Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Archive for August 2008

If you haven’t stumbled upon it yet I would highly recommend ‘Stumbleupon.’ All you have to do is Google it, download the tool bar and fill in the questionnaire about your interests, and when you click ‘Stumble’ you will be presented with a page geared to what you are into. I have subjects such as writing, literature and humour in my list. It can be quite addictive, and I’ve also stumbled on pages with free writing resources such as:

50 Awesome Open Source Resources for Online Writers

Writers’ Digest 101 Best Sites

and ‘Authortree’

You also find little gems like this:

19 Things That It Took Me 50 Years To Learn
By Dave Barry…

1. Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings”.
3. There is a very fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness.”
4. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.
5. And when God, who created the entire universe with all of its glories, decides to deliver a message to humanity, He WILL NOT use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.
6. You should not confuse your career with your life.
7. No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.
8. When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy.
9. Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.
10. Never lick a steak knife.
11. Take out the fortune before you eat the cookie.
12. The most powerful force in the universe is gossip.
13. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.
14. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she’s pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.
15. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age 11.
16. “The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.
17. The main accomplishment of almost all organized protests is to annoy people who are not in them.
18. A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.
19. Your friends love you anyway.

Thought you’d like that. Til next time…

Alcohol- the cause and solution of all our problems, as Homer Simpson once said. There is a strange relationship between alcohol and writing, a stereotype which goes something like this: the tortured author, poet, or hack, sitting in his garret over his typewriter (wordprocessor doesn’t quite fit this ‘romantic’ image) churning out volumes of original thoughts, his creativity enhanced by the juice of the barley or grape or whatever comes to hand.

The epitome of this is perhaps the poet, Dylan Thomas. Apparently when asked what he liked about being drunk he said something like ‘because it’s different everytime,’ (Thomas fans please correct me- it usually happens when I mention a writer I know little about!) Funny that- I like a drink but to me the aftereffect is sort of samey most of the time.

Stephen King in ‘On Writing’ does a lot to explode the myth about alcohol and creativity, in a passage which is well worth the read to see how a truly successful author recognised and conquered the demon.

Truth is, if you write something whilst under the influence you will probably feel that you have just written the most original and creative piece in the history of writing. Until the next morning.

Although I have never had an ‘alcohol problem’ I would be lying to say that I don’t enjoy a drink. Recently I went for my ‘middle-aged fat boy test’ (or Glucose tolerance test as they call it) and was found to be prediabetic. This means that I have had to make some lifestyle changes.

Which leads me to some dietary advice for those of you wishing to cut down on your alcohol intake:

Buy Morrisons or Tesco Value Lager- doesn’t matter which. The advantages are:

. It only costs about 92p, so helps you save money in the credit crunch

. It is only about 2% proof

. Each can has only about 0.9% alcohol

. It tastes like shite, so one can will last you all night.

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!              


A few blogs ago I had a bit of a rant about what I considered to be duff advice about how to create characters in novels, and wrote a skit called ‘The DaDisney Code,’ in an attempt to spread an internet ruimour that Dan Brown based his characters on the seven dwarves. Maybe it was a little silly, a little surreal. But it was just a bit of fun.
I have since found that I did not invent the connection, and would have known that if I had been a little more attentive in my reading of the Da Vinci Code.
Apparently there is a long passage which claims that Walt Disney subscribed to the ideas expressed in Da Vinci (i.e.that the church suppressed information about Mary Magdalene having a child by Jesus- sorry one person who hasn’t seen/read it) and sprinkled his films with references to this belief.
Unlikely? Then why does this picture, the ‘Penitent Magdalene’ by seventeenth-century artist Georges de la Tour…

…appear in this one, from Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid?’

Hmmm… makes you think doesn’t it? But before we get carried away, it’s good to remember what my old theology lecturer taught me about signs and symbols: signs have one-to-one correspondence to the thing they represent. Symbols mean different things to different people. It’s a good job that road signs only have one interpretation- although I do sometimes wonder.

That particular lecturer could find ‘Tree of Life’ symbolism in almost any icon he was presented with, but never once referred to any phallic significance- perhaps that was because he was also a Methodist Minister.

