The Curse of the Muse

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…

 

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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’.

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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?

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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?

Such is the curse of the muse.

.

  © Paul White 2015


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There is always a tomorrow.

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It has been over a month since I last posted on this blog.

That is not because I have been lazy, or that I have had nothing of interest to share, it is simply that I have a full life and priorities are in constant flux.

Take this morning for an instance; I awoke with three tasks on my mind. Three simple little chores that needed attending to. The same three chores I thought of last night when I crawled under the duvet.

I have now, at seven o’clock on an evening accomplished all three of those jobs. They are done and dusted. Finished.

BUT…and this is the point…I have only just completed the last of those three tasks.

You see, life came between the plan I had in mind when I retired last night, the same basic idea which was in my head, as I stumbled from my bed and bounced off the walls on my way to the bathroom, while rubbing the sleepy-man’s dust from my eyes this morning.

Other things swam to the top of the quagmire of the ‘urgent’ lake. Like festering bubbles of noxious gasses, they rose swiftly to the surface of ‘to do now’ forcing other tasks and more pleasant jobs back under the surface of crucial undertakings.

I am not a list man, not any longer anyways. I now, in my years of semi-retirement, prefer the ‘Mañana’ approach to life. I am a firm believer that ‘Irie’ is a far better way to avoid a heart-attack than a daily dose of aspirin.

Therefore, slotting another job into a day, or in fact removing one, causes me no stress or bother. Even the prioritising of these tasks are not really my concern, I allow other people, notably my wife, to dictate the order in which they should be undertaken, if not completed.

I am happy to simply bumble along, plodding my way from errand to errand. Those that are concluded are concluded, those that remain undone, or partial are left as such until the next sunrise.

Simple.

 

This is the way I think it would be best for all of us to live our lives.

As I said at the start of this post, I have a fairly full life which means that all things in my world are constantly and consistently changing, which is the one thing which stays the same!

It is a way of life I have got used to, I have honed the skill of relaxation so that now it looks like I am working. The truth is the same of work, only of course vice-versa.

I consider that to stay de-stressed, calm and collected in this high-speed, terabyte infused, interweb fed technological day and age is a rather rare talent.

But please, consider this…

I have not seen many Rastafarians that look particularly stressed-out if the electricity bill is a day late being settled.

The Spanish Lothario, your amante muy joven, will not be rushed from the bedroom to attend a job interview.

All those things will happen; they will come again in due course. There is no reason to stress about them right now.

Yes, as with my day today, things will alter.

Some things will transcend others, they will, for a short period of time, become prominent in your mind, urgent if you wish to use that term. But they are transitional, they are themselves just another ripple in our flux of life.

Many of these urgencies, the pressures of time and such restraints, are unworthy of true measure. They are false, fake, self-imposed, self-accepted limits.

Take a step back I say. Reassess exactly why it is you are rushing around, why you are stressing out.

Consider this…what is the worst thing that could happen if you do not complete that task within the time limit you have set?

Accept that.

Think. Is it really important enough for you to become so agitated, for your blood-pressure to soar, for your heart to pump so fast?

I think not. Do not allow them, do not allow circumstance to rule your life like that.

Live your own life. Chill out a little.

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There is always a tomorrow.

If there is no tomorrow, there will be no worries either.

Simple.

Now, my own tasks for this day are done, or can wait until ‘later’.

I am going to sit and write some more of my forthcoming novel ‘Floyd’, which I have FLOYD6finalfrntjpgneglected for too long. It will be nice to get re-acquainted with this psychopathic murderer. 

 

I may get one thousand words written tonight, I may get absolutely none down on paper at all.

But then I have tomorrow.

Don’t I?

See you all on the other side, Paul.


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F**k your writing. Or…(an essay regarding the use of expletives and profane language in fictional writings)

 

In polite, or politically correct circles one may refer to it as the ‘F word’.

This word first became a public literary issue after it was use in a major novel, Norma Mailer’s ‘The Naked and the Dead’, published in 1948.

Only, it was NOT.

Mailer’s publisher prevailed upon him to change this expletive; this four-lettered, description of sex, to ‘Fug’, so that it did not offend readers.

Given the fact that the book is about men during a war, ‘Fug’ occurred an awful lot of times!

The result was a backlash, a cluster of criticism and discussion in literary circles. This gave rise to the anecdote about Tallulah Bancroft saying to Mailer, “Oh, you’re the man who can’t spell that word”.

 

However, times change.

Nowadays the F-word has lost much of its ability to shock. Far fewer people are now offended by its inclusion in a book or, for that matter, in conversation. Still, authors often debate the role of ‘racy-talk’ in literature.

How much is too much? When have you gone too far, or not far enough?

Okay, before we get stuck with just this one word, let us consider the vast and rich palette of risqué words available and to clarify their ‘technical’ differences. Once we can differentiate between profanities, obscenities, curses and the like, it should be easier to determine how, why and if we should use them.

 

PROFANITY

Is often used to denote an objectionable word. ‘Profanity’ literally means words that are proscribed profane – that is words described by religious doctrine. ‘Proscribed’, in this context means ‘forbidden by written order’, such as, in Judeo-Christian tradition, taking the Lords name in vain (that is, not in Prayer).

