What’s it all about?

Aaarrgghh!! Boom! Move, squirrel! Why does my computer hate me? Splat! OOWWW!! I said MOVE, squirrel! WHY – WON’T – YOU – WORK? WTF? Bloody wasps! Woo Hoo, money! Clang… Grind! Oh… No money again. Concentrate, brain!

NO!

Yes… it has indeed been one of those weeks that can only be explained using lots of exclamation marks, and making absolutely certain that you use the word “squirrel” at least twice. There wasn’t actually a squirrel, I just like words that begin with “squ” so I used the phrase “move, squirrel” in place of AARRARRARSDU??V@#??!!*#NOG!!, to describe an indescribable feeling which I shall later try to illustrate instead. The squirrel thing doesn’t make a lot more sense, but it is at least  easier to read. I think everything else is more or less accurate, and in chronological order.

So, it’s been one of those weeks when nothing seemed possible, and checking my blog stats this afternoon hasn’t really helped my mood. I have been blogging for 27 weeks now, and there were 3 days of this week with absolutely NO views at all. That makes it worse than week 1! What makes it even more depressing is realising that WordPress logged you out without you noticing, and two of those visits are your own. I can only conclude that my writing must have gone downhill; and it was already gazing up at the summit through a powerful telescope, let’s be honest. At any rate, it is a perception unlikely to be greatly altered by the spectacular display of comic book scribbling in this particular post.

Ultimately, all writers tend to think their writing is shit. Now, OK… in my case it may be true, but I’m starting to ask myself how much I really care. I used to worry about aspects of my writing which I thought let me down; the way I overuse punctuation until my writing looks like Morse code, is a very good example. But, y’know… every writer has a style. Hemingway’s avoidance of adjectives often makes his stories look as though they were written by a Sat Nav, but they’re still good reading. Cormac McCarthy sometimes avoids punctuation for half a page or more; perhaps as a clever way of ensuring his work is never read aloud in public (Seriously… try reading the first pages of “The Crossing” aloud, without feeling light-headed) but again, it’s good reading.

OK… before you say it: I know I’m not Hemingway. My use of suspension points makes my writing look like a page of William Shatner dialogue, and I’m long-winded in a way that makes balloons nervous. But, some of us aren’t trying to be Hemingway. I have no great literary aspirations. It
doesn’t matter to me that I will never be a Dickens or a Twain, a Conrad or a Salinger. So what if a facebook conversation with me is enough to make Time-Lords and Sequoias say things like “listen mate… I’m not getting any younger. Can we wrap this up?” I am a storyteller, pure and simple. I have on my bookshelf, Strunk &White’s classic little reference book: “The Elements of Style”. I used to refer to it from time to time when I began to doubt myself, but, as you can probably see for yourself, I haven’t opened it for quite some time because I’m comfortable with my own style. I say what I say in the way that I say it.

Why am I ranting about this subject? In truth, this post was inspired by this blogger, who has written 2 posts in the last week about “Why we write”. There is a tendency amongst writers to perpetual panic that you are not good enough and never will be. Well, I have answered as a writer, now I shall answer as a reader:

Some years ago, during a family discussion about why we read, I said that I loved books. My sister gave a patronising tilt of the head and responded “Ahh… You see, I love words.” Very clever, I thought. Better to save those words in future and simply pat my head and give me a banana. But, she seemed very pleased with herself, and why not? My answer was wrong. Her’s though, was only half right. You see I do love books, I collect books because they are beautiful things, and I still write with a pen (remember those) more often than not, because I love paper.  But the reason I read is not that simple either. I don’t read simply because I love words. I read Shakespeare because I love words. I read Herman Melville because I love words. I read Stephen King because I love stories; specifically character driven stories. I read Douglas Adams and Mark Haddon because I love humorous stories. Hamlet is one of the greatest characters in English Literature, but the language is the main reason Shakespeare endures. Stephen King, Wilbur Smith or Michael Crichton may not be the accepted face of “literature”, but they are superb storytellers. They are experts at making a reader turn the page, and the same goes for a good blogger. We read blogs for different reasons than we read novels, in the same way we read a newspaper for a different reason than we read poetry. Personally, I read blogs that make me laugh for the most part, because humour is the main reason I do most things these days. I love laughter like most other people love sex, and in my case the two are not mutually exclusive.

