This is a question I asked myself while pottering about in the garden.
It may seem like a simple question, one which has a very simple answer; the likes and the things we do listed, almost ‘bullet-pointed’ as a reply.
That’s fine, for most people.
But I am an author, a writer. To me, even those simple answers have hidden depths, more meaning and a thousand stories each to be told.
Here is where my writer’s mind went after I asked myself that question…
I know what I do, but I wondered if that was ‘just me’?
You see, I love travelling. I love to explore other countries, sampling their food, their culture, being amazed at wonderful vistas, cascading waterfalls, crazy cities, wild traffic and such.
I also like to travel around Britain, the place I live. So far, my favourite areas are the Highlands & Western Isles of Scotland.
The Llyn peninsular in Wales gets better and better the further west you travel. The very best being Aberdaron and Bardsey Island.
I reside in Yorkshire, the county known as ‘Gods Country’ for its stunning landscapes.
I originate from the south and was lucky enough to have lived in Kent, called the ‘Garden of England’, which kind of speaks for itself.
All in all, I love nature; landscapes, coastal areas, animals, plants, and grand views. I like red wine, cold beer, fine whiskey, food and some good company.
To my mind this is what home is all about, making a comfortable place with hints, reminders and touches of all the things you love. Pictures and photographs of loved ones, trinkets and ‘tat’ from all those places you have visited; be it a foreign country or the local park, it’s those little inconsequential, yet sentimental items, like a shell collected from a beach, a pebble from a mountain path or a serviette from ‘that’ café.
In a way that is what our homes are for, storing and sharing all those little things which bring back the memories from a life well lived.
We can also make our homes reflect the things which make us… us. Especially, at least for me, in the garden, the garden in which I was pottering when I first asked myself the question I am writing about now.
In this instance, I have ninety per cent completed a project I started about three weeks ago.
In one corner of my garden was a derelict, rotted and neglected raised ‘deck’. I built the deck about ten years or so ago from reclaimed scaffolders boards and, I must admit, was proud of the outcome.
The said deck, (holding tables, chairs, potted plants and lighting), hosted many ‘al fresco’ lunches and dinners, served as a ‘buffet’ table during garden parties and barbecues it even became an improvised office for my writing on the days the sun shone and the rains held off.
But, as many structures constantly exposed to all weathers, it slowly degenerated, until it was little more than a rickety load of planks balancing precariously on a few rotten cross-members.
After laying unused and unloved for so long I decided to rip it up, replacing it with raised-bed vegetable plots and a small seating area.
Partly this decision was to do with the ‘stuff’ I wrote about earlier, the travelling to places, the sampling of food and wine and such like.
You will see in the following photographs I have placed my potted vines along the wall. These have never produced any edible grapes or enough to make even a single glass of wine, not here in England, not with our weather. But they do grow some large and tender leaves which are perfect for making dolmades, one of those foods I first ‘found’ on my travels many years ago.
I have made one deep growing bed and two shallow beds. The idea is to grow ‘root’ vegetables, such as carrots, parsnip, onion and sweeds in the deep one, leaving the shallow beds for the vegetables that grow ‘upwards’; beans, peas, sprouts, lettuce and so forth… once the soil has been delivered, which is about all I need now to complete my task, hence it is only ninety per cent complete.
I already have an area for soft fruits and yesterday harvested a bumper crop of particularly sweet and sticky Gooseberries, the ‘Brambles’ (Blackberries) are beginning to set fruits and so still have many flowers.
This then, is my answer to my own question, “what do writers do when they are not writing?”
For me it is often gardening, but not simply for gardening’s sake.
Its for relaxation, creativity, frugality, satisfaction and for good food, healthy unadulterated food which I and or my wife will turn into some amazing dishes or preserves; some that will bring memories of a time, a trip or a place, flooding back, or maybe excite us, as we look forward to the next travel experience we have planned.
These are the sort of things I do when not sitting alone, isolated, eyes glued to the screen and scribbling away like a manic… I’ll let you finish that line!
However, I am curious to know what you do when you are not writing, please, let me know so I can be sure it is not ‘Just me’.
Keep Happy, Paul.
Don’t forget to visit my website,http://bit.ly/paulswebsitewhere you can find my latest books, including my Electric Eclectic Novelettes.
