Surreal-is-it?

‘Good morning, good morning, good morning, it’s another lovely day in the village’

Surrealism was founded by the poet André Breton in Paris in 1924, it was an artistic and literary movement that proposed that the Enlightenment—the influential 17th and 18th century intellectual movement that championed reason and individualism—had suppressed the superior qualities of the irrational, unconscious mind. Surrealism’s goal was to liberate thought, language, and human experience from the oppressive boundaries of rationalism.

I believe that the Surrealists were the Punks of their age, they were non-conformists, experimental, breaking the boundaries of the social, political and creative order of the time, and not giving a toss what people thought in the process.

Surrealism rejected logic and reason and prized the depictive, the abstract, and the psychological with startling juxtapositions. Through the use of unconventional techniques such as automatism and frottage, Surrealist artists attempted to tap into the dream-world of the subliminal mind.

sur1

The Mystery of The Fireplace – Andre Breton 1947 – 1948

sur2

This is not a Pipe – Rene Magritte 1929

 

Surrealist cinema was a modernist approach to film theory, criticism, and production with origins in Paris in the 1920s. They shocked the world with their imagery, sometimes absurd, often confusing, but always fascinating. Throughout, there is an obsession with sex and death and our relationship with them.

sur3

Une Chien Andalou. Luis Buñel. 1929

 

sur4

L’age D’or. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. 1930.

 

Surrealism fell off the creative radar for some time; the Second World War (1939 – 1945) and the dreary, tight-laced, emotionally paralysed 50’s made the country an incredibly dull place. Children were seen and not heard all over again, men worked, women cooked. Nice girls did not smoke, did not have sex before marriage, did not drink, did not go to pubs, did not show their knees, they learnt to be nurses and secretaries, carers and comforters. (All rather Victorian).

Then Surrealism took an odd turn, it became comedic, or at least a kind of mushroom or LSD stoked journey through the director’s mind. TV Shows such as The Prisoner, 1967 and Monty Pythons Flying Circus 1969 (In the UK, not sure about elsewhere)

sur5
I am not a number!

 

 

 

I absolutely loved The Prisoner and Monty Python – though I must have been watching them second time around (I was too young when they were originally released), both had an impact on my child’s mind; I think a Surrealist worm crawled in and laid an egg, and waited to be born in my adulthood.

One of my favourite contemporary surrealist directors of cinema is David Lynch. If you do not want to read reams of literature; or watch all those older films to understand Surrealism, I direct you to the world of Mr Lynch. The man is a natural; when it comes to surrealism, the man is so in touch with his own weird, that as a viewer, you are either repelled or drawn in; like one of his ants, to a severed ear!

I recommend you start with Wild At Heart, not so weird that you will be put off (if you’re one of those sensitive types), progress to Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, then when you have the hang of it, dive into Eraserhead!! Go on, I dare you! This has to be THE weirdest, most Surreal film I have ever seen in my life.

 

sur6
                       David’s hairstyle was ahead of the curve.                         Eraserhead. David Lynch. 1977

 

Apart from Mr Lynch, there was really nobody else making surreal films. Then the  1990’s saw a kind of revival of Surrealism, and those of us who went to art schools and colleges pretty much ‘got it’, straight away. The Ren and Stimpy Show, 1991 was a cartoon series following an over-friendly, stupid cat and a neurotic, very highly strung Chihuahua dog.

After Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s – Big Night Out and Shooting Stars 1995, which is definitely art school Dada meets Surrealism, the dark flavour began to return in the form of The League of Gentlemen, 1999. Brilliantly written, stunningly obtuse, irrational or scary characters – see Papa Lazarou or Hilary Briss and tell me that’s normal!

 

sur7
‘You’re my wife now, Dave’
sur8
‘They weren’t pork.’

The Mighty Boosh, 2003 was a lighter, but still very surreal series that came into our lives, and then the League of Gentlemen team returned with Psychoville, 2011 – think angry, mentally scarred clowns and you get the picture.

