Tag Archives: Observation

The joy of cornering #WritersBlock


While the muse of Science Fiction has temporarily deserted me, I thought I’d write about something dear to my heart; driving. Car or motorcycle, doesn’t matter, the principles and sensations are the same. I’m a petrolhead at heart who simply enjoys the sensations afforded by motorised transport. Specifically the art of the corner.

Now this might sound odd to the uninitiated, but there is an art to driving around a corner that is seemingly unlearned by many drivers. They lack the ability or motivation to do it properly, they wander, swerve and clip. Lines are taken too fast, too narrow or too timorously. They never seek the optimum, explore the limits or push the envelope.

Yet but cornering’s simple isn’t it? Decelerate to apex, steer into the curve, then hammer down and out? Steer outside to centre, or centre to kerb, depending upon whether you’re covering a right or left hander. Easy. Yet each corner is different, with a pitch and camber, and even a character all of its own which alters throughout the day. Depending upon weather, angle of sunlight, spilled material and even roadkill. At best cornering’s an art form; one of fine balance and perfect judgement. Man and machine poised on the razors edge of a disaster curve. No tyre squeal, no flashy and wasteful Clarksonian tyre smoking power slides, just the singular pleasure of a simple task performed to a finesse. Forever seeking the optimum.

What I’m not going to do in this little piece is witter on about the technical process of making a vehicle change direction of travel along a stretch of road. There’s always the temptation to wax lyrical about ceramic brakes, of counter steering and tyre compounds, then miss the point entirely.

If anyone reads my bio or Facebook timeline, they’ll see pictures of me astride a couple of motorcycles, and in each image there is a big fat boyish grin on my face. I am and always will be a biker at heart. My soul, if that is what drives me, has two wheels. What they won’t see is my four wheeled vehicle history, which is not as salubrious. Overall I’ve driven many vehicles with a wheel at each corner and a faulty nut behind the steering wheel, from Morris 1000’s and Reliant Regals and Robins, to high end SUV’s and medium goods vehicles. I’ve owned Volkswagens, Rovers, Fords and even a Saab Turbo 900 for my sins. During a spell as a delivery driver in the mid 1990’s I even got to shuttle almost Ford and Vauxhalls entire UK range of saloons. Stick shift, automatic, whatever. I’ve driven Mercedes and Ford vans throughout fourteen, and even seventeen and a half hour working days, then gone on to do evening classes three nights a week. During the Eighties and nineties I regularly topped over fifty thousand miles a year. Highways, Motorways, Autobahns and side roads. Those weren’t the days. Yet to me the actual driving didn’t feel like work.

Each vehicle I’ve driven had their own little foibles, and some I really enjoyed, others detested, but all were tried and pitched into corners for the simple joy of it. Motorcycle, truck or car it didn’t matter. The dynamic sensations were everything. The deceleration, visual seeking of precise line and curve, a little sidewards G at the apex, then a mild sensation of drift and roll as I almost pushed my vehicle into the bend before powering smoothly out. All have shown me the pale edge of driving Nirvana. From an exhilarating sunny sidestand scraper up Fish Hill on the Evesham to Stratford road on my old Triumph 900, to a heart stopping close encounter with a late night Moose on the Ontario Trans Canada driving a Ford Windstar van. Corners have provided drama, adventure, and an adrenalin rush to lighten the dull samey greyness of getting from A to B.

So, what’s the secret of the corner? Well actually there isn’t one. It isn’t rocket science, dragon magic or anything remotely difficult. It’s like any simple task, not easy for the initiate or novice, but one that can be readily mastered. Although not as simple as turning the steering wheel, or leaning into it, cornering is an art anyone can become competent in. All it requires is a little thought and practice.

The future state of publishing


As a self-publisher, I’m always on the lookout for ways to break the glass ceiling. Every self published author knows what this is; news outlets who won’t even think of reviewing a book published by an author, but will give acres of room to specialist works no-one but a handful could be interested in. Book distributors who need all sorts of incentives just to mention a self published work in their catalogue. The sixty forty split which makes it difficult for an author to make any money, even if they are lucky to break into the bookstores.

