Publishing: Trad or Self?

To print, or not to print, that is the question, Whether ’tis nobler to self-publish or suffer the endless grind of querying.

Book written – novella actually.

Completed third draft? Check.

Spelling and grammar? Check.

Beta reader? Check.

Editorial Assessment? Check.

Currently with editor for the complete works – copy, line, structural, proof-reading.

I can’t say I’m not nervous. I really am, for a couple of reasons: 1. What if she discovers some appalling plot-hole (or holes!) that I’ve overlooked? 2. It’s costing me money that, in all likelihood, I’ll never make back on sales.

How To Workshop N-Words - The Rumpus.net

I have previously self-published on Amazon, both collections of short stories which you can find here and here, before I had any real idea of what I was about. This time I want a ‘real’ publisher. This time I want someone else to do all the work. This time I want to get it right (whatever that means).

Now this isn’t to say that other folks who have self-published haven’t got it right, many have. I have seen some exceedingly professionally produced books, well formatted, attention to interior, solid cover and sound back blurb. I have also seen titles produced by actual, real life, proper publishing companies that I haven’t been totally bowled over by.

How To Workshop N-Words - The Rumpus.net

Personally, I’m terrible at querying, I’m terrible at writing cover blurb, a synopsis, a pitch etc. I’m a creative writer, creative being the operative word. I want the idea written, complete and done so I can move onto the next one. I seriously resent the time spent on ‘Learning How to Write the Best Query Letter’ and similar. Why does self-publishing hold a lesser place in the eyes of others than publishing houses? Isn’t it the writing that ultimately matters?

I’ve spent the morning looking at domain names, cost of said domain names, how to have an imprint, how to register your imprint, how to…yadda, yadda, yadda. It goes on indefinitely – and I think this is my issue, I know that, given time, I could produce a decent product for the book market – because regardless of what the saying is, we DO judge a book by it’s cover.

How To Workshop N-Words - The Rumpus.net

But I don’t want to spend the time doing all that. I want to write, just write. I want to be able to be creative and develop my skill. I’m not interested in producing a trilogy to satisfy mass market appeal. I’m not particularly interested in becoming the next top selling author (of course it would be nice should anyone want to promote the shit out of my upcoming novella!), but that’s not what I write for.

I’ve read variously that a self-published author needs to spend anything form 50% to 70% of their time doing marketing, which leaves only 30% to 50% on writing. I want to be a writer, not a marketer. I spent too many years after leaving uni with my B.A in Fine Art, hoping that I would be magically discovered by some agent or art dealer – we were simply taught NOTHING about how to make a living from our art – I imagined in some airy-fairy, I’m a Bohemian kind of way that something would just fall into my lap – I didn’t have a clue! Seriously.

I am aware that talent alone does not get the work sold. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best author/painter/sculptor in the world, if it’s not out there in the public domain, it isn’t going to earn you anything. (If you create purely for yourself, that’s another thing, but there’s also the argument that art isn’t complete until viewed by an audience.)

How To Workshop N-Words - The Rumpus.net

So my bind is this, after the editor has done her job, do I go to self-publish, or attempt to get it professionally published? Can I bear the repeated individually written pitches and synopsis, as each agent/publisher will have slightly different criteria. Do I want to spend all that time asking, pitching, selling it to someone else to sell, or go indie?

Watch this space.

Actually, no don’t… you could be here for eons!

Sticks & Stones

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You can find my work at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alexandra-Peel/e/B0180332YY/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Pointing Finger Left And Right Hand, HD Png Download - kindpng

The Floating Churchwill be coming to a ‘bookshop’ near you soon.

Maybe You’re Just NOT THAT Creative !

Sorry. But it could be true.

But hey, it doesn’t matter if you don’t mind.

Just don’t try telling other people what to make, write, draw, design, sew, compose.

Maybe you think you have something special going on. Maybe you think you have something to sell. Maybe you’re going to be the next big thing. That what you do is ‘my creativity’. Maybe you have urges to make things. But where does true creative talent end and hobby craft begin?!

I know some people are going to read this and think ‘You sanctimonious bitch’, and you may be right.

This is going to be harsh. Look away if you have a weak stomach.

Top 30 Boo Hoo GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat
Fat Bastard says ‘Boo hoo’.
From gfycat.com

1. But my mum said my voice/painting/ is great

That’s wonderful, but don’t confuse parental praise with real, honest, healthy criticism. Of course your mum would say that, she’s your mum! And friends are, often, no better. They don’t want to HURT YOUR FEELINGS.

If you’re thinking of going professional, semi-professional, or exhibiting your creativity in public in any way, shape or form- you’re going to need a thicker skin.

