A Perfect Storm…

Last night, around 11pm,  somewhere between one too many coffees and the point where my mind stopped denying my body needs sleep, I hit a perfect storm. One of those rare moments when everything just clicks into place. A moment when my fingers found the words before my brain even processes the thoughts which put them there. A moment when the streams of consciousness ran uninterrupted from the highlands of my imagination and fed a hundred tributaries into the great river of narrative.  A moment when writing was so easy and so all-consuming that every distraction, every procrastination, everything else beyond the keyboard and screen before me just melted away. A perfect moment, a perfect storm, and then it just held me there, caught within its thrawl, while the words flowed around me. Which reminded me fleetingly of Van Gogh, for when the storm raged it had been beautiful and terrifying, sweeping me along.

storm

At some point, I believe it was about 3 am, the storm ended. Mainly it ended because of my need for sleep becoming overwhelming. In truth, the storm still raged as I lay in my bed trying and failing to sleep. Lighting flashes of inspiration wanting to be earthed to the page but these were just a mere squawl, the after storm wind and rain that takes its time to fade away. My exhaustion overwhelmed them in no time, and I fell into a fitful dark sleep…

When the morning alarm sounded too soon, I was no less exhausted than I had been when I finally forced myself to bed the night before. I was late to work, far later than I usually am. My brain still dizzy, still feeling like it had been on fire, a dull headache brewing, a need for caffeine just to function. It has taken till not to be able to process the wreckage left behind by the storm. So only now as I read through the words I struck against the anvil of my keyboard last night can I see what was achieved.

Some six thousand new words, three chapters redone, renewed and the whole curve of narrative flow against which I had fought for what seems like months has been altered down it new course. I think I have finally fixed the thing I knew was wrong but could not name nor see. I think I can ride the afterglow of this storm all the way to the great sea.

Storms are destructive, violent, and destroy much in their wake. Even a perfect storm creates much destruction in its wake. But destruction is a powerful creative force in its own right, and sometimes as a writer, they are exactly what you need. The trouble is you can not call them forth. You can’t demand they happen, you can’t even tempt them towards you. You just have to open up your word file, or lift your pen to paper, try to write and see what happens. Sometimes you get no more than a smattering of rain, a light drizzle, and sometimes the rain doesn’t come at all. But there is no point in hiding beneath umbrella’s, you have to get your hair wet one way or another. And if you let the rain come you may find yourself in a torrent, if you’re lucky.

Last night I hit a perfect storm…  and it was wonderful…

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In The Vault: The Complete Lovecraftian #44

Not for the first time, and not for the last, I find myself with little sympathy for the unfortunate main character of a Lovecraft short story. Let’s face it, Lovecraft’s characters often get what they deserve. Okay, that may seem harsh, after all, who actually deserves to be driven to the point of madness by the scurrying of rats through the walls, or by listening too closely to the music of the wrong violin, or just because they are led down into the depths of subterranean tunnels  below a crypt by their own morbid curiosity… Well in some cases no the characters don’t deserve their fates as such, even the hateful among them. But there are some who, when push comes to shove, get off lightly all things considered, and one such character is George Birch, erstwhile undertaker for a small New England town by the name of Peck Valley.

George is not a pleasant man, who does an admittedly unpleasant job, unpleasantly. He cuts corners in his trade, cheap coffins and has little or no respect or for those who are left in his care. A ham-fisted man with light fingers when it suits him. He steals from the dead of those little trinkets they were buried with, and if he has a spare coffin, he’ll make a body fit into it and save himself the expense of crafting one the right size. After all it not like its going to matter to anyone that the six-foot town clerk is in a five-foot-five coffin. Just loop off a foot or so literally, and he’ll fit in there nicely, what with it being a closed casket and all.

in the vault

So, as you can imagine, it hard to find yourself overflowing with sympathy at this point for George. That sympathy doesn’t increase an awful lot when his sloth and general workshy idleness leads him to find himself locked in a vault with seven coffins that he was due to get buried days before but had not quite gotten around to. If he had just oiled the lock and fixed the latch when he had first noticed weeks before it was starting to stick… Well, everything that happens to him afterwards could be entirely avoided.

This whole story could be seen as a morality tale against the evils of workshyness, laziness in general and callowness in general. Lovecraft puts a lot of work into establishing the character or more accurately the lack of character of George. Unlike some other Lovecraft characters, this is one you’re supposed to despise, and on one level the tale is entirely successful in that. As George tries to escape his self-made prison on the backs of those in his care, literally as he piles up their coffins, you’re left with a certain anticipation of the comeuppance he has coming to him.

