I was going to post a serious blog about giving to charity and how dreadful I felt having to choose just one to vote for only this afternoon. But that would no doubt make everyone reading feel dreadful too and I don’t want to do that any more than I want to vote for one worthy cause among many equally worthy causes.
So instead, because it’s a dreary October weekend and the cold weather is really kicking in, I thought I’d share a bit of silly fiction instead. All new and expecting parents should take note:
“Aren’t you getting big?” Yes, but there’s no need to shout. I’m young, not deaf. You only hear baby burble when I tell you. I’m bigger than I was, yes. Still not exactly big though. Unless you’re comparing me to, say, this rusk.
“Shall we go for a nice walk in the park?” Well, really that’s more fun for you than for me. You’ll be walking and I’ll be lying there in the pram with nothing to look at but the clouds and that stupid smile you put on whenever you look at me. Then you’ll meet someone you don’t even know and they’ll ask if they can hold me and you’ll say yes. I’ll scream and squall because I really don’t want to be pawed at by strangers. They might have all sorts of germs! Then you’ll say you’re sorry, poor baby must be tired.
I’ll be tired alright. Tired of being treated like a baby. Okay, so I know technically I am a baby and I haven’t quite mastered the controls of this body yet, but I wish you’d realise that just a few months ago I was the greatest mathematician in the world who happened to get hit by a bus. Perhaps I should have calculated its speed better. You know that thoughtful look you tell everyone about? That’s calculus that is. Calculus in my head. And according to the contract I’ll forget it all before I can talk. Next time I’ll be ready for the bus.
The charity vote is here in case you’re still reading. £50,000 pounds for the winner. I voted MS Society because I know them well, know they’re often forgotten and know every penny counts.
Enjoy the weekend!
Nearly October. How did that happen? You get distracted by one thing and another then by the time you look round a whole month and more is gone. High time I dusted off this blog before it becomes a haven for spiders, wood lice and death watch beetle taking advantage of my neglect!
First of all I’d like to thank and introduce you to William Martin, a talented writer and educator whom I’ve come to know during my nocturnal forays into discussions among fellow writers and creative minds. You can find some of his short stories and his blog on his website at authorwilliammartin.com and might come across a blog entry by yours truly based on my activities of the last week or two especially.
William recently read one of my short stories that I haven’t yet released. It failed to be noticed in a competition for which it was entered and I wish I’d had his feedback before I submitted it. There’s alway been a niggling doubt about it in the back of my mind but I could not see what it was that I needed to address. William hit the nail(s) on the head. It doesn’t need any massive changes, but in a few places needs some refining.
Now what this story suffered from was a combination of two factors: slavish adherence to word count and good old writer too close to the work to see. So this is a very writerly blog. That’s still not a word and still definitely should be. if you can be motherly or fatherly, why can’t you be writerly? It’s a very similar thing when it comes down to it. Anyway, yes, the issues with the story:
Slavish adherence to word count. I had a maximum of 5,000 words that I absolutely had to stick to. 5,001 and it would have been rejected without reading. What I’d cut was not completely necessary to the story, but did make it very much subject to reader knowledge and reader assumption. Not good things. While I like to credit my readers with the ability to know, use Google and make assumptions, not all of them will and this doubtless made it a rejection pile candidate. Something to bear in mind for anyone writing to a strict limit.
Writer too close to the work. This is the bane of so many writers, especially with regard to short fiction and poetry. For me, those happen in the moment, usually come from a strong and sudden urge to write and have a strong emotional attachment because they came from such a surge of passion. Because I know what I was thinking or feeling in the moment and haven’t forgotten does not mean I’ve captured things perfectly so that anyone can understand. It’s almost like looking at your child and seeing only the good. You just can’t see the bad no matter how you try, especially when they’re young. Always helps to get some input from someone who has no bias.
These things have been picked up by a fresh pair of eyes that was new to my work, new to me and had no reason to be anything less than completely frank. I’m taking a break from fixing the story to write this post then I’m going to set about revisiting the stories that have been listed to the right for some time now because I know I can do better for them. I’m un-feasibly tired though, so I’ll not re-release without pause!
Thanks again to William. Don’t forget to check out his work at authorwilliammartin.com and I’ll be back soon to keep those spiders at bay!