I once spoke to an art student about what she was going to do after college. Sell my work in a gallery, was her naive response. HER WORK WAS SHITE! And what if they don’t like it? I asked politely. She stared at me as though I was saying something in a foreign language. This young woman had no idea how talentless she was.

Stop living in fantasy land. It’s just self-deception.

Be brutally honest with yourself.

Otherwise, things are going to get painful somewhere down the line.

2. Your creative endeavours are original

Are they? Really?

Nothing is original. Everything has been said before. We just try to find a unique way of re-purposing the original message. It might be that the wonky-eyed portrait of your pet poodle looks unique, but is it really creative. And let’s be honest, should you even expose the world to it?

Please don’t set up an Etsy shop, and proceed to fill it with tat. It is quite simply embarrassing. Don’t do that to yourself.

Why would anyone want to buy your shit?

Why do you think it merits equal attention as someone who has worked seriously and with total dedication for decades?

Look at it – it doesn’t!

3. You love being free and Bohemian, surrounded by tubes of paint/paper/fabric/instruments

You think this is the 60s? You want to remain in a student state of mind forever?

Time to grow up.

For most artists, creativity does not come from flopping around in silk dressing gowns, traipsing through a mist of linseed and oil paints. It’s fucking hard work.

You must work at honing your skills on a daily basis. You must practise your craft – and I use this word in it’s true sense; ‘skill, dexterity, strength, talent’. You must learn that what you created last year, is not as good as what you will produce this year. It is a never-ending striving to reach something over there.

Art doesn’t make itself. The tools of your trade, whether they be brushes and pens, electronic devices, piano, fountain pen or keyboard, will need to be used on a regular basis for you to learn what they can do. After that, your brain needs to be trained, put into gear and applied to the problem at hand.

One doesn’t simply wake up one day and dash off a masterpiece. Your painted stones with hideous dog and cat faces are NOT ART!

One does not simply. Made on imgflip.

4. I’m an introvert, therefore I must be creative

No. Not necessarily so.

Stamping INFJ, or whatever the fuck, all over your social media pages doesn’t make you a better person, or more interesting, or more thoughtful, or creative!

And then you get upset if someone passes a remark that doesn’t fit your idea of yourself. And weep copious tears so your ‘Followers’, or whoever, send hugs and kind thoughts, and tell you to ignore the vicious bitch in the corner, because you’re a ‘beautiful person’.

Bull. Shit!

Just because you class yourself as introvert, doesn’t mean you have to affect a delicate flower demeanour. Introverts live in the real world, we just need time to recoup energy away from other people.

Plus, just because you’re a ‘beautiful person’, doesn’t mean you have a ‘creative soul’.

5. But isn’t creativity whatever I say it is?

Well, if we’re sticking with creativity as meaning using one’s imagination to create something – to invent, then yes.

But simply painting from a photo is not using one’s imagination!

Making fan fiction – I hear a gasp of horror – is not true creativity. The honest truth is that most fan fiction is fucking awful, and why?

Because it is the soup of the soup. It can never be as good (or tasty) as the first/original.

Why is it that we can all spot a truly gifted sportsman or woman when we see them in action? We know that Serena Williams is one of the best tennis players, and that Usain Bolt cannot be beaten at his game.

Because we can see the evidence with our own eyes. When a footballer scores repeatedly, that tells us they’re one of the talented ones. We know who is the best, the talent oozes from gymnasts and boxers and cricketers.

But art is another thing. Most people won’t have a clue what makes Turner fucking amazing, whilst Tracy Emin is shite. Many will say that’s my personal opinion – and there’s the rub!

People today simply don’t have the ability to determine what is good and what is bad. Should we say that someone who has been practising their craft for over 30 years can have the right to make this decision?

But newcomers don’t want to know. And the talentless get mardy and whinge and whine because, “I have a right to make art as much as anyone.”

Yes, you do.

But don’t try telling an experienced and ‘time-served’ creative that you know better than him/her.

Maybe listen to criticism once in a while.

Perhaps give the experienced people the benefit of the doubt, and look at what you’ve created, and say ‘Shiiiit, I really am bad at this, maybe I ought to go and do something more useful with my time.’

And stop putting it on Etsy for fucks sake!

Waving Not Drowning, or, I've Been Preparing For This My Whole Life

It’s here folks!

That moment that we’ve all discussed whilst watching TV shows about the apocalypse; whether zombie or otherwise. The question we all ask is: Who would you want on your side in the event of such and such disaster – and how well could you survive?

Well, I gotta say, me and my hubby have been preparing for this for years. No, we aren’t ‘End of the World’ nuts, or ‘Doomsday Preppers’. We’re artists.

Yes. I did say artists.

