Jan 29th

Baldness and Idle Thoughts

By Dolly

A thought crossed my mind, followed immediately by another, which asked: ‘Was the thought, just in front of this one, important or not? And if so, why?’ On the other hand, it might not have been important at all; probably wasn’t, as I can’t remember what it was. Then again, that’s the sort of thing thoughts do, isn’t it? They pop up, one after another, and most of the time they are generally mundane and drab, then one appears that contains a subject you didn't expect, because it came out of nowhere, and was the furthest thing from your mind, which happened to me when the word baldness made an appearance.

Now, the thought of baldness was secondary to the initial thought which concerned Joanna Lumley. Yesterday afternoon I was on my way home from visiting a friend. Out of idle curiosity I turned on the car radio, only to hear Jo Wiley inform me that one of her guests the coming week was the incredible Joanna Lumley, which took me by surprise, as I was unaware that Joanna Lumley was incredible. When did this happen? What amazing event catapulted an actor, and TV personality who does travelogues, into being incredible? I don't recollect any news item concerning this miraculous transformation. It was at this moment that the subject of baldness popped up.

Why this should be is a mystery, as I wasn't thinking about hair, or anything to do with it, I was still thinking about Joanna Lumley, and why she had suddenly become incredible, but there it was. Baldness. This of course, generated a new direction of thought, and brought to mind some of the weird and wonderful 'cures', and the lengths that some men went to when they realised they were losing their hair, which seemed to be prevalent in the 1970's.

Now I realise, that for some men, this can be a touchy subject, and I apologise if I upset anyone, although nowadays there are a lot of men with shaved heads, which means no one can tell if they are bald or not.

However, in the 1970's, the situation was different. There seemed to be some sort trauma attached to being bald, or going bald, resulting in men thinking they were going to lose their virility, or worse. Strange cures sprang up. This ranged from different types of head massages, shampoos and lotions all guaranteed to restore your crowning glory. The most bizarre of these was chicken shit, that's right, chicken shit! For some strange, and weird reason, it was generally believed that if you rubbed chicken shit into your thinning and receding hair, it would generate rapid growth, thereby thickening the hair. I seem to remember a couple of newspaper articles endorsing the practice, and there was some enterprising soul selling jam jars full of it on Preston market. Needless to say, it didn't last long, but for a short period of time, some men believed it enough to try it out!

Alongside this were the daft wigs which were the wrong colour and never fitted properly, and comb overs, hair parted above the ears. The most ridiculous of these that I came across was in a bakery as I waited to for a sandwich. The person in front had parted his hair on the back of his head, a couple of inches above his collar, and combed all his hair forwards, in a vain attempt to cover up the offending bald bits. However, the most bizarre belonged to someone I worked with, who was bald on the top, but let the sides grow long, and with the help of a comb and some hair lacquer, sculpted a masterpiece, which, it must be said, looked a bit like a walnut whip. Unfortunately, it was more like a cap than anything else, and if the wind happened to gather in strength, would rise up and down. In the end he had a haircut and looked a lot better for it. Once again, if this offends, I apologise.

 

The things that pop in your mind, and out of nowhere as well!

Jan 23rd

Following on...

By Squidge

...from Skylark's blog about creating book number 2, and the point she made that sometimes, we forget just what goes into a first draft of a novel, thought I'd share the following:

How important is the first draft to your novel? 

It demonstrates there's no one-size-fits-all approach, and that we, as writers, have to find the way that suits us as individuals, because each of us are unique in our situations, the way we approach a story (planner or pantser) and what we're prepared to put into the first draft.

Makes for interesting reading...

 

 

Jan 22nd

Writers are Dandelions

By Dragon Lady

 

To be honest, I'm rarely on here.  I'm too busy elsewhere.  Writing, actually, which is just as well but I thought I'd check in to offer a meagre nugget of hope, a glimmer of starlight in the dark, to all those desperately seeking that holiest of grails: Agency Representation.

I've been trying to land an agent since 2009.   I can't tell you how many rejection letters I've received in that time because I didn't take notice of any that didn't contain the phrases: 'This showed promise...', 'There's a lot to admire here...', 'You can definitely write...' 