Personally, I like my surrealism dark and disturbing, not sure why, but it gives me the willies more than any horror film – if you like a good willie watch TLOG!

Then I began to wonder where all the surrealism was in literature. And realised; it transformed itself into Magical Realism. This can be a difficult one to define – Magical Realism is not fantasy, it is not about magic (though there may be some ‘magical’ elements), it is not escapist fiction. It portrays fantastical events in an otherwise realistic tone; so a dead grandmother is not seen as an other-worldly ghost, but is in the narrator’s here and now. It brings fables, folk tales, and myths into contemporary social relevance.

Authors of this genre include –

  1. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. (My all-time favourite)

sur9

 

  1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

sur10

 

 

  1. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.

sur11

 

  1. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter.

 

sur12

 

So do we have any Nouveau Surrealists? Is that even a term? What would a Nouveau Surrealist look like, sound like, taste like!

It would amuse please me greatly if any of my readers watched or read anything I had mentioned here today, please, give it a go, if you haven’t already…

Go and get your weird on…

Go forth and be SURREAL people…

 

It’s Monday, what are you writing?

Good morning all !

First, let me slide this in here swiftly; new anthology, Tick Tock, is out now on Amazon. This is an eclectic mix of poetry and prose, sci-fi, fantasy, fiction and more, from Wirral Writers. I have three pieces included – The Scream of the Butterfly, Blackbird and Farewell. I hope you will enjoy it.

Now, it’s Monday, for some reason it is looked on with misery or a feeling of bleurgh! I fell into this trap during my mid to late twenties – but why?

It’s only another day to write something amazing!!!

Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset

 

What are you working on at the moment?

Are you struggling to get that character with the rather bland personality to be a hero?

Is there a flaw in your timeline?

How many fluffy aliens does it really take to run a spaceship?

All relevant questions; to someone! And you know what? You’re the ones who have the answers – it’s your world, your people, grab them both by the short and curlies and shake the living daylights out of them until they comply. Bend them to your will. Be the boss, go on!

Now go write!

 

 

*Postscript – I am letting you know, so I don’t deceive my readers, some of my links  now connect to Amazon. If someone buys something via my link, I get some coin, not a lot, I’m not going to be able to buy a new washing machine, but I want you to be aware.

 

 

Female Authors For IWD

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day.

Now that may not mean much to some people – and I do not mean men, there are plenty of females who don’t give a second thought to the plight of women around the world – but it means something to me. No, I’m not going to go all mushy on you, well, maybe just a little…

As a parent of a daughter, I am all too familiar with the patterns of disregard and derision and low expectancy flung our way. And this is a day to do something about it.

I’m not good at ‘joining in’ with strangers to hold hands and carry a banner, so instead, I’m going to suggest some female authors you should read, because you know what?  MALE WRITERS STILL DOMINATE THE BOOK WORLD!

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/feb/04/research-male-writers-dominate-books-world

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/07/male-writers-continue-dominate-literary-criticism-vida-study-finds

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/book-gender_n_1324560.html

GENDER of authors published by Little, Brown in 2011

 

This is my little effort at ‘Being Bold For Change‘; convincing you all to read something by a female writer. I’m jotting down some of my favourite female authors. Give them a go, you will, I am sure, find at least one that you enjoy. There are links to Amazon should you wish to purchase a copy.

Read these – No really, I’m not kidding

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Why? Because Atwood is what I would call a ‘real’ writer, she has worked at her craft for many years and the published results reveal nothing about the authors gender – and I like that – Oryx and Crake is a mesmerising novel set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is so full of imagination and wonder, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Why? Forget all those Hammer films, this is one of the original Gothic novels and so contains the style and tone of that period – might be considered dull by some. It is tragically beautiful.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Why? Any of Christie’s books are an extremely easy read, and because of that if you like crime drama, you’ll become addicted and want more. A murder? On a speeding train? You know it’s got to be someone on board, but who?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Why? Because it is simply brilliant. A story told through the eyes of Scout, a child, whose father is the town’s lawyer; a good man, an honest man, this is the one man in literature that you could truly say – ‘That’s how fathers should behave’.

