Jul 21st

The Shape of Things to Come.

By AlanP

The paramount thing about brand creation and marketing is the message it leaves you with. I advance this view with no small amount of trepidation as I know there are several experts in the field out there in our cloud. If you aren’t left with a memorable feeling, you won’t have a trigger for the memory of how you enjoyed that one, so when you see another you’ll select it.

These days one of the objectives of writers is to establish their brand. Or at least I contend it’s so. I also think that it always has been, but currently it is much more significant. Here in our little community many people who post discuss topics that clearly show they hope to establish a series, and thereby a brand. Not all of us, but many. If you buy a Bernard Cornwell or a Jo Jo Moyes these days you know pretty precisely the shape of what you are going to get.

We place a lot of significance on openings, how to get people reading and keep their attention. But is the ending more important to leave that brand impression.

Take Frederick Forsythe for example. OK, his halcyon days were forty some years ago. But consider his endings; one of them at least. At the end of The Odessa file, ignoring his epilogue, he wraps up the story, the final episode, in about 1,500 leisurely words all in the same mood as this closing extract, not really about the story, yet at the same time all about it:

Yisgaddal, Veyiskadddash, Shemay rabbah.. And so it was that twenty one years after it died at Riga, a major of paratroops of the army of Israel, standing on a hill in the Promised Land, finally said kaddish for the soul of Salomon Tauber.

It's about the book, not the story. Forsyth writes/wrote “bloke-lit” adventures in the political/military genre. He was a foreign correspondent and wrote what he knew about. I think, at least then, he was natural storyteller. As an ending I think it simply leaves a memory of the core of what drove the story and plants the book firmly in the mind because he wrote out what he had in his own mind.

Harper Lee really only wrote one book – I don’t count the recent money grab by others. Many say it’s their favourite book of all time. Whatever, it’s a leisurely storytelling experience, albeit of dark and dangerous times. She wraps up with something over 2,500 words that are about as comfortable as a well worn cardigan - ending with:

“He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning”.

Masterly writing. It encapsulates not the story but the essence of how it was told, which is from the point of view of a child. What you felt as you read the book takes root somewhere deep in your soul. Although the story was fiction, it was very true to the childhood of Harper Lee and if you can’t ignore the machinations of Truman Capote, then it was about his childhood. Had she written another, you’d buy it in a heartbeat. But she didn’t.

Those are examples from years back. Joanne Harris is a fine writer, I haven’t read one of her books that I haven’t enjoyed. She is a professional writer as a career choice - she was a teacher and I hope not a witch. She has a bit of a French background though. She wraps Chocolat, perfectly capturing the essence of what the book was about in about 600 words. I won’t repeat it here, but trust me there’s a bit of occult, a bit of France, a bit of bitter Chocolat and overall sweetness. Makes sure you’ll buy another.

My point is, the ending is shorter and more targeted, more modern perhaps? Joanne Harris knows her craft and can do it again and again. That ending does the same job as the others, but much faster. More suited to our sound bite culture, perhaps.

As, more and more, market led writing dominates our little world and if my conception of brand establishment is correct how long is it before a closure will be done like … well read on..

One of the best brand establishers and communicators in the modern world is Michael Duben (Search Dollar Shave Club on YouTube if he has somehow passed you by). He does brand communication like Lionel Messi does goals. In an ad for One Wipe Charlies (work it out) he closes out with:

“Great things can happen when your butt smells good”.

It leaves you with the core message of the whole thing, hopefully a memory of a warm and comforting experience and all in fewer than ten words.

Is this the shape of things to come?

Jul 20th

Hey, show some goddamn respect

By mike

The tyranny of taste..

Many thanks to word  clouders who wrote kind comments about some posts of mine on various sites.   Sadly your views were not shared by Richard and Judy; I was not even  shortlisted for their competition.  It is possible I had submitted a complex structure, in which case I would not have understood my own novel.  But any pain caused has been overridden by the actions of an Ercol sofa who has been behaving in the most  inconsiderate manner!

