People use blogs for all sorts of things. I set up my first one, NavalAirHistory.com, as a means of publicising my non-fiction writing and creating a bit of a 'presence'. I had had a few articles and a couple of books out, and was getting known in some circles as a writer who specialised in aviation history, but there tended to be long gaps between publications. Also, I thought I could use the website as a means of keeping people updated on various things I was doing and include some material that was more suited to short form than print magazine features or books.
It has worked out reasonably well, but it's probably more formal and more static than I envisioned. It's hard work keeping it fresh, certainly.
So why the second one? Well, as some of you may be aware, my first novel was accepted by a publisher last year, so I began to think a web presence for my fiction 'identity' would be useful. I chose a domain name and put a placeholder on it.
Unfortunately, things have taken a lot longer with the novel than I thought they would. (Think the stage just before Lou's Blog No.3 for the best part of a year). There seems to have been an awful lot of waiting around for people to get back to me. In the end, I thought I would go ahead and knock the blog into shape. I've started to do a bit more in the way of short fiction, so I thought I could at least have a repository for all those stories that weren't good enough to win competitions! I have kick-started matters with various pieces prepared for the Word Cloud competitions. (Don't worry, I'll put a link in).
Some writers have great blogs. J.D. Davies' 'Gentlemen and Tarpaulins', for example, is fantastic and really gives you an insight into the author. I'm not necessarily trying to emulate that... I suppose it's in the forlorn hope that if one day someone sees one of my books or stories and googles me, they might find something that tells them a bit more (after the 3-4 pages of material about the former member of Busted).
So I throw the thing open to you, my fellow Cloudies - AirAndSeaStories.com. Do let me know what you think. There isn't a lot of content as yet, but I'd like to know what people think of the look and feel, if they feel it's mindcrushingly pretentious or whether or not I am on a hiding to nothing.
Thanks in advance...
I’ve been outside looking in, for a while. It’s time for my hands to push open the door and come in from the cold.
I’ve not been active here for a while but my previous experience has shown me that writing the odd blog here ignites my creativity unlike anything else I know. My hunger lessens, I forget to sleep and my mind spins with new ideas. I haven’t slept for 3 days!
What it is it about this white fluffy place that propels my thoughts to such unchartered grounds and provides inspiration to write? I walk around here in my pink wellingtons, naturally, and advise you to do the same; you just never know what you might tread upon next.
Writing a blog is fun and great practice for writers. You are more aware of your grammar; it generates new thoughts, and helps to maintain the routine of writing every day.
If you are lucky enough for someone to leave a comment, then it can be constructive and encouraging as well. It’s wonderful to know when someone is touched by something you wrote: hear their tear drop; feel the warmth of the smile, you created.
My dream is to be published one day but I don't write for fame or money. It’s more for recognition of my passage through life. At the end of the day, if it never happens, it will be enough to know that some people out there read some of my writing. In the meantime, it makes me happy. Why not give it a go and allow the parched pages to capture your thoughts?
Oh, and you might want to think about fixing the lock on the front door :)
This is a practise blog I've never done this before so I thought I'd just tell a funny story.
Today I learnt to never underestimate kids, they see all and hear all, and understand more then we know. My daughter, Daisy is a dreamer but my son, Judah is well ahead of the game, and doesn't sleep as soundly as I thought.
Last night I was having a heated discussion with my mum about my ex (Judah's dad) and may have used the word “Dickhead” a couple of six times.
On Saturdays Will usually comes over, takes the kids out and then stays for diner. This morning when he came to collect them, Judah was sitting on the coach. When Will walked in Judah looked at his dad, with that angelic face and said:
I didn't laugh, just went very red. Then when they'd gone I died of laughter. Oddly, Will didn't stay for diner. Hmmm...
All the same I have learned that eyes and ears are around me all the time. Never again.
There will be a new post every day by one of the contributors, plus some guest posts too.
(Full disclosure: I'm one of the contributors. And I have asked them to unpick the little matter of someone else's novels having been added to mine at the bottom. But never mind, it's early days.).