If you get any of the above comments in any of your rejection letters YOU ARE A GOOD WRITER.  Agents do not give compliments lightly. 

So why are they rejecting you?  Many reasons.  None of which they're likely to admit to or explain.  DO NOT CHASE THEM.  Simply accept the compliments as justification for your obsession and KEEP TRYING.  Take note of any constructive criticism and, if it makes sense, use it.  Do not be precious about your work.  Re-dreaming the dream is an essential part of the process.  You must make your worlds immersive, your plots thrilling and your characters compelling and then you must wonder how to make all of that better.  If you get bored doing any of this, then your story is boring.  Bin it.  And write another one.  I've re-written my first book so many times I've lost count, but each time it's been on the advice of some editor or agent and, each time, it's got BETTER.  Wanting to write isn't enough.  You have to want to be GOOD.

Enter your work into as many competitions as possible.  Being longlisted, shortlisted, or, if you're really lucky, winning a competition does make agents sit up and take note.  I was shortlisted for the MsLexia Childrens' Novel Competition before I was signed. 

Literary Consultancies are also useful - if you can afford them.  I sought advice from Cornerstones Literary Consultancy and had a lovely lunch with award-winning author Sandra Glover who edited a much earlier and longer version of my current debut.  I was able to use some of the quotes from her report in my covering letters to agents who agreed with her that there was '...much to admire...' before rejecting me.

Most of all though, keep pushing yourself to be better.  Read best-sellers in your demographic and genre - not to copy, but to see how high the bar is being set.  Learn how they deal with plot twists and how they use viewpoint to make their work exciting and immersive.  How are their characters interracting?  What is being left unsaid for the reader to wonder at?  How could you make your book more gripping?  Learn constantly.  

But be warned: If you can't - or won't - re-write, you're in trouble.  If you take every rejection to heart, you'll be bleeding out long before you see a book on the shelf.   If you think that getting an agent is the hard part and that once you've signed on the dotted line all that rejection is going to stop and the publishers' doors are going to open and you'll be bathed in glorious white light and angels' song as they clamour for every word you produce...

No.  None of that is going to happen.  The rejection never stops.  Not even for seasoned authors with best-sellers under their belts.  

I signed with Polly Nolan at Greenhouse Literary Agency last August.  My debut went out to all major UK publishers in October...and the complimentary, contradictory rejections are already starting to dribble in.  It could be months, even years, before any kind of publishing deal is struck.  This is a SLOW business where "No" doesn't mean "Bad", it means "Not now".  

I'm currently putting the final tweaks to a sequel that may never see the light of day if book one doesn't sell.  It doesn't matter.  I've loved writing it.  Maybe it will sell a few years down the line when trends change.  Who knows?  Don't get me wrong, I'm still desperate to see my first baby leave the nest but this is a game of patience and time is something I fill up with words.  All this procrastination has allowed me to write a couple of other novels in different genres that we might have more luck with.  The point is: I'm doing what I love.  

If I ever get paid...well, that'll be a bonus.

Writers are dandelions: No matter how much they rip us up, we keep growing.

If you're interested in finding out if I crash and burn, you can follow me on Twitter @kmlynam.  But don't hold your breath waiting for a conclusion.  It may take a while.

And good luck with your own writing.  DO NOTgive up.  Be a dandelion.

 

Jan 22nd

When I Was A Boy

By Dolly

The little I've got left, is just enough to believe, that if you scratch at the surface long enough, you'll catch sight sight of your own reflection, at least that's what I was told by an old uncle of mine. I say old, because that was how he appeared to me at the time. All adults are old when you are young. But I was just a boy with scuffed knees who lived on the freedom of rainbows, dreamt of Drake and the Armada, cattle skulls in Arizona, and stood in the shadow of snowfalls, when winter mornings left a trace on my bedroom window, or stood dumbfounded by a sunset, as I caught a glimpse of silence.

Now the night licks, and sometimes a word fits a conversation in the street. Virgins discard their innocent smile on the cinema steps, and sit in darkness as the heroine weeps in the ruins of the plot. Still I pick it up and shake it, just to see what's inside, but its only the rust of misspent years in left over rain, and moments of truth in every landing.