Before you ask, yes, this is about sci-fi and Robots… but it also about crime fiction, fantasy, steampunk and many other genres. It’s about understanding, imagination and the muse… so read on…
Like all fiction genres, Sci-fi and its many sub-genres must evolve with the times, writers must look to the future. (pun intended)
Czech writer Karel Čapek introduced the word “robot”. It is said his brother suggested using a derivative of the word robata, which means literally “serf labour” and figuratively “drudgery” or “hard work.”
No wonder the robots usually want to revolt, to take over our world. To turn the tables on us!
But, long before the word “robot” was invented, the ideas of mechanical or artificial men was in our ancestors’ consciousness. Early ideas of robots or automata drew inspirations from early writings and figures in mythology, who were described as anthropomorphic and crafted from stone or metal.
Described in the Argonautica as a giant man of bronze forged by the smith Hephaestus, Talos is tasked with patrolling the island of Crete and fending off pirates.
However, he is still partially organic, as is shown in the description of a single blood vessel that runs from his neck down to his ankle. Much like with Achilles and his heel, the vein of Talos is his weakness, and he dies in the story from exsanguination.
This developed into ‘other’ forms of automata,
In ETA Hoffman’s short story, The Sandman, the main character Nathaniel falls in love with the daughter of one of his university professors.
While she is beautiful and elegant, Olympia speaks very little, only responding to conversations with “Ah”.
She is also often motionless for long periods of time.
The people around her find this disconcerting, and it is eventually revealed that she is a lifelike doll.
Enter the early days of Sci-fi as we recognise it now,
Edward Ellis’s Steam Man is an early example of the Edisonade genre of science fiction.
Derived from Thomas Edison’s name, the genre describes stories that feature an ingenious young American inventor, who uses his inventions to go on adventures, solve problems, and defend himself against his enemies. The invention often has many purposes, such as weaponry and transportation.
In this case, the teenage hero is Johnny Brainerd, who creates the steam man and uses it to pull wagons that can carry passengers. Despite its large size, the steam man can run quite fast, and Johnny uses this to his advantage (such as, for hunting buffalo).
An imitation of this story was written by Harry Enton in 1876, called Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains, which also features a young inventor and his robots. Frank Reade’s steam man improves upon the first, with a much more efficient engine due to improvements in hydraulics and use of lighter-weight alloys. Thus, it is faster and stronger. Frank Reade’s son, Frank Jr., would eventually go on to create Steam Man Mark III, and replaced the use of steam with the use of electricity.
This and Steam Man of the Prairies were dime novels, popular fiction that is much like the comic books of today.
Dorothy finds the mechanical man, Tik-Tok, with a printed card suspended from the back of its neck.
The card provides directions for ‘using’ Tik-Tok, such as how to make him speak, think, and move by winding the clockwork in his body. Tik-Tok needs to be periodically wound like a toy to function, as he cannot wind himself up.
Tik-Tok has been referenced in other fiction, and his benign nature subverted into something more sinister, such as in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and John Sladek’s Tik-Tok.
As I spoke of in the opening paragraphs of this post, the term Robot arose thus…
This famous play, which was successful in its time, describes a factory that makes artificial people or roboti, from synthetic organic matter.
Less like robots and more like androids or cyborgs because of their biological nature, these synthetic people work for humans but eventually organize an uprising, causing the extinction of humans.
Karel Capek’s play is influential for being the first to use the word “robot”, replacing “automaton” or “android”. It is also worth noting that “robota“in Czech means forced labour, of which the robots in the play were made to do.
“Robot:We wanted to be like people. We wanted to become people.
Radius:We wanted to live. We are more capable. We have learned everything. We can do everything.
Robot:You gave us weapons. We had to become the masters.
Robot:We have seen the mistakes made by the people, sir.”
Which basically, and with a giant leap of literary faith, brings us to the time when robots were simply robots, like Robby from ‘Lost in Space’. A time when Isaac Asimov penned ‘I Robot’ and hope for humankind lingered.
We all knew where we stood.
Then along came James Camron who introduced us to Skynet, and all hell broke loose.
So, where does that leave us, how can we tell new, inventive and genuinely futuristic tales of machines, androids and automaton now?