“For the love of God, stop complaining” or “Jesus Christ, look at the size of that thing”.

 

CURSES

These call upon a deity, or fate, to cause harm in a visitation.

(Mild) “Damn this zipper”.

(Strong) “God Damn her”.

‘Damned’ is to be condemned to Hell.

‘Hell’ can also be a curse, “Go to Hell”, or a mild profanity, as in “Oh, Hell, the rivers polluted again!”

 

SWEAR WORDS

To swear literally means to take an oath, or to proclaim an oath.

Now, for anyone uncertain about oaths, (married folk take note!) An oath is a resolution or promise which calls upon a deity’s assistance in carrying it out. (Think about how many are in your marriage now!).

Examples: “God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again” or simpler, “By God I’ll show you”

You can swear to bear witness, as in “I swear, you are the best cook in this town”

 

OBSCENITIES

These are words that denote something disgusting or morally abhorrent. (Often connoting sex). The F-word is considered to be one of the most objectionable, along with the C-word.

The relatively modern inclusion of adding the prefix ‘Mother’ often ups-the-ante!

Non, or less objectionable variants of the present participle form of the F-word, beside ‘Fugging!’ include, Fecking, Freaking, flipping and fricking.

To be totally honest, I have no idea why the letter ‘U’ seems to be so ‘flaming’ important!

‘Screw’ is accepted as of the milder and therefore more acceptable terms. Please note, both the F-word and ‘screw’ are used not just used to literally describe intercourse, but to connote ‘Taking advantage of’.

“That Garage screwed me out of £300 for unnecessary repairs”

Generally, words referring to both male and female pelvic areas are considered obscenities.

 

VULGERISMS

I Like this one because this word, this term, covers a lot of bases. If it is crude, objectionable and falls outside the aforementioned categories, you have a vulgarism!

‘Bitch’, ‘Son of a Bitch’, ‘Bastard’, ‘Jackass/Ass, Asshole’ and even ‘Crap’ fall under this heading.

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Now…whether use should use, or not use, any (or all) of the above?

The literary world is somewhat divided around the use of spicy talk, which should not be surprising as our readers are as equally split.

Take two ‘Tough-Guy’ authors, Lee Child and Tom Clancy. Lee does not use any profanities in his writing. Most readers do not notice this. Whereas Tom’s books are littered with profanities…and he certainly sells a lot of copies!

Some readers may be turned off by even one, single, solitary curse word…possible? Maybe. But what is certain is that no-one will buy your books purely because you use raw language. (Although at one time, years ago, they may have well done so).

Does all this mean your safest path is to use no raw language at all?

Writing is a journey and all journeys involve some form of risk. History proves that some writers achieved success, or at least notoriety, because they shunned propriety. Harry Caulfield’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was shocking in its era and may still be so to young teenagers today.

As you write, look for a balance with what you feel comfortable writing, what you, as the narrator feels is right within your style for this book and what suits the characters and the story you are creating.

What may be right for one piece of work maybe wrong for another.

 

Okay…Why ‘TO USE’

We humans get angry. We crave precise expression and there is something about cursing and using vulgar language that works for us as a release valve for our emotions.

Who has not, at some time, experienced a moment when a string of expletives has not felt exquisitely sublime rolling off your tongue?

The same is so for your fictional characters. Be true, be honest to them. Let them have their voice.

Moreover, if you want your stories to be realistic about the settings, battlefields, bars and domestic disharmony, well-written raw language will bring your characters to life, give them a heartbeat and authenticity.

 

HOW TO USE

Spicy language generally works best when it’s used sparingly, or at least in moderation. That way, you preserve the element of the unexpected, which can be a pressure-reliever for both character and reader. Aside from conveying anger or frustration, raw talk can also be humorous, in that it reveals how a character truly feels about something.

Take this line for an instance: “I ate another doughnut”.

Compare it with: “I ate another goddamned doughnut”.

You instantly get a clue about this character and her relationship with doughnuts.

You may have one character who habitually uses profanity, in contrast to others who don’t. That, in itself, is a good individualiser.

If you, yourself, are not too familiar with foul language a problem can occur when used wrongly, or as often happens with inexperienced writers, it is thrown in will-nilly. If it is used it MUST sound real. If you are uncertain try visiting areas where this language is commonly used, construction sites, wharves, military establishments and prisons for example. Grab a coffee in a nearby café at lunchtime and eavesdrop on the clientele’s conversations!

However, a word of warning. Even if, say a group of Miners, use an expletive every other word, it is unnecessary for you to make your own characters speak exactly that way. Just as when using dialects and accents, you have to use raw-talk wisely. This helps keep the reader grounded in your imaginary world and avoids the pitfalls of over-use/over doing it.

Consider your characters, employ common sense.

A hospital Matron, wearing a starched linin apron, may not utter a single un-PC word in public, but she may let loose a barrage in the principal’s office over a dispute, or howl out a string of profanities during sexual fulfilment.