 

When I was a boy I lived on weekends, I'd close my eyes and touch my breathing.

Jan 21st

a paucity of pauses

By mike

  On Friday night night I attended a ;Stories for Homes’ event with the intent of contributing cash to the project.   I bought a copy of the book and paid an entrance fee,’  This was due to the money going to a charity that is involved in providing shelter for people who do not have a roof over their heads at night.  

   A grandfather had been a street busker and I looked into modern ‘street theater.’  I became aware that churches  in the West End were providing practical support for the homeless , St James in Piccadilly, for example, runs a night shelter.  It is a matter of choice but I would rather give money to one of these charities, or the churches, than to someone begging in the street.  This is even true of the West End where homelessness is very visible, 

     Going to the theatre is a luxury. On tuesday I saw ‘The Birthday Party’ and left home in the morning to see if I could obtain a seat with a restricted view, (These are sold on the day at a discounted price)  I commute to London and was accosted by someone in the station forecourt,   He asked me for money.   He did not look any different from any other commuter.  I walked to the theater where the play is performed and was solicited for money by three other people during the day - though two sold ‘The Big Issue‘   I then returned home.  I  caught an evening train for the performance.  In one day, I had walked through the West End four times. Homelessness is particularly prevalent in those streets with theaters,  There are six theaters in the Strand which parallels the River Thames.  A considerable number of theaters are within the parish of St Martins-in-the Field’  in Trafalgar Sqaure and the church hosts concerts too.

    I was lucky and got a seat for ‘The Birthday Party‘.   I think I attended the press night.  

    There was a small table in the foyer.   Upon this table was placed a piece of cardboard and, upon the card, was printed the word ‘‘Press’  This did seem an “Alice in Wonderland‘  moment.  Nothing was provided in the way of information - about this card -  and there were no attendants nearby.  I tentatively pressed the card as instructed and breathlessly awaited, Nothing untoward occurred.  However, as the play progressed I became aware that the table might have been an ingredient of the plot.  A stage prop had, perhaps, been inadvertently left in the foyer? 

    Perhaps it might have been the press night and, as such, I feel I should add my twopence worth. My  review is entitled: ‘A somewhat paucity of pauses.’  I had not seen the play before and awaited Pinteresque moments,.  I especially awaited his celebrated pauses.   The play proceeded at quite a pace and I can only presume that, as it was a cold night outside, the cast wished to get home early and the pauses cancelled for the evening.

   I had a front row seat and, although the view was slightly restricted - the area at the back of the stage was partially hidden by a table centre stage,  I  was thus unsure of what might have occurred around the kitchen sink. I could, however. could hear and see everything clearly and enjoyed the play immensely, though I have no idea why?   It seemed  a piece of clockwork with the mechanism askew. Characters veered from TV situation comedy to ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ and the dialogue likewise. 

 

Jan 19th

Interview with our very own Skylark

By Daedalus

As you will probably be aware (maybe apart from new Cloudies - hi new Cloudies!) our very own Skylark's debut novel 'Home' will be published very soon now, on 8 February. Skylark very kindly gave me a big chunk of her valuable time to answer questions about the writing process, the novel itself and the engaging voice of that wonderful lead character Jesika.

"Generally, if I become too overwhelmed by something I’m writing, I put it away and do something else – walk, cycle, watch telly, read a book, meet up with friends – but sometimes I make myself write on and confront whatever it is that is difficult because some of my best writing has come from doing that. Although it doesn’t always work like that because I also have a bad habit of trying to control the direction of the story too much in order to avoid the difficult stuff! When I realise I’m doing that, I make myself leave it, do something else and come back to it another day. But however difficult it feels writing the dark stuff, I always feel better afterwards when I’ve reached a point where I’ve written it well and done it justice."

