On the second day of Halloween, my true love gave to meeeeeee,
Two Zombie brides
On the second day of Halloween, my true love gave to meeeeeee,
Two Zombie brides
On the first day of Halloween my true love gave to meeeeeeeeee,
More to follow as we count down the days to Halloween, together.
See you tomorrow.
I’m thirty years old now. I have been for several months. Now that the shock has worn off, it occurs to me that a certain section of my behavioural patterns are no longer appropriate. I’m posting a list of them here, hoping to publicly shame myself into stopping them before my wife refuses to acknowledge me as her spouse at social gatherings, or my family disown me from sheer embarrassment.
1.) Whenever there’s a clear space in the aisle at the supermarket, pushing off with my feet and riding the trolley down the alley while making “Wheeee” noises. This problem is severe enough that Tracey no longer allows me to have control of the trolley, relegating me to little more than an autonomous fork lift.
2.) Spiking my hair. Remember that gelled, spiky look that was popular for men in 1998? The one that Angel had in the first series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I still have that. Whenever I leave the house, the gel goes on and the hair takes on a certain electrified look. In spite of the fact that the look is no longer stylish, I never suited it anyway and that there’s a HELL of a lot of salt mixed in with the pepper these days, I persist with Sonic the Hedgehog cut.
3.) Indulging in imaginary Lightsaber™ battles, complete with noises, when I think no-one is looking.
4.) Giggling like an eleven year old boy, when I’m in the baked goods section of a supermarket and see a loaf labelled as a “Crusty Bloomer”.
5.) Wishing my cat was named “Chairman Meow”, instead of “Oscar”.
6.) Using the “You know the word ‘Gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary?” trick. Almost all of my social circle are my own age, or older. Anyone who falls for that at this point in their life deserves pity, not scorn and laughter.
7.) Laughing out loud at couples who wear matching t-shirts, jackets or what have you. At this point in my life, I should have better impulse control. These people obviously have enough problems, without the scorn of people in their own marketing demographic to worry about.
8.) Asking people to “Pull my finger”. I still find this deeply amusing, on a level so fundamental it’s almost profound. This unnerves me slightly.
9.) Trying to grow a beard. It doesn’t come in properly, there are bald patches all over my face, my wife won’t kiss me while I have it and it’s unhygienic. I look ridiculous with it; and let’s face it, if I can’t get the full on Billy Gibbons look by now, I’m not going to. It isn’t like there’s a bit more of puberty left to go, or anything.
10.) Thinking of gardening as an unpleasant task, that happens to other people as a punishment for sins in a past life. When you’re twenty-two and the view from your kitchen window is indistinguishable from the view from a tent pitched in the middle of a bramble patch, the neighbours think “typical young ‘un. Too busy having fun to look after the garden.”. When you’re thirty, they think “When will that shiftless bastard tidy up that embarrassment he calls a garden. It’s making the whole street look bad.”.
11.) Blowing spit bubbles, or “silver bells” as I like to think of them. This isn’t dignified at any age and I really must stop. I certainly mustn’t occasionally drink milk, to achieve the correct consistency for longer lasting bubbles. Not that I’ve ever done that of course. Ahem!
There, I’ve declared my secret behaviour for the whole world – or alternately the half a dozen people who view these pages regularly – to see and revile, hopefully forcing myself to stop. These are serious problems, people. I need your help to break the chains of habit. If you catch me doing one of them, point it out to me and deliver a cutting remark to me. It’s for my own good.
Questionable Content. (Web comic, with little to no content of a questionable nature. Start from page one, or nothing will make sense.)
The above linked sites are just some of the reasons I do far less writing than I should. Hopefully, those amateur procrastinators out there will find this list to be a suitable starting point for their own adventures in work avoidance.
Over on his blog Whatever, John Scalzi has brought up the matter of asking established writers for favours in these three posts. I think the whole issue has been dealt with pretty comprehensively in John’s posts and the ensuing comments. I think everything he said was perfectly fair and reasonable. Speaking as an unpublished writer, I find the idea of asking a person I don’t know to invest large amounts of their time and/or personal credibility into me or my work to be presumptuous to say the least. Even asking someone I do know to do that strikes me as more than a little bit off, if that person does it for a living. It’s one thing to ask a friend who you know well to look over your work. If you know them well enough, the pair of you trust each other not to overreact to any discourse on the matter and you know that asking your friend this isn’t too big an imposition on their time, then fine. However asking someone who you don’t know/barely know/exchanged a few comments with on a blog or twitter is so far beyond the realms of normal behaviour it verges on ridiculous.
