My Bibliography

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Don't force it; you'll f**king break it.

Is something that my friends have always said to me (unnecessarily using expletives) impatient as I can be, frustrated as I can get with certain things, slow and steady, most times, the only way to go.  And they're right, especially when it comes to a road block in your work in progress.

In that vein, re; my last post about travelling in time - Is the future bleak, or not?  I mentioned I had never gone to the future in a story, let alone to a time when the earth may be unrecognisable way, way into the future, that I'd only ever gone to the past.  In that post I wondered if I'd reached a brick wall in terms of where my imagination could go - something that took me by complete surprise... thinking, shock gasp, horror, that it might even have been writer's block, an affliction I've never suffered from.  We-ll... I haven't visited that story in two days, not really wanting to actually, kind of another first for me, for its been a real challenge. And I haven't even thought about it either, not per se, anyway; letting it ruminate on its own terms, 'think' for itself, if you will.  And as a result, I'm glad to say, a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining, "I'm ba-ck!"  I now have a very clear direction, a distinct vision, and, coming with it, a  purpose to the entire story.  Also, instead of good turning evil - which it never really did anyway; evil always existing in my main character pretty much, evil might just turn good in this short story, turn out to be the hero of it even.

But ironically, and perhaps not surprisingly, the vision of that world way in the future that flummoxed me, that I had to come up with using the inspiration of H G Wells' 'The Time Machine', came from dipping into what I know best, yes, the past (and certain info that I don't want to disclose here just yet)  but humanity (or is it?) as a whole, wrapped up in solving a problem of unthinkable proportion, a storyline hopefully outside of anything before - and no, it's not global warming... wa-y too predictable.

The publishers are either going to be orgasmic over this story, or will say 'WTF is this?' when they read it, because it has my signature of unlikeliness and outrageousness at the heart of it.  LOL.  Lo-ve it.  Anyway, the lesson learned therein, is that the abyss cannot be set about upon.  No, I need to wait to be invited into that unforgiving, bottomless chasm for a cup of libretto.  Yes, I forgot that; thought I could simply use it like a fair-weather friend, you know, the kind that only contact you simply because you are so inventive, thereby with the ability to solve their real life dramas, you know, the kind that never remember your generosity, never invite you to BBQ's in-between their issues when all is good with them... ahem... but then, I digress, and I chucked that bad habit out with those old 'friends' some time ago.  But yes, every story needs conflict and resolution, and this experience took me back to a time when I was first writing Prickly Scots before I knew anything at all about writing save for common sense and an individual imagination, knowing instinctively that I needed to create impossible situations for the characters to get out of.  And I did, without knowing how I would, hoping the answer would come to me out of the blue.  And yes, it always did, and then again when that was resolved; creating the exact same problem ten times over, making me have to think of yet another way out as I continued writing the story with that problem as an integral part of it. Yes, now I remember; it always comes to me in the end, that abyss of imagination, sprouting me wings to soar across it only when it feels like it. Pissy little beotch.

Time travel into the future an obstacle?  Phhh... I got a million scenarios now, screw you bottomless pit; I will always find a foothold.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Is the future bleak... or not?


