My Bibliography

Thursday, 15 November 2012

What makes me wanna write?

I was invited to be interviewed about being a writer (to be publicized soon) and was asked a number of questions, one of them about what inspires/motivates me to write, and when I got into it, I realized I'd gone on a bit and my answer to that one question, in its entirety, couldn't possibly be used owing to it's length - 1454 words, and so I'm depositing it here instead to add to my other posts about my writing journey - and perhaps as an appendix, should anyone reading the actual interview be a glutton for punishment - and also because I've been very busy lately, and haven't done a post in a while.  Enjoy.


First and foremost I write for myself, and I’m being quite serious when I say I quantum leap into the (fabricated) worlds I create when I do.
You heard.
But easy to do when you know how; understand our planet’s indentation upon the fabric of space and therefore the gravitational pull of the various dimensions ensnared by it that enables a creative mind to traverse with a hop, skip and a… well… quantum leap… into the elementary; the ability to connect everything in the universe between A and B let alone all the way to Z making for interesting inventions indeed.  How could they not be told?
Is this guy for real?”
I’m afraid so, but only in the literal sense, otherwise I’m largely considered a weirdo anomaly, so much so that when I enter a room I cause it to become lopsided.  But I like to think of myself as a wonderful eccentric, even though I’m not; better than my artistic sensibility becoming mistranslated.  But that’s what a black hole where the unknown dwells in infinite state will do for a writer such as me; one who strives to try and be unique; shock a little here and there; simply futile to even try and resist the gravitational pull because somewhere therein, for such a person as I, lies home, and everyone needs a place to relax?  Right?
Please keep up.  In other words, the need to express the gift of an unusual imagination in storytelling is inherent; affords an escapism that can’t, at least for me, be found on our four-dimensional plane.  Such a mind is so fully integrated in alternate existence that the impossible is the only place where a lone-wolf might feel they belong – and wolves can do that these days, can’t they; space travel?  Or at least, werewolves do - even though I’ve never seen any of those particular creatures when I’m flying around up there - but an irresistible pastime; writing; the den of the universe calling me to mine its abyss of ingenuity, where, what hopefully emerges on paper upon my return, is new life, new worlds and a story that no man has written before.  Enterprising indeed.  Yes, I like to think of myself as Ashtar, spreading stardust wherever I go.
Oh… nobody; just some alien from the 50s, I'm sorry if you expected Picard.
But trekking through the stars and cheap metaphors about a popular TV franchise and an entity that people channel on New Years Eve aside, I’m an introvert, a true lone wolf, a little bit strange, and writing allows my soul to bare its teeth fully in a way that’s just not acceptable in person – but then that might be my propensity for dressing up as Mediaeval French royalty, I don’t know.  But as a fairly complex person, apparently, I couldn’t possibly go into the ins and outs of who I am fully here, but I did write a very heartfelt piece about what makes me me, entitled ‘Precipice of an Alternate Plane’, a few months ago, that attempts to explain away the strangeness of me as well as anything ever could I guess; inspired to write something from my heart by the late Nora Ephron’s piece on death, which really touched me in that how honest it was.   But it’s a piece, if you were to look closely enough, that might explain just how I, and no doubt, many other inspired anomalies, see the world differently from most; literally not taken in by it, not feeling embraced, possessing a kind of x-ray vision, allowing us to see it being played out very differently, insisting on keeping us at arm’s length despite our best efforts of, as the song goes, putting the right one in in the first place, followed by an awkward left leg; everything, seemingly basic at every turn, with alternate essence, simply begging to be reinvented by the art of storytelling.
Oh… I see…,”said the blind man.
No you don't.  But anyhoo, we simply can’t help it; and even though it can often be to our detriment; becoming even more ostracised; obsessed to the point where we allow it to affect our health and listen to its insistence that we forego other perhaps more financially promising careers, an artist does what an artist does because it’s truly a calling – unlike the cameo character, Sister Betty in Prickly Scots, who, for the want of anything else to do, only became a nun after her husband left her penniless and nowhere else to go, but still she manages to find a way to buy cigarettes, crafty bitch.
But there’s an honesty that we can get away with in fiction that’s perhaps by-the-wayside in real life; society, and very much so in art, inclined to be automaton, and so recreating it somewhat satiates my need for humour, which even my more literary works are filled with, and a perfect way to not get into trouble with my ‘say it as is’, ‘no nonsense’ attitude that I’ve needed to learn to curtail somewhat.  The small hope is that, should they become successful enough, they might influence others into thinking along new lines.  In writing, people tend to find rudeness amusing, a tad outrageous, admirable even, and that's great, I think that we should laugh at ourselves more; our current climate far too politically correct sometimes.
In fact, total honesty is a prerequisite for every aspect of my life, sometimes to my detriment; a tad obsessive compulsive about it, I know; intolerant of anything that doesn’t ring true, even in fiction, for I cannot read, and certainly not write that if I can’t see it being played out authentically in my mind’s eye despite the fabricated nature of it.
I think my approach affords my characters an interesting angle though, regardless of whether they’re aliens or monsters, a nasty old lady or a precocious child, whatever, nothing and nobody as perfect as a lot of writers seem to want to make their worlds and their protagonists because, in general, that’s how its always been.  And so I feel, with my sometimes completely annoying ability for omniscience, ‘seeing’ people the way I do, that this translates into believable eccentrics that the reader can, on some level, identify with better while still maintaining a degree of awe for fictional characters, and it also affords abundant opportunity for me to develop them in a way perhaps readers might secretly relate to outside of our largely sugar-coated world.
Did he just digress to the point where I have no idea what he’s talking about anymore?”  Probably, I do that; makes you read pieces like this more than once; get over it. ”But most people might just say they write because they love to, for fuc…  I mean… Heaven’s sake.”
Yes well, I’m not most people; please pay attention… and there’s absolutely no need for expletives or blasphemy… thank you very much.
But I guess my point is, I see inspiration everywhere, and I mean absolutely everywhere; cursed, it feels like sometimes, but it all builds up into what I call ‘FBI’ profiles for my characters/stories, and so I hope that those who dip their toes into the extra-terrestrial tides of the oceans I swim, that it will ultimately entertain them too.
Yeah, you heard, get over it; I’m a writer; I’m allowed to get like, all fancy… and shit.
Hardly mainstream though, and I won’t compromise, but that’s another matter; whether people like my writing or not, is, quite frankly, largely irrelevant to me; and even though I’d really like them to, again first and foremost I do write for me, myself and I.  It is always a pleasure though, when I see readers gain some unexpected delight from my unusual style, and I really appreciate that.  Discerning types, obviously.
I believe writers are therapists, psychologists and comedians, gatekeepers to Escapasia, inventors (obviously, ‘cos I just made that last word up lest you couldn’t tell) books, simply portals to other dimensions where anything is possible.  They’re educators, motivators and inspirers.  Who knows what a good story teller arouses in others, what dreams they elicit, the wings of imagination that they set in flight.
Okay, puke... enough already; I get it.”
Yeah… I agree.
But what really motivated me in the first instance, was the worlds I became lost in in my childhood; reading every Enid Blyton book I could lay my hands on; a writer that transported me into her exciting worlds in the same way, I guess, that JK did for a whole new generation.  And despite writing first and foremost because I love to do it, I would also love to think that someone, somewhere, got the same experience as that from something I’ve written.
Aww… I actually understood that bit.
Uh huh.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Writing is a journey