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How NOT to USE

I mentioned some writers, Norman Mailer and Tom Clancy who chose to include bad-language into their works, but they pale into insignificance, almost, when it comes to literary genius. The bard himself, William Shakespeare, knew how to spice-up his writings and attract an audience in doing so.

He wrote the mother of all literary cuss-outs. (Cuss is simply a variant of Curse), in King Lear; but interestingly there is no profanity or obscenity as we know it, merely terrifically imaginative vulgarisms, delivered with passion. Here it is, the Earl of Kent preparing to thrash the crap out of Goneril’s loathsome lackey, Oswald:

KENT (TO OSWALD): “A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch, one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition”.

Knowing the historical references helps; for example, “broken meats” means leftover table scraps. But even without that, we can luxuriate in the rant. This is a beautiful speech for many reasons: It’s forceful, it’s unique, it covers many aspects of insult, it clearly communicates one character’s contempt of another, and—important for many in Shakespeare’s audience—it avoids serious curses and obscenities.

It’s a shining example of how a writer can invent insults way more entertaining than those found in the standard lexicon.

You can do it by brainstorming aspects of your characters and their circumstances:

“He was as appealing as a baboon’s butt”.

“You are the worst thing to happen to the world since call waiting”.

“May you be condemned to an eternity of weak coffee, warm gin and a driveway paved with roofing nails”.

By now, I think you will agree that it’s useful to explore—and perhaps even challenge—your own comfort zone.

Certainly if it is not you, it won’t ring true. But whether you decide to write common curses and vulgarisms into your work or not, your characters do need a verbal pressure valve. Do not use tacky asterisks to replace vowels. Just have fun with the process and remember that a ‘fug’ by any other name might sound remarkably original.

 

NOTE.

If your novel purports to reflect real life, then they must include profanity, if the life they reflect includes the use of profanities.

Let’s get real folks, you may have grown up in an era when books and movies were censored, but do you really think that in the Old West, cowboy’s actually said “You no-good-so-and-so” before drawing their six-shooters and blowing holes in one another?

Did the troops, dug into their fox-holes during WWII always speak in to each other in such a decorous manner?

I think not!

Some popular entertainment admittedly goes OTT in drenching dialogue in profanity, Such as in the opening sequences of ‘Born on the 4th of July’, but that is an exaggeration, not a fabrication, of reality.

 

So, why do people swear?

This will not cover any new territory. I expect that every angle regarding this has been covered in about every bar in every corner of the world!

People swear because the majority of profanity is emotionally charged. It can express anger, fear, sadness, joy, despair, frustration, ignorance, racism, homophobia, ageism, violence, sexism and all the other ‘isms’ and ‘tions’ you can name.

Occasionally a swear word can encompass all the above in a single word. That one word can grab people’s attention like no other when timed appropriately and, let us face it, very few things are quite as entertaining as listening to a person who has raised profanity to an art form.

You may disagree with those statements. I do not give a flying F**k…see what I mean!

When read that you do so as if I had written the word in full. Even though I ‘bleeped’ it out your mind supplied the details. Now your reaction was either positive or negative, depending on your personal personality. But you reacted.

Like I mentioned above, nothing ground breaking. Just a prelude to the answer you are seeking.

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‘Should YOU use profanity in YOUR writing?’

Writing is a process which takes pieces of ourselves and puts it ‘out-there’ for the world to see. It does not matter if you are writing literary fiction or genre fiction. Every character, setting, plot and sub-plot reveals a little about who we, as writers, are.

I doubt, very much, if a single day passes without you worrying about what you are writing.

(read that again if you wish, I’ll wait).

You see, every word we scribe invites judgment, criticism, commentary and, perhaps introspection. When we write something which surprises us, we often, most times, question where it came from.

That is because that we writers are a real self-conscious group. We are half scared to death of rejection! But if we filtered every word, considered the perception of each sentence through, say our Mothers, or Fathers, minds we would write nothing. Nothing at all.

What we have, what is so special, so personal is that little bit of ourselves that we add to the mix. Some reveals itself in plot, some in character, but most in the voice, in the narration, in our storytelling. That is where much of our fears lie, in revealing too much of ourselves, exposing our innermost to that ridicule and rejection.

BUT…if you do not add that to the mix the reader will smell you coming from a mile away. You will small like a fake, read like a fake and be discarded as a fake.

So, how does that answer the question about using profanities in your writing?

CONSIDERATIONS

As a writer you need to be true to yourself. You need to be true to your characters and voice. But don’t forget the other people you need to be true to:

Your Audience/Genre – If you forget who your audience is, for a single sentence or word, you will have lost them. If your audience demands a lack of profanity, then you had better not allow profanity to slip into your work. Not unless you are OK with alienating the very people you are trying to reach.

Your Editor – Your editor wants you to succeed. Your editor wants you…needs you…to sell books. You ignore your editor’s advice at your own peril.

Yourself – I know I have said this before, but I repeat it here for a different reason. If profanity is something that you are personally uncomfortable with then you will sound fake if you try to use it, regardless of the character in question. In fact, if a lack of profanity is one of your defining personal characteristics, then your characters will sound fake if you use it. Because, after all, your characters are nothing more than an extension of yourself. An audience can smell a fake a mile away. Be true to yourself, whether that means using profanity or avoiding it.