It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog, but I thought I might share this evening’s experience with my fellow Cloudies.
It started with my son (he’s eleven and a pyromaniac) lighting little balls of cotton wool with his spark-making Scout thingy. Manageable.
I noticed the flames licking up the outside wall and suggested that he put his mini bonfire in the fire-pit rather than on my patio, next to my new French doors. Then, I had a (very rare) eureka moment which I now, quite seriously regret. I gave him several copies of my manuscript to burn.
He was happy, piddling away, crumpling up page at a time and tossing each one into the pit. I had a feeling he might be at it for some time, but I as I was roasting something that I won’t mention (Whisks will roast me), I was happy enough for the break. All three little Noodlets were happy watching the smoke rise a few feet and float in through our neighbour’s conservatory door as they no doubt, tried to enjoy their Sunday Dinner.
Meanwhile Mr Noodle, (who is also a pyromaniac with an Alpha Male issue) nips into the garden with his flame-thrower-cum-torch-thingy to help the smouldering along. But that isn’t enough...
I look out of the patio doors to see an explosion and my Noodlets shouting,
‘Daddy’s got petrol! Daddy’s got petrol!’
I spot Mr Noodle walking away with a trail of mini flames behind him like something out of an episode of Mr. Bean ( can’t stand the idiot , personally. I mean Mr Bean, Not Mr Noodle – but I’m starting to wonder...) but with a serious health warning attached. His indoor’s hand explodes in a fireball and he drops the petrol can which promptly engulfs my patio like a Dante’s Inferno or some such mini-catastrophe.
The damage:- One sodden bath towel, two kitchen towels, one bath mat (very wet), one plastic spade, my entire collection of strawberry plants and their containers, my patio and a singed garden table, the petrol can – a congealed mess, and one Mr Noodle’s pride.
He has sworn for the rest of his life to butt out of my nicely controlled fires and after that experience, he will never, EVER, barbeque ANYTHING.
Please forgive this long blog. I’m just going to get this off my chest, so I’ll pretend this is therapy; some of this might be uncomfortable or distressing to you, and I don’t blame you. But on the selfish assumption that my own “therapy” and realizations could strike a resonance with others in some beneficial way, I will post this here. You don’t have to read it if you are not in the mood for a long, drawn-out post which may be disappointing or even infuriating to some people.
After a rather involved discussion with a couple of friends who also write stories and poetry, I discovered several things that were assumed as common sense by all of us, were not. In fact, we all ended up leaving the meeting rather puzzled, for different reasons. As many conversations between writers go, this one was following a rather mainstream path, focusing on the difficulties of writing and getting published. Sooner rather than later, we started getting into a heated discussion about common errors, and one of them was even getting technical in errors while approaching agents, editors and publishers, or with the actual preparatory work itself. I found myself asking some basic questions. Why do you want to be published? They both replied that “it’s why we write in the first place, isn’t it? Every author has the same dream, don’t they?” Well yes, they most likely do, but their reasons may vary.
A writer could be writing so as to create a masterpiece worthy to be remembered for, something that will stand out and be a classic of its times. So here the focus is achievement, even above fame or other motivations. Another writer may clearly write in order to be famous, so that people talk about him or her. Degrees of vanity and pride could come into it, but the main focus here is fame, or perhaps the need to be glorified. A third person could be writing so as to be a successful author and make money out of it; the focus is purely financial, the benefits of success translated here as cash. A fourth person may write because of some inner need driving them, not necessarily inspiration, but to offload things that have been repressed for years; coupled with talent, this could produce some powerful stuff, but usually once the repressed things are expressed, the creative flow diminishes. A fifth person could be writing directly as inspiration guides him or her, not necessarily following a particular genre or style, but creating as it comes to him or her; expressing their art is the main driving motivator. A sixth writer could write due to some obligation to an important other, which again, like the fourth person, once the obligation is done, the creative flow diminishes. A seventh writer may be writing a book inspired by things actually observed in real life, not through his own soul or thoughts, and may keep producing high quality material depending on his experiences and what they evoke in him or her. Of course there could be combinations of the above, but also other reasons not mentioned here; my point is that the motive varies.