I often think of my writing journey as an expedition through the mountains – and not just the local kind either; the ones you can drive up and take a seat on a bench to admire the sunset over the city, no; I’m talking Rockies here. Precipitous terrain. And what better than animal guides to lead the way?
And when I started out that venture, an intensely passionate young wolf, treading ahead without observing the lay of the land, I met with a sheer cliff-face, scoffing, demanding I turn around, tail between my legs.
Like many, I started writing without having the slightest clue, simply penning from the heart because the gift is inherent. But, as I soon found out, that was incredibly naïve; much more than just that required.
An otter, quirky, unorthodox, my passion intrinsic, but what did I know of the mountain at all, the intimacy of its spiritual essence, its magnitude of pride & honour commanding to be scaled?
I unapologetically broke every rule that I didn’t know existed. Never knowing when to stop writing, until 600,000 words later. And with zero editing, I proudly printed off my amazing book and hired a forklift truck to take it up the post office to send it off to a publisher without even having queried them first. Ye-s, not long before I’d become the next J K Rowling. Ha!
A raven, highly enthusiastic, perched atop lofty peaks, my name whistling between. Ye-s, I’d soar that mountainous terrain. But I plummet instead, spiralling and splattering.
And then I discovered an amateur writing site, where immediately I felt intimidated; people’s ability putting my efforts to shame; using words like ‘exposition’ and ‘verisimilitude’ that I didn’t even understand, let alone have a clue as to how to apply them to my work.
A lame goose now, limping treacherous, infinite lands where I encounter many an obstacle; scaling icy plateaus that slip me down deceptive paths into mouths of predators.
Obviously I’d a great deal to learn, and so I dove right in, surprisingly being quite well received for a novice. ‘Encouraging.” And I soaked up reviews on not only my, but everyone else’s work, embraced constructive criticism while seeing others becoming highly defensive, not willing to learn (and who still can be; the same folks not moved on any; their writing unchanged, still amateur after all these years).
And now I swim a mountain torrent; a salmon, electric, focused, intuitive and wholly creative. Upstream, to pinnacles low, but the vista hazy, a mist lingering a precipice that still I might plunge.
I learned how and how not to interact with online society; the written word not always perceived as intended – especially amid different culture; easily lost in translation – and becoming annoyed at the sugar-coating being sprinkled liberally, artificial sweetening that, despite what they say, still begets rot. And then I found my clique; invited to a writers’ critique group where people stirred cups of libretto without taking sugar at all.
I build a dam upon those that would battle my wit to cross the river, for I am beaver, hear me… well… thump… really. Cunning. My mental acuity, razor sharp, but compassionate, generous, helpful and loyal too.
In this more ‘serious’ writers’ group, I discovered the importance of presentation in ways that maybe I hadn’t really thought of: similar size paragraphs; a mixture of long and short sentences; avoiding passive voice; learning how to use semicolons properly; the importance of consistent tense; avoiding the word ‘was’; how to show and not tell, and much, much more – invaluable stuff for a newbie.
Pragmatic, methodical, reaching higher plateaus where, as a bear, I enter a den and prance out a deer, discover my humour, a natural intelligence that, when combined, will write me well.
And then, going onto my first writing course, I pleasantly found that it’d all prepared me; I wasn’t clueless; actually had an inkling of much that I was to be taught in class. But still, a great deal to learn: the formulaic and technical aspects; how to create ‘FBI profiles’ for primary and secondary characters; what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and finally realising that one needed to develop an intimate relationship with anything before effectively dumping its rulebook ass.
And earned, those wings, I have, soaring now, eagle-eyed, holier-than-thou, over a mountain pass, a road to nowhere on which I spy people driving, blinkered, believing they can bypass monumental obstacles with the greatest of ease.
The point is I believe something like joining a writing site is necessary for any writer. An ‘apprenticeship’ if you like. But I wonder in this age of indie publishing if they’re being forsaken; new writers going straight for the jugular; publishing their stories without any kind of training at all, and perhaps wondering why they can’t even give their books away?
And some might just be; the writing site that I’m (still) technically a member of has all but crumbled; been stagnant for months; not updated by its administrators. And that’s a shame, for some kind of basic training just makes ‘sheer’ sense. Doesn’t it? Not even Sir Edmund Hillary decided to scale Everest without having some know how.
Oh yes, and those 600k words I mentioned? Hardest thing I ever did was to edit that story time and time again as my writing ability evolved. Today though, I credit it for me putting into practice everything I ever learned. Yes, an invaluable tool, although I really wouldn’t recommend doing it that way at all; save yourself the trouble; learn how to write properly from the outset. It’s all grown up now, divided into two books @ 200k each, and I’ve very proud of my first born, even if it’s teen years were terrible.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a rather belligerent little Sherpa waiting….
(Originally published as a guest post on Indies Unlimited)

