This one is about 23 minutes...it will take a minute or two to load.
An audio file once again - as much an experiment with new software as anything else. I promise to improve...
This one is about 23 minutes...it will take a minute or two to load.
It's a funny thing, this writing lark. Yesterday, despite wearing nothing more than my tiny, peek-a-boo silk dressing gown, I greeted the mail deliverer with a broad smile as he struggled up the steps to my front door with three boxes of books. Despite my smile, he was less than impressed; he'd already made the same journey once, rung the door bell, decided that there was nobody home (there was: me, in bed and having been asleep for only an hour after a night shift) and had taken the boxes back to his truck. I thought I'd heard something, and had just staggered upstairs (our bedroom is in the basement) to check if my books had arrived.
Upon his return to put a "We tried to deliver your parcel but you were out, you complete moron." notice on the door handle, he was met with my sunny countenance, albeit with my hair (such as it is) plastered to one side of my head and exploding alarmingly from the other and the sort of deep creases on my face which implied that I'd fallen asleep in a cider press. I wasn't, by the way - and to your undoubted immense relief - really wearing a sexy baby-doll gown, but instead a huge white thing which makes me look and feel like I'm in a very expensive spa.
The mail man stared at me for a second, harrumphed loudly, and when I made no move to join him on the steps up to my house, turned and stomped back to this truck to retrieve the boxes. I couldn't stop smiling; I'd been waiting for this moment for a long, long time. The mail man, on the other hand, found it difficult to wear any expression other than the "You complete bastard!" one that was adorning his face at that time. I took the boxes from him, signed his battered electronic device (at the same time hoping that by doing so I hadn't just agreed to something I couldn't yet imagine) and bade him a cheery farewell, shutting the door just as his fists began to bunch.
Barely conscious, unsteady on my feet and for some reason desperately needing a pee, I tore open the top box, leaving shards of fingernail in the cardboard as I did so. My books were in there! My babies! As a grin spread across my face, beyond my ears and met up around the back of my head, I picked up my book for the very first time. I held it gently, opened it even more gently, and flicked through the opening pages while the thrill of the moment spread within me. I decided to not cry despite feeling like doing so; I wanted to be able to see my book, my baby. I read the first page, the oh-so-familiar words dancing up off the page to meet me, seemingly gleeful now that they were finally where they truly belonged. It was real. I'm an author. Wow. WOW.
I reflected for a few moments while I wrung out a kidney (had a pee), and when I looked in the bathroom mirror, the smile was still there, even though my eyes were damp. No matter what happened from that moment, I had written a book (it's such a massive concept, it hasn't sunk in completely, even now). Smiling, I went back to bed and tried to sleep. Several times I woke, and several times the same thought popped into my mind; I'm an author. Each time, I grinned, rolled over and fell asleep once again in that way we do when there's nothing to wake up early for, and when the bed is being its most deliciously comfortable. Yesterday was a good day.
Today, I woke and smiled. I danced up the stairs (it's OK: I'd dressed first) like a young buck and sat with some excitement at my laptop. Even the prospect of struggling with this malevolent instrument of torture didn't wipe the smile from my face, and after what seemed like mere hours, I had my email account open.
*BANG* Back down to earth I fell from the lofty peak of Mount Pleasedwithmyself as I read a rejection letter from a journal to which I had submitted an article several months ago. Even more of a kick in the nuts: they thanked me for my poem, which was all the more disheartening because I'd written a piece of prose without a hint of poetry in it. They probably hadn't even read it.
Sometimes life throws curve balls, sometimes I hit a home run, but just occasionally - and I really need to remember this, I go out onto the field without wearing a cup, and take a fast ball to the gonads.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and stroke my book.
You'd think that I hadn't done this already just to prove what a twit I am, but no; it's a natural gift!
Please note that if you're planning to buy Signs of (a) Life (and why wouldn't you be planning to do so - unless you've already bought it, of course), the best value is to be found on the FriesenPress website. The book is cheaper to buy here than anywhere else - MUCH cheaper!
Here's the link to save your money with:
Time to bare my soul a little bit (as if I haven't already done enough of that in the book) and 'fess up.
One of the most aggravating things about sucking up to a publisher or literary agent has to be answering those annoying questions which are asked in advance of them even looking at your work. Actually obtaining a traditional contract with a publisher is about as easy as getting the Catholic church to hand over one of its ordained paedophiles to face justice, and these questionaires are yet another barrier to that; another excuse to say 'No.'.
Of all the questions that are asked, one steps out of the crowd and slaps me about the face - which, let's face it, is a rather antisocial attitude to take. It's this (and I'm paraphrasing): "Which well known author do you most aspire to emulate?". I find this a very strange thing to ask. What's the point? Wouldn't it be better to read my work and then make up your own mind about whether or not it falls into a category shared by a famous writer? What does it matter if I believe that I am something of a Hemingway (I seriously hope not), an Orwell (even worse), a Stephen King (wishful thinking) or a James Herriot (yes please!). It's irrelevant - READ THE WORK and treat it on its merits.