In the early 1980s, we were both students at a mediocre university studying Fine Art. Afterwards, we were two of the unemployed millions in the UK. For almost 4 years, we lived off £27 a week. We went shopping once a fortnight – because that’s when one received dole money. We played a single game of pool at the local pool-hall, for 20p. Then we went back to our little flat, and worked.

UK in the 1980s under a Tory government was full of class warfare, hate, violence, unemployment, closures, cutbacks, protests and riots.

When I say worked, of course I mean painted, created, drew etc. We also (to the amusement and puzzlement of friends), had separate bedrooms. He worked in his; the larger one, whilst I worked in the living room. We came together for evening meals, TV ,occasional walks and of course, a bit of fun!

On March 2nd, 2019, I wrote a post called The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer In light of the current situation; COVID-19, Coronavirus pandemic, in this post, I’m sort of returning to that theme – being alone. Not lonely.

After university, whilst my then boyfriend, now husband, were on the dole, we lived a rather meagre existence. Our rare annual holiday consisted of heaving metal-framed rucksacks with tent around the soggy hills of Wales or Scotland (Note: this is now called ‘Wild Camping’, which involved finding somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, to pitch the tent before it went dark, and balancing a trangier with pan of dried noodles set to cook in water that wouldn’t boil quickly because the air around was blowy and cold, and sleeping with your clothes on, as opposed to staying in a fucking wooden construction on a campsite with hundreds of others and drinking Pinot Grigio. That’s called Glamping). We once found 12p down the back of the sofa with which we bought a bag of chips between us from a mobile Fish and Chip van. On one occasion, he went off for a few days with a male friend, camping in October. I had no money, so lived off Marmite drinks for about 6 days, wrapped up in bed against the cold – we couldn’t afford heating – drawing and watching our tiny black and white telly.

Over the years, neither of us have had well paid jobs. Freelance artist is not a secure way to live. Community artist even less so. The 80s was shit, for us at least. The 90s slightly less so. We did live an almost hand to mouth existence. We paid our bills on time, thus ensuring we had little left for luxuries, you know, things like – nice shampoo instead of washing-up-liquid or soap, food that wasn’t ‘My Mums’ brand, meat!

Then as time moved on, I got a ‘real job’, as a tutor on the YTS/ET (Youth Training Scheme/Enterprise Allowance) scheme that the government introduced. Hubby also got a job. We had money, proper money for the first time! We got married. But I lost my job 2 years later due to cutbacks, and the eventual demise of the training schemes.

Since then we have changed jobs a couple of times. Moved home. Had a child. We made a conscious decision to have only one, as that was all we knew we could afford. We rent from a housing association because we can’t get on the property ladder, even on our joint wages.

This is not a hard luck story.

This is a story about a couple of 50-somethings who were made ready for this event. Our age identifies us as Generation X. There’s been a lot on social media from Gen-X recently. About how ours is the survivor generation, the isolated ones, the latchkey kids who everyone, even government forgot. So a double positive whammy for me and hubby – Gen-X artists, who enjoy our own company, who are NEVER lonely, because we have our imaginations to get us through this – what more could one want!?

Lock n Load

My workplace has now closed for an indeterminate length of time. For me, it’s a kind of bliss – I get to write and read books, and maybe do some drawing. I can plan my next D&D campaign, create maps! It’s marvellous. My colleagues who are neither self-motivated nor creative, are already flooding WhatsApp with inane trivia minute by minute. Two days we have been off work! Two days, and they’re already loopy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t WANT the virus to spread, I don’t WANT anyone falling ill, I don’t LIKE this situation we’re in, all I’m saying is, I’m with the right person, and we’re ready to roll.

Gimme two weeks, two months, hell, I reckon I could handle two years!

So to the creatives out there – writers, artists, sculptors, musicians, dancers, poets, painters, crafters, et al, I say, this is our time. This is the time for introspection, for personal creativity and development. This is when being isolated, or locked down does not mean disaster. It is a chance to show why art; all the arts, are so important.

Because very soon, the rest of the population will begin to realise how vital art is.

When they haven’t been able to visit a cinema, library, concert hall, theatre, museum, gallery, for weeks, they’ll be gagging for it when this is all over!

So get busy now!

Above from left: Paul Costello (courtesy @costelloguitar), The Poet (courtesy Holy Spirit System), Louise Bourgeois (courtesy East Oregonian)


The difference between an essay, a report and a story. In brief…

What’s the difference between an essay, a report and a story?

I see this question a lot from people in secondary school, Further Education colleges, and even University students! I’m talking about UK students, I believe elsewhere they teach the difference quite early on. When I was in school – back in the 1970s and 80s, the English teacher would set an essay writing task – what she meant was – write a story. So I never learnt until late adulthood what the difference is. I’m not an academic, so this is going to be basic…

A very brief run-through of the differences.