Returning to ‘The Little Mermaid,’ there is a rumour that a symbol has been added by the artist to the picture below. Look closely at the tower…


Closer still…


Yes, it is for real. Rumour has it that it was added by an artist who found that he was about to lose his job with Disney. But Stopes, that debunker of Urban and internet myth, has tracked the guy down, and he says it was nothing of the sort and that no resemblance was intended.
Thanks, Stopes, for spoiling a great story. I really wanted to believe that. I bet they’re hot on the trail of the guy who painted the Turin Shroud. 
BUT… doesn’t this open up an even greater mystery? I mean, when the artist sketched out the tower, when he added colour, carefully highlighting the glistening erection… did it totally escape his notice that he had just painted a giant golden ****?

Or is it just another example of the tree of life?


Has anybody seen this goat? 

Works hard. Eats little. Sadly missed

I’m sure it can’t be me, but since I started blogging it seems that every time I find a useful service it soon disappears. As chronicled in earlier episodes of this blog, I entrusted my work to Golgonooza then realised that the site had died. Earlier this year I submitted my novel to ‘The Frontlist’ to find that it was not accepting new submissions. It still isn’t.
Now, that most useful of sites to the blogger, Pingoat, has been sending a message back for weeks that it is closed for maintenance.

Does this mean that it will return, a mega-strong, all powerful super-goat, sweeping away all that stand in its path…

In the meantime, there are alternatives: ‘Ping my Blog,’ ‘Ping-o-Matic,’ and ‘Pingates.’
But there is still no sign of the goat. Any clues where it might be?

This is my ‘promotional picture’ take 342. (It took me ages to get one that looked ‘cute.’)

I’ve been adding my details to all sorts of social networking sites with a view to promoting my writing. An unexpected side effect of this has been the number of e-mails I’ve received (particularly from Bebo) from women who want to complete my sexual education.
The funny thing is that each time I’ve been asked to delve into my Bebo inbox (oo-er matron) I’ve found myself thinking ‘could this be a publisher…’ only to click and find that it’s Kylie, or Sheena, or Lola, and that they are all feeling horny… for me!
I was even thinking of unsubscribing from FaceBook, which seems to be sending me increasingly juvenile notifications. But then I got one which said that I had been ‘reviewed for dating’ and that one person considered me ‘Cute.’
Then I got this absolute gem:
In total, you were reviewed for dating 84 times and one person expressed interest in you. You are more desirable than 44% of 37,372,809 people. Recently you were viewed 8 times and no people expressed interested in you
Wow! How reassuring is that! There are more than 44% of almost forty million people who are bigger mingers than me. Thanks FaceBook, I will sleep well tonight.

Cute? This is what I really look like…

(This is me ‘on the pull’) 

I’ve been submitting to ezine articles on the subject of writing and publishing, and have gained a modest readership. I decided that I would also add an article about house rabbits. It went straight in at the top as my most read article. Could it be that articles and blogs about writing are reaching saturation point, whereas there is a niche market for advice on rabbits?

In that case, here is a photo of two cuddly bunnies who used to share my home….

                                       Tilly and Snowy

I’ve just had a short break from blogging for two very disparate reasons.

One is the addition to our previously  adults- only home of a foster child. It’s been a tiring week, but rewarding, and I’m beginning to realise what I’ve been missing out on. It’s a great thing to be able to share in a child’s imagination, and within a week I am an expert on ‘Spongebob Squarepants,’ can name several of the aliens in ‘Ben Ten,’ and am now sharing my life with someone who can out talk me on the delights of Dr. Who.

The other reason was that before our lives changed forever, we took a fortnight’s holiday on the tranquil island of Menorca.

I was tempted to do some writing, but instead took the opportunity to do some holiday reading which, as a writer, always doubles up as research.

I consider myself a slow reader, which means that over a fortnight I will read three books. My wife, who has never attended a speed reading course, finds it quite natural to read one book per day. They say that it’s something to do with ‘the voice in your head.’ Mine tends to read every word at the same speed that I would read it out loud. Apparently speed readers don’t have this. I’ve tried it, but always revert to the voice, and I’m aware that sometimes it even wanders from the story- This reminds me of when… I could use that technique… is this leading to- and so on.

