Thursday, October 31, 2019

Move Close To The Fireplace.

Winter is coming, which it is, and isn't any sort of reference to Game of Thrones.

It's getting colder, the days are getting shorter with dark mornings, and the leaves are falling. I've already had a couple of icy mornings where I've had to scrape the windscreen. Firewood has been delivered, which means the Chateau Cameron is cosy in the evenings, and we're eating more soups and stews than in the warmer months.

Christmas, as a festive season, seems more real here.  Growing up in Australia, Christmas always seemed out of place. I remember watching The Proposition, the Nick Cave film, a few years ago. It's a gritty Australian 'western' and is very much a commentary on the hostile landscape and environment in which the colonists and convicts lived. Here's the thing - they simply didn't belong, and I seem to recall dialogue along those lines. One scene that stands out is the family trying to have a traditional English Christmas lunch in 40c heat while being swarmed by flies. It belongs firmly in winter, and is very much a northern hemisphere festival.

Oh, and that in no way, shape or form suggests I never enjoyed Christmas in Australia.

But once again I am reminded of Marigold by Steeleye Span. (From the Sails of Silver album) 

When the marigold no longer blooms 
When summer sun is turned to gloom 
See the forecast winter snow 
See the evergreen that lonely grows 
Move close to the fireplace 
Neglect the garden 
See the ground harden
At a ghostly place
The golden summer sun is silver now 
The fruit has fallen from the bough
The season moves to chestnut time 
Toffee apples, treacle and mulled wine 
Quilts and furs and woolens gay 
You wrap around you 
But the cold confounds you 
On an autumn day 
Stout and strong the walls of home and hearth 
Curtains drawn against the draft 
The rake has reaped, the blade has mown 
Nights draw in to call the harvest home 
The quiet of a heart at rest 
In peace abounded 
By love surrounded
Here the home is blest

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Publishing Again.

Did I mention I have a new story coming out? I'm just not sure when.

I sold it earlier this year, and I think I blogged about it at the time. It's a good fantasy story - which isn't a genre into which I delve all that often. I originally wrote it for a themed anthology - unfortunately, I had missed the words "urban fantasy" in the original guidelines, and there was nothing urban about this fantasy. Once the submission period had closed, I realised my error. I emailed the editor, apologised, and asked for the piece to be withdrawn.

At least I looked like a good guy in front of that editor.

It's had some close calls at some really good markets - received positive personal feedback at a pro-market, but never quite got there. Until this sale.

The editor likes it. He told me so. He also suggested it might end up in either an anthology in October, or a magazine in January. Well, it's almost October, and I haven't heard anything, so I guess we'll see it at the beginning of next year.

Keep your eyes out. I'll let you know when it's out.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Yesterday.

As a Beatle freak, I'm sure many expected I would rush to the cinema to see Yesterday, the latest Danny Boyle film. I love a lot of Danny Boyle's work - Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Sunshine and even caught his stage production of Frankenstein in London.

The cinema is no longer the cheap pastime it once was,  and so I save my trips to the cinema for the spectaculars, those films which need to be seen big. Star Wars movies are a prime example. Unfortunately, everything about Yesterday screamed 'Saturday Afternoon DVD'. I had only seen a couple of reviews, had no spoilers, but the marketing and the one short clip I saw on TV suggested this had little to do with the Beatles.

I waited. And I'm glad I did.

It was pleasant enough, or as Douglas Adams might have said, mostly harmless - a straightforward rom-com with some Beatles music as background. The writer, Richard Curtis, made no attempt to explore the social implications of a world without the Beatles. Even when the main character (and I've forgotten his name) goes to visit John Lennon, they spend seeming hours walking on a beach discussing a quiet life. Not once does he ask if he played music, wrote songs, ever played in a band, knew a guy called Paul. Not once.

Much like the guys in Coldplay, Ed Sheeran seems like a nice guy, but, unfortunately, he can't act. In much the same way Coldplay's music doesn't appeal to me, neither does Sheeran's. His songs are nowhere on the same level as anything by the Fab Four.

I guess my biggest concern was that nothing else in this parallel universe seemed different. While the Beatles didn't create the 60s, they certainly surfed the crest of the wave - appearing as though responsible for much of the change that occurred. But surely there would have been other differences if they never existed.

Would music have developed the same way without their influence?  Remember, at that time bands didn't write their own material, and guitar groups were on their way out.

Another point. Everyone seems to pause when hearing a Beatles song for the first time - overcome by the instant brilliance. Much of the Beatles music is contextual, rooted solidly in the time it was written and recorded. Would those songs still have the same impact if they were new nowadays? And that main guy (still can't remember his name) goes from playing empty pubs to festivals in what seems a few weeks.

Overall, a pleasant little film. Curtis and Boyle could have been more insightful and incisive but chose to play it safe. Not one I'll be adding to my Beatles collection, or ever watching again.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Other Worlds.

I've just arrived home from a wonderful writer's workshop in Nottingham. Organised by Alex Davis, the force behind Edge-Lit in Derby, Other Worlds had four guest presenters, published authors and specialists in their subject. Mark A Latham presented on Planning & Plotting, Andrew Bannister on Politics & Science Fiction, Sophie Draper on Psychological Thrillers and Charlotte Baker on Atomspheric Scenes.  In between and around all this, Alex ran sessions on a range of aspects regarding writing and the publishing industry.

