The jury is still out…

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Will I or won’t I? What am I on about? Whether or not I will ever write another book. At the moment I have no burning desire to torture myself once more. Having said that, If (and I do me if) an idea should make itself known to me, there is a chance that I may write again.

My initial enthusiasm for writing until my fingers bleed has thankfully passed. These days I’m still catching up on my reading. In the past most of my books came from something I’d read. Something that on its own was nought but a vague idea alluded in passing by the author of the work.

Meanwhile the world still turns. Does it need another book from me? It’s not for me to say…

🙂

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Food for thought from my friend Bob Van Laerhoven…

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Hi,

Is “Return to Hiroshima” still relevant in this era? Decide for yourself after reading this guest post on Toe Six Press:

Click: https://t.co/3kV3SBoBeE?amp=1 

Or read:

Author Article: Literature Resonates by Bob Van Laerhoven

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Lately, many people ask me if I think literature is still meaningful in this era of rapidly progressing digital technology: fast changing communication, the many ways of experiencing movies, streamed television series and news.

Literature does matter in our time. In any era.

I’ll explain this with an example of my own work.

Return to Hiroshima is my latest novel in English. As the first city ever struck by a nuclear bomb, Hiroshima became an iconic symbol. A novel with that city in the title inevitably refers to that moment in time that changed human history forever.

Why write a work of fiction in which the nuclear detonation plays such an important role? It’s easier, and faster, to stream a documentary about the subject, or to be carried away by watching an after-the-bomb movie.

That would make us informed, correct?

In a way, yes, but, in my eyes, literature has an added value. It can provoke in us an empathic understanding of the consequences of nuclear warfare.  That’s something else than being informed.

Moreover, are we as informed as we think we are? The answer is a bone-dry “no”. Mass-media and social networks spread “news bytes” every second around the globe but have desensitized us to a certain degree to the deeper meaning – or consequences – of the experience behind information.

What do you think about the heightened possibility of a WWIII, which has been all over the news lately?

***

Tensions are on the rise. A new World War is nearer than ever since the end of the Cold War. Democratic regimes seem to loose the battle against dangerous demagogic populists and dictators: Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Vladimir Putin in Russia,  and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, to name but a few.

Never before was the turbulent Middle East such a chaos of shifting alliances and growing animosity.  Iran and Saudi-Arabia are competing for hegemony in the region and build nuclear facilities that can be used to produce nuclear weapons. The US, Russia, and Turkey – with China looming at the horizon – support different factions in the civil war in Syria… They are allies today and enemies tomorrow. No-one seems to have a sound strategy, a solution, for the region.

It’s obvious that the seemingly endless Syrian civil war could become the trigger of a new worldwide conflict. The airstrike in April of the coalition of US, UK and French forces on the chemical weapon installations of Bashar al Assad’s regime triggered so much international unease that the most important question for the coming  months (years?) seems to become: how close are we to WWIII?

People tend to react to this question with a curiously abstract resignation. When prodded a bit, they usually confess that they can’t fathom how it would be, a nuclear conflict across the globe. Usually they end the conversation with an uneasy, “They won’t let it come that far, will they? I can’t imagine they would.“

***

One of the problems of the modern digital society is precisely that mass-media and social networks have wreaked havoc on our ability to use our imagination. As a result, the all too real possibility of a nuclear WWIII seems inconceivable.

And that, my dear friends, is truly dangerous. Our leaders are not smarter, wiser, or more mature than we are. And they sure do not have more imagination… except in one area – their endless dreams of their growing power.

This is the point where literature can step in. You may have trouble imagining what a nuclear conflict would be like, but literature can.  Moreover, it does this on a one-on-one basis.

A one-on-one basis in this era of mass-communication? Do I hear your Gargantuan laugh booming?

I like movies and television series, even games and social networks, as much as anybody. But I notice that, when spending too much time with these media, my level of thinking is reduced to a receptive, confined mode. The essence of a story often slips away from me like water from a seal.

This is not the case when I read. A novel resonates within me. Words can convey sensations that even the most sophisticated visual media cannot. Words can vibrate with layers of meaning, they can produce flashes of feeling (which is different than experiencing emotion), and they can make the reader emotionally receptiveThe power to step into the story, not wandering on the outskirts of it, is readily available.

I know, I know: you’ve heard this story before. Since the advent of mass-media, countless philosophers and artists have hammered on similar reasoning. You’re probably sick and tired of being advised to read fiction. Why should you, when watching movies is so much easier?