I am not going to tell you the world is going to smell like roses after you write something that raises people’s eyebrows. Especially if those eyebrows belong to people who are closely related to you, or who travel in social groups that are important to you. But you did not become a writer to fit in, did you?

I hope not.

Your writing has a chance to entertain, move, and bring people together.

It has a chance to shine a light on topics you care about in ways other writers have not.

It also has a chance to alienate you.

There is a chance your writing will be considered so offensive that society wants nothing to do with you. It is doubtful it will ever get that bad! but writing is taking a risk. Every time you put pen to paper you are stripping down and getting naked in front of the world.

There is never going to be a time where you do not question, at least once, “should I have written that?”

Recently I have read plentiful cursing in Stephen King novels, Nora Roberts books, and even (very sparingly) in John Grisham stories.

I have seen the use of cursing in both genre fiction and literary fiction. In some books just a little and in some a fair amount.

So, in full and final answer to the question… You are a writer. Welcome aboard the crazy train!

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© Paul White 2016


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It’s not just, “In God We Trust”.

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 Here is something that has crossed my mind recently (on several occasions).

TRUST.

So much can be read into that single word, can it not?

Honestly, how many people do you actually trust?

It would be passé for me to ask who you would trust with your life.

Firstly, because that could take so many forms; from combat, to saving you choking on a chicken bone and because we trust people with our lives each and every day.

When you fly you are trusting the pilot, when you take a cab you are trusting the driver; there are doctors, surgeons, police and such like; so in the grand scheme of things trusting someone with your life is not so alien, in fact it is most common.

But let me ask you this:

Who would you lend your last few dollars to?

I mean your last dollars; the money you depend on; the money you need to live by. Who would you trust to repay that money on time?

Who would you let house sit, or house swap with you? Who would you trust not to pry into your private closets, or rummage through your underwear drawer?

To whom would you show your browsing history, or private files, without the fear of being judged?

I guess you could count those people on one hand?

Maybe I am wrong; maybe you are lucky. Or maybe you have more fingers on your hand than I do!

Okay, so trust can be considered on many levels, I agree.

But I have a feeling that you may trust someone you have not met, or have never seen, a little less than you might trust your neighbor, or a work colleague, even an acquaintance; you know, one of those people who are almost your friend!

Am I right?

Generally, I think I am.

Which brings me here, to the point of this rambling.

I often ask people, complete and total strangers to trust me every day. I ask many of them for money, in return for promises.

Why?

Because I offer some services. You see, apart from being a writer and an author, I design books covers, I have an online magazine and a book promotion site.

When it comes to designing covers I promise I shall do my best to create an eye-catching cover, one that will attract people to take a look, to ‘pick the book up and investigate’. Initially I only have my word to give.

I rely on a person’s trust.

The same is true of my magazine.

People buy features and advertising, often two or three months in advance. They are trusting me to produce the magazine, to distribute it, to hold up my end of the bargain.

On my book promotion website, the trust is, that I will provide information as promised, list books as agreed, market the site and so on.

I know I am honest. I know I will do everything within my abilities to ensure I deliver, to keep my promises. Yet many of those who place their trust in me do not know that, not initially, not the first time we make an agreement.

Luckily, I have a track record of successfully completing the tasks I undertake.

I have lots of happy clients and that, in a strange way, turns the tables. You see, once I have done business with someone, once I have done ‘a good job’, I trust them to return to me. I trust that they shall, at some point in the future ask me to help again.

Thankfully, most do.

Now that may, at this point, sound like standard business practice. But what makes all this stand-out for me is, that most of what I do is with people who are, in the physical world, (the Meat-Space), strangers.

I may belong to the same social media ‘groups’ as they. I may have ‘messaged’ or emailed them many times, over many months or even years. I may know (vaguely) what they look like, at least in the best photograph they have, even if it was taken twenty-years ago!

BUT…I have never met them, never heard their voice naturally, or felt their flesh, smelt their scent, seen how they walk, talk and laugh, not in the real world. Yet some I consider to be friends, not the i-space, ethereal electronic type of friend, but Friend with a capitol ‘F’.

And I trust them.

As, (hopefully!), they do me.

Please, do not deceive yourself by thinking that I am a product of this technological age. I am not.

I am far older than that. But I accept it, even somewhat embrace it; although with a certain amount of mistrust and caution as to its future influence and where it may eventually lead us.

But a little vigilance is no bad thing.

So, here I am, connected tentively to un-met people around the globe, via fiber-optics and satellites, yet conducting business on less than a physical handshake; often simply on a few keystrokes that spell out the word ‘Yes’, or even the lesser ‘OK’.

I suggest that is a form of true trust?

If it is, then in my world that is not a bad thing.

If something that can be isolating, even as divisive as the internet, can bring ‘people who have never met’ (we used to term this as ‘strangers’ when I was a child), together by the bond of trust my fear for the future of mankind is somewhat diminished.