I like to think that I am like the fifth person I described above. I write as it comes to me, and usually finish what I start; even if there are intervals between each writing attempt that my inspiration has gone on holiday, so to speak. I never hesitate to write when I feel the urge and it normally tends to flow like a torrent. I may get up in the middle of the night to do so, or during a bus trip I could be scribbling. All in all, I have no routine for it, it could adopt many styles, themes and I will allow myself to experiment in writing differently each time, if the inspiration comes in an unusual manner. Normally I’d never say stuff like that, because I thought it was “common sense” and that most people do the same, so I’m not doing anything different that the rest. It seems that at least my two friends, and even more, do it different than me and for different reasons, writing and having various motives for doing so. That is the only reason why I am stating how and why I do my writing.
In that discussion I was called naïve and self-absorbed, since my two friends seemed to think that publishing is the only reason one has for writing, and also for supposedly failing to grasp their understanding of the rigid structure involved in being published. I told them I don’t write to please; I’ve learnt to appreciate art in forms that are not pleasing to me, however I can value their quality in their own context for being what they are. I don’t have to personally like a piece of art to deem it good or not. I might not like certain genres in literature, however if a book is good in its own context, if it can powerfully convey what the fans would appreciate within that genre, then it’s all good for me. Apparently I’m in the wrong, since they believe that I have to be taught specific ways of judging a book and only specialists can effectively judge that.
While I don’t disregard any person’s field of specialty, I believe that the readers or the audience are also equipped with a way to judge a story’s success. Of course, numbers alone don’t determine quality; we have many examples of literature that met success due to effective marketing and large fan base, whereas they weren’t what you’d call “high quality novels” and vice versa. I would argue, however, that a person’s own instinct on whether they like what they read because it stirs certain emotions in them can also be a powerful judge and you don’t always need a committee of acclaimed critics to tell you whether something is a good book or not; more often than not, I found myself at odds with critics’ evaluations of books (as well as movies and other products of artistic expression). I’m sure many of you had similar experiences with picking up a book that’s supposedly evaluated as being “Good, astounding, fast pacing, exceptional etc” only to be disappointed. For many years now, I never let comments of critics and other authors influence me when I buy a book; I prefer the hands-on experience with judging for myself after reading an excerpt of the book.
They argued that some things are done different nowadays from the past, and they mentioned dinner parties meeting agents, the importance of good impressions first time meeting them, good cover letters written in the right manner and certain advice on how to pitch one’s book to a publisher, otherwise it gets “binned”. Your own CV and aspects of your literature achievement, seminars as well as qualifications in that field were also a bonus in order to convince them that you were a worthy investment. That was the stroke that broke the camel’s back; I confronted them on all the above, and the heated discussion continued for another hour or so. Now I realize we live in the real world and if you want somebody to put up money on your work simply on good faith, it seldom if ever works. Obviously for people whose business is to promote and sell art in any form, and I stress the word business, it all translates to money. But most people that write do so without having any certainty that they’ll make money out of it. If it happens, it happens, all the better; nobody denies success, good fortune and a bit (or a lot) of fame. But in my opinion, writers are artists; their Art should be the main focus; they might be bad or good at it, but Art should go first. All else follows; most unpublished authors (and some published ones) tend to have a different means of earning money, a more mundane job which provides them with the essential. When did we start losing the ball, putting details and right methodology and correct approaches before Art itself? When did we started to regard certain artistic expressions as old fashioned or outdated, even if they were a great success in their times, and began to favour a mentality of consumerism even in selecting books, seeking to please the general public at any cost to one’s own integrity and inspiration? Why do we keep promoting easily palatable books over others that might be equally good (or even better) but which appeal to smaller audiences?
