Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Writing

 

So what do you know?

They always say- write about what you know. Strange really when you apply that to some best selling fiction. Did Frank Herbert know about space travel and the politico-religious structures of far-flung empires when he wrote ‘Dune?’ Did Martin Amis live his life backwards, as in ‘Time’s Arrow,’ and is J.K. Rowling regularly seen running through a pillar on a railway station platform?
Of course not. J.K. worked out that she would save a fortune in reconstructive surgery by leaving that sort of stunt to the imagination.
Now of course imagination is essential to good writing, but is a work ever one hundred percent imagination?
According to J.K. Rowling, the character of Hermione was based upon herself at the age of eleven. In the upper sixth, she had a friend called Sean who drove a torquoise Ford Anglia. That is a fact, and not particularly impressive, but what if that car could fly…

There is a school of thought which says that all writing is autobiography. You probably couldn’t extend this to shopping lists, but I can see what they mean.
Look at a little baby- look how they take it all in, processing everything which comes to them through their senses. We are programmed to do that, although it doesn’t carry on at that rate (imagine your capacity for learning new languages if it did!)
What I am getting at is that for some reason we are a part of the universe which has been gifted or cursed with self awareness, and as such we are constantly processing information, trying to make sense of it either through science, through art, through music, maths or literature.

I spent much of my academic career trying to make sense of the Bible. Theology- another way in which we process ‘reality’ through interpreting what we know (Discuss!)
Somewhere back in the mid nineteen nineties I had just finished my Master of Philosophy thesis on ‘Who wrote the Gospel of John?’ After 60,000 words I had concluded that I didn’t know. I didn’t feel that it was a waste of time, because it was now an educated ‘I don’t know,’ and I had a piece of paper to prove it.
But something was missing- big style.
I was no longer writing. The poetry I had once written and performed no longer seemed to satisfy. Seeing 60,000 words bound, with my name on the spine, feeling the weight of it in my hands, oooohhhh…. I knew that I had to write a novel.
Even as a child, this had been an ambition. At the age of thirteen I had tried to write a complex science fiction story, but had given up after several fase starts, realising that at that point I didn’t have the tools.
I left college in 1984, with a combined honours degree in English and divinity. Things had happened there which I thought would one be the makings of a good novel. But again, I wasn’t ready, so what will one day become my second novel, ‘Legion’s Daughter,’ was placed on the back burner.
The next ten years were taken up with making a career in the caring professions, and completing my M.Phil.
This brings me to where I started this post. It’s something like 1996, and I’m relaxing in a reclining chair on a visit to my brother-in-law’s house in Stafford. My mind is wandering to the idea of a novel, when the words come into my head: ‘Write about what you know.’
Well I didn’t think I could pull off a biblical epic. But what about a book in which people with severe learning disabilities are major characters?
In the mid eighties I had been involved in re-locating people from longstay ‘mental handicap’ hospitals. This was a world of which few people had first hand experience, and surely this quiet social revolution would provide a memorable backdrop for a unique story.
Thus ‘Tasting the Wind’ was conceived.

 

Originally published on ‘Blogger’ Thursday 24th April 2008

I’d like to think that someone, somewhere in the world has said that recently…

(I’m talking about my book, what do you think I meant?)

I’m at the stage now as a newly published author where I’m starting to get feedback from people who have read my book- some of them friends, others people I have never met who are e-mailing or writing reviews on my Amazon page.

 

It’s a strange feeling. I had clear ideas when I wrote ‘Tasting the Wind’ of what I wanted to convey, and am pleased to say that for the most part that readers seem to be grasping that (which is probably more a statement about the intelligence of my readers than my writing skills.)

 What is amazing me are the themes that some readers are picking out that are clearly there but of which I wasn’t aware during the writing process. I’ve also had comments about scenes which I didn’t think the strongest of the piece, but which some readers found the most memorable.

 

It is also really flattering to hear people talking about my characters by name- characters I have lived with for over a decade- and to hear them referred to as if they actually exist: ‘When Eddie said this…’ ‘When Andrew did that…’ ‘That Martin’s a bit of a lad isn’t he?’

 

I have gone to great lengths to differentiate between myself and Martin, the major protagonist. He is thin and freckly with ginger hair. I am not. He comes from a broken home, I do not. The only comparisons are that in creating Martin I drew upon my experiences of moving to London in the mid- 80s to work in care. I did work in an electronics factory for a short time, but that was in gap years between school, college and university.

 

Writing about situations about which you are passionate is a little like exposing your soul to anyone who cares to look. When writing and publishing you do have to ask yourself if you are happy for absolutely anyone to be given a glimpse into your imagination, and if you can’t cope with that- don’t do it.

 

Similarly, in this world of instant and widespread communication via the internet, people have been finding out the hard way just how public and accessible their jottings are. One man made critical observations on Twitter about Memphis, after he had visited in a business capacity, and this was picked up by his hosts, who were far from impressed. Another man commented about his new job that he was having to balance the size of the pay cheque against hating the work, and the comment was seen by his new employer.

 

So if you are thinking about curling up with Allan Mayer tonight be careful how you phrase it. And don’t put it on Twitter- just send me a personal e-mail… and maybe your phone number….

 AAAGGGGHHHH!!!!