For a small time self publisher, the means of getting ‘out there’ into the larger marketplace are limited and time consuming. Which is what publishers do. They take the hard graft of getting noticed and into bookstores, and make it look easy because they have established and maintained media contacts and procedures which flow from manuscript to customer. They also get to say what style gets into the marketplace. Which accounts for some authors, in frustration, sending in the barely disguised first three chapters of a classic novel, only to find that it too gets rejected with barely a syllable being read. The castle drawbridge is up, portcullis down, and you peasants can just jolly well stay in your scruffy little self publishing hovels, what? Your betters have spoken.

In some ways the current situation reminds me of the old trades union ‘closed shop’ with all its negotiated restrictive practices. It’s ossified, semi-paralysed, looking for the next big thing, but hardly daring the radical move of expanding its catalogue. There’s always a sense that it’s not what you know, it’s whom.

For me, my frustrations reached boiling point some years ago when I spent weeks on a 1500 word short-short, revising and rewriting because the magazine in question had done “A very nice picture.” Afterwards; having ‘done the sums’ as they say, I worked out that I’d been working for something like five English pence an hour. Hardly a fortune. I’d also submitted several finished manuscripts and when publishers deigned to reply, all I got was one, repeat one, form letter from someone whose job it was to periodically clear the company slush pile of unread manuscripts. The rest I never heard a whisper from. So when I first heard of online self publishing, I thought “Great!” and like so many others piled in. So far the experience has been like building a boat, getting it launched, beating the tides and making it out to sea, then looking out at the big cruise liners disappearing over the horizon and thinking “Now what?” The ocean is open, deep and vast, there are continents to conquer on the other side, but not being able to keep up with the big boys leaves you feeling somewhat adrift.

At the moment, self publishing is an alphabet with letters missing. Like a language without the right words. Conceptually bereft. I suppose like the man in the small boat I’d better get paddling. Doesn’t matter where. Just pick a direction and go for it.

Publishing and distribution headaches #SelfPublishing


I’ve been following a highly contentious thread on LinkedIn for the past few days. One which posed the question; “Is self publishing such an evil?” If you were to read the views on some of the contributors, the answer was a simple no. The alternative views were being expressed in a manner so poisonous and ill informed that I had to stop reading. Broad brushstroke comments condemning all self published works as poorly spelt and formatted for example. Which I thought was unfair. Publishers used to send out lists of ‘errata’ after first editions had been printed, highlighting errors which would be corrected in later editions. Nowadays they get sent to the ‘remaindered’ book store or pulped. So the Nyer ner ne nyer ner type comments to the effect that “You self publish, therefore everything you say and do is crap”. don’t really stand up to close examination. Those are the kind of comments written by people who ‘correct’ library books. Small minded and cheap. We all make mistakes and it should be the story not counts. Not minor spelling and grammatical errors from which mainstream publishers are not immune. Build yourself a bridge and get over it for crying out loud.

Although I’m told that a traditional publishing deal is no longer (and perhaps never was) the easy route. It means you still have to market your own books. The funding mainstream publishing companies used to pay to market an authors work, and the access to the big book distributors is often no longer so readily available to the first timer. From observation I’d go so far as to say the age of the big publishers advance is mostly (Except for a few key instances) history. When all’s said and done this is no surprise; publishers take a financial risk every time they put a book out in the marketplace, and if it all falls over massively they’re history. Their game, their rules. Although I’m moved to observe that since they are not immune from the laws of cockup, slagging off self publishers is not a wonderful business strategy. A lot of writers are avid readers too.

The big self publishing problem is not, as some would contend merely in the spelling or grammar of a particular work, it’s actually in the distribution; getting a book, or more easily an eBook listed. Even then the market is fragmented, and while Smashwords and Lulu.com can get you listed across most distribution platforms, there are some quite large marketplaces, like the growing Kobo eReader which require independents and small scale publishers to go through Kobo’s ‘writinglife’ process. Which, if you’ve already got an edition you’ve spent time getting listed on Amazon, iBookstore and Barnes and Noble, feels like having to do the same job twice. It’s enough to give you migraines. Never mind the promotion, marketing and all the other things a writer has to do to get their work out and noticed in a crowded marketplace.