Not doing myself any favours is perhaps the biggest favour I can do for myself... at least on my first step over the Himalayas.  (See my post entitled, My Writing Journey over the Alps).
Generally, when I write anything, an unknown force carries me off over an abyss of imagination, and before I know it, a first draft is on 'paper'; yes, new characters, new environments and a new obsession borne, and I look back at them the next day when I'm 'grounded' and wonder just who wrote it.  'Did that come from my mind?'  But I'm used to that; never have had any idea of what I'm going to write until the words start forming on the page almost by their own volition; one leading to the next, one sentence becoming a paragraph and so forth until a short story or novel has been created, ready for editing a million times over.
'Ad-lib' writing, I call that.  Yes, generally considered prolific, easy for me I have to say, but I've become complacent almost, arrogant even, maybe; thinking that my oh so wonderful imagination meets no boundaries.  But concentrating lately on the technical aspects of writing, I haven't been flexing the muscles of my mind's eye as I might've, and I like to think that might just be responsible.  Yes, I've always thought that I can write anything, even following the impossible rubric in other people's projects, like a writing site competition that makes me create stories that I might otherwise never think to do - or at least, feel that I have good reason to do anyway - and strangely, I think, some of my best work has arisen from those challenges, long since knowing, that they've made me grow as a writer and which is why, I suppose, that I love to do them.
And so with all the editing I've been doing lately on my earlier works, to try and reflect in them, something, at least, of my ability today, it's been strange to come back into actually creating something new.  Exciting.  And instead of getting on with any number of projects already incubating, the kind of thing that I'm used to doing, I found myself responding to a call for submissions for an anthology about time travel stories, a book to be published relatively soon.  'A piece of cake', I thought, 'it's what I do, lo-ve time travel stories.'  But then, as I read the rubric, it scared me a little, in a good way though, a challenging way; calling for a focus on time travel but set wa-y into the future a la 'The Time Machine' by H G Wells, together with a strong suggestion that it shouldn't be character based either - one of the things people say that I do best.  Humph. So... no time travel into the past, and no wonderfully nuanced character driven story beating from the heart of it all?  Can I do that?  Let's see.
I realised then, that even though I've always only used low fantasy in any of my stories (mostly in regards to time travel) that going into the past might have restricted my imagination at least a bit; only ever having sent my characters there and never to the future.  No, that's something I've only ever flirted with, never actually having gone in for a kiss let alone second base.  I wonder why, exactly, because I love the thought of travelling to the future.  And don't get me wrong, when I do go into the past, I try to avoid the most popular historic events and all those rules about time travel that seemed to have evolved by their own volition; aware that I should keep my stories fresh, preferring to have them relative to my characters as opposed to history, hopefully bringing something new too; mixing up the ingredients in a blender with lots of options, various functions, fancy buttons, in the same way I experiment with fresh fruit margaritas in the summer.
And that's all well and good, but what of the future - thousands of years, millions, even, into it?  Well(s) that's a whole other kettle of fish, I've come to realise.  Slightly daunting too, I found, as I tried to set out on that abyss of imagination that, rather strangely for a bottomless pit, I've become so familiar with, for it's time indeed to ask the future for a date (pun completely intended) but instead of kissing me, something from that endless chasm came up and 'nutted' me hard; finding there only every subliminal influence of everything that I ever saw on Star Trek and Doctor Who.  'Really?'  And if you know me, I do strive to come up with my own inventions, 'my job to as a writer' being one of my personal steadfast rules.  No, I don't want giant vertebrae having a glass of wine with their plate of human, a rare delicacy, nor do I want humanity to be walking around as cyborgs.  But what then?  H G Wells already created a more simplistic setting, which was my first thought, an organic utopian nature about it - even if one evolved human species did try to eat the other, if I remember correctly.
But a good thing; obviously telling me that this is the next step in my writing journey, making me realise that it was high time I pushed those self-righteous limits, for yes, there might be limits after all... no, obviously, there are... for I came back down to Earth in a different way altogether this time; not wafting back lackadaisically as a feather, no, landed hard on my ass on a jagged rock, the message loud and clear that I hadn't actually been anywhere at all; no new world created yet, none in sight either even if I had trailed the first 5,000 words on a rocky path that's going to take me to whatever dystopian society, if indeed that's what it will be, waiting to be created in the next 5000.  And it will; I just need to get better hiking gear.  But even as I write this blog post, I know I'm avoiding the issue, waiting for the universe to come and whisper in my ear for  I've tried to force it, but my best ideas don't come that way, no, they come when I'm standing on the deck looking at the mountains, walking in the park with the dog, in fact, when I'm doing anything else but trying too hard and then usually without a pen to jot them down, trying to repeat them to myself all the way home.  Yes, the abyss can only be flown on its terms - but I have to say that it's being a stand-offish little bitch this time, hasn't flown me across it in a while.
What I've written so far has already been extremely difficult; a word count in a first draft that I could normally push out in a day, has taken three, and a story that's made me want to give up on it numerous times.  But I don't do that, for it would haunt me, no, always finish what you start for in it's end will be a new beginning.  A good thing, though, I should think, means it's difficult, perhaps more intelligent even, or, then again, maybe it sucks and I'm just out of my depth?  Not my genre, after all, maybe, time travel, even if going the other way into the past is.  But, gladly, upon writing the second draft, I find I'm happy with what I've set up thus far, and where it's all going - wherever that might be, for I still don't know - and it's sufficiently different from H G Wells' story too, the inspiration; having injected some of my own familiar unpredictably and dark humour into it - that element just happening like it normally does, navigating the abyss even if I did have to get a push start here and there, stalling every now and then to contemplate the future as I found I needed to.  Yes, I've brought what I consider to be a Jeckyll and Hyde 'effect' to it; good turned evil, bringing the main character to a point where he just can't stop himself from taking pleasure from his newfound abilities, but also bringing an element which I don't think I've ever read before anywhere and which has told me how the story will end - for once.  But I'm still not entirely clear where, when and who will be there in the future of that Earth that I've yet to create to be able to reach that end, and why they will be.  Challenging indeed.  But I love it.

I've only got a few days left, but that's alright; the publisher's already said that due to the short time frame, first drafts, and unedited submissions are acceptable, and if necessary, will be edited by them - even if mine will be as polished as it can possibly be because I'm a bit particular that way - but then, even if it isn't... I know a certain someone who, apparently, created a world in only seven days, and obviously didn't have the time to revise either....


**

Update: Feb 2013 - the story mentioned above, now completed, was 'loved' by the publisher, and will go through an editing stage.  

In the meantime it's published in my anthology, 'Desolate' along with some other pretty strange stories: Desolate - short stories and poems.