You may argue reading novels takes time, a certain effort, which is getting more difficult with every minute. Stress on the job, stress in traffic-jams, stress at home with children. Stress of not having posted a witty message on Facebook for two days…..

You have every right to think so, but in my view, literature, more than any  other art-form or entertainment, gives you the opportunity to interrogate yourself about the meaning of life: what exactly power or wealth is, how the world is evolving, what kind of society we live in…. The list is endless.

To interrogate yourself is a lot different than being shown what it is all about.

It’s not per se better.

But definitely different.

***

I admit willingly that I present the situation rather black-and-white in this post. But so is the question I hear so often: do you really think that literature can offer something more than, say, Netflix? It’s nearly always about who or what wins, not about differences. We don’t like differences anymore; we want to see winners and losers.

And that, dear friends, is a dangerous attitude, won’t you agree?

So, as an experiment, try something different. Watch a thrilling, shocking movie about the consequences of a nuclear conflict. There are a lot of gripping movies about that theme out there.

And, afterwards, read a novel about the same subject. There are a lot of gripping, passionate novels out there with this theme.

I want to share a few lines with you from Return to Hiroshima, a story set in Japan in 1995. In one of the chapters, a Seizon-cha, a survivor of the nuclear bomb called “Little Boy”, recalls some of the scenes he witnessed and could never forget.

***

A woman staggered past the burning buildings with a baby in her arms. The heat had caused the baby’s skin to peel. He was limp and motionless in her arms.

A man tugged at the body of a teenager buried under the rubble. The boy’s skull was cracked open and brain tissue was hanging out of the wound. He had lost his right eye. He was calling out for his mother, his voice clear and steady. The man had pulled away enough rubble to see that both legs had been crushed. He tried to lift the boy. He succeeded. He continued on his way, the boy motionless in his arms.

A girl, blood gushing from her mouth, stumbled through the ruins of a school. Hands shot up from the rubble, bloody and smoldering. They tried to grab the girl by the ankles. Voices begged: “Take me with you, take me with you!” In panic she kicked at the hands and ran on, her arms outstretched as if she was blind.

Hundreds of people tried to reach the river Aioi. They screamed for help, lost direction in the ash-filled clouds of smoke, and fell exhausted to the ground before they could reach the banks of the river and baked like clay stones in the raging fire.

                                                                 ***

How did this excerpt make you feel?

Reading literature resonates.

An Open Letter…

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… asking Jeff Bezos to help himself and his contributing authors.

Dear Jeff,

We all know that the only thing you fear is the loss of income. I wonder if you are aware how much you are losing from non sales of ebooks in your literary section? Currently you have several million books of ours consigned to the literary equivalent of purgatory. Why? Because of your company’s ridiculous rating system, designed to consign a book to oblivion in a couple of days after it goes live on Amazon if it isn’t instantly bought in its thousands by the general public worldwide.

Someone close to you who you trust needs to make you aware of how much lost profit is currently sitting on your electronic shelves! It’s bad enough that you allowed your minions to come up with ways of saving money by changing the rules regarding the pittance paid out to authors. I refer of course to the current KENP program (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) read, where if the author is lucky they will receive approximately .003 of a cent/penny per page.

Instead of just looking at the books in the top one hundred Jeff, isn’t it about time you started reminding the reading public of the world via a dedicated ongoing advertising campaign using email, Twitter, Facebook and the rest, that you have several million books just waiting to be read?

Oh, by the way; instead of presenting readers with all you can read for free, do the decent thing and revert to paying proper royalties to your authors.

Kind regards,

Jack Eason – author of Autumn 1066, Goblin Tales, Turning Point, Race Against Time, The Guardian, The Forgotten Age, Celeste, Cataclysm and The Next Age…

Where does the publishing fraternity get their editors?

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… from a plethora of totally disenchanted, bitter and twisted former writers with no staying power!!!

Sooner or later once published, every writer will automatically become the target of hate and envy. Both traits manifest themselves in one, two and some three star reviews. Usually they are written by Trolls lurking among the general public, some are written by deeply envious writers. Both types usually hide behind pseudonyms.

What the latter of the two groups conveniently forget is that the writing community is a small place. Sooner or later one or other of us will recognise a particular miscreant by his, or her, unique scathing attacks. This is the moment when it is incumbent upon us to expose them to the rest of our community!