A little flash fiction for your Friday frivols 🙂
I woke up yesterday morning with a bite mark on my neck. Not a tiny mosquito bite, not a flea bite. No, this is a full human-sized bite with a whole lot of teeth. I suppose it could have been the cat, but she has very sharp teeth and would not only have drawn blood but woken me up.
All day I spent trying to figure it out. I mean, the window was open all night but locked in position and no-one could get through without making a hell of a racket. It’s a mystery.
I can’t find anything online about blood disorders or infections, even of the nasty fungal sort that would cause this pattern of bruising. Imagine you’ve bitten an apple and rather than leave puncture marks, you’ve left little bruises. That’s my neck.
So I went to bed deciding not to worry about it, window open just a crack, and drifted off quite happily. I’d probably been asleep about an hour when I woke up with a start. Something was biting my neck! I shrieked and twisted away.
My attacker jumped back looking rather embarrassed. He stood there, in his black cloak with its standing collar and red lining, white frilly shirt, one hand clamped over his mouth. He pointed at something on the bed and I thought he might burst into tears. A set of dentures had dropped to the coverlet as I pulled away.
“They’re jutht temporary until the cuthtom thet ith ready,” he wailed.
JAM May 2013
Nothing at all to with TV shows of the same name or indeed astrophysics, fascinating though it is. I need to make a big bang (on paper) and know nothing of the theory.
For some time I’ve had an idea for a story largely inspired by my Granddad. I wrote a quick thought down when it first came to me, intending to come back to it when other projects were complete. It’s one of those ideas though that won’t be quiet and since late yesterday has been taking shape.
Initially I’m writing it as a short story but can see that I’ll come back to it and take it much further. It has the scope to cross decades and continents and it would be a shame to leave it at just a handful of pages. There is one small problem possibly leading to a far bigger problem if I don’t watch what I say and where. I need my main character to blow up a building.
Not so easy for one man who, although he possesses the know how, is travelling from England to Antwerp in 1953. I assume he knows how to make a bomb because I don’t. Perhaps foolishly, I typed it into Google before I even thought about what such Internet activity might trigger. My sane and rational side says at the most my other searches might be looked at by some poor sod somewhere. My highly imaginative side envisages black helicopters, snipers at the neighbour’s attic windows and masked men abseiling down the chimney to arrest me at gunpoint. Please let it be coincidence that my Internet connection slowed right down after the fact. Please let it be that the entire North East only just logged on after the sun went down and volume of traffic is to blame.
What kind of world do we live in now where I find these things occurring to me whether by dint of imagination or not? I mean when my Facebook account browses my cookies and tries to sell me more of the things I already bought (surely self-defeating, Facebook if you think about it), should I not be slightly paranoid that everything I do is scrutinised if not by the authorities by marketeers? Will someone now try to sell me a bomb making kit via social media? I wouldn’t be surprised!
I’ve enlisted the help of a friend who knows about these things (in a licensed and responsible way) because I really am that irrationally concerned about who might get their hands on my search data and although it would all be a terrible misunderstanding, what would happen in the meantime? While it might in itself provide a plot of topical interest, I don’t especially want to be the main protagonist! And if they took a search to be indicative, what of the writing? Would they dig up my yard in case I really did kill Phil? Would they make sure my gas meter had never gone missing?
As far as I’m aware my Granddad, God rest him, never (intentionally) blew anything up. That is not how he came to inspire this story. It touches upon certain aspects of his life and I think he would really like where I’m taking it. That is if he were watching me as well. I wouldn’t be so nervy about that though!
Call me crazy, call me paranoid. My big bang theory is sometimes they really are watching you and there’s no telling what you might spark in the most innocent of circumstances these days. Now I’m about to make a phone call and if there’s a crackle on the line, I’m grabbing the cat and running!
I have a new addiction. It’s not chemical, which is no doubt a good thing. It’s Flash. Not FLASH! Ah-ah! of the infamous movie that has over the years made it so that whenever I hear Brian Blessed speak, all I can hear is “Gordon’s alive?”. Nor is it the multimedia software, although sometimes I find a game on a website and I’m there a while. No, I’m talking about Flash Fiction.
So am I any good at it? Well, I don’t know. I’m good at keeping to a strict word count – some groups and competitions set a tight limit of 250 words, others 100. But years of writing limericks and haikus as an exercise in word play and certain other pursuits have fine tuned writing within a limit. When I write to a restricted count, I like to be bang on the total; not one word under, not one over and that, I think, is the addictive part.