    I met Ercol many years ago when a sofa was  exhibited for sale  in the window of a furniture store in suburban Kent.  Closer inspection informed me that Ercol  was a  display model to be sold at a bargain price. Even when placed in such a humiliating position, the sofa commanded respect and distanced itself from the other sofas that were for sale with great subtlety.  

     The sofa has   a simple wooden frame into which is thrown a plethora of cushions. In later years, when we achieved first name terms, I  came to understand the shame -  not to say anger -  of  Ercol  whose feelings were, undoubtably, those of a slave  to be sold in an Athenian marketplace. 

    Ercol, we feel your pain.

     I bought the sofa and the salesman seemed delighted with the sale, for he threw in extra  cushions with what seemed reckless abandon.   I had no misgivings at the time,  but the salesman’s joy at the departure of the sofa was a frightening forewarning of things to come.

    Ercol had been bought for my mother to laze upon while watching the TV.  The previous  incumbent  had developed a severe  propensity to sag and had to go, despite the protestations of my mother.  We were the poor relations and lived among cast offs from more successful cousins and uncles.  Perhaps she did not wish the cousins to pay a visit and find their gifts displaced?   Perhaps it was this unwelcome from my mother that precipitated a series of unfortunate events?

 For a time Ercol shared the living space with two Ikea armchairs.  These were provided by Dutch uncle and their premier virtue was, undoubtedly,  their price,  No better than they should be, we shall comment.    The Ikea chairs were bought to replace Parker Knolls, one of which - a rocking chair - had come off its rockers. The Ikea chairs soon disassembled themselves with the same panache with which they had been put together.

  Now Ercol is on his own having  outlived, as it were, any infringement of his domain. I recall one frightening  morning when It seemed that  during the night, the sofa had advanced towards the centre of the room where  Ercol could command a more dominating  aspect.

    But relationships were never  easy.  I am well aware that Ercol is the most appalling snob;  albeit a snob of distinction.  But we are of a literary persuasion and disdain such words as ‘snob - it is a relative value judgement. 

     Ercol is too proud to display symptoms outwardly, but he is clearly far more stressed than the tension of his  wooden frame would suggest.

    Recent discoveries have thrown light on Ercol’s  inconsiderate behaviour and I have became aware that the sofa  is in need of deep and severe counselling of which  I have little experience. 

  There had been a tendency for visitors to perch on the edge of Ercol as though they were awaiting an interview for a job  or  a doctor’s appointment.  Ladies would  clutch at their bags with both hands and their gentlemen looked askance, one can only now presume, for the security of the high backed wings of a Parker Knoll.    Sadly, visitors  were uncomfortable with Ercol. They did not relax into the sofa.   No -  not even with the extra cushions  so generously provided by the salesman.  Relax, chill out, the sofa encouraged consistently,  but the offer was consistently repelled.

    It was while looking for some companions for Ercol  on a web site, that I found two armchairs of  of the same design.  They were advertised in an on-line antique shop.  But what is this? Why the name Renaissance and why mention that they are low backed?  Ercol  still manufactures Renaissance sofas and armchairs of the same design,  but they are high backed.   Low backs could not be to the English taste.  But what of this?  Lucian Randolph Ercolani, the founder  and designer of Ercol is of Italian descent.  He is from Tuscany.  Things fall into place.   Ercol is most certainly not a sofa; it is a couch for reclining, peeling grapes and suchlike.  Ercol sofas are designed for living, not for sitting upon.  Show some goddamn respect!  Such is the tyranny of taste.  Does Ercol require my blood?

     Last week  I made an attempt to appease Ercol as he has become the bench mark for the room.  There is an adjacent daybed in an adjoining conservatory.  It has a simple while metal frame on which is hung an undistinguished grey bedspread from BHS.  