It must be getting to me: the waiting, the constant search for new marketing ideas, the doubts about the quality of POD published books on some of the other blogs.

Last night I had a dream that my book had arrived. It had cost me about £20. The publisher (YWO) had not used my book cover but some insipid torquoise creation, and pages were falling out.

Even worse than that: the title had been changed. Instead of ‘Tasting the Wind’ it was now ‘Tasting the Christmas Carols.’ (OK you Freudians out there, if it had been ‘Tasting the Christmas Parsnips’ fair enough, but ‘Christmas Carols?’)

 But there was still worse to come: When I looked at the back cover I soon realised that it was someone else’s front cover, and that they had bound two books together…

I woke up in a sweat. So I’m taking a day off the usual subject, and today will mainly be blogging about…

                                                                      CUDDLY BUNNIES…

                  

                           introducing-smudge-june-4th-07-3

Now if Dean Koontz can write books in the name of his dog, I’m sure I can take time out to tell you about my furry friends.

Unfortunately Tilly (front right) and Snowy (back right) are no longer with us. To my great disappointment neither of them has yet done a Trixie Koontz and written a novel from beyond the grave. (OK, if you don’t believe me check it out at: http://www.deankoontz.com/trixie/ )

The little one, smudge, is now eighteen months old and has already fathered twenty little smudges- most of them with the nose markings which gave him his name. We decided to draw the line at twenty- or rather the vet did- a sharp line in a very tender place. Since then, Smudge seems to have lost his competitive edge when it comes to priority at the food bowl, but he seems happy enough.

Fact is, when we bought smudge we were told he was a girl. We had bought her/him to provide a friend for snowy when our first rabbit, Bonnie, died from a tumour. Then Snowy went the same way.

One day I looked into the hutch. Smudge was lying on ‘her’ side, and I was shocked at what I saw. Surely we weren’t going to lose a third rabbit to a tumour in such a short time. Then I looked closer, the cogs in my brain began to turn, and I realised that a long fleshy object between a rabbit’s hind legs is not necessarily a tumour.

Next thing, Tilly was pregnant. Unfortunately she died giving birth, and left two babies. The success rate of hand-rearing is miniscule. We tried, but they only lasted a week.

We missed having Tilly in the house, as she was one of the most ‘spirited’ rabbits we had ever known. The house is ‘rabbit proofed’ but one day when Tilly was in the kitchen we heard a large crash. Tilly had jumped onto a chair, from the chair to the table then onto the top of the hutch- where the treats were kept. We got to the kitchen to see a guilty looking Tilly scampering across the table, and a very happy Snowy helping herself to the contents of a packet of bunny-chocs which were scattered across the kitchen floor.

Keeping a succession of house rabbits has taught me that each one has its own distinctive character. We now have Smudge, Dusty, and their baby, Brandy. Each one is  totally unique in character, but as yet not one of them has demonstrated a talent for novel writing.

I live in hope.

Information overload? Take a moment to go 'Ahhh.'

Our house rabbits Dusty and Smudge had a litter of nine earlier this year (which came as a surprise because we thought that Smudge was a girl!) For those of you who are suffering from information overload I’ve put this on to make you stop and go ‘Ahhh’ before you continue on your relentless quest through cyberspace…

Hope that feels better, now onto the blog…

I will be writing more about blogging, but just a quickie to draw your attention to Julia McCutchen’s website ‘The Writer’s Journey’  and her  ‘ask the author’ teleseminars.

On Thursday 27 November at 8pm (UK time) there is one about blogging, and its importance as a marketing tool for people who are self-published or who have published through small presses.

You have to register for a place on the live seminar. To do this costs £15, which includes a copy of the event on MP3.

If you are a cheapskate like me don’t worry, there are lots of freebies on Julia’s website, and if you sign up you will receive her regular inspirational newsletters.

You can find her at:

 http://www.juliamccutchen.com/

I’ve just received this from Wally in Ontario:

Allan;

A great topic and an excellent suggestion to ‘pool ideas’ on how to publicise and market our ‘fortune 5000′ books. In case you and some of your other bloggers haven’t seen the excellent series of articles on Writers’ Services, they are available at the following web site:

http://www.writersservices.com/wps/h7_market.htm

PS: Is it Legend Press, Lightening Source or some other printer who will print our books?

Cheers Wally, this is just the sort of thing I’m looking for. YouWriteOn are using Legend Press http://www.legendpress.co.uk/

I’ve just received an email from Dominic Took, author of ‘Storms of Acaias’ about an arts council project through ‘You Writeon’ to publish the first 5000 writers to apply. I responded, and have been accepted, so if things go to plan ‘Tasting the Wind’ will be available in  paperback by Christmas.

The only references so far that I’ve found on the net are from the states. They are asking if it is ‘Print on Demand’ similar to Lulu. It does appear to be so, as the paperback is only available through the website or, if you pay a small fee, from Amazon and certain bookshops.

Significantly, some of their authors havde attracted the attention of bigger publishers, and part of the contract is that you are not bound to Writeon if any mainstream publisher notices you. So I am trying it out. Watch this space.

If you are interested then click on this link:

http://www.youwriteon.com/info/info/welcome-to-youwriteoncom-sponsored-by-arts-council-england.aspx 
 

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!              


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