 

Briefing For A Descent Into Hell by Doris Lessing. Why? Because this might be the strangest, most life changing book you read. Lessing was classified as a science fiction writer, but she herself called it ‘inner space fiction’. A real master of the writers craft, Lessing tells a tale of how we treat those with mental health issues.

 

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Why? Between Dracula and Twilight, there was Anne Rice’s series of vampire books. If you read any Anne Rice, you wouldn’t need any other vampire books. Sensuous, dangerous, tragic; Interview with the Vampire takes us from the cotton fields of old Louisiana to the modern day, through the eyes of Louis. But the star of the show, is Lestat!

 

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. Why? What a wonderful world of painted artistes and high-wire acts; a modern day fairy tale, is one way of describing the work of Carter. Enter the world of Magical realism, stories of the bizarre, wondrous and sometimes, magic, you cannot fail to be entertained and delighted.

 

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. Why? How does a child look at the world when the world she inhabits is tilted at a precarious angle? Parents whom we might today call abusive, at the very least, uncaring. When you don’t fit in – when you are not an orange – what do you do? A tale about a young girl coming to terms with her sexuality.

Thank you for reading, please do try at least one of these titles, not because they’re by women, but simply because THEY’RE REALLY GOOD BOOKS!

 

 

 

Book Blurbs

I ‘attended’ my first webinar…

So, you have completed your novel. You clutch the manuscript (MS) to your bosom like a child, time to release it into the world, set it free..

…but hang on there! Hold your horses! What about that blurb on the back, you know, those 200 or so words that are going to help sell your new baby? Did you know that the book blurb, or back cover text, is what will hook the reader into buying your precious thing? Were you aware that novels can rise or fall on the strength of this blurb?

Using a Typewriter
1oo,ooo words, no problem; cover blurb? Slog, slog, slog.

I self published two small books a long while ago. A children’s story about pirates and later, a collection of stories on the theme of witches and witchcraft – I know, continuity eh? So I completed them, fumbled about to write the back blurb and released them into the wild….result? Nothing, nada, zero, zilch. Oh, one or two copies, but nothing to write home about.

I have trawled through various sites that go into horrendous detail, or give little away about how you actually write this irksome, dread-inducing,  frankly pain-in-the-arse text.Then I found, via other blogs, leading to Twitter and more sites, a woman who is prepared to give her experience to those of us who don’t have a clue.

Glenna Mageau has an excellent way to pass on her advice based on years of experience writing books, and blurbs. https://twitter.com/GlennaMageau

I initially read her blog, then watched her short  course on writing a simple book blurb. I then attended her webinar session, Mastering the Art of Writing Catchy Fiction Book Blurb.   It was a weird experience, my laptop screen was the PowerPoint part of the lesson, I could hear Glenna talking and was able, via a selection of tabs, to ‘Chat’ or ‘Raise Hand’. The hour long event was revealing in its simplicity and exposing my ignorance; for example, did you know you should begin your blurb when you begin your story?! Really!

*Glenna Mageau writes under the nom de plume of Maggie Thom.

read-it
Is your potential reader enthralled?!

 

Shameless Self Promotion (Lesson Learnt)

I made a horrible discovery – the book that I self-published a couple of years ago was set at the wrong price. I wanted it to be as affordable as possible as I was more interested in people reading it than making money.

I found that after the initial set-up at £3.65, Sticks & Stones was suddenly showing as £22! After a couple of e-mails to the people at Create Space and Amazon, it has been amended. So, if you’re interested, please pop along to Amazon to purchase this little gem at the correct price.

The lesson to be learnt here (for me) is don’t leave anything to chance – and do check how your ‘baby’ is doing once sent out into the world, don’t just abandon it!