Having said that (well, ranted that), I admit it: I do have a literary hero; someone who models a style that I admire enormously, someone who appears to write in the real world and about the real world; someone who says it like it really is (sometimes scarily like it is inside my head), and someone - one of very, very few - who can make me laugh out loud while I'm reading his books.
Bill Bryson, through his work has convinced me that he is one of my top ten list of people to meet and chat with over a coffee (or more enjoyably, over a very unhealthy and deeply satisfying meal). Even better: be a genuine friend...His work entrances me with its richness its humour and its reliable warmth. BB has successfully captured the formula for making close friends through his books, and so, while knowing statistically absolutely nothing about his daily life, I somehow feel like I know him - a very tricky illusion to pull off.
I don't try to write like Bill - I simply couldn't. He's far too skilled a wordsmith for me to emulate, and anyway, I must write with my own voice. How Bill Bryson inspires me is thus: as I write, I remember the effect that his work has upon me, and I try to create a written environment which may - just may - have a similar effect upon my reader. What I aspire to is not to copy him, but to achieve something that he achieves for me, the reader.
One day I hope I make it, but for now I'll settle for the uphill struggle and try to refine my craft.
Just added something from a current project onto the 'Snippets' page. Click here to go straight there...(see how nice I am?).
I'm trying to 'cowboy up' and apply myself to twitter...
For the record, I despise the phrase 'cowboy up', and so please read it out loud in a heavily ironic tone, or not at all. If you've already failed to follow these instructions, the responsibility is entirely yours.
Twitter - oh yes...well I've always regarded it with suspicion, since my very earliest dalliance with it was less than successful. I became so disenchanted with it, I forgot not only my password, but also the name of my account. It's probably still out there somewhere, attracting apathy like an enormous void of...nothing. Now, if I could only harness that apathetic energy....
Anyhoo, if you use Twitter (and I'm sure that I am in a tiny minority by hardly ever doing so, but there ya go: I'm a middle-aged grump), you may from time to time see my name popping up. Unless, that is, it gets sucked into the apathetic void of nothing that is/was my previous account by the name of...something unimaginative.
I can't guarantee quality tweets (jeez I hate that word) because I feel like I have to pretend to be somebody else to 'tweet' at all. Now that I've used the word 'tweet' this many times, I shall have to go and lie down in a darkened room with only bread and water for a week.
One more little something from Signs of (a) Life...
For the last couple of weeks, amid the emotional frenzy of finally getting my book published and some family-related issues which have frankly been intellectually crippling, I've been working slowly away at an old project in the hopes of making it a commercial work. I doubt that I'll be successful with it unless I drastically change the way that I've written the darned thing. It's too much of a niche subject, and I think that it may simply end up as a private memoir that I'll share with family and the people who were there at the relevant times. Time will tell - but I've been plodding along with this re-write/edit for a little while.
Yesterday, however, for reasons which may be connected to the explosion of a Supernova some 300 million years ago and the subsequent arrival on earth of some nasty gamma rays (which in turn zapped my tired, tiny mind) , I spontaneously picked up another project which is in hiatus. This one is NOT a memoir - it's a fantasy story (something of a leap of genre for me), and I'd written seven chapters of what I foresee as being a story for young teenagers, with a couple of children (and a small dog) as the main protagonists. After five minutes of reading, something happened. It surprised me, because having read and re-read 'Signs of (a) Life' (I must pick an easier title to type next time - i.e. one without parentheses) more times that I can recall, I had become used to not enjoying my work. You do, you see, become very tired of reading the same words in the same order after the twentieth time.
So, imagine my startlement, my shock and my raised eyebrows (still not an old man's bushy affairs, but we're on that road) when it dawned on me that I was enjoying reading this stuff! After so long forcing myself through the drudgery of forced reading words that I am so familiar with, returning to an almost forgotten piece of work was a revelation. What excited me most was that the work actually felt right, as if I have actually been doing something that reads well, and might be entertaining. Optimism is a wonderful partner!
I must (as soon as I've finished this post) return to the other task; it represents my very first efforts to write a work of some substance, and I feel that I owe it my time and respect, even if I'm not particularly wild about it. Experience is slowly teaching me that stuff I am not particularly fond of still seems to be well received by other people. In the meantime, my brain begins to cramp as - especially with emotional upheaval in the background - I try to marshal my thoughts and stay on track with each piece of work. It's harder than it sounds - at least for me.
How wonderful it would be to lock myself away (in a cabin in the foothills, with my wife) for a couple of weeks with not much more than a power supply and a computer, and simply write. And eat. And sleep.
One day - ONE day I'll treat myself in this way...one day I hope, I'll stop feeling like the donkey; at the mercy of outside forces which prevent me from doing what I wish.
A short reading from 'Signs of (a) Life' ...