Recognition for your work too, is a very different animal than it was 20 years ago. In an age of Blogs, Online Video and Reality TV, the public have more power than ever to decide what is in their own best interests. Gone (or at least starting to pack) are the days when someone sitting behind a desk in LA or London got to decide on behalf of the rest of us whether a book, TV show or script was good enough for the world to see. Anyone with internet access can now publish their work and let the public vote with their feet – or fingers if you like. Ryan Higa makes YouTube video logs from his bedroom, and if I was sitting behind a desk in LA, deciding whether the public wanted to see him talk to a camera, wearing a dress of plain paper and sticky tape, I would probably have said: No; he’s occasionally funny, but he couldn’t attract decent viewing figures. Well, 4,255,000 subscribers obviously disagree.

Wake up and smell the subscriptions, bloggers. Nobody is ever going to mention Allie Brosh in the same breath as Geoffrey Chaucer, but I’d rather read Hyperbole and a Half than The Canterbury Tales any day of the week, and if that makes me less of an intellectual then I welcome the insult.

Now… to that picture I talked about making earlier: To be honest, this picture isn’t 100% representative of the feeling I was referring to when I started the blog. I started to make a picture where Satan had turned the tortoise upside down, but once I put the tortoise in there, it made me think of Aesop’s fable, and I simply had to do this instead.

It doesn’t have much to do with the post, but it does come close to the sort of week I’ve had, and hopefully it will make you laugh more than the writing did.

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At the Hop

As a career aspiration, fiction writing is right up there with getting paid to eat sweets and go “Weeee!” as you test the vomit resistance factor of amusement park rides. For this reason, I do not get along well with fiction writers who take themselves too seriously. Sure, the business, like any other, needs to be taken seriously, but you need to be able to look at yourself and chuckle. You’re hoping to tell stories for a living for goodness sake! When you factor in the statistical likelihood of actually finding a publisher that doesn’t laugh in your face, it starts to make sense that “norms” regard us as a weird breed of social shut-ins, whose appearance under any light source more powerful than a 40 watt incandescent bulb would cause them to violently combust; splitting their infinitives all over the place, and leaving only shredded, unfashionable clothes and the faintest odour of anti-dandruff shampoo.

Writing is something I will continue to do because I quite enjoy it, and I’m not too bad at it. Filmmaking on the other hand, is something I will continue to do because I enjoy it immensely, in spite of the fact that I’m very bad at it. Filmmaking rather than writing then, is my first love; and ironically, probably the only thing in the world I am even less likely to succeed at. Well… I’m beginning to suspect that the historic designation of “First lesbian on the moon” may be slipping through my fingers, but I can’t help feeling that my parents ought to accept a portion of the blame for that…

*STOP IT! I can feel you staring through the words on this page and saying to yourself “When is he ever going to get to the point?” Listen; if you’re looking for someone who gets quickly to the point, you have come to the wrong blog, and indeed the wrong person, as any number of people who know me
could have told you before you got here. Next time, do your research! My sister is a poet; a specialist in selecting only those words which really matter. Can you begin to imagine how much a conversation with me must drive her insane? She has dealt with it (though not often politely) for over 30 years. You can deal with it for the next few minutes.

So… although I love being around other filmmakers, I do not often enjoy the company of other writers (with one or two exceptions), but earlier this week, as some of you may have seen, I entered a
blog-hop fiction writing competition. Ever heard of one of those? No, neither had I, and for the person that answered “Yes, I have heard of one of those!”; Your mother should have told you that nobody likes a smart-arse. Mine did. Surprisingly often now that I think about it. Anyway, the blog-hop was an opportunity to connect with other bloggers who want to be published novelists, and I’m very pleased to say that I found a few people whose blogs I not only enjoyed, but would very much like to share with you.

First up: the wuc – An Australian woman with the personality of a miserable old man, and an incredible witty blogging style which, though sometimes difficult to make sense of, is always extremely funny. She has often experienced the same blank stares I get when referencing movies, and is a fan of Cusack, Downey Jr, Rudd, Bateman… Throw in her ego-crippling sarcasm and it’s a marriage made in heaven, at least until her high regard for Owen Wilson (who richly deserves all the punishment his nose has received) drove us into the arms of our divorce lawyers. Still it was good while it lasted. NEXT!!