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

'Ankle' sock puppeteers...?

Somethin' fishy about this AMAZINGLY insightful blog
written in a style that I have never seen anyone EVER do
and OMG... has changed my life, and always will beyond
even the grave that they'll lay me in one day if I don't get cremated.
I HIGHLY recommend that you read it

No writer wants a bad review, but I think overly exuberant reviews, when they come from people they know, can be just as damaging.
The writing of reviews, it seems, these days, almost demands perhaps as much skill as the author of the book itself, many different kinds, genres in themselves if you like; those that are genuine usually entirely evident, but those that've been written by close acquaintances, sticking out like sore thumbs; not fooling anyone.  And outside of sock puppeteers, who are just downright losers, such reviews are almost equally annoying, not to mention detrimental to the success of that book regardless of how well intended they are.  Can turn a potential reader away.
For instance, below is usually the kind of thing written by family or friends (perhaps a bit over the top by example, but you get the gist) or those people that you struck up a rapport with on your writing journey; other writers still in the early stages of their own journey maybe, but people who don't realise yet that the rest of us with more experience have become increasingly savvy about such things.  And all trying to help, yes, but usually even the greatest works don't come with such glowing recommendation as some of the reviews we can see have attached to them, and so they can actually have the exact opposite effect - especially when we read the sample of the work they pertain to, for I don't know about the rest of the population, but a writer can usually tell from the first few words of anything as to whether it was written by someone who's taken the time to learn at least something of their craft or not, but certainly a discerning reader will soon be able to tell bad from good too, regardless of what the reviews say.
"This was the best book in the history of the world, I highly recommend that you put down whatever you are reading now because, nothing, and I mean NOTHING will ever match up to this masterpiece by this exciting new author who has broken new ground and kept me so enthralled by this storyline that I neglected my kids and took a few days off work to finish it.  My life will never be the same again; I just wanted to dive into that world, for I truly felt I'd become a part of it. I have never read anything quite as good as this in my entire life.  Off now to buy every other title by my son/daughter/bestie/dad/mum/cleaner/hairdresser/myself.
If I could give more than five stars, I would."
Personally, not many people in my real life have read my own books, and I prefer it like that, because they don't have to like my books because of our relationship, that's just ridiculous, but in general, while we all know that, no one ever says they don't, not usually anyway, everybody so sugar-sweet, scared to offend, they'll usually say they do.  But if they have read my work, they can have a tendency to ask me what I want them to say in their review.  Sweet sentiment, but entirely annoying; I would hope that they enjoyed it enough to formulate their own opinion.
"Whatever it was it made you feel."  Is usually what I say, and they look at me more funnily than normal, even, I imagine, over email; wondering why I'm passing up the opportunity to manipulate a potential five star review - but then they're not in my writing world; they don't know the obvious nature of these things.  "Unless of course you hated it, and then I'd really prefer you didn't publicise an opinion." - which, seemingly goes against my point about honesty in reviews, but is just being honest, for no writer actually wants to see a bad review, no review at all being better imho.
I've never really had a bad review, my couple of three stars still very good comments, just weren't to both those people's tastes in that particular book's entirety, and I know that's because, whether you like my stories or not, I do strive to present the best possible work according to where I am in my writer's journey, have studied the art, I do slave over my words, a bit obsessive compulsive with them actually, and so for the most part, your 'bad review' could only be so maybe because of a matter of taste - but then we would hope that you'd be able to decide that from the very beginning, from the synopsis and the sample, and that you'd move on to a work more suited.
I get it though; those close to us want to show their support, and giving an honest review with anything less than five stars could potentially cause an atmosphere between us - as far as they're concerned - it's just not what you do when you know the writer personally; your duty to show support regardless, as most do with most anything else in life.  And so the old cliché about not mixing business with pleasure has never been truer in my opinion, than the personal friends of an author when reviewing their books.
I have even gone as far as asking my online writer associates to be less than exuberant in their reviews, have stressed the need for them to be honest, as over enthusiastic reviews are obvious - as we're all coming to know in the world of indie publishing.  I've even had some writers change theirs from something akin to the example above, suggesting to them what they might focus on, but only if they agree, and by example, I try to review their work completely honestly too, no sugar coating, concentrating on what I thought was good about it only, contacting them personally if there was something about the story I thought was completely lacking to the point that I felt I could only give a bad review if I were to be sincere, usually choosing not to give one at all.  And so, if they can't take that level of honesty which is only intended to help, they have no place in my circle of writer friends.  But then, I think they all know that about me by now, as do the people in my 'real' life.