Sunday, 19 August 2012

Precipice of an alternate plane


Since I was a tiny little kid I've lived in my own world, never really feeling that I belonged anywhere at all.  Not even as part of a family in the early years of my childhood, when I had one of those.  Always on the outside looking in, feeling like I was standing on the abyss of an alternate plane.  'A strange wee boy', people always said.  Still do, except 'wee boy' has changed to 'character'.  Perhaps aptly, because that's what it feels like most times, that I'm simply playing a part; nothing's real.
Given my own room so I could read, write, and house a collection of unusual, interesting to me only, objects that I'd come across; stones picked up from the street, pieces of wood from the forest, and of course a place where I could hide, at least for a while, a sackful of kittens that'd been on their way to the local river.  But mostly, I suspect, because it was eventually accepted that I was different, that I, one of five children, even in my formative years, needed a sanctuary.  Or perhaps my parents just gave in, put me out of the way to shut me up.  But I often wonder what force of nature set me apart, for it wasn't a choice by any means, I only knew that I needed a place to be alone when I needed to be, and I mean completely, even sitting in the pitch black of our storage locker out back, which I gathered up old furniture for in order to sit in complete isolation, telling them that I had a migraine, eventually building partitions in there with bamboo canes and the like, for a kitchen, living and bedroom area, my inventiveness coming to light with an old car battery.  No wonder they were concerned.
And sure, like any parent would, mine tried to encourage me to join in, to be like everyone else, encouraging me to embrace commonplace, for that's what people did, or at least back then they did, for we didn't have YouTube to easily express ourselves, hope to have our talent discovered.  Yes, tried to squish me into a slot like a lump of Plasticine (Play-Doh, if you're North American) simply to accommodate their mainstream expectation, sending me to Judo and Karate because that's what a boy should be doing, my mother, more accepting, often telling me not to do and say certain things in front of my father, such as using my disguise kit around him, one of my favourite things, creating new and wonderfully whacky characters, both male and female.
The parents of the few little friends I did have, didn't like me, especially as I got into double digits, called me sly - or sleekit - as they say in Scotland, simply because I was too different.  Suspicious of me, I could tell, for whatever reason, saying that I was too clever for my own good, but simply confused because I didn't comply with what they expected, what they knew a boy should be, eventually banning me from coming to ask if their children could come out to play, a bad influence as I only might've been, lest I induce some imagination, or something, into their own child.  But that not stopping me, inventive as I was, cat-calling, literally, wailing from the back of their houses when I wanted them to come out, and authentically too; a great mimic of man and beast.  'Still waters run deep' - my own father said, although I have no idea why such a simile should be applied to an intensely profound thinker; nothing stagnant about the way my mind worked at all.  But no, nothing sinister going on in there, despite what they thought, no devious ploy being hatched; simply an observer of people, even then, wondering why they all seemed to be the same, and amused; watching them judging me and getting it all wrong, for I've only ever had good intent.  But I can see their point now; why they might've been unnerved.  I would be, if I met me.
I was special, preferred the world as told by encyclopaedias and Enid Blyton, a children's writer who inspired me to handwrite three books of my own there in my little box-room before the age of ten, and for which I at least achieved some recognition in school, one of them being read out a chapter a day to the class, and given a half missing book from the library, Enid Blyton's 'The Famous Five' or 'The Secret Seven', I forget, but being asked to complete it, which I know now to have been a test even if I did just think at the time they simply wanted to put it back in the library, money tight everywhere obviously.  And with a renewed interest, my parents were called in to discuss my talent and how it should be nurtured; the nun's positively orgasmic over what they'd discovered.  And suddenly it was alright; I no longer had to hide the fact from my father that I'd swapped Judo for drama class and had a leading role in a play based on Robert Burn's poem, Tam O Shanter, playing in a church hall in a neighbouring town, even if he wouldn't come to see me.  Yes, something to my artistic sensibility after all, perhaps the boy didn't need to be a product of environment.  Really?
But then, that's when the cork in the neck of my father's alcohol problem popped proper, and everything, everything, disintegrated, no room, literally, in the children's home for a boy like me, or that is to say there was, a single little room going begging, but no matter how much I did, they wouldn't give it to me, not understanding me in the way that my parents finally had no choice but to succumb to.  No, they knew better, it was for my own good that I should share a room; it would bring me out of my shell.  Humph.  Well, they came to regret that, for if I couldn't have a physical retreat I would most certainly have a mental one.  And it lasted for years, punishing them, using my powers of observation to amuse myself by playing with their minds, and still never letting them into mine.  And I left there as soon as I was old enough, very young, sixteen, to get my own flat, my life's mission to be alone, and pretty much have been ever since.  But then, I can still go way over the top to prove a point.
And when I take stock of myself, my life today, for all the things I've done, the places in those encyclopaedias that I've visited for myself now, the world that I've travelled and loved, each country reinventing me a little more, it's as if I'd never left that little box-room at all, for my introspective is certainly the same.  More well-rounded now, yes, matured, but the people of the world, somehow still acting out a script in my eyes still on the outside looking in and wondering why I'm not really a part of it all, still feeling there was no role for me to play in it, even if I can put one foot over the threshold of the world's stage on occasion.
I remember when I was five-yrs-old, when times were comparatively good compared to the horrors to come of only a few short years later that destroyed our entire family; my father's alcoholism also only in its infancy then, dangling my feet over the balcony on a hot summer's day, hanging out with my rabbit, either Thumper, I, II or III, I forget, but watching the kids from our block, including my siblings, splashing about in a paddling pool, and thinking how I really wanted to join in and my mother trying to encourage me to.  But I just couldn't, and I remember telling her that they looked really silly as being the reason why, knowing that that statement was the silliest of all.  And for the first time I think, I knew there was something different about me; analyzing each one of those kids, their screams, and the way they splashed about without needing to think about what they were doing; simply having a great time, expressing delight in a way that I felt unable to but that I was, nonetheless, entirely envious of.