I hope this will help whet your appetite until publication day (No spoilers btw!). Full interview via link below

https://airandseastories.com/2018/01/19/interview-with-amanda-berriman-author-of-home/

Jan 14th

Scared of Love

By Momo
The victory was yours,
but I was running scared.
The victory was mine,
but you was running scared.
The victory is ours.
No need of running scared.
Jan 13th

Morningtide

By Aiyla

MORNINGTIDE

 

Patterned sea

Pale blue sky

Hold in place the morning sun

Warm yellow glow reaches out to all

In welcome of the day

 

Just another it may seem to some

Not ever noticed, not ever sung

One of many lost between

A mountain of mornings

In an endless dream

 

I make a note each morning

Today is new, today is true

And should I ever forget this beauty

I’ll fall away

to lands so vast

Miss my fortune and

Miss my bliss

To have my moment to be alive

To be here present and always strive

 

And should I ever forget this beauty

I’ll fall away

To dust forgotten

Miss my fortune

Miss my bliss

To be not a bloom forgotten but

To take my stand to be here present

 

To take my stand to be here present

In my word and in my world

 

 

 

Jan 9th

Stories for Homes auction

By Debi

Hey there lovely Cloud family. Have you seen the latest initiative from Stories for Homes? We're running an auction with 100% of the proceeds going to Shelter. There are only 10 lots but, when you see them, I'm sure you'll agree that quality is more important than quantity. Please bid and please help us to promote the auction by sharing it far and wide. https://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/storiesforhomes

We also have some more events coming up. Sorry to out-of-towners but they're in London. We're hoping some of our supporters will arrange events outside the south-east. Details of all our events here: https://storiesforhomes.wordpress.com/events-2/

And, of course, you can buy the book online if you haven't already done so: getbook.at/sfh2

Thanks for your support. :-) x

Jan 5th

Dylan re-visted.

By mike

 

I spent Christmas and the New year celebrations in the company of books, plays, tv, wine and the radio. This was due to having no close family  - and transport problems. Due to the completion of building work at London Bridge railway station, there were no trains into London on my line.  Transport links were restored in the New Year and i caught a train.  I walked around Trafalgar Square.

    One of my favorite productions - seen last year  - had been a play based around the songs of Bob Dylan. The production at the ‘Old Vic’ ended before Christmas.   The same production is now staged at a smaller theatre near Trafalgar Square,  It was the first night. I was lucky and got a day seat in the front row and saw the production again.  

       I had been intrigued by Whisks blog on original sin and the issues raised,  I tried to find the source myself. It’s origins seem to be in the Catholic Mass,  “mea Culpa‘     We are all sinners.   Whisks pointed out that a ‘sin’ has to be acknowledged before it can be forgiven - atonement.  A similar concept permeated most of the books  I read, and productions I saw - including the Dylan play. We are all sinners’ could be the theme.     

    (Sinning does seem to have a secular counterpart and atonement is required - viz, the current scandals at the House of Commons and Hollywood.  Saying sorry is not enough.) 

      In the play, written by Conor Macpherson, a group of disparate characters assemble in a boarding house during the American depression. A black girl is pregnant with no apparent father and  the baby was conceived when a wind blew through the window.   There is a bible.  It is in the suitcase of a traveling salesman for whom selling bibles is an occupation.  This seems an odd interpretation  but I don’t want to do a spoiler and the play is really a critique of the American Dream. Archetypes from the great novels, plays and films a of the 1930‘s act out a tragedy of Jacobean proportions.  I think!  If you are a Dylan fan I do recommend this play.  It might well turn up at a theatre near you.

 

    I also read a spy thriller, I returned it to my local library and then borrowed a life of Kim Philby.  On the wednesday,  I saw Simon Callow portray Oscar Wilde on the stage.  He read out an adaption of ‘Di Profundis‘  which Wilde wrote in Reading jail.  It is a long letter addressed to Bosie - his lover - and Wilde often refers to his legal trials.  There is some similarity between the two cases, though Philby never went to trial and seems to have acknowledged no sin.  Both Wilde and Kilby offended the rather strict moral code of the gentleman of their class.  Wilde seems to be asking Bosie - Lord Alfred Douglas - for some sort of acknowledgement of his own love for him.  A love that destroyed his life and turned comedy into tragedy.  But why had Wilde fallen for such a (****)  We now only have Wilde’s view of the affair.

    A company had hired a London theatre and the productions  are  celebrations of Wilde.  Simon Callow’s portrayal is only staged for a few days, but it might well turn up at another theatre or on TV.   From next week, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ is being staged.

     

 

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