel about JW Hicks writing. I'm going to try to copy it, because it's just that fucking good, and I hope that by apeing it I might find a voice half as good for myself.

I'm not normally one for having 'heroes'. Turns out I have two, today.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Short Fuses (or How I learned to stop worrying and love the Anthology)

At the end of last year a number of members of an online writing group I'm with decided to put together an anthology of short stories, mainly just to see what happened.
It seemed simple - anyone want to contribute? Yes? Okay, post the story you want to go in the book here. Done? Cool, now someone else will do a proof-read on yours and you can proof-read someone else's, sound fair? Yes? Good. Is that us, we have our list? Yes? Excellent. Would the couple of us who can actually do things other than writing and talking crap like to design the cover, format the text and generally do shit loads of work at your own expense so the rest of us can look good? Yes? Really? Cool! Let's proceed, then.

From that point on the shit hit the fan, pushing the fan into the bath, electrocuting the barely formed anthology so badly it almost died a crispy yet damp, slightly smoking and comically depressing death.

The problem was that, initially, the idea was to take advantage of a 'free publishing' offer from another writing site, simply because it was, well, free, and, despite many reservations about the wisdom of the offer, it was a site many of us had benefited from in the past and we felt they deserved our support.
The previously mentioned 'reservations' were, however, pretty damned big, for some of us. This other site had promised (yes, actually promised) to publish several thousand books before Christmas. For free. This was in September. if you want to know more about this whole thing there are other websites, blogs, prisons etc where you'll find a wealth of opinion so I'm not going to go into it here. Mainly because I'm bored shitless with it all.
Anyway, for some of the anthology's contributers the, eh, ambition, of the proposed publishing endeavour was a little on the 'that's fucking impossible and never going to happen' side. So some started proposing that we look for other options - Lulu, Createspace etc. Some, though, were dead set on going with the free offer, to support the other site (right, I'm sick of typing 'the other site' so, in order to protect the innocent I'll call it WHO? from this point on). WHO? has been good to us, they said. Well, yes, the others said, It's been good to us, too. Doesn't mean they've got a hope in hell of pulling this off, though. The other others came back with - They deserve our support and we should stick with them. While other of the other others added - And it's FREE! The others (the first others not the other others) countered with So's Lulu, and Createspace, and lots of other places! And loyalty only goes so far ...
And so, being a group of intelligent, creative, articulate and like-minded individuals, it descended into an epic barney. Friendships died, flounces occured, injuries were sustained on both sides and it ultimately ended in stalemate - where stalemate means everyone got sick of the whole thing and gave up on the entire idea. There was some serious bad blood created during this episode, and, in truth, the wounds are still there, festering, for many involved (not me, I hasten to add - I did my usual and sat on the sidelines, waving at the combatants as they spilled each others' words). I think it's fair to say that neither side won, and the whole thing goes down as a sorry episode in our site's history that shall never be mentioned again. It seemed highly unlikely that the anthology would ever see daylight.

Anyway, it's called Short Fuses and went online with Lulu this week. It'll be listed on Amazon some time in the next few weeks. It's pretty good, you should buy it. here's the link:

http://tinyurl.com/ShortFuses-Lulu

We've got a Facebook group going for it, too:

http://tinyurl.com/ShortFusesFB


See ya

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wanna hear a song?

Click this link to download the version of the famous song that gave WYLMT it's title.

http://www.janedixonsmith.com/wylmt

my thanks to JD Smith for hosting this.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Argumentalists

Writers are, for the most part, idiots.
Sorry, that's insulting to the innocent idiots of the world.
Writers (I'm including myself in this one so I should say 'wannabe' writers) should not be allowed to congregate. It's unhealthy, counter-productive and, sometimes, hideous to witness.
In recent days I've been forced to behold (when I say 'forced' I mean I clicked on a forum by choice) some of the most vindictive, cruel and unnecessary vitriol it's possible to find without giving your credit card details. And this was between writers. Not a writer and a critic; not even a successful writer and a wannabe. This was one wannabe to another wannabe - two people in exactly the same place, albeit in different genres.
It was a disgrace, and I felt disgu-- nah, it was fucking hilarious, actually.
Someone called someoneelse 'this', so someoneelse came back by calling someone 'that', forcing a clever retort from someone of 'well! blahh blah, ya blaah!'. This took someoneelse by surprise, and forced them into a brief retreat with a simpering 'waahh, waahh, blah!' They recovered quickly, though, and added 'BLAHH, ya blah. HAH!' to which someone replied 'Blah you, ya stupid blah! So there!'
And then, when it seemed all was lost and war was inevitable, yetanotherperson intervened, saying 'When is it 'past', and when is it 'passed'?'
'Hmm,' said someone.
'Tricky one, that,' said someoneelse.
And peace was restored.

Writers are idiots.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hello, Again

I keep trying to think of things to write here, and failing miserably.
It strikes me that assuming anyone actually gives a crap about what I have to say, about anything, is pretty arrogant. And yet, thousands of people do these blog things all the time. Can they really all be twats? (answers on an e-postcard, please)
I currently have some very vague notion about being all post-modern and using this blog to slag off blogging in general, but I don't think I'm clever enough to do that, so I suppose I'll just have to be an arrogant twat like everyone else. Ah, well.
A good balance, for me, would be if I use this to tell the world (or, sorry, the three people who might read this) about other writers I admire. Not famous and lauded ones, obviously, they need no help from the likes of me, the bastards.
However, some very talented, but as yet unfamous and nowhere-near-as-lauded-as-they-should-be writers are embarking on interesting experiments, and they're worth pointing out, I reckon.
The first I want to mention is Dan Holloway - a beautifully lyrical writer whose novel, Songs from the Other Side of the Wall (see links above), has deservedly reached the top of the charts on several writing sites recently, including Authonomy and YouWriteOn.com. That's a hell of a good book, and will, hopefully, be published before long. Dan, however, has taken a real gamble recently. He's decided write his next book in public. On Facebook, no less.
Dan has opted to make the novel writing process completely open - a very, very brave move. We'll get to see his first drafts, his ideas that work, his ideas that don't work. He's chosen to expose himself (ahem) in a way that very few writers would (I know I wouldn't). He deserves our support, and, knowing how good a writer he is, our backing. Go and join his group on Facebook, the link's up there on the right.
Okay, the book's title - The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoes - may be a bit offputting to some, but his writing is worth it, believe me.
Plus, Dan is the smartest weightlifter I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.