All we need now is for those who in power to take note, for those who print ‘In God We Trust’ on our banknotes to realise that, in an ideal world those words would actually read ‘In Us We Trust’.

Just a thought that was running through my mind.

 

Please feel free to comment, like, share or ‘whatever blows your frock-up’

Paul

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Fantastic Journeys Into Fantasy

I am very happy to have Mr. Tom Fallwell, a friend and fellow ‘Awethor’ as my guest blogger today.

Tom is a fantastic writer of captivating and enchanting fantasy fiction, including his latest book ‘Where Shadows Fall’

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There are many genres for stories. Whether they are told in books, in novels, in games, or some other format. There are just as many fans with the same variety of tastes that clamor for them. I have a great passion for reading and watching movies both, and I read and watch many different genres, but there is one that I find the most enjoyable, Fantasy. So what is it about this particular genre that grabs me? What makes it my favorite? There are many reasons, but if I had to describe why in one word, it would be “limitless”.

I don’t read to escape real life. In fact, I like my life, so I have no desire to escape it. I read for one reason, entertainment. The same reason I watch a movie or a television show. I am simply desiring some moments of entertainment. With a movie, it’s over in a couple of hours, but with a good novel, I can spend days, weeks maybe, reading, and that’s even better. So, my sole reason is for entertainment, and the more entertaining, the better.

Fantasy, as a genre, provides me with a vast universe of entertainment. I can go anywhere, be anyone, do anything. There are no limits in fantasy. No hard cut rules that must be followed. Fantasy can take you into the past, to the present, and even into the future. It can happen right here in our own world, or it can take you to a whole new world beyond imagination. Any possible race can be portrayed in fantasy, any possible creature, any possible setting.

I think, more than anything else, it is this limitless macrocosm of possibilities that make fantasy my genre of choice. I had one reader of my first novel, Dragon Rising, once tell me that my characters having quivers was incorrect, that they did not use quivers in medieval times. I thought, “What medieval times? This is another world, not ours. Of course they can have quivers”. Fantasy is not bound by such rules, at least not in my mind.

It is the unbound possibilities that draws me to fantasy. Sure, you can do the same with other genres, like science-fiction, but with those other genres, you have to make a plausible explanation about why or how. With fantasy, you can just say it is, because it is. Readers may have different views, like the one who thought I should not use quivers, but there are just as many readers that will not even think of such a limitation. So fantasy gives me a sense of freedom in writing that I don’t find in other genres.

Limitless boundaries to a limitless imagination. That is what fantasy is to me. Are you a fantasy fan? Why do you like fantasy? Feel free to tell me, or ask questions about my books. Stop by my website and use the Contact Form to get in touch. I would love to hear what you think. Happy reading!

Tom Fallwell

 

Visit me at my website or on Facebook.

http://tomfallwell.com

http://facebook.com/TomFallwellAuthor

Books by Tom Fallwell

Dragon Rising: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RGZU56Q  

A Whisper In The Shadows: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VYL2426

Where Shadows Fall: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VYL2426

 

Understanding Black. (Notes for writers).

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Be it poetry, the opening scene of short story or an emotive section of a novel, the colour black is often utilised by writers to project or convey a ‘certain feeling’ to the reader.

But how many of us have actually considered why we perceive black in the way we do?

As one of the tools in our wordsmithing armoury should we not understand why the word black can be such a powerful device?

Generally black embodies the values of death, depression and evil. It can be used to describe something terrible or maybe a void.

But why do we identify black with badness, immorality or malevolent actions?

It is common in our society to use the word black as an exclusion, such as blacklist, black mark, or black sheep. We also apply it to people who we perceive of unpleasant actions, such as saying they have a black heart or black soul.

You may say it is because one wears black to a funeral, or it is the colour of mourning. But that is not necessarily so. In other cultures, such as China and India the traditional colour for mourning and reflecting death is white.

Not until Bollywood adopted and merged some western ideology into the Indian cinema, would you ever see anyone wearing anything but white sari at a funeral. In fact it would be considered impolite to wear black at any Hindu funeral.

Much of this form of the perception of black is a Christian/Western opinion based on ancient observation or teachings, much based on historical legend.

Ancient Greek myth has it that at the beginning there was just ‘Chaos’ or Khaos. (This does not mean ‘Disorder’ in the contemporary sense, but rather ‘Chasm’, in the sense of a dark, gaping space).

downloadKhaos gave birth to Erebus, the darkness of the Underworld and Nyx.

Nyx was the goddess of the night, one of the ancient Protogenoi (first-born elemental gods). In the cosmogony of Hesiod she was born of (Khaos) and breeding with Darkness (Erebos), produced Light (Aither) and Day (Hemera), first components of the primeval universe. Alone, she spawned a brood of dark spirits, including the fates, Sleep, Death, Strife and Pain.

Nyx was a primeval goddess usually represented as simply the substance of night: a dark veil of mist drawn forth from the underworld which blotted out the light of Aither (shining upper atmosphere).

Even in Nordic legend black has a prominence. The fire giant whose sparks made the universe.