I won’t mention any names here – many of you will already know who I’m talking about,  but a few months ago I managed to dissuade a fellow writer living in South Eastern Europe, who I considered to be a friend at the time from posting his review for my extremely short historical novella Autumn 1066 earlier this year. Given that he rubbished one of my other books, based on one particular descriptive scene in it, I should have refrained from asking him to read and review another one of mine! But, I only ever see the good in others. A weakness on my part…

Why he said what he did I can only put down to envy or a brain storm. As I still follow him on Facebook, even if we don’t talk anymore, I noted recently that he had been offered the senior editor’s position for a publisher in his own country. In my experience it’s always better to keep an eye on this kind of individual, or to put it another way – forewarned is forearmed! Here’s hoping that from now on he will put his mind to doing good. If he trashes every manuscript crossing his desk, I can’t see him holding onto the position for very long.

It’s not exactly rocket science folks – If you have nothing good to say about any given work of literature – say nothing! Better that than announcing to the world that you are a fool!!!

It’s December 24th. A time of peace and goodwill, even towards individuals like him.

Καλά Χριστούγεννα 

😉

A Christmas Wish is Finally Fullfilled

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After I first read about the original sets of Ivory chess pieces found in the vicinity of Uig on the Isle of Lewis sometime around 1831, I’ve lusted after a full-sized set of my own. 

With the worldwide ban on collecting Ivory thanks to the CITES convention, the only sets available are made from resin like mine pictured above, or maybe cattle bone. Although I’ve yet to hear of any in the latter medium…

The main difference between this set and others is that the pawns look like grave markers and the queen is decidedly masculine. The pieces are massive in comparison to traditional chess sets. Take the King for instance. He measures in at 2 inches wide by 1and a 1/4 inches deep by 3 and a 1/2 inches tall. As a consequence I’ve had to order a much bigger chess board – 19″ made from Mahogany and Sycamore to accommodate them. It’s scheduled to arrive later today (Friday 22nd December 2017).

To be any good at chess you need to have a tactical mind, something I’ve never had. Which is probably why I’m so hopeless at the game. Years ago I taught my mother all of the moves. Never once did I win against her. She was ruthless. She never went easy on me. Had she lived I suspect she would have reduced the Chess Grand Master Garry Kasperov to tears. Having said all that, it doesn’t really matter, I still love the game and my new replica Isle of Lewis chess set.

Writing this brought back a childhood memory. I forget how old I was at the time (probably eight or nine), but I do remember stealing a brand new stick of white chalk from the teacher’s desk. Thankfully I got it back home in one piece. For several nights using a modelling knife I slowly transformed it into a Viking warrior, complete with his axe and shield. I was so proud of it, even if it didn’t last long. From memory his head fell off…

Merry Christmas from this old scribbler, and a happy New Year to you all.

😉

I’m starting my latest research project, with maybe a book in mind…

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Dagobert the 1st

I’ve long held a fascination with the Merovingian dynasty. From Clovis the first king of the Franks (466-511AD) onward, they became some of the most powerful rulers in Europe.

At the moment I’m in the process of re-reading The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail (Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln). This was the first book that made me curious about them and the claims that they were part of the alleged royal bloodline that supposedly started when Mary Magdalene bore the Palestinian jew, Jeshua Ben Joseph’s child. Think san graal, meaning “royal blood” in Dan Brown’s brilliant story The Da Vinci Code.

What the vatican’s reaction was back in the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries, I’ve yet to find out. Bouts of apoplexy at the very least I should have thought. Even if the idea of the san graal is not true, does it really matter? The religious among you would have to agree, it makes one hell of an intriguing story…

Whether or not I turn the results of my current research project into a book of some kind, only time will tell…

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This book is just one of many in my library that speak of the Merovingians. All I’ve got do now is to psych myself into what will be a lot of re-reading and cross-referencing over the next several months…

Wise words from one of my literary heroes

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Vain, selfish and lazy? Those sentiments Eric Blair aka George Orwell stated still apply for some within the writing community. Fortunately 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 some writers and 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 still 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 you 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, once published. In some cases they are actually disgruntled fellow writers who are seriously annoyed that people buy, like, and praise your work while shunning their own. As writers we all know at least one of these often angry individuals.

Some trolls are nothing more than malicious individuals hiding behind pseudonyms, thriving on hate while hoping that you will react, judging by their often incomprehensible one star reviews.

Do I still want to write? 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, writers and friends on Facebook, 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.

😉

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