It’s the Wiki of fiction. But I was struck by something about it that reverberates with the warnings expounded by one of my favourite novels of all time. Fahrenheit 451 by the late Ray Bradbury tells how the world in which books are burned evolved from a world where people demanded ever shorter, more concise versions of everything.
So is flash fiction a good thing, or is it the flash point of the fire that burns our literary heritage? As a warm up exercise, no pun intended, it works for me. It takes far less investment of time and deliberation than a traditional short story. It’s far more throwaway. But that’s the thing that scares me a little about it’s growing popularity. In the world of wikis and tweets, will we soon forsake the book? Or is it all just a flash in the pan..?
When you’re bashing your head off a number of them consituting a wall, they seem even harder I find. I picked up Inkredible and tried to make progress but kept taking myself round in circles. So I went and made food instead and while I was eating thought start again. Not with the food of course. That would be impossible without some pretty digusting shenanighans. With Inkredible. Not the entire thing from Chapter One. With the part I’ve been working and reworking for far too long.
It’s part seven, so it’s quite a way in and falls at that point just before the pivot. Just before that point where the pennies begin to drop. I changed tack a little to sew things up and this part seven was suddenly nonsense. Beyond part seven it makes sense again. And I always thought seven was meant to be a lucky number.
So it’s about to be trashed and restarted, hopefully flowing seamlessly between six and eight.
In the meantime, something else I’ve redone is the Short Stories page here. Again. There’s now the option of downloading from that page or reading the tasters on the title pages and downloading from there. One day I might do something and be happy with it straight away. Whether that will be before or after Engand win the World Cup again, I couldn’t say.
Having moved the bricks out of the way, ideally the next post that mentions Inkredible will be one that also mentions good progress on the same. Commencing operation No Bricks now…
Oh dear. Maybe it was the medication. It gives me a fever and I have some very obscure ideas. Wrote that short story I was thinking of yesterday, the “Go to Hell” one, and I really hate it. Twee is just not me! It came out at nearly 4,000 words of unoriginal, Disney-movie drivel that I’ll never allow to see the light of day. I’ll have to delete the whole thing so that no-one ever finds it accidentally and thinks I usually think along those lines. It has to have been a hallucination. There is no other plausible reason.
I suppose there is one good thing to come out of it and that is that I was so absorbed in that maudlin rubbish that I didn’t spend any money under the influence of the evil fever. The Internet has the ability to draw me in to shopping sprees at these times, especially Amazon and that “Buy now with One-click” thing. The nemesis of bank accounts everywhere.
It’s always disappointing though when you read something back and your only reaction is a facepalm. Really saps your confidence and makes you wonder whether everything else you ever wrote was that bad but you were blind to it at the time. I suppose it’s necessary to have off days (or nights as this mixed up sleep pattern demands). If you only ever had great days of blindingly good creativity, you’d be so full of yourself you’d burst something vital. So I should be glad I wrote a load of awful rubbish and step away from the keyboard at least until I’ve had another good sleep. I think. I might still be hallucinating though.
I remember once, I had a raging fever and thought there were pigeons on the coffee table, and I talked to those pigeons for some reason in an American accent. Pigeons make me smile to this very day because of that ridiculous figment of my imagination. But should it then be good or bad for my writing to be consciously working from my sub-conscious? Is imagination conscious or sub-conscious? When I write, whatever it is I’m writing, I have no concept of time. I don’t hear anything from outside my own head. It can go on for hours and I won’t eat, drink, move until it lets go of me. Is that not on some level the same as hallucinating? Why all these questions?
Sometimes I do have a thought without asking a question. Just not very often. Zen and the art of writing rubbish. But I did right 6 pages of piffle, no question about that. What an embarrassing waste of time. Of course, no-one would know if I hadn’t said anything but it feels like the universe is pointing down, laughing and won’t let up until I confess it to anyone who’ll listen. Maybe I should speak to the doctor about the side effects of this stuff. It clearly makes words come out that should have been kept firmly locked in. Still, it won’t give me back all that time wasted on a terrible night’s work.