Surt is the King of Fire in Norse mythology, the Lord of the Fire-Giants of the realm of Muspellheim.20a7f6c18823e6ed7d2cf7e4b25c4d4e

In the beginning, there was only the blackness of Ginnungagap, and then Surt appeared out of the blackness with his flaming sword and touched the land, it lit up and became the Realm of Fire.

Eventually it drew close enough to Niflheim, the primal Realm of Ice, that it warmed and melted the frozen earth, revealing Ymir the primal frost-giant and Audumhla the Great Cow. In this way, life was created from the meeting of fire and ice.

With these ancient wisdoms and beliefs being passed down the generations it is no wonder that darkness, that the deep black of night still has a resonance of anxiety and apprehension within us all.

Modern knowledge may have more acceptable theories such as the big bang, yet even here it is suggested that it was many thousand millennia after the bang before the first stars began to form, which is almost inconceivable to comprehend.

The thoughts of endless night, a total void of nothingness, a black hole encompassing the entire universe is frightening to most.

So it is not surprising that based on tradition, folklore, socially established conventions and custom that we westerners perceive black to hold the qualities of evil, depravity and immorality. Much of this is due to our cultural dread and fear of the unknown, the unseen and the minus light of darkness.

Now, add a touch of Hollywood movie conjoined with mass media and you have an ideal breading ground to spread rumour, fabrication, falsehood and fiction, all of which so easily becomes assimilated into the psyche of modern society.

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Suddenly black is the epitome of all evil, it is the quintessence of Goyan nightmares, of original sin, of death, of satanic rituals, black mass, sexual depravation and transgression.

Black becomes the cloak of darkness for vampires, the shadow where werewolves lurk, forests of malevolent spirits and the embodiment of evil itself.

Or does it?

Because there is another side to black, a lighter, brighter side to this deepest of darkness.

Fashion, glamour, opulence, style and desirability.

Black is the new black.

Here lies a social and perceptive disjuncture.

The sleek aesthetics of glossy black fashion, a world of sequins, leather of obsidian jet chic and metallic black Ferraris.

Here is a transgression from black’s authority of depression and nightmare.

This is a juncture where modern mindfulness separates the black associated with the natural world, the world of dark recesses and shadows of mystery and myth, from the brighter black of the contemporary, enlightened and progressive world of today.

The little black dress, appealing, sensual, hinting at naughtiness, suggestive of excitement. This is sexy black, the black of lacy underwear, of thin straps revealing rather than concealing, the offering of promise.

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Yet even here the evocative black is tinged with an inference of deprivation, of transgression from the acceptable. It is that, the allure of going beyond the boundaries, the immorality of wild or illicit acts which is attractive, which whets our carnal appetites.

The modern black, the black of this world is the white light black of Newton and Robert Boyle.

So be it.

Therefore to know, to understand which black to choose when weaving that spell in your novel of dark fantasy, or which black to spill across the pages of a bloody thriller is a most important element.

Select the modern black, the industrial manufactured black for seduction and pride, for sex and sheen.

Take hold of the natural, the organic, ancient, primordial black which seeps uncertainty, drips terror and dread for your dark scenes, your night horrors and death itself.

Choose your darkness well my friends, write admirably and when the shadows of sleep creep upon your wearied eyelids, shutting the out the light, sleep soundly in the comfort of the black night……If you dare.

© Paul White 2015

Website: http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

You may also enjoy reading some of my short stories at: https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

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Harper Lee has nothing on me! Miriam’s Hex…….the truth behind the story.

It may have taken about fifty years for ‘Go set a Watchman’ to be published, because of Harper Lee’s uncertainties!

It has also taken an awfully long time for ‘Miriam’s Hex to be published too.

This is the story behind the book.

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About two years ago (2013) while having a household de-clutter I found an old cardboard folder in a box in my loft.

This folder contained many poems I had written in the late 1970’s & 1980’s. Many were hand scribbled, most were type-written, yes I did say type-written!

Also in this folder were notes for use in, or as, ‘possible and potential’ stories, old abandoned writings, half started tales, partial paragraphs and such like. It really was a rather eclectic combination of various scribblings.

I was filled with personal wonderment as I read these sheets of yellowing paper. Here were my thoughts, my emotions, my ideas of a lifetime ago.

Some of the writings and poetry I recalled instantly, others staggered out from the mists of amnesia. I was amused by some, horrified by others; the amateur nature, the naivety, the bad grammar and miss-spellings made me cringe.

All however, transported me back to another time, another world, another life which was connected yet somehow detached from myself. It was partially like an out-of-body experience, but somehow more so while being less direct, less united. Possibly that is the effect of passing years?

Bunched at the back of this folder was a wad of A4 sheets held together by a rusting paperclip. I started to read, it was an untitled story. A light hearted black comedy, if that is at all possible, of selfishness, of greed, impatience and latent curses.

Despite the many changes, the crossing-out’s and the pencilled notes the story drew me in, as I read through small pinpricks of memory began to seep back. This was a story, one of the few I had written at that time, which had a beginning, a middle and an end. (Although throughout there were still many threadbare patches).