There is much of the grotesque in this story, not least the main character himself. It’s grim, dark and nasty. Unfortunately, it is also a tad on the predictable side. Nothing about the ending is a shock, even though it was written with a shock ending in mind. Perhaps that is a reflection of my own jadedness. The twist at the end is just so, ‘this is the twist at the end‘… You can see it coming and I would be prepared to bet most people if asked, fifty words form the end to guess the final twist would, even if they did not get it exactly right, have a fairly good stab at it. It doesn’t bite you is all I am saying…

All that aside, if you reject the conventional wisdom that the reader must be able to identify with the main character and at the very least ‘like’ them, no matter how nasty they are, this is a fine example of how to write a character who no one will like and get away with it. Throughout reading this, I felt like a cheerleader to the story, I don’t mean in a short shirt and pompom way, trust me no one wants that… but in that I was cheering on the end, looking forward to George getting what he deserved, the spiteful, idle, thieving, sloth of unpleasantness that he is…

Its that cheerleading aspect that really kills this tale a little for me though in the end. there is no real horror, or shock, or indeed anything disturbing about the story. It doesn’t unsettle me, or make me wonder, or make me thoughtful of the possibilities it throws up. It just is.

When I really like a Lovecraft story it is because its unsettling, because it makes me think, and sends me off on strange tangents. Instead ‘In The Vault’ is just a creepy little horror story the like of which I have read a hundred times by a hundred different writers. For all its grotesque nature and its hateful main character, it’s just a bit too bland, a bit too run of the mill and there isn’t really anything much about it. Which is about as damning a thing as I can say of any Lovecraft story. Its well-written reads well, but in the end, it is just nothing much, it doesn’t even have something to be angry about, or disapprove of, or complain overly about… So a couple of tentacles seems fair, but I begrudge giving it that many for some reason, but then perhaps I am gravely wrong in this case…

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Next up Lovecraft takes us to my native Yorkshire in  ‘The Descendant’… Bye Eck…

Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

 

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The Sunday Reviews#2

Last Sunday I dropped three short reviews for indie books I have read in the last few months because I was working through a backlog of Amazon reviews. As it proved remarkably popular I thought I would do another one this Sunday, that and because it will encourage me to finish working through my list of indie reviews I keep meaning to do and don’t get around to.  I have kept the same format from last Sunday. These are short snappy reviews and meant as nothing more in-depth than that. If I have longer reviews of an author’s other books I will drop the links in at the bottom.

This weeks trio are by three ladies of Sci-fi, all be it different genres within the ecliptic that is the sci-fi genre. C.G.Hatton’s space opera romp, Shelley Adina’s steampunk eccentrics, and Jodi Taylor’s time twister, between them, cover a broad church of style and settings, but they all have one thing in common, great writing…

 

Blatant Disregard (Thieves' Guild: Book Two): (Science Fiction Galactic Wars - Alien Invasion Series) by [Hatton, C.G.]

Blatant Disregard by C.G.Hatton

★★★★★  Everything you want in sci-fi and more

  When the first book of a series blows you away, as ‘Residual Belligerence’ did me. You tend to expect more of the same and are so often disappointed when a sequel does quite match up to the original. Blatant Disregard blatantly disregards that norm delivering on the promise of the first novel and then ups its game still further. A fabulous sequel that just ups the already high bar. Read it, read it now (after you read the first one…)

 

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Lady Of Devices by Shelley Adina 

★★★★★  A wonderfully impossible never-was

Steampunk is hard to write well, a balance needs to be struck between the fabulous and the grim realities of the past, to make a world that feels real for all we know it never was. Lady of Devices strikes that balance perfectly and for a while, as you read it you can get lost in the wonderfully impossible never was…

 

 

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Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor 

★★★★★ Historical in places, hysterical in others..

Time travel and that age-old problem with paradoxes is a well-trodden road by many a writer. It takes a good one to lift a novel above the cliché…J T manages to pull this off and drag you along on a whirlwind ride of possibly and implausibility that never seems implausible at the time. It’s not perfect, but I am sure there’s much more to come from St Mary’s practical historians…

 

All reviews are utterly honest, I don’t and never will do paid reviews of any form, and I don’t intentionally set myself up as a reviewer. I am just a writer who happens to read a lot, which is something most writers do… I review things I read because as a writer I know how important reviews are, and how nice it is to receive a review, unexpected ones even more so. This will probably be a semi-regular feature, and I am unlikely to run out of books to review. But, if your an indie author feel free to get in touch, though I don’t promise I’ll read everyone’s books, as if a novel doesn’t directly appeal to me I will pass. I would much rather give a good review than an ‘its not really for me’ review of a book because I am only vaguely interested in to start with.