Maybe, a little closer inspection of where we stand now will help us, if we stand on tiptoes and look far over the rising horizon…
Robots are all around us, toiling away in factories and warehouses, busting a gut in landfills and working in hospitals. The NAO model introduces school kids and students to programming and robotics and it also teaches children with autism. Another model, Pepper, was created to work in the service sector; its tasks include attracting potential customers and consulting with buyers.
As the IOActive team discovered, to seize control of NAO you only need to be on the same network as the robot. Experts found vulnerabilities allowing commands to be remotely executed, effectively giving over full control of its actions.
To demonstrate how these vulnerabilities can be exploited, the team forced NAO to demand bitcoins from its human interlocutor.
But real criminals would be limited only by their imagination and programming skills. What’s more, it’s not just NAO that can be infected with ransomware; the more business-oriented Pepper is just as vulnerable, and other models probably are as well.
Just imagine if one fine day a robot teacher or store clerk, in full view of John Q. Public, started swearing and insulting people before going on strike or picking a fight.
You never know.
But why would anyone hack a robot?
What do criminals have to gain here? Won’t it just spoil someone’s day or their life? That might be enough incentive for some hackers, who often do such things just for fun.
But there’s another reason: money.
The profit motive is simple. Buying a robot costs about $10,000; and if it breaks, it must be repaired or replaced.
Both of those require a fair bit of cash, but factor in the downtime cost and reputational loss of having a robot threaten customers and the sum rises considerably.
If an industrial robot is hacked, it can pose an immediate threat to employee safety or production quality.
An attacker compromising a robot in one of those ways might offer a quick solution to the problem, (which they caused), pay a ransom and everything will be just fine.
But, as you might guess, cybercriminals don’t always keep their word. Of course, the vulnerable robot might be hacked again, requiring another payout.
And then, another,and another…
What can be done?
Robots are here to stay (and multiply), so avoiding contact with them is not the way to go. For that, you’d need to invent a time-machine and go back a long, long way as mentioned above.
Instead, users and manufacturers need to be sensitive to robots’ weaknesses to ensure these devices do not go from cutting-edge to catastrophic in the blink of an eye.
Robot creators need to think through security issues in advance before production starts. Today. Better still, yesterday.
Then, after product release, all ears must be kept firmly to the ground to respond promptly to reported vulnerabilities and get them fixed.
…Or some sort of mayhem, a type of life-shattering, civilisation ending apocalypse may just leap from the pages of a book and into reality…
Or maybe that is just my way of stimulating your muse… think on, but carefully and you could join the ranks of Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Isaac Asimov.
You see not all sci-fi which includes rouge robots must be apocalyptic, that idea has been done, and done, and done to death. Now it is time for a differing approach.
Take your favourite crime-based books or film, or a combination of both media. Choose a story without any robots and select a character or two.
Now, think of your chosen characters as automaton, combine those two or three films/books plots. (If they are Hollywood or from mainstream publishing, it will not be a difficult task because they use a five, or seven-point, plotline… its what makes mainstream boring and predictable.) and start writing. Don’t copy… No plagiarism allowed; simply let your muse write the story guided by the basic (combination) of the plot(s) outlines.
You will have a brand-new crime story, but one which includes robots. It does not even have to be set in the future or on another planet, it can be urban fiction, steampunk, fantasy… you decide.
What you will have is a cross-genre fictional work which can be promoted to a wider, but targeted audience. That means greater sales opportunities and a much larger readership potential.
Why not make your robot a stooge, a fall guy? Have the reader fall in love with it, empathize with it.
Alternatively, have your robot(s) as the victim, the missing link to solving a situation… not all robots are bad, not all are good, some simply have frailties, others damaged personalities, why, some are even human… aren’t they?
Whatever you do, have fun and visit my website HEREI have a load of crime fiction and other ‘stuff’ you will just love. But don’t just take my word, go and have a look now.
I have been working on an awful lot of ‘Stuff’ these past few weeks.
I am always busy, it keeps me from hanging about on those street corners. But these past weeks I have been busier than most.
Let me give you a clue….
Over the last two weeks, I wrote approximately 630,000 words, 350,000 last week and 280,000 the week before.
I have promoted the November edition of CQI magazine, the Sci-Fi season special. Click on the cover image to read.