There is still, at the moment of writing, no single low cost route which will transmit from keyboard to bookshelf over the broadest range of popular platforms. Lulu, Smashwords and Kobo are all good, but none of these provides a single, end to end process for an author to get their work out into the broadest of public domains. Never mind the holy grail of going from those points of publishing entry into the big book distributors lists. This issue is proving a major headache, but one that is not incurable. It’s had me contemplating creating my own on line publishing and distribution company, just to see if I can fix it.

Still scratching along with ‘A falling of Angels’. A sentence here, a word there. Progress is slow, but sure. I’d get a life, but what with the job and publishing issues, on top of looking at boats, new cameras, and the odd bit of extra technology Angie wants installed, trying to squeeze a third one in might prove one too many.

Blog customisation


While editing and proofing the last few days output, I took a break to clear out the blogs Askimet comments spam box, and in among the attempted SEO spamming, Ads for Chinese prostitutes (Go figure), incomprehensible malware links, and one string of obscenities (Why? What was the point of that? Apart from a classic demonstration of the posters sub literacy.) I found one sensible comment about the look of the blog so I approved it. ‘Space it out better’ I think was the request. It’s here, go look for yourself.

Now I’ve looked at changing the blogs appearance before, and quite frankly this is one of those “Could you be a bit more specific” moments. This blog isn’t perfect, because when all’s said and done it is what it is. I could spend thousands of dollars and it would still be imperfect in the eyes of any given beholder. Why? Because we’re all different and hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see.

It’s all part of the human experience. Still wouldn’t get me any more traffic, because while the end result of any given story may well be dramatic, sexy, violent and all that jazz, the process of writing is only exciting to the actual writer. A person with their head down, emptying the contents of their head into a word processor isn’t dramatic to watch, is very unsexy, and about as non-violent a pursuit as it comes. Dull, dullness without anything to relieve the watchers’ tedium. Short of giving away every story development, quirk of character or plot twist. Just dust the cobwebs off me as you pass. The lights are palpably on, someone’s definitely home, but you can bang as hard as you like on the door because we’re not taking visitors today. Ignore the dog barking. Just make an appointment for next week please. I’m having far too much fun writing about refugee camp cannibal gangs, blackmailers and genetic manipulation. Not forgetting the DarkNet (The Internet’s ‘evil’ twin) and similarly linked themes.

Anyway, the blog isn’t a priority. What with various narratives and shift work, it tends to take a back seat. I just don’t have time (or the graphic talent) to fuss with it. For the moment I’m going with the cheap ‘n cheerful free WordPress template I’ve selected. Unless anyone else has a sensible suggestion. Otherwise I’ll be back here on Wednesday evening, maybe even Friday. TTFN.

Life, the Universe and being opinionated. #WritersLife


Five am in the morning, and sleep is a stranger. There are thoughts buzzing around in my head, and respite will not come until I let them out. An overnight flight has ghost howled overhead. Amos, my dog, lies softly snoring at my blanket coddled feet. A diffuse reflected phantasm of Vancouvers city lights illuminates the Eastern night sky, giving the water between the islands a pale, glossy feel.

Of course that’s how I feel about it, and you have only my opinion for that. However, that’s what is going round and round in my head at the moment, keeping pleasant repose at arms length. Like a maddening earworm of a silly pop tune, it won’t leave me be. Think of this as an exorcism of sorts.

There’s an ironic old adage which goes “I know the truth – but you’re just opinionated.” Yet isn’t having opinions on subjects what makes us human? There is even mental elbow room to say that opinion underpins everything we are and do. Here’s the bare bones dictionary definition;

o·pin·ion

Noun

1. A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

2. The beliefs or views of a large number or majority of people about a particular thing.

Synonyms
view – judgement – judgment – mind – notion – idea

Back when I was but a callow youth, or as Hamlet put it; ‘in my salad days, When I was green in judgment’ I found myself thinking this particular thought. Because it is subjective, the truth can only ever be a matter of opinion. Which is true. For a given value of ‘truth’ that is. There is no absolute value. Because human knowledge is limited, we don’t have all the definitive answers. As that knowledge expands, as we find out more about the universe and our place in it, we plug the gaping abyss of fact with huge wodges of opinion as a kind of stop gap. Or Quantum or String theory. Whatever. Until the next big proof comes around.