 

Previous Sunday reviews… 

C.G Hatton’s first novel in the Thieves Guild series reviewed

and Kheris Burning, Beyond Redemption, Darkest Fears (almost) 

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He: The Complete Lovecraftian #43

New York, New York; the big apple, the land of dreams, where the canyon walls are made of concrete and glass, full of life and people of all creed and custom, the melting pot of the western world. Who could not love it…

Well, Howard Phillips Lovecraft for one… Old tentacle hugger hated the place and after a couple of years there he could not wait to run back to the small-town of Providence, Rhode Island where he was born raised and in the fullness of time died. His brief life in New York was as unhappy as his brief marriage, which was the reason he moved to New York in the first place. His matrimonial problems may have had much to do with how he felt about big city life, but never a man for self-analysis old H.P. blamed the city for his woes more than he blamed himself, and just in case anyone was unsure of his opinion on the matter the first half of ‘He’ goes to great lengths to complain about New York as much as is humanly possible. If that’s your idea of a good read, then good luck to you, but personally I dislike the thinly veiled wallowing in self-pity and NY hate fest that is the first half of this story. Suffice to say, H.P. never bought one of these T-shirts…

Image result for i love ny

If, and I do mean if, you can drag your self through that first half of ‘He’ then it is, however, worth the pain. The second half of the story is far more interesting and revolves around a meeting between the narrator and a strange individual on a park bench in Greenwich Village. The strange individual, the ‘He’ of this tale, is dressed as if he has stepped out of the 18th century, and he offers to take the narrator on a tour of  the parts of the city few even know of, the back alleys and long forgotten courtyards boxed in on all sides, which you can only get to via the buildings containing it. And because its exactly what you do when you hate the city and a strange man dressed out of time comes up to you offering to take you down the back alleys, off the narrator goes, following his odd guide through the darkness…

Yes… Alright… that does seem a stretch, but since when were Lovecraft’s narrators entirely the sanest of people…

Eventually, ‘He’ takes the narrator to his house, a strange building that itself seems older than it should be, and there hs starts to tell the narrator his tale. He is indeed a man out fo time, and he talks of a bargain he struck with the natives of the land, back when the land was still open hillsides and New York was still called New Amsterdam… A bargain struck for secrets and rituals of power. A bargain he paid for in blood when having got all he wished he dispensed of his debt to the natives in the finest traditions of colonialism, and with a little-poisoned rum…

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‘He’ shows the narrator visions of the past and the future, visions of a future for the city that so terrify the narrator his screams are enough to wake the dead… Which, this being a Lovecraft tale of betrayal and dark power’s gained from ancient tribal wisdom, the dead in this case have a bone or two to pick once awakened…

The second half of ‘He’ is wonderfully written, and wonderfully envisioned. It is one of the better short tales that Lovecraft ever wrote. It has pace, drama and a growing sense of unease about it that build up momentum as it moves to its climax. It has craft, it has guile and it has an edge to it that Lovecraft occasionally lacks in some other tales of this era. Frankly, I love the second half of this tale. The first half is however awful…

So skip the first half is my advice, and that first half is why this just gets three tentacles, each of them earned in the second half, it would have been six if I had not had to sit through his melancholy mopping around New York like a bad Emo want to be with a personality bypass…

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Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

BTW I have never been to New York, and do not own an I Love N Y Tshirt. So what do I know, Lovecraft may be right about the Big Apple, but I don’t really care for his opinion on the matter, and sure as hell don’t want to read it ever again…

Posted in cthulhu, Goth, horror, Lovecraft, mythos, Nyarlathotep, reads, rites | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Quotable Writers Block…

We all get a touch of the dreaded writer’s block every now and again. Just as we all get a touch of the procrastination fairy, hit by wayward narrative bombs and once in a while manage to string a few words together without anything getting in the way. While right now at this moment I am not suffering from writer’s block of any kind, quite the reverse, in fact, I still find solace at times in the odd quote here and there, from the wise, the worthy and the occasionally witty. As I have not done a quote blog for a while, and yet they remain absurdly popular, I thought this one had reached its time in the sun, it no so much about writer’s block, as of how best to get past it. Not all the advice here is actually recommended, however…

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all” ~ Charles Bukowski

“When words don’t come easy, I make do with silence and find something in nothing.” ~ Strider Marcus Jones