But then, I sometimes wonder today if my very first memory might've been responsible for that, somehow instilling a reticence within me.  But then again, maybe not, for even during that horrendous incident at four-yrs-old, I remember analysing the fact that my father most certainly would not cut the baby out of my mother's heavily pregnant stomach even if I were to have run into the kitchen to get a knife that he'd screamed for me to do; knowing even at that young age that alcohol made people do and say things that weren't normal, and that he didn't really mean it even if he thought he did at the time; me simply looking at him defiantly, refusing to budge, contemplating what he was doing, him yet to hit me.  No, if he wanted to kill her, he'd have to strangle her, but I knew he wouldn't; and yes, that sounds horrendous, but I consider that I must've seen it all before, to have stayed so calm.  Normal.
And today, as a bit of an armchair psychologist, even if I have arrived at the conclusion my propensity for seclusion has nothing to do with that incident, not really, otherwise my siblings might've been more like me too, I still want to blame that.  But, no, I know it's inherent, I was born with it, a true introvert, the circumstance of that past all but having a mere affect on the extreme sensibility that was germinating from birth; yes, I would've been like that anyway, because I know I'm stronger than that, perhaps even because of that kind of thing; never owning their mistakes, but using them only to become a better person.
I clearly remember my mother's face being resigned to the fact that nothing she could say or do would change my mind about joining in any normal childhood activity.  But it wasn't for the want of trying on her part, or, I have to say, mine; the struggle going on in my mind, over-analysing everything as I did back then, can still do now, the difference being that it can easily dismiss the kind of irrelevance, the normality of life, that it no longer needs to consider much even if does still amuse me to on occasion, always there, in the background, smirking.  She even managed to get to me to join the Boy Cubs, and off we went, me in my little uniform, my shorts, my striped peaked cap and my yellow cravat, she dropping me off inside the door of the church hall just before the session started.  And I'd been highly excited about the prospect of it, the adventure that boy Cubs had, the ones I'd read about, carving things out of wood, tying knots, going camping, and all the rest of it.  But when she left, I sneaked out too, couldn't go in, and not daring to go home, not after the money she'd spent on my uniform, tight as it was, money, not the uniform, I watched them from the outside, intrigued, looking in on them through the window and all the while turning to ice in the freezing rain, wishing I could go in, but too late, my entrance would be too grand then.  I was to make my own way home, safe for a child to do so in those days, and new to the town, relatively rural at that time, I got horribly lost, again, but not so much that they needed to call the police this time.  I can still get horribly lost, in my car, even with GPS, no sense of direction, you see.  And I remember feeling so alone, so traumatized for an otherwise tough, but sensitive little boy, but not because I was lost at all, no, I love the adventure of being lost, but because I wondered why I couldn't participate in life.  What was stopping me?
But in the end, as is my other propensity, to turn tin to gold - a form of mental alchemy - making the most of any situation, it became one of my favourite memories; arriving home much earlier than I should've, but standing outside the door waiting to go in at the time perhaps I might've arrived back at, not wanting to let my mother down, intending to pretend that I'd actually been to the Cubs, because I could convince anybody of anything, but in the end wailing that I couldn't go in when she saw the state of me, my appearance betraying me, I knew, my fingers blue with the cold, stiff, my body shivering in a way that it shouldn't have been from coming home only from a few short blocks, and her wrapping me up in a blankie and fussing, sitting me down in front of our black and white telly with a mug of hot chocolate to watch my favourite Friday evening show, Bewitched - one that had me trying for real in my bed at night to twitch my nose to try and convince the toys in the room that they didn't need to pretend to be lifeless in front of me; I wouldn't tell their secret.  Or sometimes I twitched it to whisk me away to another place, another country, America, where I could swim with Dolphins, and other times to become invisible for real, and genuinely surprised, disappointed, that when I opened my eyes, nothing had changed.  Yes, a dreamer.  And while she tried to encourage me to give the Cubs another go, I knew, she knew, that I couldn't; that I didn't belong in a group.  No, not a team player at all, and besides, everyone wore the same clothes.
And I probably drove her crazy; the kid that asked 'why, where, when, what?' constantly, all the while attached to her hip.  But far too sensitive a boy for my father's liking, even if he did encourage my art and my intellect in better times, nicknaming me 'Brainbox', often getting me up out of bed after the others were asleep because I couldn't, my mind too active, another reason they'd given me my own room, so I could read myself to sleep.  Yes, we'd to do crosswords in the newspaper, the easy one with the cryptic clues where the answer might've been found by joining the end of a word and the beginning of another, or he'd teach me better skills at drawing and painting, activities that were close to my heart; little strokes instead of straight lines, better, apparently, but shocking him, adding a little man falling out of a helicopter and suchlike in the background; trees and houses all very well, but a tad boring, 'don't you think?'.  Or we'd just talk, if he'd had a beer or two, and which usually entailed, I knew even then, the testing of my mind, but testing his in return, knowing just what he was doing, and for all our differences, we were very much alike.  Yes, I can still see that look in his eyes, the one that I know creeps into my own when I'm asking an unsuspecting someone something somewhere to which their answer, and the way they'll deliver it, will say so much more about them.  And usually direct questions too, intimate, such as, "Oh, how did you lose your arm?" where no one else at the party had dared to ask, all pretending not to notice; going around the room saying all the usual things; talking about the weather and how nice the spread was, all being so damn polite and fake and predictable.
But 'number two son' anyway; my job to be mummy's boy, plus, she and I had a connection that I felt made me special, for whatever reason, sharing a birthday an' all.  But don't get me wrong, out of the three boys my father felt the need to teach how to box, how to be tough guys, I impressed him, daring to punch him when he told me to, square in the face, flooring him, not like my older brother, daddy's boy who didn't want to.  Yes, tough enough, when I needed to be, but a lover, not a fighter, and I didn't enjoy the Judo lessons either, I told him, even if I did hold back that one of the reasons for that was that everybody dressed the same save for the colour of their belts.  And he was wary of me ever since, proud, actually, perhaps for the first time, going on in my adulthood to tell someone, before he died, that I was a better man than he could ever hoped to have been, and perhaps, the acceptance I needed, regardless of who he was and how he lived his life; still my father, after all.
Yes, 'shy', that's what my relatives said about me, knowing I was peeking at them through the crack of the door when they visited, feeling unhinged, the other kids clambering down the stairs, dashing through to the living room to see grandparents and aunties and uncles and to receive the inevitable presents they'd bring, or pocket money, before going off to play with our cousins.  But me, even though I was entirely intrigued, really wanting to, just couldn't for the life of me walk into that room, knowing that when I eventually did after all the inevitable coaxing, that it would be even more of a big deal, and wishing, like the Boy Cubs, that I'd just blended in with my brothers and sisters from the get go.  And I knew that they knew I was looking in too, even if they didn't know that I knew; could read their body language, the looks they exchanged, all knowing not to make too much of a fuss initially or the shy grandson or nephew would never come in at all.