For example, there are those who contend a given ‘holy’ book contains the ‘truth’. It’s their opinion. Others insist that Darwins theory of evolution makes all the religious schtick unnecessary. Again, that is another opinion. Bloody wars have been fought, and terrible slaughter made over opinions like these. Millions slaughtered by repressive regimes all because they hold a differing opinion. Which is, if you give it enough thought, a bloody silly way of getting people to change their minds. The threat of violence only suppresses opinions. It cannot change how people think and feel. By way of illustration I was watching a documentary on YouTube last night about Russian aviation development in the mid 20th century, and heard about all the Technicians arrested and executed during the Stalinist era. ‘What a waste of talent’ was the thought that passed through my mind. However, Stalin was obviously of another opinion.

People used to think that Phlogiston was a thing, rather than what we now understand as the process of combustion. All scientific theory is opinion until a body of fact can be garnered to back it up. Theories. being mere matters of opinion, can be overthrown. Science is never settled. Like a river, it is a continual process rather than an absolute. Prevent or suppress the flow of ideas and the river dries up, as do its benefits.

Judges, when passing sentence or judgement are expressing an opinion based on their interpretation of case and accepted law. Politicians express opinions from which those very laws are formed. They in turn are driven by public opinion (Or some would say increasingly focus groups and special advisors). Dependent of course on whether public opinion is in keeping with their own.

The Internet is the great sounding board of our age allowing all to have their say. Yet what most of it drives home one inescapable conclusion; it’s only opinions. Yet how great a part those opinions play. In my opinion, that is.

Naming the new moons of Pluto #Astronomy


With the recent discovery of two moonlike objects around ‘not quite a planet’ Pluto, there’s an online poll to name the new worldlets via this link. Personally I’d have selected Scylla and Charybdis, but those weren’t on the list of twelve options, so I voted for Cerberus (But of course) and Orpheus, the mythological hero who had to pass said legendary guardian of the underworld in a failed bid to recover his lost love, Eurydice.

For some odd reason I wondered whether some of the names were already taken, like Persephone, but apparently not. I’m normally a lot sharper than this, but since that bout of gastric upset the other week, I’ve been feeling rather post-viral. Rather run down and tired all the time. Friends tell me this is the aftermath of the Norovirus, and can last up to three weeks. Oh joy.

That was the weekend that was in Vancouver…


Back to the keyboard and shift work again. An interesting weekend I think. If I’d have known what tickets we’d been given beforehand I’d have booked a hotel closer to the venue. Although the Metropolitan Hotel on Howe is very nice, and well worth another stay.

Watching Angie struggle with the Skytrain station stairs was hard (No lift or escalator available at Chinatown). It takes a full year to properly recover from a hip implant operation, and although Angie’s doing well on the flat, steps are still difficult for her. I found myself doing my ‘linebacker’ routine, carefully placing myself behind and to one side of her to prevent her delicate recovery being upset by someone in a hurry barging past with their brain in neutral. At this stage of the game I’m painfully aware of how disastrous a fall might be.

Still, we got to the Cirque Du Soleil venue, and finding we were early had to hang around in the cold for about forty minutes, where I introduced Angie to the concept of Smugshots (Posing in such a fashion that you look like you’re physically handling a far off object – kissing the Sphinx, holding the moon, that sort of thing).

Cirque du Soleil, Cirque du Soleil, what do I say about Amerluna at Vancouver? Okay guys, you have got to do something about your sardine like seating plan for the next show. Anyone over six feet tall and even slightly broad shouldered suffers. The last time I was anywhere near this level of discomfort was on a Thomas Cook flight (aka ‘Air Cattle Truck’) from Vancouver to Manchester in Summer 2010, and I swore never again to travel with that company. Sure, if you are under 5′ 10″ tall and slim to medium built, no problem. Anyone bigger is going to suffer cramps in the shoulders and knees which will make the show very much less enjoyable. Considering the price of tickets.