Here’s an extract from one story, ‘There’s Rosemary, That’s For Remembrance

‘…I confess my fault, I admit I have no vocation for a convent life, and desire to be banished from the community. This request was not listened to for a moment. The breasts of the pious sisterhood are raised in a perfect fury of indignation, and a determination to inflict immediate punishment upon me. Sister Joan suggests that I should be burnt to death, Sister Sibylla that I should be walled up alive. Others cry out that I be flayed, that the flesh should be torn from my bones with red-hot pincers.’

And a couple of reviews:

“A compact collection of well-crafted short stories on the theme of witches and witchcraft. There are some graphic and quite uncomfortable stories in this collection, but the vivid use of language makes it a very entertaining read. For me the stand out stories include Passing On, a chilling and disturbing first person account of medieval a witch trial; the vivid and poetic Sticks and Stones; and probably my favourite, the heart warming tale, Rescuing Robert.” Mike

“Unusual for this genre. Beautiful, sometimes painful, stories about witches. Not your generic, pointy hatted, hook-nosed, wicked types. All types, from all backgrounds; from a nun accused of witchcraft to a student who has to make a choice.”  Elaine

“Compelling short stories, an original and intelligent take on witchcraft.” Anon

The Joy of Book Swaps

Currently reading/read it. Book review – The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie.

So, I just finished reading the above title; ‘The Blade Itself’ by Joe Abercrombie, #1 in the trilogy The First Law. I obtained the book via my writers club annual book swap, an idea I introduced when I joined, after having run a one off many years ago, when I worked for a well-known book sellers.

What you do: find a bunch of like-minded bookish types, oddities like yourself helps, but if pushed, colleagues will do. You select a book that you have enjoyed reading, something that you wouldn’t mind sharing with someone else. You know when you meet people and one of you says, “Did you see the latest (–fill in the gap–) last night?” or “Catch that Superman/Batman/Catwoman/Froglegged Bee Keeper Man movie?” How often do people say, “Hey! Read any good Philip Pullman recently?” generally NOT!

Sorry, I digress. So, you get your well-thumbed copy of whatever you have enjoyed. You wrap it in plain paper. Everyone else in your nerdy group does the same. The disguised books are put into a box (or whatever) and then you all take one out – no not your own idiot! You read that already, look at the wrapping paper! You take it home, unwrap it and hey presto! You have a new title to read, free!

Now here comes the good bit. Initially you might go, “Ugh! What the —-! I’m not going to read that!” and fling it aside. But hold on there just give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised. I haven’t had a dud yet ; which leads me to the current title.

I opened my grubby brown paper package and first off I went, “Ugh!” I hated (and still am very unsure of) the cover. If I saw it in a book shop, I would definitely ignore it; dull, brown, with a clichéd, surly, tangle-haired ‘thug’ on the front. then the person who had dropped it into the swap box informed me, it is the first of three. Really? Did I want to spend my time reading this, well-thumbed…The End…that’s how it begins, oh, okay…four pages in and…I quite like this, I think. When I was introduced to the second character, the writing had changed gear. This was a vastly different individual to the first, physically, mentally, emotionally; and the writing matches it. Some reviews I read revealed readers were divided, many thought the writing ‘clunky’. I think it suits the format perfectly. Abercrombie has altered, only enough, the feel of the writing to represent the different characters point of view, as much as writing the POV itself.

Its a fighting/fantasy world, where men are men and women are thin, pale and decorative (except for the odd one or two!) The initial protagonist has a slightly crappy name – Logan, hmm, too much like ‘Logan’s Run’ or Logan the Wolverine I think, but, beyond that, he’s not 2D, as some of the other characters believe him to be. Logen Ninefingers is an infamous warrior with a bloody past. He has plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the  King of the Northmen. He spends a lot of time, for a hulking brute saying, “Still alive.” There’s more to him than meets the eye. Then there’s Inquisitor Glokta, a cripple, a former fencing champion, now a torturer extraordinaire. A truly brilliant creation, you have to love him – no really, just wait and see…we get a lot of Glokta’s internal thoughts, in italics, running alongside his conversations and can’t help but admire the ability to keep two trains of thought going, an obeisance in his expression, whilst wanting to vomit all over the person he may be speaking to. Finally, Captain Jezal dan Luthar; in the words of Glokta, “…an arse…”  he is also a nobleman and would-be fencing champion. He is vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, one wonders why the important bald chap who arrives in the Agriont needs him.