But in a way, I needed that fuss, the reassurance that I was actually wanted, despite the fact I had no reason to suspect otherwise.  But it really felt that I would be imposing, that I didn't belong, not really, that I needed to be invited to come over into their world.  And yes, they were right; I was always shy, quiet and shy, actually, but much, much more than that too, not stagnant at all, not quiet in my mind, but my introspective too complex for a child to grasp, no, something that would take an entire lifetime to try and understand, to fine tune, or at least find a level of acceptance with.  But then again, maybe my reluctance was borne of the fact that practically every time they did come by, my hamster or my guinea pig got killed; my room invaded by little ones, inadvertently strangling them when I wasn't there, or squashing them under the sandbox or something.  Whatever, but nonetheless I felt that I needed some kind of validation to join in, still do, still cannot ingratiate myself into social situations without at least some encouragement, not even on social media.  And I don't understand it, because I am, believe it or not, quite a confident person, in every other respect.  Yes, still on the outside looking in, even to a faceless, largely fake, society, where I could be, if I was so inclined, anything but me.  But I hate lies of any kind in what is supposed to be real life, innocent, or not, for marketing purposes or otherwise, and even if to my detriment as a writer trying to package myself, it would go against all I'd ever said about integrity.  And so even online, I've been considered strange.  But at least there, I've met some of my own species; yes, I can tell.
And today, the way I perceive the world, my ideas, the things I'll say; unusual, seeming strange to most, has people calling me 'interesting', telling me that I am 'certainly never boring' or as I would say myself, even if it isn't true, 'wonderfully eccentric', but more for their benefit, to put them at ease, for otherwise they'll categorise me themselves, label me with a derogatory word because its what people do, generally, when they can't understand something, usually suspicious of anything different, thinking I must have some kind of motive for being interested in them.  And I do, but it's not sinister or harmful or self-serving or anything, no, I'm a lover not a fighter, remember, it's only about stealing parts of them to put in a story one day.  About reinventing them, for I can't help but read them anyway, so why not put my skills of observation to good use?  It's a compliment; means you're interesting yourself.  And most people I've ever known in my life do make up the many characters in my books that readers say are so wonderfully nuanced, 'so real'.  But I don't blame people who encounter me, for not getting me off the bat, for I don't talk about the normal kinds of things that they might be comfortable with.  I just can't, no, I have savoir-faire after all; it's part of my alien DNA.  And besides, it keeps me sane, to freak them out just a little.
So you've got by now that I hate predictability, it's just so, well, predictable, really, as much as that statement just was, especially in fiction where the characters don't have to live by the social conditioning of the real world.  But yet, still they do in many books, and people seem to lap it up.  And not only that, but they have a whole other predictability about them too; usually gorgeous, with olive skin, green eyes, flowing charcoal hair and the body of a god or goddess and the like; all having found true and intense love too probably.  No, I love to 'blacken the thumbnails' of even my most beautiful characters, give them some failing, whether a facial twitch or a propensity for being infantile, to nitpick each other, something, and even if that character does happen to be a figment of my imagination and not based on a real person at all, the traits I assign them, their FBI profile if you like, have come from a lifetime of watching how people act, perhaps a combination of traits from different folks, but injecting something unique into them as well, something completely against the grain, unpredictable, shocking even, maybe, but something that sets them apart from the person you might expect them to be, for why put in my imaginary worlds that which I hate most about the real one that is so commonplace, both there and, as I said, in fiction?
When I first started out as a writer and I began to tentatively talk about it with people, the inevitable question came all too often, 'are you in the book?' together with a sly look, a smile, a leer, even, as they expected to hear that I would in fact be the main character, had made myself a superhero or something, or at least achieved for myself in fiction that which I could never aspire to in life, and forgetting, or at least, unsuspecting if they didn't know me well, that I can 'read' people's minds.  How about saying, 'oh how interesting, well done you'?  Those people need punished, judging me by their standard, for that's exactly what they might've done; perhaps through self-centredness or an inability to actually imagine anything else, and if not, then certainly they'd have created a character that was already subliminally imprinted into their minds through every other character in every other book they'd ever read.  And no, many I've told that to, that I write books, don't want to give you credit for the fact that you might actually be quite good at it, until you tell them about the years you put in, the college you went to, and if they've been really bad, annoying, losing them in the terminology that, make no mistake about it, displays that you're embroiled in the writing world, losing them by talking about genres they've never even heard of or the formulaic, technical aspects of it, all designed to correct the proverbial eye-roll with which they'd ask that question.  And so with a feigned, but nonetheless 'genuinely surprised, somehow condescending at the same time', look of my own, I say, "Yes, of course I am," pausing, to allow their sneer some momentary credit because I'm generous that way, "there's something of me in every single one of the characters that I create, how could there not be?  Oh... I'm sorry, but did you mean... me...  as a single character?  Oh, God no, I'm far too complex for that.... sick of seeing myself in the mirror every day so much so that I don't even see me there anymore, let alone put me in a book... don't even like writing in first person - can be a sign of an amateur, generally."  And after which, the world we go into is up to them, either genuinely interested now; going on to ask about my books, perhaps even wanting to read one, or changing the subject to talk about how drunk they got over the weekend.  Maybe I just need to know better people?  Easier said than done.
And it's true, a wealth of observation, a mine of information, from watching people over a lifetime, can't be, shouldn't be, perhaps, wasted on just one character.  Otherwise what was it all for, my life of people watching?  And certainly, if there's one thing that life has taught me, people don't get me anyway, many don't want to, most only want what they know, what they understand, what society has dictated they must be like, what I must be like.  But then again, perhaps they would like me better at their own pace, presented as that character in a book.  Yes, maybe then they'd understand me, take the time to get to know me, for they don't embrace me in reality even when I make the effort, and I do try to these days, often quite skilled at it too, the complacence of my relative maturity happy to try and fit in, to act 'normal', exercising that fine line of managing to keep myself to myself for the most part without being too removed, for shy isn't cute at this age, simply creepy.