I am in the midst of compiling two annual catalogues for CQI, ‘The Collection – a guide to year-round giving’ and ‘The LIST 2018′ a catalogue of commended and acclaimed books.
During which time, I have beavered away at marketing to keep my two latest books high on the Amazon sales lists. Successfully.
I finalised and formatted a further two books, including designing the covers. They are:
Dark Words – dark tales & darker poetry is scheduled for release on the 1st of February 2018.
Within the Invisible Pentacle, a collection of intriguing feminine titles is due out on the 1st of June 2018.
That done, I can concentrate my efforts on completing two other WiP:
Floyd a Novel about an escaped psychopath on a bloody rampage of revenge and…
On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion, which is a rendering of my past blog of the same name, about musings of life, living and our society, with many additional perceptions, formed into a book.
I am hoping to have both completed by the end of 2018… but who knows?
Included in this time, right up until yesterday morning, I have published three new eBooks, Kindle ‘novelettes‘ under the collective brand of Electric Eclectic.
Electric Eclectic books are absolutely fantastic, they enable readers to ‘taste‘ a previously unread or unknown author at the extremely low price of just 1.00 (Dollar/Pound/Euro). HOWEVER… unlike many low-cost books all EE novelettes are vetted to ensure they meet exacting standards, so readers can buy Electric Eclectic branded books with confidence.
EE is a Franchise, where the individual authors benefit from the marketing and promotion of being associated with the prime EE brand itself. Enquiries about becoming an EE author to EEbookbranding@mail.com
My current EE novelettes are:
North to Maynard, a tale of Gremlins in our modern world of high tech.
Three Floors Up, where a psychotic man watches those below until…?
Mechanical Mike, a tongue-in-cheek sci-fi robot story, set in Paris during WW2.
Oh, I have also helped a fellow author to create a fully illustrated children’s book, written by an eight-year-old girl. A project not without its problems, but one where I have enjoyed overcoming the challenges.
I took three days out to travel to Belguim during this time period too.
I first posted this about two years ago, but like many bits & bobs, it became lost in the never ending scroll of past posts. I guess that is a modern phenomenon we all have to come to terms with.
Anyway, on with the post…
Tonight, I walked home along the same route as always, habitual, predictive.
As I turned the corner onto Star Street, I noticed at the entrance to the multi-story car park, next to the twenty-four-hour parking sign, an illuminated soda machine. My stride faltered, I paused, standing looking with curiosity.
I passed this way a hundred times, a thousand times without noticing the machines existence. How could that be? How could I not notice such a prominent fixture, a glowing block of red and white? The machine was designed to scream out ‘look at me’.
Silhouetted against the glowing structure was a woman’s figure. She was standing still, totally immobile. The hair on each side of her head was like sharp shards radiating outwards. I wondered for a moment if she had been struck by lightning, or shocked by the machine.
I looked on, the woman remained immobile. It was then I noticed how quiet everything had become. Vaguely, in the background was the ever present rumble of city life, a cacophony of indistinguishable sounds, punctuated by the occasional siren.
But that was it.
Here, within the realms of my vision, all was still. No cars, no people, no movement. This is when my seventh sense kicked in, my writer’s sense. My mind started to ask me questions, sparks leapt from one neural pathway to another, reflection, consideration, conjecture meshed and melded into a fast flowing string.
Was this a frozen moment, a rift in the time-space continuum? What choices did I now have and what were the possible outcomes? Was I standing at an intersection of the multiverse? Was this the place where a thousand possibilities lay, invisible threads, a twisting mesh of crossing fortunes, a complex delta of potential and probability?
Would my next actions, or inactions, lay my out future, would they alter my destiny. Wealth, fortune, life, death. Choices. Or was all predestined? Was I merely following a predetermined path towards an inevitable future?
Did she, the silhouette, hold the key, the answers? Was the light surrounding her flooding from the soda fountain or emitting from her very being? Did she hold the secret?
My heart was pounding. I wanted to approach her, ask her. Yet something held me back. I do not think it was fear; apprehension maybe, or something undefinable, something there are no words to describe.
The woman moved. Walking forward towards the machine. I heard three coins drop. Saw a slender finger extended, pushing her selection. A rattle and thump as the can fell. Still not moving I watched as she stooped and retrieved the can.
