We all know that prices are going up. Fuel, Gas, Electricity, nothing ever seems to go down. Those same price increases are beginning to impact on food prices too, as anyone who has recently done a ‘big shop’ at a supermarket will tell you.
On the 21st of March, we went to get our regular weekly shop at the huge branch of Tesco in Dereham, the supermarket we use the most. Julie came with me on that occasion, as I am still unable to drive. I had my list ready, and didn’t buy any ‘extras’, or anything on impulse. I was also only shopping for six days, not seven, as we had something in the freezer for one meal that week.
After packing everything away at the checkout, the total bill came to £97. ($128) Bearing in mind there are only two of us, that seemed a lot. On the…
When it comes to writing sex scenes involving your characters, how far do you dare to go? Bearing in mind that a written work containing anything that might be considered vaguely pornographic, is seriously frowned upon by all reputable publishers, especially those domiciled in the US? Even that book cover you want may not be acceptable! Read on to find out how I deal with this dilemma.
In one of my novellas – Cataclysm, I alluded to the way the hero Gilbert Briggs and the beautiful transexual he fell in love with, Arianna, made love by simply saying just that, sans any detail. It doesn’t take much imagination on the part of the more intelligent among you to realise how they went about it. But precisely because of the transexual element, no lurid details were employed. I agonised over it for several weeks, and I freely admit that I was seriously tempted to spice it up at the time of writing.
The Guardiandemanded that I go a stage further. In this particular instance I dealt with the love affair between my principal characters, Lynne Crawford and Adler Stevens. The other characters, some of whom have already been involved in an orgy in the story, are a lesbian Bayla and a bi-sexual Karin, plus two of the five other males – Anatole, Moshe, Philippe, Brett and Cliff, all of them perfectly normal individuals but for one thing – their sexual proclivities.
Thinking about it, who or what is considered normal these days, especially when it comes to the often thorny subject of sex? It’s weird how some people become totally prudish when confronted with the subject in a novel or novella, yet see nothing wrong in engaging in what after all is a perfectly natural act between two consenting people, no matter their gender preference or indeed their preferred way of making love. A clear case of double standards if ever I saw one…
Getting back to the problem I had with Lynne and Adler; so far I had involved them in just two scenes together that can either be described as erotic or voyeuristic, depending on your point of view. It was childsplay compared to what came next – their first no holds barred love scene. Well, that’s not strictly true. I had written the original seriously filthy version several weeks earlier. I returned to it from time to time to tone it down. First of all by gradually downgrading it from extremely to moderately pornographic, through to highly suggestive. At long last it became merely suggestive, the state it would remain in until I took another look at it at a later date. Hopefully it would end up being a suggestive erotic love scene, not as easy to achieve as some of you may think, believe you me.
Remember this – while one person might consider a love scene like the one I’m talking about to be erotic. To those of the prudish persuasion, it will always be nothing but unadulterated pornographic filth. The funny thing is that I bet the latter will re-read the particular passage several times on their own, while uttering the imortal words – “utterly disgusting!” to alleviate their hypocritical moral outlook.
Face it folks, as writers we just can’t win. Either we’re damned if we do or damned if we don’t. In the end all you can do is leave it up to your readers to decide, always providing of course that it gets past your publisher first.
Oh by the way – for the ill educated among you, the highlighted words Cataclysm, and The Guardian, are book links, not just a spot of colour for effect in a sea of black type!!!
I remember an old farmer commenting about lads ‘helping out.’ “One boy is one boy. Two boys is half a boy, three boys is no boy at all.”
I know of a couple of farms round here that used to get a lot of lads ‘helping out.’ With village farms where the village was a community, not a dormitory suburb, it was common. I remember talking to one chap, he commented that of all the lads who’d passed through the farm, all were in work but not one was in farming. As far as he could tell, all of them would be earning more than him. Most were working for plant hire companies, or on the highways or in similar trades.
What is noticeable is just how switched on and flexible you need staff to be, and if nothing else the lad working a bit will pick up self-reliance, learn…
I was listening to an old radio interview with the English writer Evelyn Waugh pictured above a couple of nights back on BBC Radio 4 extra, first recorded in the nineteen fifties. He is probably best known for the iconic television series Brideshead Revisited. Towards the end of the interview he was asked if writing got any easier as he grew older. I thoroughly agreed with him when he said, “No. The older I get, the harder it is to write.”