The Ercol sofa is in deep yellow and I have bought a yellow throw from Habitat.  Would Ercol accommodate?   Ercol’s yellow is subdued with flecks of a darker hue.   It is pastel - impressionist - one might almost say post-impressionist -  while Habitat is Dulux gloss.

 I  have added a bedspread from John Lewis which might act as a moderator between the two.  It is of a rather subdued Victorian mauve colour.  It is made in China and I have just noticed on the reverse of the label that this product not intended to be used as a cover for upholstery.   I had been warned........One can almost feel the colours flinch....  





Jul 19th

Real life inspirations for our WIP's. .... Great lines...

By Old Fat Prop


 I was once interupted in my attempt

to expand our sex life by being told by Her-indoors "right airport... Wrong runway..." And I've stolen that and put it in the WIP. She just read it and laughed to hysterics protesting that I can't use it....

What lines from your life have worked themselves into your stories?

Send all responses to Duck & Dive home for misunderstood authors....



Jul 19th

Caption competition

By AlanP



I haven't done one of these for years.

Jul 18th

To the Fold, Returned

By Andrew James

Bumping into an old friend and faux-incredulously running through the routine:

"It's been, what eight, nine months...?"


"No! Not years."

"Two years. It's been about two years."

"Really? Gosh, it can't be. Can it?"

"Two years."

Well, that's me and Word Cloud. Two years. I went looking for a metaphor and just carried on walking, I guess.

My novel's still out there. Every so often I get an email from Amazon and I see my bank balance swell like a river in flood, pregnant with salmon. There's that metaphor I went looking for. Seems overwrought now, using it to talk about an occasional £1.98 deposit.

Anyway. Hello to old friends, sorry to anyone I left hanging, and Pleasedtomeetcha to new ones.

I'm currently writing a screenplay. Might just have found my metier. Do pop by and say hello. And if I can find a way to get that bloody music off my profile, I will. Promise.

Jul 15th

Twenty Eight (and a bit) Days Later

By SamKurt

You’re probably thinking this is going to be some Zombie story given the title above and although I feel like one sometimes, that’s not what this is. Not that I don’t enjoy a good Zombie romp, in fact I’m currently listening to the audio books of “The Mountain Man” and if you like a good Zombie read then I can recommend these. Anyway I digress….


Up until I was around eighteen years old I was always something of a skinny little runt, not massively tall and stick thin, a real hit with the ladies haha. Something changed when I reached adulthood however and I started to gain weight. Slowly and surely over many years my weight increased and increased and nothing I did seemed to stop or reverse it.


I’m one of those people that doesn’t carry weight well, some people seem to be larger but look perfectly fine with it, they just look stocky, well built. Unfortunately, that’s not me, I end up looking like some badly stuffed sack of cuddly toys, with lumps poking out here and there.


There is a reason to this self-indulgent pitying so bear with me.


A few years ago I stumbled upon people talking about eating paleo online and it grabbed my interest. After trying everything else including Atkins, Weight Watchers, Slimmer’s World etc. and not getting much result this sounded sensible and healthy to me. The results of trying to eat Paleo were amazing, I lost a ton of weight and felt so much better. Gone were the afternoon dips in energy after lunchtime sandwiches and crisps. Sugar crashes were a thing of the past, I slept better and felt better.


It’s fair to say though that in the last year or more I’ve let the lifestyle slip and I’ve slowly allowed more and more convenience foods into my life, more puddings, more chocolate and there’s always room for a cake at Costas. My weight has creeped back up and I seem to be unable to get it back down. It’s not anywhere near the levels of the past but it’s enough to concern me of where it might go.


I should probably point out at this point that my reasons for concern have changed as I’ve matured (at least physically if not mentally). In the past there was a certain amount of vanity involved in wanting to look good, but these days it’s more about general health and wanting to stay fit, active and alert as long as I can. I would kind of like to drag this creaky old carcass well into old age if possible.