Yes, even if others cannot understand a solitary existence, or the machinations of what is actually the mind of a deep thinker, someone who lives in a world of their own, I'm comfortable with myself these days at least, embrace my divergent way of thinking, for I don't have a choice.  And so are my lifelong friends, who are few, admittedly, quality over quantity for me, always, even if they can't still fully understand it, but they wouldn't have me without it, it's why they're my friends.  But the difference today is that I can jump into that paddling pool even if I am still analysing the people splashing around in there with me, smiling, coyly at the deliciously ridiculous ignorant bliss of it all, not allowing my propensity for overanalysing to get the better of me anymore.  But then... that's not really me at all; it's my alter ego, his name is Sebastian, for Stephan could never splash about like an idiot.
He's comparatively normal, Sebastian, you'd like him; people always do, he's just like everyone else, nearly, maybe even with a bit of an edge, a little outrageous, maybe, but always fun.  It's a thing, people know about it, in fact they came up with it, giving a name to the elusive twin of my introvert and gemini nature, which if you know anything about being an introvert, also gives a person the ability to set wheels in motion before sitting back and enjoying the ride as if they hadn't at all.  Yes, it's gone on for the last two decades in two different countries, people always asking me 'who's out tonight; Stephan or Sebastian?'  And if I say, 'Stephan', the response is kind of like, 'oh, okay', and if 'Sebastian', they say, 'ye-ah... par-tay.'  Although these days, I'm more inclined to say, 'actually, it's Steph Sebastian' - and not just to confuse them anymore, but it's alright, they seem to like him too, and of course, he's not the only one getting a bit older.  But I wonder, perhaps, because it's what I do, if Stephan will finally take over Sebastian altogether?  Never! (That was Seb talking there.  Fool, that he is!)
I still live in my proverbial box room, I think, but bringing my unusual ideas alive in my writing now, makes me feel less alone, creating worlds that I don't need to look in on but can be a part of.  For they are part of me, it's where I belong, I'm comfortable there, I like my own company, the good and the bad, the people in them really the only company I ever needed, and save for talking to myself, I think the healthiest way to go.  And even if it were an issue anymore, for I simply don't care, truly, I don't have to worry about how I'm perceived in the waking world.  In fact, I love it that people are so confused by me, play on it oftentimes, and smile, reading their minds, knowing what's going through them as they try to work me out.  But it's old hat to me now.  Let them think they know.
But I think my very disposition, obviously naturally against mainstream, could be detrimental to any success I could hope to achieve as a writer.  And it confuses me, for if there's one thing that I notice people saying all over the place, it's that they want originality.  Why then, are they so reluctant to embrace it when it is presented to them?  For instance when we see the so-called 'mommy porn' book of Fifty Shades of Grey and the sensation surrounding that - and on which I wrote a rather scathing opinion recently, which I won't go into again - but nonetheless, this is exactly what I'm talking about; what I've always seen since childhood; society all doing the same thing based on nothing more than the sheep factor mentality.  That's a real shame.
People will pay up to $15.00 for that book, written by a complete amateur, apparently, buying it blindly, without even reading the sample simply because everyone was talking about it, and for the most part hating it, not finishing it when they do.  But yet, I have to slog my guts out to try and give away the passion that I pour the culmination of my entire life into every day, trying to make up for missed opportunity from my formative years when my talent was first noticed and spat to the wayside.  I strive to make the stories I write today, the best they can possibly be with an almost obsessive compulsive dedication to producing the product of originality that is me, an unusual person that people love to apply the word 'unique' to all over the place as a person and as a writer.  And yet not a spit in the ocean for my efforts.  But then that's life, one day, perhaps, after I'm dead, maybe, but still, there has to be some point to it all.  Hasn't there?   But don't get me wrong; this isn't a gripe about that, not really, what I'm talking about is mainstream, mediocre, the middle-of-the-road majority dictating trends, for the lack of imagination, or knowing how to embrace being an individual, to make truly independent choices.  Am I really the odd man out, 'odd' being the operative, for wanting to be that person my entire life?  Isn't that what we were supposed to have been, why we were given a mind of our own?  No, what I'm talking about is that kind of thing that we hear and see every day, a generic automaton society, wearing the same expression as always they have, and I think the Internet has only exacerbated it.
And as much as I can splash about in a pool these days, I still cannot genuinely cheer aloud for a sports team; cannot become animated to the point where my life might depend on that team winning, or scream and throw my arms in the air because they scored a goal even if I can admire and respect their skill.  No, I simply see it as a game.  And yes, I get it, the underlying reason for that kind of camaraderie, competition, more than just game, yes, but I find it hard to become that invested nonetheless, get carried away in the way that many do, simply because they've inherited that need to support their team, like religion or their surname.  And nothing wrong with that; it's just not me.  I'm the kind of person that sees an interesting 'share' and needs to go look it up to prove its validity before sharing it myself - and it astounds me how much of the information we see everyday is false in that how much people pass on that information just because it popped up on their Facebook page, and so it must be true, without even thinking about it - e.g. pictures of babies with growths on their faces who can only be cured by Facebook contributing a dollar for every time that picture is shared.  Yes, people need to think more, before acting blindly.
Although, lest I be misjudged as being emotionless, which I have been in the past, many times, I do in fact experience emotion deeply, profoundly, but quietly.  'Still waters'.  No, I may not weep for the death of a person, I'm stoic and a pillar of strength in the face of that kind of tragedy, which, I suppose, is why people come to me with their issues all the time, but I can cry like a little bitch if my dog dies - which I did four years ago, for months.  Yes, I can cheer on, wholeheartedly, an underdog in life, encourage people to pull themselves from being a product of a less desirable environment, to be all that they can be.  I can get excited for that kind of success.  I can applaud loudly, smile respectfully as the Mona Lisa itself, unless that's really a sneer and whether it was a man in drag or not, and, yes, shed tears of joy for beauty, an artist, a pianist, an opera... even a Hallmark moment... on the rare occasion.  My heart can scream endlessly for the pain of a neglected child or the abuse of an animal, it can lurch to the depths of despair at what goes on this supposedly civilised world, in places like Syria, the death, the destruction, and for the meaningless acts of violence and atrocity that we see in our every day lives in our own cities.  