And a very geeky one too. Spent the time building a website and uploading a few short stories. Having done that, I added some more pages to this site and linked the respective pages to the download files. So imagine you’re on an aeroplane and some dolly bird is giving you the safety talk: To your right is a list of pages. Each page gives a taster of a short story. If you like the taster, to read more, click Download. A PDF file opens in a new tab or window, which you can save, print, transfer to your e-reader, make into a place mat for your cat or dog or indeed just read there and then.
I’ve also updated the Short Stories page to make things nice and tidy and consistent. If I could do my housework with a bit of html, I’d be so much happier but then I might lose the bloodthirsty streak and the will to channel my annoyance into writing.
There are some completely new stories there and some that had languished as snippets for far too long.
Killing Phil is brand spanking new, written, umm, the night before last and when told, the victim laughed. He should really be quite worried. That’s him on the cover and I’ve written eight pages about how he’s driving me crazy and I’m going to kill him and bury him under the back yard. But then, if you read it, you’ll see he does a lot of that. Laughing. It’s why I’m going to kill him.
I hope you find something you like among the new uploads. Leave your comments on the pages here or drop me a line. I love to hear what readers think. Even when you laugh when you’re not supposed to. I don’t know where (most of) you live so you don’t need worry that when I snap I make you part of the blood-fest.
There’s a new short trying to write itself in my head right now. It begins with the words “Go to Hell” and was inspired by my neighbour’s kid yesterday. The look on his little face as his mother said “You’ll do as you’re told!” set the typewriter in my brain away, so that’ll be getting an airing shortly, no doubt.
Inkredible is also clicking away in there and I hope to get a lot more written while this nocturnal pattern lasts. I don’t know what it says about me that I write and create so much better at night when all is dark and hidden. Well, I have my suspicions but I’ll keep them under my hat for now. It’s a nice hat. All bright colours. I made it myself one night.
I do so love the night!
Was just reading a blog about the Amazon review process and its make or break influence. It’s unfortunately true that a bad review in the early stages can do great harm to the success of a book. Whilst it would be nice to think everyone might consider this when posting a review, we haven’t yet reached Utopia and everyone is not going to rate more highly than they’re first inclined out of sympathy.
What rattles me about Amazon reviews is the helpful and unhelpful rating scheme attached. Now, from my perspective a review is helpful if it presents the reading experience of the reviewer. However, many people will rate a review as unhelpful simply because they also have read the book and don’t agree with what you felt about it. A die-hard fan will rate you unhelpful if you rate 4 stars and say it lacked a certain spark but was otherwise great. Where is the room for objectivity in writing a review in that case?
A review needs to be objective. It needs to describe your experience of a book and nothing more. A review is neither a synopsis or a critique. Synopsis is for the author and/or publisher; critique is for the literary circle meeting or the classroom, maybe some broadsheet literary pages. In a review, by all means say whether the language was brilliantly poetic and maybe give one example, but do not write an essay about it.
But how do you retain objectivity when you’re conscious of helpful and unhelpful ratings on your opinion? Well the simple way to look at it is this. If it would stick in your throat to say it to the face of the author, don’t write it. If 4 stars makes you swallow your pride, don’t rate it. As much as I might be hurting my own future ratings by encouraging honesty, I see no point in dishonesty.
Amazon have huge power over the self-publishing world. But who has power over the quality of what we Indie authors put out there? The reader. It’s now up to the readers to ensure the good books thrive and the bad ones wilt. The reader must enable the cream to rise to the top.
Now, am I that confident about my own writing? Of course not. No-one is. It’s a simple fact for me though that if I write something and publish it, the reviews should tell me whether I’ve hit the mark or not. I should read reviews and see what readers like and dislike about my work, take it all onboard whether positive or negative and use it to my advantage for future work. If you walked into a door and everyone laughed but it didn’t hurt, you’d keep on walking into doors for the comedic value without realising you were slowly destroying yourself. Feedback in any respect is a gift that we can’t afford to dissuade anyone from giving. It might hurt sometimes, but how can we avoid the same mistake in future if it doesn’t?
So write your reviews, give your star ratings and if you’ve been completely honest, you’ve done it right. If you choose to bear in mind the harm a three stars or below rating might do to an author, then you have an altruistic heart and you’re very kind, but have you been honest? A little white lie can do as much harm as a hurtful truth because you’re withholding the means for someone to become better.
Be objective. No two people read the same book, so they say. Your experience will of course be subjective in that respect. But your review should have no agenda other than to share your experience and that is wholly objective. That then, is my objective take on the subject!