I sometimes have no interest in the genre they write in either, e.g. if its overly religious, and so I don't want to read it at all, and sometimes when I have felt obligated to reciprocate, I've just become completely annoyed with it, and so I tell them so.  It doesn't mean it's bad, no, its just not for me, and in those cases, I just cannot bring myself to write a review - after all, as a completely honest person (of whom you should be entirely aware, apparently, for having stated that here about myself in the first place) saying there that 'I hate this kind of thing' might not go down too well, would cause a rift.  And of course, it could be the best thing since sliced bread for those who do like to get all spiritual and shit, but I'm just not qualified, or at least not the best person to judge, because I would never have looked twice at that book normally if I'd never known the person who wrote it.
There are many other kinds of reviews too; those that simply provide a synopsis of the story; information already on the book's page, sometimes with spoilers, but not mentioning the cleverness, the characterisation, the eloquence and other stuff we as writers would prefer to see mentioned, recognition of the fact that what we worked really hard at trying to put across; the emotion we wanted to induce from a reader, all better than another recap of the story.  And while some are completely innocently written almost as synopses, I can't help but think that some reviewers either do this thinking that they're helping, or maybe because they really have nothing good to say at all - and in which case it would be better not to comment.  Or maybe, it's just that, as many say, they're not writers themselves, and therefore feel a bit intimidated, don't know what the hell to say, but feel they have to put down something out of respect because they do know you.  But that's alright, even a couple of words, like, 'I really enjoyed this book' comes across more genuine than an over the top rave review - unless of course the book really does merit one, and that, I can't help but think, will come across too; the words will magically appear without you even trying; not as contrived as a review that'd been manufactured to try and say the same thing.
I have some such genuine comments on some of my own works and, that if I'd known those people personally, I might've asked them to bring it down a notch, but then, perhaps I'm analysing too much; think people will be suspicious of them because of what does go on, but perhaps I'm looking wa-y too hard and I tell myself that I do have to remember that some people really do enjoy people's books that much where they do become almost animated about it.  And that is always highly appreciated.
It's often said that writers are good 'liars' because they spend their time creating stories, I know I am, but I only use my powers for good in giving reviews and in life, could never feel comfortable 'sock-puppeting', would feel ashamed of myself; kidding no one but me, despite my skill for being creative in that I could be entirely convincing that they'd been written by someone else; know how to change writing styles accordingly.  But this kind of tactic just wouldn't sit well with the essence of who I am, would have the exact opposite effect on me in fact; I'd feel like a total loser, I'd know they weren't real, and so I guess I have a good sense of integrity, which is why I can sleep at night; no, no one can ever accuse me of such underhanded practice should I ever become that well known.
I can't help but think a good review is one that does rave a bit, does give four or five stars, but also, somewhere in-between the glowing recommendation maybe something else pointed out about it too (but, again, only if merited; don't go looking for it) not necessarily negative, per se, but simply an opinion, perhaps an element the reader would liked to have seen or didn't enjoy too much, or what they felt might've been better. Whatever, but a good balanced opinion, and most of all, a good honest review, for it is often this that readers judge a book by, and especially, other writers; I know I do.
Lastly, I do see this topic coming up all the time, as I do blogs and comments expressing a general intolerance of people who've never tried in any way to hone their craft, simply vomiting up a story and putting it up for sale because they can; most not realising that, like anything, writing is a trained skill, yes, even the best talent needs honed to be able to present a professional body of work.  And so, I think it's only a matter of time before those people realise that they'll get absolutely nowhere with that kind of approach, together with creating false reviews, or by allowing their friends to write glowing references for them, which as I've said, speak for themselves, for ultimately they'll make absolutely no money - which is surely why they're doing it as opposed to the 'love' that a real writer has for the written word, the laborious part of it treasured, embraced, as it should be.  And when they get fed up with trying, realise that the rest of us or onto them, then perhaps things really will settle down as they disappear, and we who try to do it all the honest way, the hard way, won't be grouped in and bogged down with all the bad apples that are currently in that barrow for sale.  A candied apple might be attractive on the surface, but it needs to be succulent on the inside too.