While I’m no Eveylyn Waugh by any stretch of the imagination, the older I get the more I go through the same thing he did. Does it mean I’ve come to a grinding halt? No. Perhaps I have run out of ideas? No. Maybe I’m bored with it? No. Could it be that I’m suffering from procrastination? No.
What it does mean however is that with fourteen or fifteen books of mine out there in reader-land for you to be getting on with, I am in no hurry to begin the next. Like all other serious writers, I strive to improve with each new book. I used to write for between 8-12 hours per day. It may come as a surprise but writers don’t just write. Like you, we have a life. Daily word counts no longer matter to me the way they did twenty-six years ago. What does is the way I construct the words and their relevance to the story as a whole. Plus, unless I’m in the mood to write, it simply doesn’t happen.
With each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence I write, they no longer flow freely. Instead I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to say. More importantly, how I want to go about it. The fact that I haven’t written another word apart from here on my blog since last year, is neither here nor there. When the mood takes me, I’ll get back to it. But not before.
With science fiction being my first love, I found and posted a quote from Ray Bradbury on my Face Book page a while ago. Here it is:
My sentiments exactly Ray. I couldn’t have said it better myself…
PS -here is a possible idea for another science fiction tale i’m considering at the moment. Whether or not I use it is yet to be decided!
It began with the assertions made by the world’s climatologists that man is responsible for climate change. It ended when mother nature proved them wrong…
How many times have I mentioned, that I love beautiful pens, all kinds of pens, ballpoint pens, special pens, light pens, exclusive pens, unique pens… I’m like so many other writers. One of the bestestest sentences a man can tell me is: “I saw this beautiful pen and knew, it is for you.” (And, of course, hand me an exclusive Cartier Ballpoint pen, nicely surrounded by gift wrap and a bow!)
But today, I’m not talking about ‘regular’ pens, I’m talking about Fountain Pens… they’re the most elegant writer’s tools, in my opinion (not exactly counting the quill, since that one got out of style quite some time ago – considering how many birds had to sacrifice their feathers for those, that development wasn’t that bad, I assume).
As many of you know, I write the first draft of my books by hand. I use some scrapbook or paper notebook…
Lieutenant Lynne Crawford as I envision her in my sci-fi novella The Guardian
Céleste as I always imagined her in my sci-fi novel of the same name.
There are a few more, but the photographs of the two ladies who inspired me to create Lynne and Céleste will suffice as perfect examples…
It’s a fact that with every book I write, I push the envelope that little bit further. If you have ever read any of them you will know that without exception each and every one of my female characters is not only loyal, feisty, beautiful and strong minded, but also vulnerable and extremely feminine.
When it comes to creating each of them I always ask myself what it is about them that would make me a mere male, sit up and take notice. It is true to say that with each principle female character that I have created over the years, while writing about them, inevitably I always fall head over heels in love with the idea of them, even now, a few days into the beginning of my seventy fourth year.
There I go bearing my soul to you, once qgain…
By now the more astute among you will have deduced that I adore any and all women exhibiting all of the above qualities, even though I only shared a brief eighteen months with one back in the nineteen sixties, my beautiful Montagnard bride and soul mate – Mai.
Remember, no matter the age of the writer, we’re all still human. By that I mean that specific characters we create, we absolutely want to get to know, even though they’re only in a story. The beautiful Céleste was the latest in a long line of leading ladies who I was privileged to spend time with – lucky, lucky me… 😉
As their creator, while any story I come up with tends to write itself, I still hold the ultimate power of life and death over my characters. All I’ll add to that is to say my male characters had better treat my leading ladies right – or else!
In the past I have merely skirted around any love affair between my hero and the woman in his life by employing the old writer’s standbys of insinuation, inference and allusion when it comes to what is actually going on between them. Like most writers of my acquaintance, I leave anything which could be described as pornographic to the E.L James’ of this world. Besides which, my publisher (Amazon KDP) would never agree to publish it if it was. This is something every writer has to bear in mind when writing about what their characters get up to in private, especially when dealing with some American publishers…
PS – I defy any male reader not to at the very least fall in lust with my ladies when they read about them.