The next one is Andrew Hubbard – I have absolutely no desire to marry Andrew, but his writing appeals to me because he is one of those authors who clearly does NOT take himself seriously; he blogs with a self-deprecating voice that is somehow vaguely familiar, and parenthesizes almost as often as I use… this… irritating… little… device…  So often does he do this in fact, that I find myself picturing a split Author/Editor personality. I can relate to this guy. Also he lives in Japan. Is that relevant? Who cares.

I must give a shout-out to Lissa Writes, because she is a talented blogger, without whom I would never have discovered the blog-hop comp in the first place. Besides… It’s about time I recommended someone who actually lives in the same country as I do.

Allie Brosh’s blog – Hyperbole and a Half – was recommended to me by another blogger, and is without doubt, the funniest blog I have ever read. In fact, Allie probably ranks as one of the funniest people I have ever encountered on the internet… or anywhere else. If you have never read this lady’s blog (although it’s almost a web-comic), go there as soon as you’ve finished here. If you do not find Allie’s blog funny, it’s unlikely that you and I would get along. GO THERE!

Lastly, because she introduced me to “Hyperbole and a Half”; because she was the first blogger I “met”, and because her English is better than that of most English people I know: My lovely little friend, The Swedish Flower Pot, who is somehow able to climb inside my brain. Poor girl. She is just like me (only prettier, more Swedish, more flowery, and probably a lot less potty) in many, many scary ways. Thankfully, her blog is NOT. For a start, her posts frequently make sense.

As for the picture this week… My friend, Thomas, often dreams of bobbing through Lincoln on a Spacehopper, dressed as Genghis Khan. Since Tom is well over 6 feet tall, with dreadlocks and a beard, I will save that treat for a future Sleepless Knight video, but since this weeks blog title reminded me of him, this picture goes out to Tom.

You're gonna dream about this tonight... I guarantee it!

*I can only apologise for the picture; I normally assemble my images in photoshop, from royalty free clipart. But, for some weird reason, nobody has ever drawn a picture of Genghis Khan riding a Spacehopper… nor could I find the necessary components with which to make one. In the end, I had to draw it myself…

Birthday Blowout First Page Contest with Victoria Marini

Hurry, hurry…

I fear I am already too late for this contest. On top of which, most of the entrants appear to be of the fairer sex, and I don’t even seem to be on the right continent, but to hell with it; if you don’t try, you can’t… something… I dunno… Give me a break, I only have 30 minutes left to enter this thing and I’ve already missed the critique portion of the contest.

The contest is being hosted by author Shelley Watters and will be judged by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency. I was supposed to publicize this competition but I only found out about it, 50 minutes before the deadline so… go for it… I guess.

I follow Shelley on Twitter (now) and I urge any aspiring authors out there to do the same, since this is not the first time she has hosted one of these, and I doubt it will be the last.

Good luck to all, and I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to critique your work.

Title: Regarding Resurrection

Genre: YA (comic fantasy)

Word Count: 79,000

Walter climbed the last of the worn wooden steps and pleaded with the portly chap by the lever, one last time.

‘Nobody likes to be hanged, Mr Lewis. But it’s what we do here.’

This response was no help to Walter whatsoever, and he shuffled over to the trapdoor.

The Hessian bag being placed over his head was itchy, and stank of sweat and bad breath, which may well have been his own. The biting freshness of toothpaste and the slippery caress of soap had long been absent from his life. The only caress he could look forward to these days was that of “Gums” Jensen, who had recently taken to “snuggling” Walter in the mornings; caring little for his objections.

‘That comfortable, Mr. Lewis?’

The voice came from outside the sweaty bag, as the rope was placed over Walter’s head and the knot tightened behind his right ear. It was an absurd question under the circumstances, but answering in the negative would only buy him a few seconds and Walter just wanted the whole thing over with now. He nodded his head slowly.

It was very quiet in this room. Never like the sort of executions you might see in a film about some eighteenth-century folk hero; stepping bravely up to the gallows to the mournful cries of big-breasted women and admiring men.

Walter was no hero. And the only person in here with large breasts was the guy in the apron who pulled the lever.