Friday, 28 September 2012

These dog treats will kill your dog... VERY suddenly.

I just watched a very interesting documentary on CBC's Marketplace about this popular chicken jerky treat which I've always bought at Costco; thousands of dogs are dying all over... including my last one... of sudden kidney disease because of these treats, and its been going on for years.

There is something in the glycerin.  Check out their Facebook page to see what others say, and also the CBC's website on this documentary which, I  understand is also going to air through the US on Saturday 29 September.

These and other treats made in China, should be avoided at all cost.  And the packaging, as do many dog treats, fool you into THINKING they're made in your own country.  Canada, doesn't even have regulation for dog food.

Love, your dog?  Spread the word.

CBC Article/video
Waggin' Train's Facebook page

This documentary on Marketplace, made me truly angry; I gave my dog a Waggin' Train chicken jerky treat every day and he too died very suddenly of kidney disease. Thankfully, I haven't been to Costco in months, where I used to buy them, so my current dog hasn't had any for a long time, but coincidentally, or is it, as a young dog, he no longer gets sick like he used to for no apparent reason. 

Rest assured I will do my part in spreading the word about this. It also makes me sick that there is no regulation of dog food in Canada. I don't care what this company's videos say, how they spin it; all the tests that came back from various countries, with suspicious elements in them, belonged to Waggin Train treats all made in China. 

That's good enough for me.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My other 'blog'

Now, the other place where I occasionally print my little stories, together with pictures, isn't quite a blog, it's known as a hub.  The thing is though, their web-crawlers are pretty efficient in seeking out large amounts of text elsewhere on the Internet that's the same as content I might put here, or anywhere else for that matter, and so they tell me off, or deactivate accounts that are guilty of not being exclusive to them.

