Endings & Beginnings

There are days I wake and thank whichever god is currently in favour for the fact that I’m an Optimist. I’ve long been a devotee, but this month has seen a severe testing of that Faith.

Life usually balances fairly evenly on pillars of Domestic, Social, Work and Writing. Should one weaken or wobble, the others take the strain. And even if several start to crumble – leaving me precariously perched and in mortar-applying frenzy – there’s never a point at which all four would collapse simultaneously.

Or so I thought.

This month they did, and things going wrong induced much musing about endings and beginnings.

As part of this thinking I’ve considered my options with The Sky is Not Blue. I had a professional slating recently wherein I was told I don’t write well enough for the book to be a lit fic offering and yet whilst the writing is ‘good, better than many published books I could name‘ the storyline isn’t strong enough to suit the commercial end of debut fiction.

It hurt, but it’s true. Initially I thought about abandoning the book, starting something new, but I’ve decided to work on it for a little longer – weaving in more story – and have come up with some ideas worth pursuing. It means writing another 20-30k words and merging these with the existing story, but the end result ought to be a Better Book.

I’ve also agreed to help my dad with six non-fiction manuscripts, representing 40 years’ of his research. It took me a few weeks to mull over this request because it’s a huge project and a whole new area of study for me. But it’s fascinating. The main thrust of his work concerns Solomon’s Temple – beyond that I can’t say… it’s controversial, interesting and now I’ve agreed to help I’m quite excited.

The little film with this blog (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5Mn8MVeZUE) illustrates the limbo in which I currently reside – as we wait for a date for our house move, as I adjust to various other changes both wanted and unwanted, as I gear myself up for yet another re-write of Sky, and also as I make some fairly significant work-related decisions…

Endings and Beginnings.

But do they exist as individual entities? Or are they points along the same line, overlapping as one context blends and transforms into another? I believe it’s the latter. They are one, it’s just a matter of perspective.

Few have discussed this better than T S Eliot:

What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

Optimism is the finest of mortars, is it not?

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Love in an Elevator (till death do us part)…

I was flattered to be asked by the wonderful Year Zero writers to pen a short for the guest author slot on their website this month.

Anyone who hasn’t already checked out the shorts written by the Year Zero writers themselves is missing a treat – great stuff by fantastic writers. I’d recommend taking a good browse through their site.
Their events are a treat too – readings, live music, wine and good company… life doesn’t get much better than that.

York Writers’ Festival

Have been very tardy in blogging about this event, but I gadded off to another book-related social happening just a few days after York and have only now – a week later – recovered from the resultant hangover.

First, York…
This was a great event – made all the more so because I met up with Authonomy writing friends, some of whom I hadn’t met before. Between workshops, speakers, one-to-ones with agents and the bar, we hardly stopped for the whole weekend. Very tiring, but informative and great fun too.
On the Friday evening I took part in the Authonomy Live! competition. This consisted of standing on stage in front of 300+ people and reading an extract from my book. Given I’ve never read any of my work to another human being in person before (late-night, drink-fuelled film-making in my shed and reading out loud to the dogs don’t count) it was quite a nerve-wracking prospect.
But… I did it! And without making fool of myself too – which, given the amount of vodka and wine I’d consumed before taking to the stage, was a minor miracle in itself.
You can watch it here, along with the judge’s verdict:

Killing Darlings

I changed the title of my novel at last. It’s now called The Sky is Not Blue.

I think it’s a massive improvement on the old title (The Tipping Point) but several weeks on and I’m still instinctively thinking of my book under its old name. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit at the best of times. Eventually I’ll get used to this new, improved and relevant title.
It comes from a line in the book…
I’m not now sure whether I see Alice as a higher being, a person of such moral strength she can face Truth and look it in the eye without fear; or someone who’s just blind to her predicament, who occupies the same vacuous space as anyone else and finds meaning in each ingrained repetition and never contemplates what her purpose might have been, what anybody’s purpose might have been.

Or perhaps she just craves pain. Some people do.