The Immaculate Abduction

* next week’s blog, coming to you from the bowels of Hell.

And so, to the time of the gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the las… Sorry, that’s Highlander. Let me start again:

Those of you who subscribe to Jesus Christ’s YouTube channel or Twitter page will already know this, but for those who don’t: JC is apparently having a bit of a bun-fight over at his place this Saturday.

That’s right… May 21st 2011 is “The Rapture”. It’s a bit of a big deal. I’m sure he’ll lay on all the best stuff; Jelly & Ice Cream, Dips of all kinds, and if you bring a bottle of water or two, you might even convince him to do the old wine thing. That’s gotta be a cheap night out for all.

Unfortunately, this party is strictly invitation only I’m afraid. Even Christians are not guaranteed a place at this one. Only the most faithful followers will be sent their surprise invitation, which I understand will take the form of a kidnapping.

For those of us left behind, I’m afraid it’s the usual: War, Famine, Disaster, and the eventual extinction of three-quarters of life on Earth. Ooops! Never mind, eh?

Still… before you start emptying your bank account, planning ritual suicides, and telling the woman at the newsagent that you’ve always secretly loved her, take a moment to consider that this whole “Rapture/Tribulation” thing has been predicted quite a few times before. Apparently there have been schedule conflicts or something. Who knows; maybe JC has been unable to convince his dad to allow a few million of his mates round for a knees-up (or knees-down, I guess). That kind of gathering is likely to fuck up your carpets after all.

I don’t suppose it bodes well for an aspiring novelist, whose first attempt at full-length fiction revolves around the afterlife. Except that there may be fewer Christians around to start chucking it on bonfires. Mind you… as long as they’ve paid for it before they toast communion wafers over it, I wish them Happy CAMPING…  Oh, come on! I had to get one in there somewhere. Sorry, Harold. You can giggle at my short-sighted heresy, when you’re playing Black Ops with Jesus on Saturday night.

Here on Earth, and far from losing its members to supernatural abduction, my household  seems to have gained a member. NO… not another child, but something just as likely to shit underneath the dinner table: A dog! A Beagle, to be specific. Something my partner has been pestering me about for 7 years. It’s hardly groundbreaking news, but it might give me something flimsy to Vlog about while I’m giving Richard a couple of weeks off from video-making.

See you all in a week.*

In the meantime, here’s a picture of my new dog. (Awww… and all that)

My new (as yet, nameless) puppy; hoping that holding onto this plant will save her from Baby Jesus.

Normal Service Resumed

So I’ve been away for a while…

I will try my very best to ensure it never happens again. Well, not for that long at least.

I’ve been moving house! Yes… AGAIN! BT then took almost a month to reconnect me to the internet, and then I couldn’t get into my wordpress account. But, it’s all better now (there, there).

So I guess you been wondering what’s been happening? No? TOUGH… I’m gonna tell you anyway.

I have only had one more rejection slip for the novel, but it was from ED VICTOR (DA – DA – DAAAH!) Yep, the agency I was really hoping to get has rejected me. I can’t say I’m very surprised. In fact I can’t say I’m at all surprised. Okay… I was almost certain they were going to reject me, before I even sent the damn thing. But, we novelists aren’t supposed to admit that sort of thing, are we? If we’re put off by such a tiny thing as “the absolute certainty of failure”, we wouldn’t get very far would we? No! We need to keep trying… Over and over… Pestering… Making a nuisance of ourselves, time and time again, until they finally give in and say “Alright, for crying out loud! Just do it and then let me go back to sleep!”

Nope, without persistence an aspiring novelist is nothing of the kind… just another tree-murdering psychopath with too much time, no friends, and a problem with personal hygiene. Novelists are just serial killers with a slightly less gruesome hobby.

In other news; the YouTube channel is getting off to a slow start, largely because of the house move, but partly due to spectacularly poor planning on the part of the content producer… Oh, that’s me! We have a few things on there (and I’m off to upload another as soon as I’ve done this), but nothing world-changing as yet.

We’re working on it!

In the meantime, here’s a picture of Richard, dressed as Jesus, for reasons that will only become clear if you watch my YouTube channel.

Sleepless Christ... standing in front of an up-turned air-bed, for some reason.

Rejoice in rejection.