A click, a hiss. The woman tilted her head back and drank thirstily. Gulping the contents. Lowering her head she drew a cuff across her mouth and casually tossed the empty can into a waste bin before turning and walking away.
Once she had been swallowed by the darkness. I found the ability to move. I sauntered over and looked into the bin. An excess of brown fluid was still dripping from a Dr Peppers can onto the waste below.
My imagination had not finished with me yet. Questions kept springing into my mind. Had she actually brought a can of Dr Peppers? Or did the fact I looked, that I observed, changed the very nature of this reality? Had my presence altered the state of things, transformed the material quality of being? After all, our actions, our existence is subject to the laws and principles of quantum physics, are they not?
A car wound its way down the ramp, headlights blazing as it exited the car park. A group of people wandered around the corner, talking, joking, and laughing. Their voices seemingly activating an ‘on’ switch. Suddenly the city sounds became loud and clear. No longer the muffled white background noise they were a moment ago.
That was it.
The quantum gate had closed. The rift sealed. My chance to alter my destiny whipped away by an ethereal wind, stolen by inexorable march of time. Yet my writers mind still wrestles with the possibilities.
Maybe my thoughts, at least some of them, will find their way into a story, or become the premise of a future novel. Or maybe they shall just haunt me forever more?
This year I have only two stories destined for anthologies. One is for a summer anthology, due out soon, another a children’s book scheduled for Christmas.
This is the lowest number of stories I have given for inclusion into collective tomes for several years.
I know some writers stay away from this form of publication. There are many reasons.
Some do not write short fiction, others focus on just one genre, some believe these books a waste of effort, while others only give licence if the book is a charitable or fundraising edition.
I appreciate everyone’s point of view on this matter.
To give a story away, even secured by a simple first serial rights licence, is a big thing. To take time out to write a specific tale for one is a commitment. Then, there is the fact of finding the extra time to write in the first instance.
If someone does not wish to commit to an anthology, so be it.
I, however, am a sucker for these books.
Partly, it is because I am a prolific writer of short stories and flash fiction. I always have some unpublished works on hand which need a good home. Another reason is, I enjoy writing from simple, given prompts. I belong to some writer’s groups, such as ‘500 – Iron writer’s spin-off‘ who regularly exercise their quills by doing just so.
I find scribbling a short tale a fantastic writing exercise, as I do with poetry and blog writing, even this post you are reading now is teaching me something about my trade as a wordsmith.
It is called, gaining experience.
I believe we can and should always strive to become better writers and, like modern athletes and sportsmen, we should ‘cross -train’. That may mean writing poetry and short stories, trying our hand with a genre we have never approached before, writing non-fiction too. Whatever it takes, we should often step outside of our comfort zone, we should do it to improve ourselves.
For me, committing to someone as a guest blogger, or agreeing to contribute a piece to an anthology, encompasses that training; it allows me to be creative, try something ‘new to me’, or come at a subject from an alternative perspective. It also allows me to get my work in front of readers who may not have found me otherwise.
It is not something I do for a direct reward. I have, where there have been shared royalties, had my allocation directed to charity.
These books are to show what an alliance of indie authors, living in various countries around the world, can achieve when working in unison.
The Awethors collective produced not one, but Four great works, proving such co-operative action can be repeated and maintained.
These anthologies also bring the contributing authors closer together, it strengthens the collective and in some cases, creates new, long lasting, genuine friendships.
If you have never contributed to an anthology before, I ask you to consider doing so. I am certain you will know at least one other writer who has a link with at least one. Do it for yourself, for a literary exercise, for learning, for betterment, but most of all do it for fun.
To finish, I quite fancy contributing to a Sci-Fi collection, (I don’t write Sci-Fi), or something from a female perspective perhaps?
Any offers, contact me.
Thank you once again for reading my Ramblings, Paul.
Looking for something different, a gift with thought? Take a look at the Pussers Cook Book.
We often talk of how important punctuation and grammar are when writing. I think this is also true of the spoken word, oration and pronunciation should be a foremost concern.
NOT, I hasten to add, for everyday conversation where colloquialisms, dialects and vernaculars colour our conversations and lives, but when the spoken word is transmitted by mainstream media.