The acrobatics were spectacular, and for me the best part of the show were the antics of the Caliban like character with his prehensile tail. However, they could have left out the disjointed storyline, such as it was. I was left with the overwhelming impression the whole show had been written by a committee for the promotion of ‘diversity’. The narrative made no sense. In fact it rather got in the way of the spectacular performances. For individually they were brilliant. The music was good, the sets remarkable. Unfortunately there were pieces that didn’t fit, and took your mind off the already tenuous ‘story’. For example; in the second half, one gold costumed performer does an incredibly delicate balancing act with large fishbone like sticks, which was all very clever and skillful, but left me thinking; “Okay. What’s that got to do with the price of fish?” Likewise for the twins on unicycles. The promotional material makes much of the latest eco-panic, where some sources predict world water shortages for two thirds of the world’s population by 2025. How does having a six foot half globe of water centre stage relate to that? As for the 70% of the cast being a ‘feminist’ angle; again, so what?

This wasn’t just me; one person in the row in front was distinctly heard to paraphrase Macbeth as we were leaving. I distinctly overheard him say; “That was a tale told by idiots.” All around, I could hear the Canadian tradition of politeness being strained so hard it was creaking. For myself, I was glad to get out and stand at the interval, and would gladly have stood for the entire performance. In contrast to the lack of seating space, the concession prices were massively inflated. Nine dollars for a small plastic glass of distinctly average plonk? Fifteen dollars per show programme? a paperback copy of ‘Head of the Beast‘ isn’t that much more, and there’s a lot more reading in my work. Certainly makes me feel much better about print to order pricing.

Came out of the show, easing the kinks and cramp out of my shoulders to be impressed by the number of stretch limos on the streets outside the Lady Gaga gig at BC Place. We counted over twenty three. Not that I’m a Lady Gaga fan. All very well produced and glossy, but nothing to really write home about, musically speaking. All icing and no cake. Still, it shows where the money is going.

Overall verdict? A nice break, but I’m glad to be out of the big city, back home and working again. Although if I’m offered tickets for Cirque again, I think I’ll demur. Shows like these tempt me to quote 18th Century Lexicographer Samuel Johnson when asked about the Giants Causeway; “Worth seeing, yes; but not worth going to see.”

Vancouver for the weekend


Walking away from the keyboard for a couple of days while the eBook submission process grinds through for Head of the Beast. Off to see Cirque Du Soleil’s Amaluna in Vancouver tonight, and we’re making an overnighter of it.

In the meantime keeping my eyes and ears open. You never know what will kick off a good idea.

What sparked my passion for space?


Got one of those occasional ‘question’ emails from the planetary society, and it rather brought me up short. In the Stars Trilogy I write about space technologies and how they might change the future of humanity, but where did I get started? What made me want to write about it? So I’ve decided to send the planetary society this as my answer.

What sparked my passion for Space and space travel? The first thing that springs to mind is timing. I was born in 1957 at the very beginning of the ‘Space Age’. The year the Soviet Union put Sputnik into orbit and lifted the eyes of the world up into the great nowhere, above mere terrestrial squabbles. Since then, man has taken his first faltering steps off the planet. Sent satellites into orbit, sent men and women outside the thin layers of our biosphere into the unforgiving near vacuum beyond. Created global communications relays. Landed craft on Mars (Mariner, Viking, Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity) and Venus (Venera, Pioneer). Dropped a probe into Jupiters maelstrom of an atmosphere. Skimmed the tails of comets. Men and women have gone into orbit (Soyuz, Mercury, Gemini, Shuttle) and even landed on the moon (Apollo). The Hubble and Kepler orbital observatories, to mention but two, have helped expand our knowledge of the Universe almost all the way back to its very genesis.

The second thing for me was Science Fiction. The worlds created by Anderson, Asimov, Bester, Harrison, Heinlein, Niven, Van Vogt, to name but a few. Their visions sparked off my own desire. If I was never going to be an Astronaut or pilot (Eyesight issues), I at least wanted to write about it.

Space exploration has formed a palpable background to my life, and continuously fired my curiosity about more than mere terrestrial matters. Its constant round of discovery formed the background noise of my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The dream of space travel has never ceased to fill me with wonder. I say this as a self confessed, dyed in the wool cynic of over fifty five years of age who has never worked in Aerospace.