PPS – I kept a copy of the above photographs handy while writing The Guardian and CélesteWIPs, purely for the purposes of inspiration and soul searching you understand. At least that’s what I still tell myself.
So it was about 8pm last night and I decided it was time to walk through the lambing ewes and see if anybody was up to anything. I arrived to find a black faced Suffolk ewe with four new born lambs. Two were black and two were white. There was a problem with this, she hadn’t actually lambed, she’d just borrowed them.
A walk through the rest of the ewes produced a Leicester (They’re the ones with the Roman nose) who had lambed and was quietly ignoring everything that was going on. So I put the Leicester in one of the individual pens and tried to work out what on earth had been going on. She had been scanned for triplets, so was she about to produce a third? Certainly she didn’t want any of the four I could offer her.
Anyway I walked slowly and methodically through the rest…
Vain, selfish and lazy? Speak for yourself Eric. That may have been true in your case, but not mine! Most writers I know are none of those things. These days the only people you will come across like that are certain editors and literary agents as well as most literary critics. The latter category, especially the odd one or two who write for newspapers and literary magazines here in the UK, can definitely be said to be vain and selfish. To those two unsavoury qualities I would add a few others – condescending, snobbish, scathing and vicious, particularly when it comes to one leading newspaper’s literary critic and his deep loathing of Indies. Compared to him, internet trolls are rank amateurs.
As for the rest of what Eric is quoted as saying – writing is a long exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness, he’s perfectly correct. It is. With a few exceptions, I seriously doubt that anyone who reads books has the faintest notion of what we go through when writing one. Blair was also right when he said that – one would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist, nor understand.
In my own case, what drives me to write is not so much a demon as the burning desire to share a story with the reader. So the next time you read any book, whether you liked it or not, ask yourself what kind of hell did the author of this book put themselves through when he or she wrote this? How many sleepless nights did they suffer to bring the story to me? How many times were they afflicted with the one problem all writers suffer from time to time – writer’s block?
As if all of that wasn’t enough for the writer to contend with, there are the endless attacks by internet trolls. In some cases they are actually disgruntled fellow writers who are seriously annoyed that people buy, like, and praise your work while shunning theirs. Some trolls are nothing more than malicious individuals (sociopaths) hiding behind pseudonyms, thriving on hate while wanting you to react so that they can make your life hell!
Do I still want to write for a living? Hell yes, even though it often drives me to distraction. Once you have been bitten by the writing bug, everything else in your life apart from writing posts like this, and chatting to readers and friends on Facebook and Twitter, rapidly vanishes into the distance.
You heard it here first folks. It helps if you are completely bonkers with a masochistic streak when it comes to writing.
When Donald Trump was the president of America, many of us here in England found him to be an unusual choice as leader of the ‘free world’. His strange hairstyle, the make-up that made him look permanently orange, and not least his regular comments, tweets, and outbursts that seemed to be far from presidential. He had a bad attitude to women, could be rude and insulting on a daily basis, and it was no secret he had an admiration for people he regarded to be ‘strong’ leaders, like Kim in North Korea, and Putin in Russia.
As time went on, he was not afraid to make openly racist remarks about illegal immigrants from centtral America, Mexicans, and Chinese people. He was happy to be offensive to all of his political opponents, and many of his former friends and advisers too. Then during his handling of the pandemic, he went so…
What is the currency, the ultimate goal of the art historian when he looks back at the art of the past? Is it simply to explain art, to engage with beauty, to come to a definition of beauty? I don’t think art history as a discipline has one unifying aim, but rather it is split into the branching aims of its individual and philosophies.
Yet ultimately, what all art historians engage in is a dialogue with the art of the past, starting from their present vantage point. All art historians are ambassadors of the present. None of them can exculpate themselves from the consciousness of the now. Some are more candid than others about their dependency on the present, more admitting of the subjectivity of the period they happen to be writing from.
And why should we hide it? Whilst history is noble enough in and of itself, it has…