You see, I first scribbled out a rough draft of a storyline in 1978, according the dates on the draft. This (first?) draft had no title and no end. In 1980 I reviewed and re-wrote it, apparently! (I found a few margin notes to confirm this), although I cannot recall doing so. This time is when I added the final few paragraphs so there was now an ending…of sorts.

It was thirty five years later, after I had become a professional writer and published author, I rediscovered this early work, first started when I was in my late teens.

At first I simply returned it to the folder, the archives if you wish. But something was nagging at me. It was that this story was, in fact pretty good, it was something different, there was an originality about it.

So I pulled the manuscript from the dusty cardboard folder once more and began, letter by letter, word by word, to type it onto the computer, to re-write certain parts, to edit and eventually to complete the story. All the time I was doing the re-write I was conscious of not changing the basic story, not to expand or cut too much. I wanted, needed to keep the piece as close to the original draft as possible while making it readable.

Once I was as happy as I was ever going to be, I gave the work a title for the first time. I called it Miriam’s Hex.

In November 2014, thirty six years from its conception, I self-published Miriam’s Hex as an eBook.

Miriam’s Hex is a very long short story! A Novelette of twenty two pages.

It is a story I would like you to read, not only because I am certain you will enjoy it, but because of this story, the story behind the book.

I hope that it will not only add a provenance to Miriam’s Hex, but will lend encouragement to all the writers among you who, at times, have doubts and worries about their own works and capabilities.

Harper Lee…..phiff!

Thank you for reading my story.


As a bigger thank you I have reduced the price of Miriam’s Hex to just .99pence/cents (plus any applicable taxes!), so please feel free to download and enjoy. Just put this ASIN: B00PM249TO into your search bar or go to any Amazon site worldwide.

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Miriams-Hex-selfishness-latent-curses-ebook/dp/B00PM249TO

Amazon USA http://www.amazon.com/Miriams-Hex-selfishness-latent-curses-ebook/dp/B00PM249TO


Now there is a ‘SPECIAL EDITION’ of Miriam’s Hex, one that includes this story too!

The Special edition is ONLY available directly from me through my website

Just click on this cover image.

Miriam's Hex new


I am also open to feedback and comments about this post, Miriam’s Hex or any of my other books, my blogs or anything you want to discuss.

Simply email me!

paulznewpostbox@gmail.com

I love it when something random triggers your muse!

Happy Writer

I am certain all writers of fiction understand that some of the most satisfying things you ever write are those which ‘jump’ out at you for no apparent reason, particularly if they do so when you are not actively seeking conceptual stimulation.

I have written a short story which is the result of one such instant. Yesterday a picture set off a string of thoughts which I have done my best to capture as a flash fiction.

The quandary I had was where to post it. The reason is, that although this is a story, it also has great merit to feature here in ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ as it has significance as a writing exercise, even an aid for those looking for inspiration.

So I have decided just to leave this notification, along with this link, http://wp.me/p5od8T-5B to ‘A Little more Fiction’, my short story blog where I have posted the story in full.

I do hope you will go to ‘A Little more Fiction‘ now because I am sure you will enjoy the read.

Thank you, Paul.

Railways, nostalgia, memories and time travel.

I am sure I am not alone when I say stations and trains hold countless evocative memories for me. Many of these recollections are from my childhood, others from my adolescence and beyond. But most are essentially pure nostalgic longing.

I say nostalgic longing rather than reminiscent memory because most of the evocative scenes which play within my mind, when I contemplate railway carriages and station platforms, are false recollections. They are simply wistful yearnings for a time and place I have never been privy to.

Those of you who do not have a creative bent, those who are not writers, poets or lyricists may not, as yet, comprehend my words. So I shall, in my usual arbitrary, chaotic and irregular manner, begin to ramble away and hopefully elucidate you all too where my thoughts have wandered regarding this subject.

If you will humour me, I shall ask you to close your eyes for a moment or two and imagine you are on a station platform in the nineteen forties or fifties.

casablanca04Hear the sounds of the locomotive hissing steam as it waits for the passengers to disembark. See the porters wheel loaded wooden carts to the goods wagon, while others push handcarts laden with passenger’s luggage to the coach doorway where they assist the people to alight.

In the waiting room a small coal fire burns filling the air with a sooty but homely scent, a scent of warmth and comfort. From a small kiosk a man wearing a scarf and flat cap sells newspapers to the passengers waiting on the platform.

All around a cacophony of sound melds into this concert of life, whistles blow, milk churns clank, You can hear the ‘thunk’ as reams of newspapers are plonked on the platform ready for collection. Passenger’s voices are a constant murmur, a backdrop to the stationmaster’s call of “All aboard”. Doors slam shut, the train huffs and puffs as it pulls away. A metallic squeal pierces the air as the wheels begin to turn.

Those remaining on the platform wave off their loved ones who, leaning out of the windows, blow kisses back.

The pervading smell is of coal, steam, hot metal, wood, newspaper and soot.bacio in treno grande

That is how I remember railway stations. Or at least that is how my selective and partially false memories cause my mind to create this evocative picture in my head.

I am not old enough to have had such an experience. I was not born into that era. Perhaps I do have just enough knowledge, enough memory to blend the truth into this fantasy.