2 rejections today. One from Conville & Walsh, and one from Greene & Heaton.

I was quite excited about the one from C&W; it assured me that they read my  manuscript with interest, but they did not feel my novel was suitable for their list. That’s encouraging, I thought. Then I realised it was a form rejection, and most likely (since it had a CARDIFF postmark), had never even seen the inside of their office.

The G&H one was by email. So, I have been stripped of my virginity like a …INSERT DISTURBING IMAGERY… in all ways now – First novel rejection, first form rejection, first email rejection. It’s all part of the difficult road toward becoming a failed novelist who turns to drink, alienates his children, and finally dies, alone and penniless, on the floor of a public toilet.

The Vlog is finally up on the YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/SleeplessKnightFilms?feature=mhum it took much longer than it should have, but things are rolling now.

My partner in crime arrives tomorrow, to help record more video content, so I’m off to tweet and then return to my animation frustration.

Nothing to see here… or there.

Hello fans! (though after 37 years I think it would be easier if I just called you Mum?)

Since we last met, I have found; signed up to; and fallen out with, a webhost. I have (on the advice of my little brother) purchased the domain at least. It exists now, only as part of a neural interactive simulation, which we call The Matr… sorry, I went off on one there. Ahem… It exists only in domain-parking-page form for now. I’ll post the link in the menu, but there ‘ent nowt t’see.

No further replies from literary agents as yet. I’m taking this as a good sign, although all it really means is that, when the rejections come, they won’t say: “Unfortunately, we do not represent fantasy fiction”, they’ll say: “Sorry, we do not represent authors of such utter dross.”

Aww! Look at me; all grown up and optimistic.

I have finally purchased video-editing software, so I can get on with editing the Vlogs… right?

WRONG! Now it becomes apparent that my poky little computer can’t handle editing video footage. Well it can… sort of. There just seems to be a bit of a communication problem. The unfortunate consequence of which is that when I ask it to do something really complicated like, say, splitting a piece of 10 second video IN HALF! It misunderstands, and thinks I’ve just asked it to take all the water in the Pacific Ocean, and put in on the moon, using only a bent teaspoon and a Wilko bath sponge.

On the lighter side of the news: I might have to move house again. That would make it 24 addresses for me.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, but then who wants moss on their stones anyway? Sure, it looks nice in a miniature waterfall, at the side of a garden pond, but underfoot it’s goddamn dangerous!

Ideas above my station? Maybe.

So, I’m finally here. I’m three days late, but I’m happy to tell you that procrastination (at least on this occasion) was not the culprit… Lack of focus was.

Having posted queries to several literary agents on Monday morning; for round one of “Dear Mr Moors, your manuscript sucks.” I thought it would be a good idea to set up a blog, find a web host, build a website, record, edit and upload a Vlog, Learn to animate, and become fluent in CGI… all by the end of the day.

When I realised that “World dominion by Tuesday morning” was probably an unrealistic target, I decided to break the process into smaller steps, beginning with recording the Vlog and uploading it. So, on Monday afternoon I recorded the first video for YouTube in 2 years. It promised all sorts of wonderful things (which was precisely the point, of course) within the next 12-24 months, and I was ready to upload it when I made the mistake of watching it… Oh dear.

What I needed was some sort of magical instruction; a rule book of what needed to be said; some sort of… what’s the word? SCRIPT!

On Tuesday morning I began again, and it worked well! Time to upload it. Oh, wait, it needs editing. No problem. I’ll just… Oh… Windows LIVE moviemaker is shit! Whatever happened to good old movie-maker? Never mind, I’ll simply download a free trial of Adobe Premiere and deal with the whole “finding a more permanent solution” business, sometime before the 60 day trial runs out… Right? WRONG! Adobe no longer allow you to export edited video with trial software.

Anyway… after another day of this I decided to set up the blog first (not least because I then realised I had mentioned it in the Vlog, so it would be nice if it were actually there, when people clicked the link). Time to start configuring WordPress… POWER CUT… 3 Hours.

When it comes to taking over the universe, you really can’t phone it in.

So, since I failed to begin this blog after mailing the queries, I figured I would begin it when the first rejection arrived. That happened this morning…

And, here we are. The first rejection was from Peters, Fraser and Dunlop.

…IT BEGINS.