Thank you all.

Even though I have encountered some of this before, I always manage to find new take-aways. And this weekend there were plenty of those from all guests. New ideas, new techniques, things to consider, and pitfalls to avoid.

But it's the participants who can make or break these workshops. We had an excellent crew, with a high level of involvement, no-one dominating the discussions, and a level of mutual respect amongst us all.

A few others had likewise chosen to stay overnight, so I was able to have dinner with Martin, Aly and Alex. It was a fantastic evening of laughs, shared stories and experiences. And like any other group of writers, it soon turns out there are mutual friends.

Thank you for your time, and for inviting me to join you for dinner.

Of course I'm re-inspired - that's what happens on these weekends. Now all I have to do is make the time to start writing again.  Like everything else, it's a matter of priorities and making a choice.  Choosing to write rather than watch TV.

I choose to write. Unfortunately, I have a few very busy weeks coming on. Events and commitments which cannot be shifted.

Let's see how I go.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Choices.

I've always been intrigued by the idea of parallel worlds.

Simply put, one theory suggests that every time a decision is made from a number of different options, the universe splits into another timeline, where both choices are made. Of course this would mean there are an infinite number of universes.

But does this mean there are identical universes, one from where I cough at 10:27:03 am, and one where I cough a second later?  If something so small isn't enough to warrant a split, then how major do the differing events need to be?

I admit it. It's been many many years since I read anything about this, and my understanding is simplistic and probably erroneous, but I do love the thought that somewhere there is another universe where I am a successful author with a string of publications to my name.  Now that's a couple of books I would love to get my hands on. I figure I'd love those stories.

It also means there's a universe where the Beatles didn't split up and there are Beatle songs I've never heard.  Of course there are universes where they never became a band.

I've recently read about Dimension Jumping, or Quantum Jumping. People claim to be able to transfer to another parallel universe, one where they are able to achieve their dreams.  The stories they tell are fascinating, although I'm not really convinced by any of them. They have, however, given me ideas for my writing.

In this world we can simply do our best, taking time to make choices that are for our own good and for the good of those around us. Realising our actions can impact on others, and deciding not to harm them. Thinking before we make major choices that could ripple through time and affect our own future.

Life is a choose your own adventure book. I think I'm currently on page 74.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

What Kind of Fan?

No doubt there are degrees of fans.

I consider myself a pretty big Beatles fan. I collect Beatles stuff, and can instantly tell you the difference between different mixes of their music. I know how many takes of I Saw Her Standing There were recorded, which ones were complete and how the released version was constructed.

I also love Essendon, my football club. I watch almost every game live - even if it means getting up at 4.30 am. If they play on a Thursday or Friday evening, that's a touch more difficult as it's usually daytime here in the UK and I'm at work. I don't think my managers would be too please if I had the game running on my PC in the office. Those games, I catch up in the evening. And I'll stick by them through good and bad.

But recently, in several online forums and groups to which I belong, I've seen fans putting down others because they aren't as fanatical. They don't go to as many matches, they don't have as much vinyl, or they don't know the names of every song McCartney ever recorded.

Lincoln City Football Club, my local team, has recently risen from years in a slump. Some fans in one Facebook group seem to yearn for the days when attendance at games was a fraction of what it is now, and rather than celebrate regular victories, sell-out games and more people in town wearing Lincoln shirts, they disparage those who are new supporters as being "Plastic Fans".

And the snobbery.

One Bob Dylan forum to which I belong, recently had a post stating that "When I put a post on here I forget it will probably be read by non-musicians."

What?  You mean your posts are so incredibly meaningful that those who don't play an instrument will never understand them?

I also saw one proclaiming that we all agree Dylan is the greatest musician otherwise you we wouldn't be in this group.  Umm, I belong to several music groups, not just Dylan's.

Another post declared those who don't "get" Dylan are obviously less intelligent than those who do. No, it wasn't meant to be funny, it wasn't a troll. Possibly the funniest part of it was that it was misspelled.

Guess what? We're allowed to like different things to different degrees. We're also not allowed to like other things. And not everything speaks to everyone in the same way. 

I'm proud of my Beatles knowledge, but I'll happily discuss them with people who know far more than I do, and those who just like some of their songs.

And, for the record, not everything they recorded was a masterpiece. You have no idea how little I listen to What's The New Mary Jane?

Friday, July 19, 2019

Excuses, Excuses.

I had all good and honourable intentions of getting some writing over the summer. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, that has yet to occur.

I've been busy. Work and life got in the way. I'm going abroad on holidays soon. I must catch up on Battlestar Galactica (yeah, I'm more than a few years behind). I got distracted by Facebook/Wikipedia/reading articles.

I probably could have made some time if I wanted to.

I sometimes wonder whether I can be bothered writing again. Truth is I enjoy writing and being published but I'm never really sure who is reading my published work.

Someone obviously does. Publishers pay to print my words. I see reviews in Goodreads, Amazon and the occasional blog, but they almost seem removed, remote. There's little sense of immediate feedback.

It all comes down to priorities.

I have ideas still. I write them in my notebooks. And when I have the urge, I'm sure I'll start writing again.