The reason is simple: cost. Apparently my friends called me naïve for failing to grasp this sooner, and went on explaining how in our days competition has vastly increased while the readers have decreased (one of them even mentioned some statistic about England that the average reader only reads five or six books annually, but I haven’t yet verified this) so the publisher can’t afford to invest on something that might not sell well. Certain poetry collections, short stories and some specialty interest apparently aren’t that good to invest their money, according to my friends. One of them has had frequent meetings with publishers (he writes stories for children and some symbolic tales for adults) and he claimed to speak from experience. He said that cost was the single determining factor in most of their decisions, in those cases that they had the finished manuscript in their hands, not fearing that the writer will abandon it half-way through, unfinished. I cannot counter that; my own opinions don’t matter when another person’s cash is put at risk in investing on an artistic product. Obviously they expect to gain money out of it.
But I do have an issue with first impressions, right way of cover letters, appropriate approaching and so on. Why should a person’s character matter, whether they are a social butterfly or socially inept, or their ability or inability to follow bureaucratic process, when it comes to evaluating their art? I’ll even stretch my point, for argument’s sake: why should a person’s morality, even mental health matter in a determining way when judging his or her creation’s quality? How many famous artists of all types were antisocial, misogynists, emotionally labile, some suffering from serious mental health issues or having addiction and substance misuse problems? How many were at odds with what we now consider as politically correct behaviour, how many adopted alternative lifestyles unsuited to the majority? Did that affect negatively their sales or their fan base? On the contrary: many acclaimed authors, great composers, actors and painters achieved stardom being who they were. They were loved for what they were, that bizarre, uncompromising mix that made them unique. It was their unique viewpoint that made them interesting and popular; of course it doesn’t apply to all, and there will always be some who won’t like their art for any reason. This doesn’t reduce their impact and their artistic input in what we now consider mainstream or alternative art culture. Can you imagine going back in time and asking them if they’ve completed an art seminar, if their qualifications produced their art, or whether they had grasped the right way to approach their publisher or producer? They’d probably laugh, and they’d be right.
In my (heretical) opinion, all these methodologies are useful in refining one’s creative ability and making it able to maximize their potential. But in no way does it compensate for lack of talent. No matter how many hours of painstaking study, editing, seminar work and other shadowing methods you invest in, if the person is uninspired, the effect will be mediocre. I am not discouraging anyone by saying this; by all means, keep creating and so improve. But I believe that inspiration is essential in creating anything of worth, and so to avoid mediocrity we need to focus on the roots within, on what brings us inspiration and then allow it to express itself through us. Too many people seem to focus in how to write the perfect book; receiving dozens of different opinions from “knowable authorities” and editing dozens of times. They keep changing and changing their art until it becomes fitting for a specific target group; if that’s your goal, go ahead, I got no issue with that. But if you don’t have a specific target, if you don’t have to tailor your writing to please specific goals, then my opinion is that you should allow your Art to flow (pardon the flowery language here). The effect will be far more powerful and genuine. Can you imagine a mighty machine, programmed with the best, most efficient ways to write a story that would instruct you how to write the perfect book, how to achieve the desired result? Imagine everyone trying to conform to its standardized forms, sacrificing their originality along the way. Wouldn’t that be somewhat sterile? Would you really want to read a book that was instructed by this machine? I mean, really?