If you’re someone who does this, if by some miracle should a writer agree to look over your work, what are the various outcomes you can realistically hope for?
A.) That a writer whose skills you admire says something like “Nice job. Well done. You should submit this for publication.”… This won’t get you an “in” at a publisher. You’ll still have to go through the submission process and chances are that you’ll still get rejected several times from several different publishers. This will make you feel embittered and betrayed because you had your hopes built up after the praise from a pro. This is not a good outcome.
B.) That a writer whose skills you admire says something like “This needs a lot of work before being ready for publication. A professional editor really needs to go over this with you to iron out the problems.”… You still have to go through the submission process like everyone else, only now you’re doing it with a sense of doom and a severe knock to your confidence in your ability. You think editors are going to read it, dismiss it as amateurish hackwork and ignore it. This is not a good outcome.
C.) That a writer whose skills you admire says something like “This sucks. Really badly. It has no redeeming qualities of craftsmanship or artistic merit. It’s not even entertaining pulp. I recommend that you stick with your dayjob and never put pen to paper again, for fear of embarrassing yourself amongst people who actually understand what good writing looks like”… After a blasting like that, who would even consider submitting that work? You’ve just been attacked and demolished by someone who you admired and possibly even looked up to a little. Not only have you put yourself in a situation whereby your confidence will be torn down around your ears, but you’ve probably lost the ability to enjoy the work of a writer you previously admired into the bargain. This is not a good outcome.
If you’re an unpublished writer and you want some feedback on your work then you really have two options. The first one is to join a writing group or creative writing course. This way, once or twice a week you’ll be surrounded by other writerly types who’ll feel a vague obligation to read your work out of a sense of solidarity to the group. The other is to publish your early stuff yourself on the web and hope you attract someone’s attention enough to comment on your work, if not always in a positive way then at least in a constructive manner.
Personally, I chose the second option and for a number of reasons. The problem with a writing group or class is that you’re in a room with someone staring at you with hope in their eyes, silently imploring you to say something nice about the dull and boring piece of dreck they subjected you to after the last workshop/class and now you have to come up with something to say about it that won’t offend them or hurt their feelings. If I’m doing this with them, then of course they’re doing it with me as well. This atmosphere isn’t one that I find conducive to good writing, more towards identikit writing of the Richard and Judy Book Club variety. Unless the group is set up specifically for it, then writers of SF&F and horror will be made to feel like they don’t belong. Not consciously perhaps, but it will happen. That’s a separate issue however and not the point I’m making here.
This isn’t to say that writing for a blog isn’t without it’s problems. One of the fundamental drawbacks of writing stuff for a venue whereby people aren’t obliged to give feedback on anything they’ve read is that very often feedback won’t be given. You can be left feeling that you’re shouting into a void and no-one cares about what you’re doing. So far I’ve been unable to get my wife, my parents, my sister or any of my closest real world friends to look at the blog. I try not think about what this implies…
Poor old pitiful me, boo-hoo-hoo. You know what? Why should they care? This is my hobby I’m indulging while I hope to get good enough to turn it into a job one day, not theirs. I’m sure the majority of wannabe writers find themselves in a similar situation with their blogs and manuscripts. This is the normal procedure. If your favourite writer won’t give you the time of day as regards you begging for their help, get over it, get over yourself and keep writing stuff. Hopefully one day you’ll submit something and get published professionally, but until that day keep your neuroses and desperate need for validation within acceptable boundaries.
N.B. It occurs to me now that my blog is remarkably similar to John Scalzi’s in theme and layout. While imitation (even done unconsciously) may be a form flattery, a redesign may well be forthcoming. The last thing I want to be doing is aping what someone else is already doing very well.
I’ve been offline for several days. The reason for this is one I’m really quite chuffed about. I’ve been approached to write something for a website; for money! Yes, actual Sterling currency, that can be used in shops and stuff! There is one snag however… I’ve been asked to write erotica. This came as a surprise to me, since my work posted so far isn’t exactly what you would classify as scintillatingly titillating. However in a spirit of adventure, artistic curiosity and cash hungriness I accepted the offer.
This has led to one or two interesting mental developments. First off; how exactly does one go about writing erotica that doesn’t read as, not to put too fine a point on it, silly? Secondly; should I publish the work under my own by-line? I’ve struggled mightily with the first one for almost a week now, trying to write something that doesn’t make me fall about laughing when I read it aloud. It’s getting better with each re-write, however I’m not going to be an objective judge on that one and will only be able to rely on the editor for final arbitration on whether the story is hauntingly sexy or gut-bustingly silly.