I believe, broadcasters have a duty to society to articulate, to use elocution and enunciation to the highest standard and, by doing so, enable our young to learn the wonders of well-versed dialogue, gain the ability for constructive discourse and communication.
How can we expect our young to learn to speak clearly and precisely, to acquire the ability to explain, to communicate effectively, if the denizens of our communications industry cannot do so themselves?
Personally, I do not think ‘dumbing down’ standards to ‘accommodate’ those considered, in correct ‘PC’ terms to be ‘less fortunate’ is the answer. This only has the effect of decreasing the overall standards by suggesting the lowering of general standards are acceptable. Which, of course, they are not.
I fear for the future.
Today I found myself disappointed by such a badly enunciated sentence.
“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoghurt taster from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”
Now…I have, as many of you do, a ‘writers’ mind. This is a strange and oft uncontrollable beast. One which will pick-up on tid-bits and oddities which would, for the greater part, pass most people by without causing a ripple in their lives.
But for those of us who are cursed, or blessed, with such minds will know once this beast has focused on its intended target, once it has its victim firmly caught, there is little we can do until it has satisfied its hunger, or passions, or whatever desires need stating.
This was my situation earlier today. As soon as that sentence had been spoken my muse went into overdrive.
A quick and personal excuse (Disclaimer!):I was not watching or listening to the programme being broadcast, it was just ‘on’. My wife had switched the TV on earlier and it was playing away in the background.
So, where was I? Oh, yes my muse awakening, giving me a jolt.
Questions started to flood my head, ‘Yoghurt taster’ what kind of a job was that? Was it a flavour tasting position or simply to ensure the product was of a certain quality? Maybe this was a taste panel for R&D, for new products, new lines?
How did one get a job like that? Could I get a job like that? What qualifications, besides liking yoghurt, did one need?
My muse was excited; could this be part of a plot? A Poisoning? Mass poisoning…holding corporations to ransom? Maybe the start of strange happenings in a small town… Zombie like conditions…Mmmm? My mind continued to race.
However, I love that word so I’ll say it again!
However, somewhere beside my overly stimulated muse, I had a nagging doubt such a position, a job as a yoghurt taster, actually existed. Food taster, yes. But I could not believe anyone could be employed solely as a Yoghurt taster.
No, I convinced myself, something was wrong. (Much to the annoyance of my muse!).
Thanks to modern technology, satellite, cable, Digi-boxes etc. we are able to do so many things with ‘live’ and ‘on-air’ television which have previously been impossible. One of these is instant ‘re-wind’.
This is what I used to take the programme back to the point where the ‘voice-over’ presenter stated that Emma was a ‘Yogurt taster’ from Essex.
This time I would actually be watching and listening to the broadcast, rather than having it grumbling away in the background, where only my subconscious was taking note.
Sitting too close and staring at the screen, like a six-year-old child, I pressed ‘play’. The images began to move and the narrator started to speak.
“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoga teacher from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”
I played this over and again, four times in total, until I was absolutely certain this version was the correct one.
Emma was a yoga teacher and not a yoghurt taster, as I had first thought.
This was not me miss-hearing, it was clearly a case of shameful presentation.
I must say, I was more than a little disappointed.
I am sure, in the world of yoghurt, tasters are required? although I am uncertain of what the progression of seniority may be in such a profession. Perhaps one starts with the ‘own label’ products, progressing to ‘natural’ before moving to thick ‘Greek-style’ yoghurts. Maybe, an alternative route would be to delve into the technical realm of flavours, or the scientific corridor of ‘low-fat’ and ‘healthy’ options.
I guess I shall never know.
A divergent track that leads me, by some circuitous route, back to where I began this post; which is where I stated my belief that major broadcasters and, in many respects, our respective Governments, should take responsibility for the clarity and precision of language when transmitting programmes.
The above is a prime example of bad annunciation and elocution, the equivalent in my book, (note the pun!), of bad grammar and punctuation in writing.
Besides, my restless muse was unnecessarily disturbed.
Now I have to find an excuse NOT to write a novel about a wicked dairy farmer, who decides to get his revenge on the local townsfolk by plying them with infected yoghurt, thus turning them into pliable and malleable zombie-like humanoids who forever more will do the farmers bidding. Of course, as with all good pulp-fiction, there is always one young girl who hates all milk type products, regardless of flavour. Perhaps it is she who can fight back against the forces of evil and bovine product manipulation to save the earth…or at least the local town?