Two of my favourite authors are HPL (Howard Phillips Lovecraft) and Clive Barker. Both of them (including their writings) are hardly politically correct and there are examples in their showcase that would seemingly be at odds with the advice modern writers receive nowadays. For example in some stories HPL shows weakness in developing the character, not because he was unable to, but because the main focus was in the atmosphere of cosmic horror that he was weaving; and in some places his narrating style could be better but that hardly lessens the impact of the story told. Of course partly due to his own personal beliefs and partly due to appealing to a small, specialist audience at his time, he wasn’t very famous while he lived and died in relative poverty. Does this take away anything from his stories, his incredible creation of a whole mythos and a new genre in horror stories? No it doesn’t. Clive Barker is also another example; one of his best books, Imajica, has a very interesting plot but the introduction is “heavy” and relatively difficult to follow at first glance; while it’s captivating, the reader needs to persevere for another twenty pages or so until you get stuck in the story proper. Even though he’s one of my favourite authors, I was put off by the way that book started and put it down twice before insisting I’d go through and see what it’s all about; guess what. Imajica is one of my favourite books and I value it tremendously, ranking it higher than the Books of Blood or Cabal. A capricious choice perhaps, but my point here is that there are many acclaimed and known authors that didn’t follow mainstream paths and wouldn’t fit in the neat boxes of “how to write the perfect novel” kind of person. I love them with their quirks and inconsistencies, admiring their work due to its vibrancy, originality and emotional impact. Even Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, one of the classics, was provocative in its time; in the 1600s Puritan society Milton himself challenged the formal status quo, speaking in the British parliament about freedom of the press, condemning pre-publication censorship, reformation of Church discipline and arguing for the morality of divorce among other things in those difficult times.
Whereas we might not be in their caliber and not as proficient and able in writing, I believe we can be taught by their example and to allow our Muse to inspire us in creating not the best book of all, perhaps, but the right book for us.
It turns out that Eskimo kids like nothing more than to lop huge chucks off an ice cap and push the bergs out into the sea in an attempt to hit passing ships. It’s the Eskimo version of egging cars or shooting things with air rifles. One Eskimo kid explained, winking naughtily:
“We’ve been ‘berging’ since 1912 - my great-great-great granny scored a big hit that year”
Eskimo kids were caught red handed - shocking the scientific community. A member of a community said:
“The pictures clearly show 10 Eskimo kids, 5 polar bears and 4 whales - all ‘berging’”.
One of the images of a polar bear clearly steering an iceberg toward a ship:
The unexpected involvement of whales and polar bears is a kick in the teeth for scientists who have frittered away billions of research money trying to save these ungrateful creatures and to find out more about climate change. A professor said:
“I don’t really want to talk about it, I just want to go home and carry on drinking. Fucking Eskimo kids”
Eskimos were unavailable for comment as the irresponsible bastards were out clubbing seals, but a whale said:
This is thought to be giggling, and is further disappointment for hard working scientists who now believe whales to be much brighter than previously thought and in possession of a lamentable sense of humour.
In reaction to the news David Cameron the British PM made an abrupt change of policy from his ‘hug a hoodies’ days:
“This goes to show that hoodies should never be trusted, even if they do have a furry trim and look rather sweet”.
The Americans tried to bomb some igloos but couldn’t find any, choosing to bomb a branch of ‘Iceland’ - the UK frozen food chain instead.
Greenpeace reacted emotionally arming the ‘Sea Shepard’ with torpedoes and depth charges, planning savage retribution by supporting the Japanese whaling fleet. A man who occasionally recycles said:
“The Whales have asked for it, they’ve made us humans look stupid and now they’re gonna to get it’.
Elsewhere the Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer has been granted the use of polar bear slaves by the Australian government in the construction of his Titanic replica.
Until all this blows over, no one knows or cares why the southern polar ice caps are still diminishing.
Hello everyone, I’ve been slightly absent from the Cloud just lately, and I thought I might tell you why.
It’s like this. I know Les Floyd via Twitter, Facebook, Lesism (his blog) and the Word Cloud – although I haven’t spotted him here in recent times. But what I have spotted has been a good symbiosis of his blog and twitter. He’s got over 74,000 twitter followers, and he’s managed to fix up some sort of automatic twitter feed so his tweets come through at frequent intervals throughout the twenty-four hour day. What these tweets do is give links to various articles on his blog, where he seems to have many, many visitors.
I’ll quote his blog’s headline so you can see the sort of thing it’s about: ‘After decades of sleepwalking through life, I've finally woken up and realised the greatest dreams are achieved with open eyes and a conscious mind...’ This sort of thing suits some people, of course, and not others, but I find it highly interesting.