So, if you want to read the latest funny little story that I wrote, entitled Bigfoot or Big Lie, click on its title here to go read it.  It chronicles the true account of a Kentuckian family from the seventies who had various encounters with Bigfoot and other anomalies.  One of whom wrote to me after reading Prickly Scots to ask if I would tell her story for her. Check it out. It's entertaining, lots of moonshine and stuff goin' on, even the Waltons get a mention, and lots of pics there too.  Enjoy.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Was Juliet (as in Romeo) fat?

So, today I'm the guest blogger on Indies Unlimited where I talk about authorial maturation - with the help of precipitous terrain and animal spirit guides.  Yes, really.  Check it out though, it's a fun piece.

In fact, I am featured on their site twice today; also winning their flash fiction story this week.  My entry, which needed to do with a ghost in a theatre (a photo prompt) and be 250 words (see below) will be published in an anthology later this year.  Fame at last.

The Prompt

It is her first performance in this theater. She has heard the stories about him, the one who sits in the sealed box—the box no one is supposed to be able to enter.
Some say his appearance is a good omen; others that it spells certain doom for the production.
She wonders if he will appear tonight and what his presence will portend.
In 250 words or less, tell me a story incorporating the elements in the picture.

My Story

She’d seen him many times. In fact, on each and every occasion her parents had taken her to the ancient teatro. Yes, the mysterious figure, the real star attraction; filling the house every night regardless of what tragedy unfurled the stage; the audiences’ eye wandering continuously towards the haunted box. Most thought it a gimmick, a ghost story designed to enthral, but she knew it wasn’t. Ye-s, now more than ever, she knew.

What seemingly good fortune that’d kept her parents coming back to this ancient city to perform the Roman amphitheatre every summer; prestigious roles in operas such as Madama Butterfly, Aida, and Don Giovanni, and for where she’d put on weight for her own ‘fat lady’ role one day. Yes, forces beyond nature, bringing her back, year after year. Undying love. It had to be. Ye-s, no more would humanly impediment keep eternal lovers apart.

Her own debut performance in Teatro Filarmonico, a fortnight hence of her fourteenth birthday on 1st August, would also be her last. An operetta; Roméo et Juliette, that’d end in real tragedy – at least from the audience’s perspective.
But he didn’t come; Juliet, together with the audience, glancing expectantly up at the box all night, disappointed it’d remained empty.
‘He’ll carry me off, act five, the dying scene.’ She thought. ‘Will thrill the audience; take me into his arms, spirit me away. As it should be.’
But still, Romeo failed to appear, and she just knew it was because she was fat now.

Check out my guest post on Indies Unlimited.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

My book is being showcased today

Today 'Indies Unlimited' are featuring my new and improved Prickly Scots book on their wonderful site dedicated to showcasing indie writers.  So I would truly appreciate your support to help spread the word by coming and clicking on any or all of the social media buttons on its page, and even if you could leave a word or two, that would be amazing.  My writer friends, I'm relying on you especially, and If you haven't heard of Indies Unlimited, it offers many different ways for quality indie authors to get noticed; sneak peeks like this, which also includes getting listed in their library for a year, guest posts, competitions, and all manners of other interesting ways.  you should check it out.  Please don't make me look like a 'Billy-no-mates now, will ya?'

Thanks for your help and support.  Click here to take a look at the sneak peek and hopefully you will click on the social media buttons below it - just pretend its one of those meme cartoon thingies or a cat picture.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Conflict and Resolution - in life and in fiction

Robert Burns Statue Irvine,
which I used to climb over as a kid,
being directly on the moors at the
back of our school