She said she was rested, we could carry on. She said the view further along was breathtaking. She sounded like an advertisement. She looks across that void and only counts colours, shapes, the lack of concrete. She doesn’t hear the ancient screams lingering in the wind, doesn’t feel the water’s icy shock, the vile suck as Life is dragged down into darkness. The water is not blue. The sky is not blue. I’m not even sure the hills are green.

… but also reflects the novel’s key themes of perception, memory and how these deceive, as well as fitting with the ongoing artistic imagery throughout the story.
I’m happy with it – I just need to get used to it now!

The Night We Never Danced

From Thoughts from the Shed

I made another film. I’m not sure which is most fun, the actual filming (there’s something sublime about An Uninterrupted Opportunity To Talk) or the editing process.

It’s very much like writing – the initial creation of something and the editing to get it right.
And both elements are enjoyable in their own way. Getting an idea on paper is a buzz as is filming random waffle. But the post-writing/filming editing is possibly even more satisfying – hacking at a first draft, working up themes, crafting rhythm & pace for the written text; cutting out extraneous waffle, enhancing with music tracks, playing with effects, for the film.
In this film, I read a short story and talk a bit about characters and how they’re inspired (for me, that is – would be interested to hear how it works for everyone else).
Hope you like it..!

Thoughts from The Shed…

I’ve decided, as a little creative aside, to make some films. This has so far been great fun – getting to grips with film editing software has been fascinating… though I’m a long way from being able to produce anything polished – but too polished is not the intent here. I figured a few meandering ramblings could, perhaps, be used to liven up my blog – to entertain, if nothing else.

From Thoughts from the Shed

Along those lines, this first film is intended as nothing more than a bit of fun. I’ve edited the hour-long version… which was, I now discover, FAR too long for a film. Brevity again. I do need to learn the art. However, this is the first third of the original recording – edited, with songs and a grainy black and white treatment which is far more flattering than reality – though for some reason three minutes got chopped off when I uploaded this, so I end a little abruptly (but am not fiddling with this one any further as it was merely a prototype and will probably be deleted once I’ve done the first proper film).

Subsequent films in the “Thoughts from The Shed” series might involve short excerpts from my manuscripts, themed waffle and perhaps a song or two. I have SO many ideas for these films – but time constraints will not permit over-flooding this page with offerings so I shall need to exercise self-control… ho ho ho.

On a roll…

Short story writing is a lot of fun!

I’ve spent the past week working on a couple for an anthology being prepared by several Authonomites under the capable leadership of Mayor Biggie (Michael Wells). It’s been an interesting and enjoyable deviation from my normal writing and has left me wondering why I haven’t played around with this kind of thing more before now.

The main short – State of Undressed – was written as first draft over four days and I’m pretty pleased with it so far. The shorter short – The Night We Never Danced – was written as first draft in under two hours… one of those glorious frenzied Fully In The Zone sessions that make writing such a drug. I’d slept badly… well, not at all… and finally fell into deep sleep around dawn. This story was my dream – give or take a little artistic licence when writing it up – and so I fairly hammered it out before it was lost.

Before starting the short stories, I’d been suffering a mild case of writer’s block in relation to La Folie. I’m finding mood is vital when trying to write comedy and unless I maintain a high which borders on alarming at times, it’s very difficult to get into ‘farce mode’. Taking a break to work on the shorts was a Good Idea and has left me enthused enough to get back on with the two bigger works.

But… The Tipping Point is still with Osiander and I’m not at all sure when I’ll hear back from him. In the meantime I’ve signed up for York Writers’ Festival in April and have booked two one-to-one sessions with agents at that event. This means I have to submit synopsis and opening chapters in advance – by mid March – and I don’t yet have a synopsis.

They’re awful things to write.

Far more difficult and time-consuming than anyone who’s never tried could possibly imagine. So I guess for the next few weeks I’m going to be grumping around pulling a synopsis together, whilst also editing the stories for the anthology… and the poor old farce may have to take a back seat for a little while.

Unless, of course, I suddenly develop a manic Good Mood high – in which case all else will be abandoned and La Folie will get my full attention… whilst it lasts!