The sheer scale of the awesome and continual endeavour that is space exploration, driven as it is by little more than mans indomitable curiosity, is nothing short of inspiring. In order to find our place in the universe we needs must reach out to find where we have not come from, in order to compare our origins with other places which failed to bring forth the miracle of life. Or may yet be discovered to harbour life.

We are fragile beings on a small, and possibly unremarkable world in the greater cosmic scheme of things. However, we need to find out if this is true by looking outwards, because unless we look, we will not know. That is what sparks my passion for space exploration. Whatever answers we find.

New discoveries about the universe around us flood in every single day. So much so, it is often very hard simply to keep up. While this might discourage some and overwhelm others, it simply makes me want to know more. To see more. To feel more. To read more. To comprehend more and not rely on the blind insistence of others. To be more alive. Space exploration is the triumph of inquisitiveness over ignorance, the bringer of light from outer darkness. To me, it is the very personification of hope.

A few thoughts on book covers


Recently I’ve been messing around with cover art. Thinking about creating something eyecatching which makes a strong visual statement, but isn’t too ‘busy’.

At the book fair last weekend, I was watching what other people were doing as far as cover design is concerned. I was also covertly observing the reactions of would be readers to the artwork on show. I caught a few vague nods of approval at the ‘Stars’ covers, despite it being an unpopular genre with the majority of browsers, and barely suppressed looks of veiled horror at the more ‘crowded’ cover work. Conclusion; the most popular covers seemed to be the simplest. Either text only, or a single strong and pertinent image that attracted the eye without distracting from the contents.

Still struggling with the murder scene for ‘a falling of angels’, and trying to rationalise some of my notes from 2005 and embed them into the Cerberus story arc.

Keeping chipping away at ‘Darkness’ at about 500 words per day, but the story needs expanding. There’s an element missing. Not sure what it is, but I think a revision of the counter plot needs to be done. I’ve killed off the original bad guys, but all I’ve got in their stead are a lot of faceless bureaucrats who are hard to nail down. Very unsatisfying.

Surrey International Book Fair; Live blog


Okay, Kenn and I are here at Surrey International Book Fair 2012 with about eighty plus other hopefuls. There are a wide variety of authors present from childrens writers to travel and cookery writers. Next table but one has some serious looking bakery on the table, and I’m sitting here, pottering away on the old laptop, just drinking it all in. A couple of people are a massive draw and there are queues all round the room. The noise level is quite high, filled with bursts of happy, even excited sound as people wait to talk to their favourites.

I find I’m actually enjoying my own relative anonymity, blogging and peoplewatching. Kenn, my friend and neighbour is out walking and talking. Currently to a lady whose favourite has not arrived yet. We’ve all been assigned places, and after a little chicanery on my part, got myself moved to share a table with Kenn, who is a more experienced player at this event. Being a relative newbie at this game I’m a little nervous, but happy just to be here.

5:50pm One of the organisers has just come up to me and delivered the following message; “If someone comes up and asks you to sign something – sign it. It’s for the draw.” No idea what the ‘draw’ is all about, although I’m rather intrigued. Tell you the truth, I’d be too overwhelmed not to. Probably even ask them “Who do you want it dedicated to?”

6:00pm Kenn has given away all his promotional pamphlets, and I’m having to raise my voice to make myself heard to a couple of people who have taken pity upon me and come over to see what’s on display. I’ll talk to anyone right now. I wish I’d brought more promotional materials. I think for the next event I do I’ll get some bookmarks printed for giveaways.

6:30pm Have just run into Bennet R Coles, who has a volume out called ‘Virtues of War. Military Sci-Fi.

6:45pm Place is emptying out now. The big queues have shrunk, and the bakery guys two tables down have started to pack up, sorry, have packed up and gone. I think that the ‘Stars’ trilogy could do with its own web site, as part of a nested package of brands. Cerberus likewise. Some kind of direct ordering interface might be useful. The online presence definitely helps, because the real audience for science fiction is online or via the Sci-Fi Convention circuit. Kenn has been out walking and talking, selling himself for all he’s worth. I’ve had a few people coming up to admire my artwork, but no sales.