When I was a kid I nearly plunged to my death from the side of what I thought to be a cliff called 'The Blue Billy'.  Hanging there literally by the skin of my teeth; one hand dug into whatever shallow groove on the rock-face its unbitten fingernails could find, and the other grasping onto a weed growing out of the side of the crag, which I knew if I were to put the slightest bit more pressure on, would come out by the roots and I'd be nothing more than a splat on the ground below; no saving ledge to break my fall as there usually are in the movies.  The reason?  A couple of boys had been killed falling off of there, trying to do the same thing, and I wanted to prove that it could actually be done.  And even though I soon found out it couldn't, dying wasn't an option either.
I find the same thing in fiction; creating impossible situations; feeling sometimes, how the hell do I get my characters out of this one?
Turns out that it wasn't a cliff at all but an industrial waste 'bing' started decades before I was born, nicknamed by the locals due to its colour.  And to give you an idea of the height, during World War II they'd built a Royal Observer Corps watchtower, giving a wide overall view of the Firth of Clyde (and credited with the first visual sighting of Rudolf Hess's Messerschmitt 110 - a destroyer twin engine German aircraft) in 1941.  Irvine Harbour, for that's where I lived, Irvine, Ayrshire on the West Coast of Scotland, me and Robert Burns both, a prime target for Hitler's invasion of the British Isles, Irvine, not me and Robert, it being a major boating district and also in the vicinity of a company called ICI, which in war time, made chemical weapon components - the smoke of which I would often see rising from across the moors in the distance even during my own childhood when they'd reverted back to making everyday pharmaceuticals to poison us with; sometimes contaminating the area with meltdowns, chemical spills or whatever, harmful pollution anyway.
Turns out also that that wasn't the only industrial waste playground that we as little kids ran around on delightfully; the huge hill that went for a couple of miles (it seemed) just across the road from the house we'd moved to from the comparatively clean, apparently, ancient city of Glasgow, was also one - and something I've only just learned through the Internet; the word 'bing' long-forgotten until my research at this very moment bringing it back to me that that's what we'd called what I'd previously thought of as being a natural hill, a place of beauty, one filled with happy childhood memories.  But places so old that nature had taken a hold of them, so I can be forgiven; grass, bushes and trees growing upon them, and once, I even remember seeing a beating heart of a newly ripped open hatchling lying in the bushes, nature rife, living and dying atop that poisonous old hill.  I wonder if that's why I have such a strong constitution, the reason that I never get sick, maybe I'm a mutant, a product of that entire chemical environment I played on and breathed the air of?  The reason maybe at the doctors last week for my tennis elbow shot that they couldn't find a heartbeat; four attempts at it, and barely contained smiles as they struggled to find it before reluctantly confirming they thought I did actually have a pulse?  (True story.)
But I'll never forget that day, precariously hanging there; the sky suddenly blue and vast, the ocean in the near distance, foaming at the mouth, crashing waves higher than ever before, silent, suddenly inviting, the sand dunes melted, swirling milk chocolate, the elephant grass that would slice our skin like paper cuts on the banks above, a jungle, hiding places where we would sneak up and slide down from to scare kids sitting underneath and get sand in their sandwiches, but it was alright; for everyone pretty much knew everyone else; their mothers would bitch at our mothers later.  And I’ll never forget either, how everything became silent as time slowed down as I contemplated it all.  Even the yells of my two little friends at the top, near to what we believed might have been Hitler's tomb - having heard something about him being connected to the Blue Billy, and what, as it turns out, was the aforementioned watchtower, a bunker dug into the ground and a place that'd long since fascinated me - their faces genuinely concerned, panicking, realising the severity of my predicament, running to 'get an adult.'  Yes, I thought I was going to be the third little boy that parents would tell their own kids about had died falling from that cliff, just another little boy that'd come to the beach in the summer and came back dead because he was too adventurous like seemed to be the norm; drowned, disappeared, or whisked away to another dimension through an astral portal, or whatever - as I really thought had happened when bodies were never found.  But no; I had to find a way out; my mother would kill me if that were to happen.
The Heckling Shop where Robert Burns worked 1781 - 82
which, growing up around it, I probably just thought was
someone's old tool shed.  Tut tut.  Where were my teachers
And in that moment, I laughed, a strange feeling consuming me, knowing that something would have to kick in if I were to escape the inevitable, that I could rely on absolutely no one to get me out of that situation other than me myself and I, for there was no time to go get any help, a helicopter or anything; the roots of that weed, in my mind's eye, snapping, one by one inside the rock, like a burning rope on a suspension bridge.  Taunting me.  Telling me to go for it, to let go of it and grab whatever wasn't surrounding it.  'I dare you,' it said, using the same order of words as my little friends that'd gotten me into that situation.  And I can still see that weed today, feel it getting weaker; can see every unaccommodating shallow groove on the side of The Blue Billy actually, I can feel the sensation of what it perhaps would've felt like just before one was to plummet to their death.  And then time ran out, my foothold slipping in sync with the integrity of the weed as reality set back in and I could hear both screams from below and above now, telling me, rather unhelpfully, to climb back up as if I was just some mortal being who'd simply frozen through terror and not necessity.  No, I'm not stupid, even if had put myself in that perilous situation in the first instance; 'of course a wid climb up, or doon, if a damn well could, ya stupit eejits.'