And group mentality, yes, that really confuses me, perhaps the fakest, or truest, of all traits of humanity, but I do know this, the oxygen to my brain, would never allow me to act outside of myself like they did in my city last year over the Stanley Cup final; I don't care if it would be really neat to see the department store burning down (and perhaps it needs to be) but no way am I putting a gas soaked rag in a cop car's gas tank because I'm in a crowd of people doing the same thing, and for what; because we lost a hockey match?  I don't get that, what, a blatant display of inner desire, frustration?
Perhaps not surprisingly, you might think at this stage, I have never been in love, or even had a meaningful relationship, and no expectation that I ever will.  And while I have had many romantic encounters and short-lived affairs throughout my life, I don't need them anymore, perhaps never did, going through the motions only.  And I'm not a slave to my body in that respect, nor did I ever actually feel that I wanted to be in a relationship.  No, I can say that and actually mean it; that for all its apparent, benefits, the companionship, the financial benefits and whatever else that comes with it, that I really don't want to live as a couple.  Couldn't.  No, I like being on my own, with my dog, always did, have no choice; it's simply not in me to be otherwise inclined.  And as much as I see the nature of people, I can't really understand why many will settle to be with someone when, in many cases, that person is obviously not the love of their life.  To me that says they simply do not know how to be themselves, and even, perhaps can't be, cannot think outside of what people have always done, just cannot be what I hold most dearly, alone.  Sheep.  And yes, I can be happy for those that do find love, the real thing, and can be envious of that too, in awe of it, of their resulting family.  And I can laugh too; at the Internet, for instance, social media, for the most part, about who people pretend to be on there, a whole new source of inspiration for my characters; even their fake personas not truly who they are even behind a worldwide cloak of anonymity.  But each to their own.
I hate lies of any description, black, white, or the fifty shades of grey in-between (sorry, couldn't help myself) whether the entire façade of life that humanity lives by, or told directly to my face, because I can't help but see it, feel it, and as in control of myself as I am, pretending, making you think I believe you, I find myself recoiling back to that alternate plane, a place of comfort that precipice that threatens to swallow me the older I get, for I was right all along; I don't belong in that world; I prefer my own.  A lone wolf, but not a loner, wouldn't have it any other way, and yet still, I feel so alone.  But that's alright.
**