Of more pressing interest to myself, was the question of whether or not to use my own by-line, or take the soft option and use a pseudonym. I was worried about being A.) Sneered at for writing in what is perceived as something of a ghetto so far as fiction is concerned, or B.) Potentially pigeon holed as a writer of erotic stories. My lack of a planet sized ego quickly dispelled the latter worry, about ten people are aware of my body of work, so I doubt I’m going to be pigeon holed into anything anytime soon. The first worry wasn’t so easy to think my way out of.
Eventually I decided to go with my own name, for a couple of reasons. First off, some very good advice from a friend of mine named Wendy, who told me “They’re your words, why be ashamed of them?”, which was excellent advice and something anyone who wants to write professionally should take to heart. The second reason, is that I want to write professionally; with all of the responsibilities that entails, not as an “artist”. If a plumber is offered work fixing a u-bend, the plumber doesn’t carefully consider what kind of u-bend he’s being asked to repair, then accept or decline based on whether or not it was the kind of u-bend he dreamed of repairing when he was a kid. He quotes his hourly rate, then fixes the damned u-bend, he has bills to pay. I figure why should writing be exempt from that kind of reasoning?
My main objective after writing something that I’m satisfied is correct within itself and fulfills it’s given purpose, is that any readers are pleased with the work. This goes double for work that I’ve been specifically asked to write for someone. Personal projects are just that, to please me personally. Work I’ve been commissioned for, even loosely or informally, is work for a specific audience. I want writing to be my trade, not just a way of blathering on at length to please myself and my few chosen readers. In short, I don’t want to be precious or poncy about it.
If I write something, my primary purpose is to entertain any potential readers, not to create art. If I happen to get bracketed as an artist, that’s wonderful and I’d be deeply flattered by the association; but I’d never set out to create art, that would make me at best pretentious and at worst a pontificating idiot.
N.B. Naturally, a commission piece won’t be published as a CC licensed work here, so it won’t be freely available on this site; however should the commissioner be OK with it, if the story is accepted I’ll link to the site where it’s published when it goes up.
So I’ve posted the archive of old fiction and the solitary blog post that was worth the effort of re-posting. All that remains for me to do now is start properly maintaining a presence here. I’ve got a bunch of reading over on Jake’s blog to catch up on, just as soon as I’m finished writing a horror story I’m working on. The story I’ve just mentioned to finish and post, plus to have a really good root around inside WordPress and see exactly what functionality is available to me. In the meantime, why don’t you all have a look at this, to distract you from the fact that I’ve only actually written one new post since the 26th of this month…
Originally posted December 2nd, 2008.
My wife Tracey has recently been watching the Alibi channel, number 132 on the Sky EPG, during the afternoon and I must admit to being more than a little bit baffled by Father Dowling and his permanent live-in nun, sister Stefanie. I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve learned about priesthood and nunhood (nunship?, nundom?) from the show.
1:- Priests come in pairs. One junior one, to do all of that boring mass and confession business and one senior one, who does God’s true work; catching the dozens of murderers within the parish.
2:- Priests are allowed to lie. Like an Enron tax return in fact. This is o.k. though, since it is done in the pursuit of that most holy duty, catching stereotyped Italian-American murderers.
3:- Nuns=Sexaay! Apparently giving up vanity does not extend as far as giving up $100 haircuts, make -up, the taking of a saint’s name or keeping dozens of revealing, pre-Holy orders outfits. The lying to people thing doesn’t seem to matter so much here either.
4:- The police are just the worst people imaginable for catching murderers. It would seem that most detectives are unable to find their own arse with both hands and a set of directions. This explains why rotund priests and septuagenarian ladies (Murder, She Wrote) are the best sleuths around.
5:- Murderers, as a group, are a lot less violent than you might think. When cornered by a jovial, portly man wearing a dog collar, they are far more likely to spend ten minutes discussing in intimate detail how the crime was committed rather than say… shooting the interfering old fart out of hand. They may act like they’re going to shoot him, but their hearts are never in it, which allows for…
6:- Despite their criminal inability to catch murders unaided, police officers have highly developed, almost super human hearing. This explains their ability to burst in at exactly the right moment to save Father Dowling, despite the fact that he never seems to wear a wire, confronts murderers in one of three different, yet highly constrained environments, none of which are conducive to eavesdropping; namely locked rooms, warehouses or large public places such as junkyards or train station depots.
7:- Not all Evil Twins have goatee beards, some wear pork pie hats or fedoras.
8:- Illegal back room poker games populated by Mafia crime lords, are surprisingly easy to gatecrash. The crime lords in question are remarkably rubbish at spotting an outsider, despite the portly newcomers total lack of poker expertise. Makes you wonder how they got be crime lords in the first place.