That is all I am going to say on the matter!
So, until next time, enjoy your writing, even if your inspiration has been stimulated by a miss-print or badly spoken presenter. But please, please take care with your grammar. You never know when someone may read your work live on air, they may even be an ex yoghurt taster venturing into a new career!
I sit back, sighing heavily. The writing is going well, but I need to take a break from this particular work. So I fill a large mug full of hot black coffee...the preferred drug of most writers…and sit back down, allowing my thoughts to scramble over the untidy mound of scrappy ideas which need to be sorted into some cohesive order.
Problem is, as I sip the scalding liquid, my thoughts leave the junkyard of unformulated notes and come here, the rambling parkland of gibberish and spill over this page in an uncontrollable splash of ink. Rather like the drips from the base of my coffee cup.
I know I should be focusing all my attention towards the new novel ‘Floyd’, because you cannot leave a psychopathic murderer running loose, which is precisely what Floyd is doing as you read this. Or maybe I should be writing some more short stories, or editing some old blogs ready to create another book. After all it is what I set aside these current hours to do. It was my sole intent today. So, in some respect I feel guilty I am not writing content for any of those projects.
However, I am also aware that in the shadowy recesses, in those dark corners of my mind where I have little, if any control, the cogs of intuition, of creativity, of inventiveness and imagination are whirling away without any conscious effort on my part.
I know they will, or at least I hope they will, rearrange the untidy pile of random thoughts, those initial ideas and concepts, into an organised and comprehensive inventory of clarified sketches which will then be ready for me to utilise.
This is one of the reasons I write such as this, (and drink copious amounts of coffee late into the night and often into the early hours of the following day)!
A few years ago, I was given a very good piece of advice by a successful writer; “Whatever you do,” he said, “just write. Write anything that comes into your head. Do not think about it too much. You can always re-write it, change it, even scrap it another time. But when you sit down to write do exactly that, write, write anything because what matters is not the first few words you put down, but the creative juices they cause to dribble down your thighs of inventiveness”.
I have followed his advice ever since, which is why I have very wet inventive thighs and write these ramblings. Hence I have found the cure for the condition that afflicts many, the so-called writers block.
Because I have worked hard, very hard in making the book a reality.
The uninitiated may feel that is a glib remark, but it is not, if you consider….
I first had to come up with the idea, a notion of a story and ensure it had a start point, a good tale to tell, one which draws to a satisfactory conclusion.
That is, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Then try it now, in the next few seconds. Say these words aloud….ready….go…”My story begins when……”
Well, come on. You said it was easy, so what’s keeping you?…… OK. Times up.
Let’s move on.
I shall say ‘we writers’ from now on, have an outline of a story in our head. We know where we want it to start. We may even have a few words which may become the opening lines, when we start writing.
Each writer has their own way of plotting and constructing a novel. So, for generalist purpose I am adopting the supposition this is a writer who plots onto a story line…to a degree.
For the next few days we shall be breaking down the sequence of the story in our mind, transcribing it onto a plot graph, a timeline of planned stages. This is something we shall change numerous times over the next few days. We shall have the characters, particularly the protagonist, face challenges they must overcome. We will build his/her character as realistically and as humanly flawed as suits the plot, and will have our readers empathise, at some stage, with the antagonist. Possibly disbelieving in the actions of the hero….who may yet actually be the real baddy!
This is the type of conflict associated with plotting the story. Already at this stage the story wants to take charge of the author, as later, during the writing of the first draft, so shall the characters. They WILL take on a life of their own. They WILL wake the writer in the early hours of the morning, banging on the door of new concept. The same characters WILL, on another night, keep the writer awake until the sun rises just so they can move forward, continue their journey within the unfolding pages of new manuscript.
Most authors become almost, if not entirely obsessed with writing the tale. Some seem, even become unsociable, withdrawn. Because the story must be told, it must be typewritten onto paper or into computer memory. If the writer stops, or is distracted for too long, the thread begins to fade, the momentum halted, the spirit lost. The new lives, those characters created start to wither, even die.