“Yes, I felt very small. The typewriter seemed larger than a piano, I was less than a molecule. What could I do? I drank more.” ~ Albert Sánchez Piñol

“You could see writer’s block as mental constipation but I like to think of it as cultural anaemia.” ~ Stewart Stafford

“Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won’t carry a quitter.” ~  Edgar Freemantle in Duma Key (Stephen King)

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“Writer’s block occurs when a writer has nothing to say. Unfortunately, not all writers experience it.” ~ Ron Brackin

“Writing is a sickness only cured by writing.” ~ Niall Williams,

“Inspiration is the timid beast that comes to your open hand once you’ve fallen asleep having given up trying to coax it from its hiding place.” ~ Shaun Hick

“Writer’s block is just another name for fear.” ~ Jacob Nordby

“They told me I’ve got writer’s cramp. So is that better than the block?” ~ Joyce Rachelle

writersblock

“Overanalysis leads to paralysis” ~ Rebecca Jane

“Considering I’m a writer, you leave me strangely bereft of words.” ~ Kelly Moran

“If you surrender to your imagination, the story will write itself.” ~ T.N. Suarez

“Not for the first time in the history of the universe, someone for whom communication normally came as effortlessly as a dream was stuck for inspiration when faced with a few lines on the back of a card.” ~ Terry Pratchett,

“Writing something new is an effective way to get rid of writer’s block. Or you can observe the people around you and fantasize like I do.” ~ B.A. Gabrielle

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.” ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.

And the last word on writer’s block, that puts it in some perspective, from the ever wise writer of Slaughter House Five…

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Finally, a little peanut of parting best wishes to my fellow writers…

writersblock221

 

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The Sunday Reviews

I have been known, like most authors, to make mention of the importance of Amazon reviews to the budding author. There are all kinds of mechanics in the background of amazons marketplace that ‘help’ an indie writer find his or her audience, and it is unfortunately very much a numbers game. It isn’t so much the quality of the reviews or even the number of 5-star reviews you get. It is all down to how many you have. Indeed, it’s better to have a couple of dozen reviews that average out at 4’s or less, than half a dozen 5-star reviews, simply because of the way Amazon treats your novels. It’s a silly system, but its the one indie authors have to live with. What is worse is its a system that is constantly gamed by the unscrupulous, and which Amazon try to refine often to the detriment of the honest writers rather than those who try to cheat the system with stacks of fake paid for reviews…

Anyway, that minor rant out of the way (read more here if you want to understand how the system works). It occurred to me, as it often does, I am behind in my reviews because I know the importance of them I try and review any indie book I enjoy, even if it is just a few words… So I spent a few minutes on my Kindle earlier catching up on my reviews.

As I have done some quick reviewing I thought I would throw the reviews up here as well, for those who may be looking for something new to read. (of course, you could always buy one of mine instead but I spend enough time trying to convince people to read my own books, give these a try as well if they appeal to you…)

Love, Lies & Clones: A Futuristic Mystery Novel by [Schultz, Joynell]Love, Lies, Clones   By Joynell Schultz
★★★★    
Vivid and engaging near future sci-fi 

 
The core idea behind this fun ride through a near future world is solidly imagined and brought to life vividly, with an engaging story. At times it slows a little and I felt it was missing something, yet if I was pushed I could not tell you what it was. But I would still recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mix of mystery and introspective SciFi.

Adventures with the Wife and Blake: Volume 1 - The Blake Years by [Perryman, Neil, Perryman, Sue]

Adventures with the Wife and Blake By Neil and Sue Perryman

★★★★★    
Anything but bleak
 
Blake 7 is a bleak 80s universe of oppressive state rule and rebel idealists. sue, the wife’s, observations on this gem are anything but bleak, but a joyous breath of fresh air, even when she is so, so wrong about Villa…

 

The Wharf Butcher: A gripping crime thriller (DCI Jack Mason series Book 1) by [Foster, Michael K]

★★★★★ 
Well Paced Strong Read
A book grounded in the northeast, the sights, sounds and people, which adds a scope and feel to the novel. The characters feel right and hold your interest, while the plot moves along at a good pace, While it is not a genre I read often, that this novel held my interest in a genre that normally struggles to do so speaks highly of it

 

 
 
 

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Anthological thoughts…

I have just sent the completed second draft, fully typeset, and nailed into book form, of ‘A Scar Of Avarice’ to my proof-reader. ASOA if you have been paying attention to my Blog, Twitter feed or Facebook accounts is a short novelette which came about as a passing idea about a month ago. That it has only taken a month to get from the first idea to this state of affairs is astounding given my usual timescales, but more on that later.