Irvine Beach with the addition of wheelie bins since my day
But unless my fingernails had suddenly become retracting bone claws a la Wolverine, with the ability to anchor into what was hard as stone, or if it was all the industrial waste I'd run around in for the last few years of my life that'd transformed me into a giant mutant insect, literally allowing me to scale that wall using every muscle of my hands and feet, my face, even, clinging to it for dear life, or if a guardian angel had come to lift me to safety, I don't know, but I saw a man leaning over the top as I was starting to slide downwards, finally losing it, the earth and stone crumbling, his hand a million miles away but at the same time so close that it couldn't possibly be real because I knew I'd climbed back up as much as I could but not quite enough to reach it.  No, the fall was imminent, simply a matter of seconds away and I could already feel the sensation of what it would be like to drop that distance, and marvelling, looking over to the harbour, the town way off in the distance, the church spires that you could only see from up there.  Yes, nothing more to do but take it all in.  The last things I would ever see, things that I'd always taken for granted. 
But then, somehow I found it, that strong lifesaving grasp that had I been any older would never have supported me, held on so tight that if he didn't save me, he was coming down with me, yes, found it simply by everything else that'd been keeping me safe having forsook me, other weeds, higher up, weak, coming right out as I tentatively tested them, and then, clambering, no choice but to panic, realising that hand coming from the sky, almost, was the only option, which, when I finally grasped; elevating myself only through sprouting wings, brought about a sense of relief that I've never known since, a sudden realisation, and sense of gratefulness before I'd even been dragged over the side, that I was actually going to continue living.  And as I looked down over the side of The Blue Billy, not listening to the man telling me how stupid I was, I saw me, in another reality, lying at the bottom of it.
Irvine 'Old Town' High Street, early 19th century
The original point of this story was intended to talk about finding a solution to problems in writing; creating seemingly impossible situations with no apparent way out, but somehow, out of the blue (pardon the pun) it just comes.  At least for me anyway, something indeed sprouting me wings, flying me across what I always think of as an abyss of imagination where the unlikely solution is waiting to reveal itself, but only at a time of adrenalin kicking in to demand it.  But then, during the course of researching my old home town for this piece, looking for pictures of The Blue Billy, and finding none (but pleasantly shocked and surprised at just how old Irvine was; the history attached to it, Napoleon III, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns and many, many others staying there, including a favourite place for William Wallace to go fishing, some pictures and drawings that I've never seen before pleasantly popping out of nowhere) it's become about something else too; how a story can evolve by its own volition, writing itself, getting sidetracked to the point where you are flying that abyss, creating something completely unexpected and inspired in so many other ways.  You just need to put yourself in the position - preferably not hanging from a cliff though - even if it is character building.
Irvine Harbour
Finally, while not as dangerous as The Blue Billy, per se, I really am shocked and astounded today at all the parents who used to simply watch us from their balconies run and jump over the roofs of a set of four little buildings out back, uniformly built to accommodate sheds for each unit of what was a block of maisonettes, the gap between the adjacent two buildings, maybe six feet, but the space between the ends of each, two, three times as wide, took a whole running jump along the entire length of the roof to make that sucker - and only the bravest of the bravest attempted it; only one, I remember, falling, slamming into the brick wall, getting up unscathed, pretty much, maybe a broken leg, and the rest of us laughing at her before trying it out for ourselves.  I did it once, and yes, I managed it, despite not thinking I might, but perhaps my wings sprouting yet again, for if someone else could do it, then so could I, but no desire to ever do it again, once quite enough, just as I never scaled down the side of a toxic waste cliff side either (and okay, maybe I added the word toxic, but who knows?) better to live vicariously through fiction from hereon in, and where, getting back to the point, they don't have to make sense, and yes, where a solution will always arise even if it seems impossible.

And just one last thought; maybe I did fall that day, now, I wonder why if that's the reason they couldn't find a heart beat, yes, now I wonder if I even exist, or maybe, like everything else, I only do so in my, or that is to say, your, imagination?  Humph.


Click for bigger pic, and get a perspective of its size from whatever
that is in the foreground - a wagon a la the Old Wild West?
Since writing this post I went on a mission, because I won't be beaten, and finally was able to capture a screenshot from a YouTube video presentation of old Irvine, and I recognised The Blue Billy immediately, even though this one was taken at the turn of the 19/20th century. Bear in mind that seven more decades would add to the length and height of this thing, and when I was hanging off it I was yet to reach two digits!  The rock face I was hanging from is the sheer one far left.

Warped Mirrors - a paranormal comedy
Want to see just how young Julian Abercrombie deals with his conflict - his older self from another parallel come to steal his soul, and no matter what he does, a life-changing event will occur, win or lose?  Then Warped Mirrors is for you - Amazon or Smashwords.