I love how Abercrombie weaves the separate lives across the landscape. There are multiple protagonists in this tale, along the lines of Game of Thrones, but what each of them wants becomes unclear, which I liked. How they will succeed in their initial task is unknown, I will have to read #2 – and I will. Definitely. I think it is hard in these times of Game of Thrones on TV, fantasy ‘heroes’ on the big screen, to get a book in this genre noticed. Fantasy writing is a massive market, with hundreds, possibly thousands of would-be-authors of the style out there. Abercrombie has grabbed my attention, and that’s a rare thing these days.

So, for the New Year, go and run a book swap, you may find a hero wrapped up in that package!

P.S: other covers are available.

P.P.S: apparently, there’s a graphic novel series too!

 

 

 

 

Merry Booking Christmas…

So, this will be the final post for 2016. I am going to take a break from ‘social media’ during the Christmas period, starting after this post.

It has been an up and down year as regards my writing. I had three short stories accepted for publication; e-magazines and actual paperbacks, I completed a novel (100,740 words) that I had begun in 2014, and submitted it for consideration (awaiting response!) And also completed a story for Wirral Writers anthology (5,000 words) plus two poems – that we will be publishing early 2017. I had six rejections and am still awaiting to see if four other submissions have made the grade. I joined National Novel Writing Month, reaching the 50,000 word target, thus securing myself a certificate (that I couldn’t print my name on as it’s a PDF) and the knowledge that I can work without distraction; sort of!

It isn’t complete yet, that NaNoWriMo story; 50,000 words does not a novel make.  Chuck Wendig – terribleminds blog – has some great stuff to say about NaNo and writing in general; http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/10/27/why-you-should-do-nanowrimo-and-why-you-shouldnt/

I’ve lost count of how many word counts I have done ,and  worrying that I haven’t written enough words, or too many; how on earth am I going to cut that 13,000 down to the requisite 7,000? I am beginning to realise – I am a writer, this is what I do. Oh sure, I have a day job (a real job some might say). I used to be a painter – no not houses, a real painter! Did I sell stuff? Yes I did. Did I make a living from it? No I bloody well didn’t. And it looks like writing will be the same. I know quite a lot of writers now, in fact, I know more writers than I ever did visual artists, and none of them is wealthy. NONE. The world is not really geared towards creative types; unless you create a sit-com (preferably American!), an advert for silky legs or yoghurt that’s great for your gut bacteria.

But it’s the continuous trying that makes us what we are, not the fails, in the words of Michael Jordan, Sportsman:- “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

 

Oh, so it’s all about money?! I hear you say. No, it isn’t. I would be delighted to have a book published by an actual publishing house. I’d wet my pants if it got turned into a movie! The acceptance of my creativity is far more exciting and important than mere pounds, shillings and pence – but it would be lovely to have some! I look forward to writing something that I myself knew was as good as J.G Ballard or Tim Powers or Angela Carter, that would be this writers dream. Most of all though, creative types have heart, and that’s worth more than any cheque.
So, next year, keep writing, keep submitting and hoping and praying…

Maybe Father Christmas will bring me ‘genius’ for Christmas, or ‘excellence’. I never got ‘excellent’ at school – for anything. Maybe some publisher will take pity on me and give a  generous contract! (And if it doesn’t happen, I might go all Hellblazer on them)  Next year, maybe next year….

So in the words of a fictional character, “God Bless us, everyone!” (I just threw up a little)

And in the words of Bob Hope, “If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”

Success is marked by your inner self, not stuff. In that respect, I have had a remarkably successful year. (By the way, you can feel all fuzzy and warm if you buy books, that way, you keep authors alive!)

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Peaceful New Year,

A x

 

*set image: John Constantine from Hellblazer.