So, like I say, I’ll read three books. This year it was: ‘The Rachel Papers’ by Martin Amis, ‘Time’ By Stephen Baxter, and ‘Lightning’ by Dean Koontz.

I have read, I think, most of Amis’ output, but somehow  managed to avoid this, his first novel. I have to admit that  I didn’t enjoy enjoy ‘The Rachel Papers’ as much as other Amis novels, but I suspect that this may be more to do with changes in  my own tastes. You cannot deny the artistry of his writing and the honesty of his observations on relationships. ‘The Rachel Papers’ is so clearly a product of a pre HIV world, where STDs are an unfortunate and darkly amusing occupational hazard of the lothario. His descriptions are designed to leave lasting impressions, and are a lesson to writers in the employment of all the senses. Sex, in an Amis novel, seems to be described by smell more than any other sense.

As a person who has worked with people with learning disabilities for over twenty years, it was interesting to be reminded that we used to call people ‘mongols.’ I comforted myself with the fact that they didn’t know any better then, and that the word was used by a lead character that I didn’t particularly like.

If I can’t honestly recommend ‘The Rachel Papers’ (Which probably brands me as some sort of pleb) I would be happier to direct readers to two other Amis novels, ‘London Fields’ and  ‘Time’s Arrow.’ The latter is an amazing achievement where the principal character emerges from the darkness of death to relive his life backwardards.

Now when I say backwards I’m not delving back into my ‘1970’s Thesaurus of odd ways of referring to learning disability,’ (the same one that contains ‘mongol.’) The guy actually lives his life backwards, walking backwards, regurgitating food onto his fork, and using the toilet in a highly original way. But before he eventually disappears back into the maternal vagina we learn something shocking about his background.

My second holiday reading book was ‘Lightning’ by Dean Koontz. Probably not one of his better known novels, but definitely a good time travel yarn, about a woman who has a ‘Guardian Angel’ who appears at times of danger. ‘Lightning’ has all of the Koontz trade marks- mystery, mixed genre, strong sympathetic characterisation and, in the midst of the tension and horror, a strong ethic. Although the main protagonist was female, she was a writer, and as a writer I was very interested in the autobiographical details of the writing and publishing process.

Like the Amis book, I didn’t actually buy ‘Lightning.’ I imagine it’s standard practice in most hotels these days that there are tables, shelves, and sometimes libraries, where people can leave their books, once read. This year we depended upon there being some sort of book exchange at the hotel, because of the changes in weight allowance. Fortunately, especially for my wife, who normally takes fourteen books, there were two large bookcases.

At one point I found myself wondering how many other holidaymakers were doing the same, and if this is having an impact upon traditionally high seasonal sales. Then I turned over on my sun bed, thought ‘sod ’em,’ and carried on reading my second hand book.

My third book was ‘Time,’ by Stephen Baxter. Science fiction was my first love, and Baxter is rightly acclaimed as the successor to such intelligent writers as Asimov and Clarke.

‘Time’ is a great adventure story, but at the same time looks at how we will populate the universe, and what will happen if human life (or what evolves from it) is still existing when the Universe is drawing to a close. Baxter’s research is thorough, and there is a list of sources, showing that even some of the most bizarre ideas- such as the possibility of genetically enhanced squid being sent on a mission to Earth’s second moon- have a basis in  fact. And yes, that was something else the book taught me- Earth does have a second moon.

So, as you can see, my holiday reading was nothing if not varied. I always find it refreshing to have that double escape: the first to a good hotel in a warm climate, the second into the world of a well-written book. One was considerably cheaper than the other.

I returned home to find that the hits on my YouTube channel had doubled, meaning that someone out there is listening to my talking book. In the pile of bills and junk mail there were no letters from literary agents- neither were there any thick brown envelopes of returned submissions. Either they’re overwhelmed with submissions, or they’re feverishly negotiating with publishers and film companies… or maybe they’re just on holiday.

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