I was working through the drudgery of the third draft of ‘A Spider In The Eye.’ which is still not actually a complete first draft if the truth is ultimately told as I was struggling with the last couple of chapters. One of the problems I was having was actually a few chapters further back. I had this well-crafted section of about 5000 words, a couple of chapters worth, which while it was perfectly fine in of itself, quite good in fact, it did not, however, work in the novel as a whole, and I knew it. I needed to cut it, well most of it, as there were a few bits of it I needed in my story. Even then the main reason it did not fit was not the chapters themselves but a couple of new chapters I had written in the third draft which made these ones now not fit.

The main problem is I hate throwing something good away, just because it doesn’t really fit, so I was stalling myself and walking in circles. They had to so I could get on with the novel, but I did not want to let them go…

It was about then I came up with a passing idea… which was not entirely new to me, as the main character in ‘Spider’  Harry Smith came about from another discarded bit of writing from the middle of Passing Place. Though that is not entirely true. I planned out the character and was going to write him into Passing Place, as I did many others, but then decided I liked him so much I was going to try and write him in his own novel. Fast forward several re-imaginings of Harry, who merged into Hannibal Smyth, of Her Majesties Air Navy and several years later and that’s what I have done.

So? I asked myself. Why not put him back in Esqwith’s Passing Place, passing through between what for want of another word we will call his adventures. Which is what I did, a short novelette, merging Passing Place and Hannibal Smyth, with old Harry telling one of his tall tales to Richard, the Piano Player in my impossible bar… A quick 10000 words and I have something small I can give away, and look its half written already with the 5000 from ‘Spider…’

Oh, what fools are we, whom make vainglorious plans…

As it happened the easy bit was the Passing Place, it was ridiculously easy to fall back in love with Richard and Sonny discussing impossible things with a glass of brandy in their hands… I knew just how to write them, just the feel of the words was right. The Hannibal story took more work because adapting a section of a novel into a working narrative somewhere else is not as easy as you might think, there was a whole lot of rewriting involved. Yet that too was easier than I thought, though 10000 words came and went in no time and it ended up closer to 15000. Which was a bit bigger than I planned, and left me in a strange quandary.

It’s an unspoken truism that short story collections do not sell. Anthologies for that matter sell even less. It’s not entirely true, but the market for them is limited it has to be said, even poetry books tend to sell more. But that said, I like short stories, some of the best work of Gainmen, King, Pratchett and dozens of other authors is in short stories. But those names have something in common,  which is they sell millions of novels. So even if a short story collect is not going to sell as well as a novel, they are still going to sell a lot of them. Me on the other hand… Well, I sell a reasonable amount but I ain’t setting the charts on fire… And part of the motivation behind doing ASOA was to try and fish for new readers.

But here I am with something longer than I expected, but too short to be a ‘real’ book on its own. By ‘real’ in this sense I mean to turn into a paperback as well an ultra cheap e-book. But the story was written, and it wasn’t going to get any longer. While it was not my original intention to turn this into a ‘real’ book, now it was written I found I wanted to, and the only way to do that without having something hideously expensive in relative terms for a 70-page book, was to add something else.

‘A Scar Of Avarice’ did not set out to be a short story collection, and it still isn’t it is mainly one novelette, just that little too short to be a novella, but I do have a lot of short stories laying around on my hard drive waiting for something to happen to them. Not least because some were one written with Passing Place in mind that never made it to the final novel. A few are submission I never got around to submitting to magazines, and some are just silly tales I wrote for the pleasure of telling myself a silly tale. So with that in mind, I had lots of stories to chose from.

In the end, I wrote one from scratch based on a three-line scribble in a notebook, under the heading ‘The Devil Made Me Do It.’ The best of my submission pieces (IMO) which seems apter than ever in these halcyon days of fake news politics, a strange little jaunt called ‘The Ballot’… And finally, more out of a weird sense of duty to an old joke between me and some friends a tale about goblins, as I have been threatening to put a goblin short story at the back of one of my novels just for the hell of it for years now.

‘A Scar Of Avarice’ is not a short story collect. It just has a trio of short stories included in the book. They are not padding, they are there because I wanted to give a little more. And in truth, I am more than a little fond of those stories, so hopefully, others will be too.

ASOA flier

And somehow I have managed to complete the whole project (up to proofreading at any rate) in just under a month …

If only ‘A Spider In The Eye’ would be that easy …

 

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