Friday, 17 August 2012

My writing journey over the Alps

An oldie, but this is actually taken of me up the the Swiss Alps


As I wandered through those Alps; arduous, never-ending, I encountered many an obstacle along the journey; reached icy plateaus demanding I go back the way I came, to re-tread paths that I thought I'd conquered, and becoming stuck there, sometimes, exhausted, to simply hibernate in a cave, a lone wolf, naïve, hungry, no oasis to quench my thirst.
And I wonder why, for sometimes I'd thought it was pointless, sometimes still, as well.  And besides, there was a road that I could've driven, as others do, a more direct route, smooth and simple, undemanding, crossing boundaries with ease, apparently, and all that should be an obstacle.
But what would I know of the mountain at all, the intimacy of its spiritual essence, its disposition, for those would've eluded my grasp, the magnitude of pride and honour that commands to be scaled?  But my passion intrinsic, my sensibilities committed to the nature of the beast within, like no other I know.  I'd soar that mountainous terrain, sprout wings, learn how to fly, yes, and pass that old road by.
And when I did start out on that venture, blind at first, nocturnal, skulking in the dark of night, eyes eager, flashing; green, then red, so green, and then so red, a young wolf, arrogant, treading ahead without observing the lay of the land, those very rules dictated by the head of the pack from which I chose to stray to charter new territory with maverick way, and where sense was the only thing to be found on sheer cliff faces that scoffed and told me to turn around.
And I did, discovered trails to at least pinnacles low, and clambered upon them, scrambled, my body, exhausted, starved, depleted, resting there till dawn when I could survey my domain, all that I would claim to know.  But when daylight broke, my imaginary reward; that vista, hazy, still, an early morning mist lingering on a precipice, a gaping mouth to swallow me whole, still, daring me to find a foothold to climb to the limit of the sky where an abyss of imagination waited to be soared, or to plummet me to a bottomless pit of no substance.
And catching sight of higher peaks off in the distance, my name whistling between them, I reached a treacherous terrain of which I knew better now, jagged, unwelcoming, infinite, detrimental to body and mind, but inviting all the same, challenging, goading me all the while, in that I did not have strength, dared me to continue that quest at my will, at my peril, threatened that it'd eaten stronger than I.  Yes, easy to hitch a lift, that road right there, beckoning.  But what of respect; of staking my flag?  No, that road has no end, no honour, no destination where I would go.
Forward, the only way, the hard way, and as it should be, lest I lay down and died, lest I relinquished all that I could prove myself to be.   And so I ate but a berry or two along the way, to sustain the body that feeds my mind, as I dragged it across a rocky terrain of high and low, my latent madness to accompany me, hearing it whisper all the while, encouraging, but mocking me all at once, confusing me, as I inched forward, for I could only inch, to reach out and grab that, which came into my sight.
Yes, I summoned that strength instilled in me from another terrain, another madness never mine to claim, but of which I suffered, conquered against the odds to return me strong, that brought me to my battle here today, where, at last, I may reach, on hands and knees, dizzying heights of a pinnacle of which I may breathe thin air to leave me breathless, for through my blindness, the very pain of my vision, I see vistas, laid out before me in pastures bright, and a mossy hill to roll down upon that will stop me at the feet of a couple of Sherpa's waiting at the foot of the Himalayas.  But I don't need them now.  Do I?

"Fuck off Sherpas," I said.

**Important Note**

The above post started out as a blog post about my writer's journey, it was only meant to notify my readers that an end of an era is here; in that I have actually been able to put the words, 'Final Edition' on my Prickly Scots titles.   Many will know that I have written many other stories since, but Prickly Scots has seen me through the years of my training, was the first book I wrote as an adult, initially, without any kind of training, and has been rewritten and rewritten time and again the more my skill evolved with the necessary training and by gaining experience as a writer - my Golden Gate Bridge, if you like.

However, over the last few weeks, the entire book got yet another overhaul, each chapter lovingly edited three times each, to try and implement something of the writer I am today - a very hard task when you have to deal with all the errors and rookie mistakes of your previously amateur self; I could've written a whole new book in this last month.  And I found while doing it this time, that I knew it would be the last, I didn't actually need, or want to change it much at all - a first.  That of course, as easy as the edit was this time, brought me to a realisation, of how far I've come these last seven years; from the early days of joining an amateur writing site, where I started to understand more of the formulaic aspects, onto becoming top writer there, to the writer I am today, who has garnered the attention of some pretty important people, including, recently, a highly respected international best selling author who sent me a lovely message based on something else I wrote, and told me that she had purchased one of my books.  Humph.  Now, if that doesn't mean that I've scaled a mountain or two, then I don't know what would.  I can only hope that it might hold up to her expectation.
Again, Prickly Scots Pts I & II are finally complete, if you have either of these, or the collective volume, please update your copy on both Amazon and Smashwords (especially if it’s a really old one, my God please do that!) and make sure that the copy you have says 'Final Edition' under the title on the first page.
Finally, not only did I complete Prickly Scots', but also earlier this year, I revisited my entire body of work, and brought it all up to scratch too, so, if you own any of my other books, they all may be updated (even if they don't say Final Edition) for they are all far more sophisticated than their early editions were - and beautifully formatted and indexed too.
I have no choice now to get on with all my new stuff now that my babies have finally left home.  I might even go out in the sun, and... oh yes... I found a little puppy under my desk.... his name is MacGregor, apparently.
Save a buck and get the two books for one here at Amazon or Smashwords