Writers are, in the worlds they create, Gods among characters, guiders of destiny and givers of fulfilment, destroyers of life, of societies, of cities and planets. The author is omnipotent. It is a role, a responsibility we take seriously. It is a heavy burden we bear.
Come the end of the first draft and an entire year’s supply of coffee beans. I/we, the authors, sit back in our chairs and breathe a sigh of relief.
It is short respite.
Soon our noses are back at the grind stone. We now need to read, edit and re-write the entire work. A first draft, no matter how carefully crafted, is just that. A first draft.
Now we really start work. No longer are we flying in full creativity mode, now we are in a roll-your-sleeves-up and get stuck in approach to the task.
Generally, this stage takes twice as long as the first. Deleting words, sentences and replacing them…or not. Moving paragraphs or rephrasing entire sections of the manuscript. Rearranging the position and order of entire chapters, even deleting them…or writing new ones. There is no limit to the fettling undertaken at this stage.
Once we are (reasonably) happy with draft number six/seven/ eleven? We congratulate ourselves and add a tot or two of whisky into the large mug of rich black coffee, our drug of choice.
Happily, we tell our copy editor we are ready for them to scan our documents. Oh, she says. (Not a sexist remark, simply the fact I have found most of the best editors are women), you need a line editor before you run it past me!
So, weeks later, with some alterations to plot and structure you eventually pass the manuscript over to your copy editor…..and wait…and wait, which is a good thing. Annoying, frustrating, but good.
You see your editor should be busy…if she is not that could indicate no one wants her services? The second reason you should be happy to wait is you want a thoroughly good job done, don’t you? Therefore proper, good, concise editing with a comprehensive feedback means taking all the time required to do the job right. Right?
Everything is not lost during this time, because you have to have a cover. If you have not yet made any advance towards having one designed, now is a great opportunity, it will take your mind off waiting for your editor.
Unless you are a graphic designer of illustrator I would leave the cover to an expert. Even if you are an artist I would, at the very least, consult with one. You see a book cover is NOT what most people (readers/ writers/authors) think it is.
Comes the day when your book cover, both paperback and kindle versions are ready. You are excited because your manuscript has just arrived back from your editor….the pages listed with notes, amendments and suggestions.
Now, instead of moving forward, instead of getting a step closer to publication you must revisit you story. Once more you sit and work through the entire manuscript, making alterations, altering tense, reading those suggestions and editorial input regarding clarity, flow and all that other stuff.
Three days later, in a foul mood and with a raging headache you stab the send button returning, the now amended manuscript, to your editor.
This is when you wonder where the last year of your life has gone. This is when you look out of the window and wonder why it is snowing…in June…only June has long passed. You missed it.
You were living in your own Neverland, guiding your characters away from disaster and death. Now, all of a sudden life seems so much more….empty.
The story is with your editor. The cover made. Time seems to hang about endlessly, waiting…tick-tock, tick-tock.
After a day or two of doing virtually nothing it all gets too much. You plan a launch date, but not too soon. Then you organise a thunderclap, a blogging chain, advertising, a cover reveal and whatever blows your frock up.
Hay, guess what, your manuscript is back, this time there are only a few notes, easy stuff to sort out. So, you do. It only takes the best part of a day this time.
Now you can busy yourself again. This time you need to format your manuscript into book form. One for each type of book, i.e. paperback and eBook, but also for the platforms you may be using, Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords and so forth. Of course, you can have a professional do this, or you can seek the help of a fellow author…all work well if organised properly.
The next stage is proofreading. Each format needs to be proofread. You can do a first run yourself, pick up on any errors made during formatting, check the margins, headers, page numbering, kern and such. But, I bet you will miss a shed load. So have other eyes, preferably an experienced proof-reader, one with a good track record, even someone recommended.
So, you press the send on your keypad again and hey-ho the formatted manuscript(s) is/are off to your proof-reader, who will pick up on any punctuation, capitalisation, space and…other issues you WILL have missed.
ONLY after you have fixed all those errors will your story, which up to now has just been a manuscript with a working title, become a book.
Upload to print…. congratulations. It has taken you around eighteen months of blood, sweat, tears and toil. Of mood swings and social deprivation, headaches, doubts, pain, fear and uncertainty to turn your dream into your baby.