So now we come to the point of this rambling, I recently came across a program called Whole30 which is kind of like a Paleo on crack. It’s a thirty-day program where you effectively give up all wheat, dairy, sugar (including artificial sugars), legumes and alcohol (yes alcohol !!)  for thirty days. The way I like to describe it is that if you can’t kill it, pull it out of the ground, or pluck it from a tree then you shouldn’t eat it.


It’s not meant to be a weight loss program, more of a body reset. The idea is after 30 days, you can reintroduce the things you gave up and see which of those things may be causing you problems and adjust your diet accordingly. To my surprise my wife said she would do the program with me and so we got stuck in to it.


Have you ever tried to buy anything without sugar in it? It’s nigh on impossible let me tell you. Just about anything pre-packed, jarred, bottled or tinned has some kind of sugar added to it. We had to go right back to the basics including making our own stock as stock cubes are out.


We’ve just completed the program and it’s been an interesting journey, we’ve learned new ways to cook with so many things and actually made some delicious meals. I honestly don’t miss the sugar and wheat and have no plans to re-introduce them any time soon, but I do have my bottle of wine on standby for tonight, oh how I missed thee. The first few days were really rough, with a kind of sugar hangover that made us tired, lacking energy, brain fogged and with such a mood I’m surprised we are both still here and without battle scars.


There were some really unexpected results from the program. My sleep pattern changed, I started to wake up earlier in the mornings, even before my alarm and I feel tired earlier at night, I also sleep so well. My skin feels better, somehow smoother and less dry with less blemishes. The biggest thing though is my energy and focus, I feel so much more alert and energetic all day long.


We will be going on an all-inclusive holiday in a few weeks and I plan to just relax and not worry too much what I eat while away, but I’ve already booked a date in the calendar to do another Whole30 when we get back.


Oh and about the weight, I lost 11 pounds in those thirty days.

Jul 14th

Being Ill

By Mezz

Monday I felt spaced out, Tuesday I felt worse.

I couldn't let the side down, so I toddled off to work.

It was my shortest shift of all, three hours, then back to bed.

It should have been a doddle, but the pain went to my head.

I drove home, I must have done, though remember it I don't.

Will I be a martyr next time?

No, I bloody won't.

Jul 14th

Following Tide. Thursday's Ponder

By Old Fat Prop

I have disused Word Page thing, Twitter, and FB accounts.  


I opened the Wordpage site to put all of my stuff in a place where I could work, edit, read again and generally look back in awe at how damned good my stuff is... It went dormant in two weeks.

My twitter account was created to follow mtch day live rugby comments while at work, away from telly. It lasted one season. 2012 I think.


The FB page was formed as a prerequisite for entering a comp. Haven't looked at it in four years.


While looking at short story comp sites, I have discovered that I am being 'followed' by a multitude of people I have never heard of.  Most disconcerting as i've only had two stories published. 


Looking at the courses offered by some of the people running comp sites, I see a multitude of supposedly notable presonages in the Short Story World being trundled out to offer their exptertise to me.


So I read a few of their shorts... and most were mundane, urbane, aloof and confusing to me. but in registering on the site, I have emails telling me I am now being followed by them.

In my previous occupation, when we were being followed by unknowns, we would call up Red Dog Six  on the radio and have them napalmed into ashes. 


But times change. It seems there is a wealth of potential readers out there just waiting to be tapped... or ignored.


But would Hemingway follow Clancy?  Alphabetically, of course, but would Plato follow Homer?   Did Van Gogh follow Turner?  


How did any of them succeed wihtout Twitter?

Jul 10th

Proper names and how to write them.

By Sandra

I've a nightclub in my novels, but am unable to decide the best - most understandable, least irritating to the eye - way of indicating its name.  

Nor do I know which is strictly correct. Any thoughts / opinions on this most welcome:

 A. There’s three operating like Horseshoes. They are legal ... just. 

 B. There’s three operating like 'Horseshoes'. They are legal ... just. 

C. There’s three operating like Horseshoes. They are legal ... just. 


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