As a young child, maybe six or seven years old, I regularly watched the last few operational steam trains as the rattled over the railway bridge in Penge.

I remember ‘platform tickets’, tickets which allowed non-passengers access onto the platforms to say goodbye and wave off their loved ones, or to meet them on their return. I have sat in the comforting warmth of a British Rail waiting room which was heated by an open coal fire, the smell of which I shall never forget. I also recall when the green liveried trains had first, second and third class carriages, as well as a goods wagon and guards van at the rear.

Some may say that these were the ‘good old day’s’ and in many ways I agree. But historical conclusion is not the topic of today’s rambling.

I was not born early enough to have encountered life in the forties, not early enough to truly know the scents, sounds and feel of traveling by train in ‘those days’. Yet I do have the ability to create with my pen an acceptable and, this is the important bit, believable account of ‘being there’.

This is where ‘false memory’ becomes a friend and not the enemy.

downloadMixed with those few true memories I have are the perceptions of what life was like during such times. I have absorbed and pooled many of these ideas by reading books and watching films from that era, such as Brief Encounter (1945), or The Lady Eve (1941) and many other such scenes from plays and television programmes.

If, as a writer, I do my job well I can utilise both the true, the false and the acquired to create a world that will captivate the consciousness of the reader, draw them into my fantasy world as their eyes traverse the page. I want to fascinate and enthral the reader, not only with my characters and their antics but also by lending to them an illusory world where they can escape the mundane and humdrum of life, at least for the moment.

This is where nostalgia, or at least nostalgic imagery features. I believe it is something we all have a longing for. Who, for instance would not wish to travel back, to at least one certain point in time, if they were able?

I know that is something I would do if it were at all possible.

So why, I hear you ask, have I focused on railways as a topic to discuss the past. The answer is simple. Trains were ‘the’ mode of transport for the majority of people ‘way back when’ when few owned a car, less could afford to board a ship and air travel was just an aviators dream. Most places were too far away to cycle and horses were all but history.

How many have not said goodbye, waved off a loved one or shed a tear on a railway platform. Who has not been be45a6b16e065833331925e08c5acb93bursting with excitement and anticipation while awaiting the arrival of a train returning a family member, a friend or a lover home?

It is a fact that stations are a place we all hold dear, because this is where we have experienced numerous emotions countless times.

The station, the train, the railway is a place indelibly ingrained, permanently embedded and entwined with both our memory and emotion, however true or however false those evocative recollections might be will still hold them close, we still cherish them.

We all carry within that simple wistful yearning for a time and place that we have never been.

Thank you for reading this rambling. I hope that these few randomly scribbled words have given you food for thought, stimulated your muse or even simply entertained you for a short while, Paul.

 


To read more of my work please feel free to visit A Little more Fiction http://wp.me/5od8T

or Further Ramblings http://wp.me/5njAU

If you enjoy a great book why not check out Sneak Peek where you can browse and read excerpts from a plethora of books from fantastic authors  http://wp.me/5sgTb

Late train home

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I find the dull metallic hum, as the train pulls away from the harsh glow of neon lights on the station platform, somewhat comforting in its reassurance. As is entering the dark cavern of the subway tunnel whilst cocooned in the dim warmth of the vibrating carriage.

Once again the familiar tempo of steel wheels upon the rails, and the irregular rocking as the train rumbles along, calms the customary angst which always seemed too accompany me in hectic, overcrowded places.

Seated comfortably, time slows. Harmony descends upon me like a cloak of serene velvet. I sigh out loudly, a liberated wisp of disquiet flutters away, disappearing into the ether.

Unbuttoning my coat and flicking the hood from my head, I leaned back stretching my weary legs out in front of me. The carriage is empty. I am alone. Peace and calm descend.

At this time of night the subway takes on a different form, its very structure becomes prominent. Vibrations resound in every wall, wafts of cool air frequently gust throughout; inhale, exhale, the subway breathes deeply. Recurrent metallic taps echo from the depths of the black underpasses in harmony with those rustling organic whispers. It is as if the subway comes to life, wakens as an entity in itself.

I love the subway at this time of night, which is why I like to take the late train home. I can relax.

I like to stare through the glass, trying to make out what the indistinct passing shapes that flash by actually are. Long, thick wires twist together, hanging in sooty swags from the tunnel walls, like massive black anacondas awaiting unsuspecting prey. The occasional light, dulled by a layer of caked on grime, giant fireflies? And dark recesses, small arches sunken into the curvature of the walls. What lays within? Possibly a door, a secrete door to another world, a parallel universe?

Then there is the reflection, my reflection, eerily unfocused, staring back at me from the darkened window pane. But is that me? I think not. Looking I see the reflection has a smirk on his face, he is hiding his knowledge of me, or a secret. He has the answers I seek. The answers I have spent my whole life trying to find. He smiles before fading away as the train enters a brightly lit station.

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These are my fantasies, my late night daydreams as I travel home. This is where my reality and illusion merge, where imagination and invention combine.

This is the birthplace of whimsy and caprice.

This is why I like to take the late train home.

© Paul White 2014

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