9:- Priestly attire is the equivalent of a magical robe of tell-me-everything-you-know. People are always forgetting to tell the police vital pieces of evidence. Thankfully, the rate of unsolved murders is kept to a minimum by fat men in robes encouraging people to remember previously unknown factoids and important conversations.
10:- The Police Department knows it’s faults and is remarkably sanguine about letting civilians put themselves in harms way. If not for this heroically civic minded attitude, Amreica’s towns and cities would be overrun with murdrers. Hurrah, for amateur sleuths!
Thank you for listening, next time I shall reveal how Jessica Fletcher is in fact a serial killer with mystical powers of hypnosis. How else can it be explained that everywhere she goes people are murdered and her friends are framed for it. By my reckoning, her body count numbers into the hundreds.
The news is currently filled with stories about Conservative M.E.P. Daniel Hannan and his praise of Enoch Powell. Why does this come as a shock to anyone? Surely nobody actually bought all that hogwash that was spouted about the Tories having changed their ways? A new caring and compassionate Conservative party that believes strongly in things like welfare, social care, the plight of the common man and so forth. All of that flannel with Cameron riding to parliament on a pushbike, getting a wind-powered generator fitted to his house, that cringingly chummy “Web Cam-eron” thing, was just that; flannel. They are still the party led by Eton educated, old boy network, old school Tories.
In 2007, another candidate was forthright in his praise of Enoch Powell. David Cameron publicly criticised the person who made the remarks and he was left in a position where resignation was his only option. In 2009, with the party sporting a healthy lead in the polls, Mr Hannan has publicly declared the NHS “A 60 year joke” that he “wouldn’t wish on anyone”, followed by effusive praise of Enoch Powell, the man responsible for one of the most racially inflammatory speeches ever given by a member of a major party in the post-war era, in the space of just 10 days. What’s next on his agenda? Informing the world how he can’t wait to disband the pension and welfare systems, to get all of those scrounging codgers and cripples off the public teat?
His party have once again done the political equivalent of chuckling and saying “What a card, eh? Bless his cotton socks.” As the lead in the polls increases, the carefully constructed mask of “Caring Conservatives” slips a little further from the public face of the party, allowing the public more frequent glimpses of what lies beneath.
In the interests of fairness, I should point out that Mr Hannan stopped short of praising Mr Powell’s stance on immigration. His quote was that Enoch Powell “understood why you need to live in an independent country and what that meant, as well as being a free marketeer and a small-government Conservative.” That may all seem innocuous enough, but look at the content of the quote. In essence, he praised Enoch Powell for his Euroskepticism, his belief in a free market economy (look how well that’s doing us so far) and the old Tory fascination for slashing public services. Since he admires those stances, he could just as easily picked Margaret Thatcher, Nigel Lawson, Michael Heseltine or indeed any old school Tory you or he might care to name…
He chose to name-check Enoch Powell, a man whose name is -rightly or wrongly- still synonymous with knee-jerk, reactionary grandstanding and the far right wing of British politics, wherein you can find such charming people as Robert Kilroy-Silk and Nick Griffin.
At best, it was the typical buffoonery you find whenever a Brit travels abroad and mistakenly believe that what happens abroad stays abroad (Mr Hannan was in the U.S. when he made the remarks), at worst it was a peek into the mind of a typical Tory backbencher, or M.E.P.. Whichever it was, the lack of disciplinary action from the Conservative whips shows just what the current Tory front bench think in secret, even if they aren’t willing to voice it publicly yet.
If you’re reading this, you no doubt fall into one of three categories.
A:- Someone who knows me personally and therefore wants to laugh at my second bloggy failure.
B:- Someone who’s interested in the process of writing, in which case i.) Hah! You’re unlikely to find anything useful here, and ii.) God help you help you, you poor deluded fool.
C:- You found this place randomly while looking for something else, in which case; please don’t go. It gets so lonely, shouting into the void. It would be nice to hear something besides the distant returning echoes of my own voice…
Whichever camp you fall into, welcome and enjoy my musings and waffle (in the absence of a proper English translation for “indulge in schadenfreude”) Just as soon as I get my sorry arse into gear, I’ll import some of the stuff from my old blog -including all six, count ’em, SIX of my excretions from my one new story a week debacle- and posting them here for posterity. More stories to follow in due course. In the meantime, go here http://jaykayel.wordpress.com/ and enjoy the work of someone far more productive than me.
P.S. I’ll no longer be restricting myself to posting only about the writing of fiction, since that’s a bit of a niche area and I bore easily. I’ll be venting about whatever happens to be on my mind at a given time as well. Lucky you, eh?