I also find it highly interesting that he has so many readers and followers.
But what I find most interesting is that he has found a use for Twitter – as have thousands of others – and as have I – now.
And the reason why I am blogging about it is that many of you may be wondering about the alleged usefulness of Twitter. Authors are exhorted to use Twitter, but what isn’t so clear is how to use it. Well, the answer appears to be – systematically.
Consequently I’ve been busy with a two-pronged campaign: upgrading my blog (so I have somewhere to send people) and building my Twitter following (so I have people to send). The blog upgrade has been largely visual. It hadn’t occurred to me – dur! – that people like pictures, so each post should have an interesting pic with it. Well, that’s been remedied, and the posts have been reworded here and there to give the right approach (especially as many of them have been lifted straight from the Word Cloud and were therefore addressed to Word Cloud readers).
The Twitter upgrade has consisted of following people so they will follow back (and subsequently unfollowing those who don’t). It’s a slow business and there are hucksters (whom I avoid) offering to get you 10,000 followers for $80 or some such. (What sort of followers, I wonder?) Anyway, I’ve got to 1,134 followers as I write – not many, but a heck of a lot more than the 160 I had a couple of weeks ago.
So what? Well, I’ve got a book to promote, not mine, but one I have an interest in. As some of you may be aware, Chris – aka C J Fenge – aka Mrs Me – is due to have her teenage fantasy/thriller, The Salamander Stone, published on Monday 2nd April – only digitally at first, but the trade paperback version should follow a few weeks after. (I say, ‘only digitally’ although I’ve just read a book on Kindle and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s the future, folks, we’ve just got to get used to it.)
Anyway, I shall have 1,134 or more people to tweet to about the book. And I know how to send out automated 24 hour tweets – and I know how many such tweets I can tolerate from other tweeters such as Les Floyd, so I’ll use that as a guide. Prime time for promotion is apparently the first week of publication, after which it is best to slacken off for fear of alienating readers. What my tweets will do is direct people to a variety of blog posts, such as:-
· ‘The Salamander Stone’: read about the Pinterest Board http://bit.ly/A6PeOq
· A Writing Partnership: A Matter of Love and Passion http://bit.ly/xNaetH
· ‘The Salamander Stone’: take a look at the cover http://bit.ly/yCyVzN
· A Sonnet of Celebration: ‘Tribute To A Lady Novelist Who Merits Encomiums Superior To Those Which Now Ensue’ http://bit.ly/ykXJjf
I’ll add other tweets to link people to Chris’s website (available in the next couple of days) and, of course, to part of her first chapter.
Then, to stop people getting sick of the same thing, I’ll intersperse all these with other links (which some of you may remember) such as:-
· Thoughts on Mother’s Day: A Moment of Contact http://bit.ly/GBR9aA
· The Lost Gospels: What Really Happened 2000 Years Ago? http://bit.ly/xc8yJT
· Science and Religion: Can they be Friends or Must they be Enemies? http://bit.ly/ydPx4h
· Royal Weddings and Sacred Marriages: The Ancient Erotic and the Recent Respectable http://bit.ly/ioQ1wF
Finally, beyond all that, I feel duty bound to slip in a few spontaneous tweets. Here are some of the spontaneous ones I did yesterday (rather enjoyed them):-
· Taking my shadow for a walk – midday he just wants to point north. Doesn’t matter what I do – run, jump, stroll – he only wants north
· Sociable chap my shadow. Mixes it with whoever we pass – tree shadow, wall shadow, fence shadow – he just loves to get in there and mingle
· Started heading south – shadow sulked behind me like it’s the last direction he wants. I turned north, and he loved it, stretching way ahead
· I’ll say this for my shadow, he’s not choosy. He’ll slide over any sort of ground – potholes, dog stuff, mud – he’ll crawl over the lot
In conclusion, of course, I must add that if any fellow Twits feel moved to retweet any of my promotional tweets next week I shall be as grateful as grateful can be. (Word Cloud Twits of the world unite!)