7:00pm Okay, that’s closing time. Time to pack up and head for the ferry. Its been an interesting day and worth it for the experience, but not the right marketplace. Too literary. Would I do it again? Maybe. When I’m a bit more of a name. Make it worth people’s while to come.

Is creativity a symptom of madness?


According to a newly published study, it is mooted that being creative is symptomatic of insanity. So, by this line of reasoning, we can derive the conclusion that being above average at problem solving, lateral thinking, and seeking new and better ways of doing anything marks a person out for starters under sedation, with a main course of a spell in the rubber room, straitjacket on the side, with electroshock for dessert.

Media commentators on the report cite various creative folk who went off the rails like Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and others. Some say that being creative is ‘closely intertwined’ with insanity.

As a writer, and by association a creative, therefore (According to media commentaries of the reports findings) more likely to be unable to distinguish between fact and fantasy, I’d like to look at it via another perspective. What if being a creative person can drive you crazy? Driven nuts by all the non creatives who want to mess around with the original concept to the point where the creator is literally tearing his or her hair out and screaming at them to stop. All because they are the ones who think they know what is more likely to sell. Anyone who has had work published generally finds a perfectly acceptable piece of prose perverted by a busybody who thinks they know better.

Taking the last short story I had published in a magazine back in 2006 as an example, I remember being asked for multiple rewrites to hit the constantly shifting wordage limit because someone had done a ‘really nice picture’ to go with the story. Of course, said rewrites (All four of them) had to be done within a Seventy two hour period when the story editor already had taken two months beforehand to faff around with my stuttering prose. I was really ticked off when I saw the size of the cheque. Seventy five pounds for thirteen hundred and forty two (After four rewrites) words. I did the sums afterwards and reckoned I’d worked for twenty five pence an hour. All for what I thought was a fairly workmanlike and unremarkable ghost story. If that experience is indicative of what happens to authors, is it any wonder so many end up candidates for psychiatric treatment?

I think being creative doesn’t mean you are nuts, my experience would indicate you’re more likely to get driven round the twist by efforts to get your work into the public marketplace. The whole process can be so Byzantine it makes Quantum theory look like childs play.

On the other hand, why pay any attention to my point of view? Being a creative, I’m probably a complete barmcake anyway, so why bother listening to anything I have to say?

Can’t win really. Might as well just kick back and enjoy the ride. Pass me a flapjack, I’m flying down to Rio for the Winter.

Story arc thoughts


Have been looking at the ‘Cerberus’ story arc and think I need to add (at least) another couple of volumes in between ‘A falling of Angels’ and ‘Shifting States’.

To enlarge; Cerberus has been a work in progress since 2003 / 4 according to my files and notes. In order to move deeper into the dystopia, I have to use up more of the story elements currently only in note form. Some in vague scribbles in notepads.

I know I said I’d be taking three days out, but this whole writing business has more than a touch of the obsessive compulsive about it. You have to write, because in the end, it’s the writing that matters. Nothing else.

Shadows between rainbows


A great rainbow watching day today. Especially down in Dodd Narrows. While I was preparing supper there was one full bow that was almost so bright it hurt the eyes. Then I looked to the right, there was a fainter but definite arc about eight or nine degrees away from it. A double bow.

Mostly at this point we switch off. Double rainbow, isn’t that pretty? Yet this afternoon I took time out to look more closely and discovered for myself the dusky but distinct bands of colour between the two bow shapes, faint and very smokey but most definitely real. A pity I haven’t a camera good enough to record them.

I know a rainbow is only a trick of angle and diffraction through falling rain, but to me there is something magical in these arcs of disassembled light. They tell us that no matter who we are or what we do there is always wonder to lift hearts from the sameness of the day to day. A Te Deum against tedium.

To notice these vague coloured shadows was something of a minor revelation to me, and just to check that my mind wasn’t playing tricks, while we were having supper, I asked Angie what she could see. She gave me an odd look, concentrated for a few moments and then the light of revelation shone in her eyes. “I’d never noticed that before.” She said.
“Well that makes two of us.” I replied. “Shadows between rainbows, who would have thought?”

Up until then we’d both been a bit crabby and not our usual cheerful selves, but that simple act of observation lifted the mood of the dinner table. Amazing what a simple trick of the light can do for the human soul.