First off, they’re written in different styles. Essays and Reports tend to be written in a formal, academic style with attention to grammar and spelling. While a story is a sequence of real or, most commonly, fictional events told in any manner that the author chooses.

A report is a summary of an event and an essay explores a particular issue or subject. Both start with an introduction, body with discussions and/or analysis, and finally a conclusion. The main difference is purpose; an essay presents writer’s personal ideas and opinions, a report provides unbiased information.

Basic lexicon of related words –

Essay: describes, analyses, evaluates, combination of facts, statistics, personal opinions, descriptive, narrative, argumentative, persuasive, and expository.

Report: systematic, well organised, defines, analyses, provides information, sections, headings, and sub-headings.

Story: narrative, novel, short story, novella, plot, characters, genre specific, entertaining, aesthetic, creative, tale, chronicle, dramatic.

See the same event in these three examples below:-

Story Extract

The Life and Crimes of Lockhart & Doppler: A Journal of Amusement, Adventure and Instruction

We came to a narrow tributary of the Amazon River, about eight feet across, dotted with floating islands, clumps of debris washed downhill with the rains. Raising our packs above our heads we waded. Something glided just beneath the surface; I halted so as not to draw its attention, Daniel squealed as it touched his thigh. Things gibbered above us in the overhanging branches, creaks and croaks resounded all about. We crossed three more tributaries before the end of day.
Exhausted and soaked in foul smelling swamp water. With the fauna of the forest reduced in our wake by; four stabbed snakes, a shot river dolphin, two blasted parrots, an incapacitated capybara, an assaulted alligator, numerous leeches burnt and a frog that popped when Daniel stepped on it, behind us, it was time to take it easy.
On (relatively) dry land, we made camp for the night. Whilst I cleaned my blades and blasters, Doppler did whatever one did to bright blue frogs to coax some venom from them, Daniel made
tea; and jolly good it was too,
You’ll make someone a lovely wife one day Daniel.” Says I with a wry smile.’

 

Essay version

Although not mentioned within the body of this particular extract, we can glean the narrator’s name from the title of the book. Lucy Lockhart, renowned treasure hunter, and her assistant, Theodora Doppler have arrived in the Amazonian jungle with cartographer, Daniel.

They cross a series of tributaries en route to their destination. Lockhart describes the area as being difficult terrain that the party need to wade through, with unknown things gliding beneath the surface of the water, small islands of earth, and animals in the surrounding environs. Daniel – whom Lockhart has previously described as ‘a lily-livered clerk’, is evidently extremely uncomfortable in this environment. The party have during their progress, killed or maimed a number of animals, including a river dolphin. Although this is a short section from a longer tale, one could surmise that this is not an unusual situation, for at least one of these characters, to be in. They are kitted out for travelling; otherwise, mention would be made of the inconvenience of attire in the circumstances. No-one in the party truly complains, or seems surprised by the ‘foreignness’ of the situation – the names suggest that these are all English characters.

One might argue that Lockhart has a blasé attitude to her comrades as well as the flora and fauna hereabouts. She does not speak of the beauty of her surroundings, only the death left in her wake. It could also be said that she has an Imperialistic indifference to animals and people. The party eventually find some dry-ish land to rest and recuperate on. The cartographer is once again the butt of Lockhart’s teasing, as he makes tea for the party.

In conclusion, one could surmise that the narrator; Lockhart, is if not enjoying the situation, relishing the discomfort of one companion; Daniel. We get the impression that she is unconcerned for the welfare of wildlife and this does not sit well with a modern audience. She is, however, determined, skilled with weapons, so capable of looking after herself and has a sense of humour.

 

Report version

A trio of adventurers are on some sort of quest in the Amazonian jungle. From this extract, we cannot determine what it is they seek, nor how long they have been here. We do know that they cross a number of tributaries on their journey, so the terrain is not easily navigable. We have no way of knowing how the characters are related, nor what their relationships are like. The main character; the narrator, refers to one by her surname; Doppler and the other by his first name, Daniel. This might suggest that the relationship between the two women is stronger than that with the male, as females rarely refer to themselves or each other by surname.

Lockhart

Though unnamed in this extract, Lucy Lockhart is the narrator, the protagonist of this adventure. She is clearly the leader of the party, as the other two characters follow her, and she is skilled in using various weapons – as evidenced by the killing and maiming of a number of creatures – some of which we might assume she has dispatched herself. At the end of the passage, the narrator is cleaning her blades. This tells us that she carries a number of knives, or swords, about her person. Her description of the animal slaughter – ‘stabbed’, ‘blasted’, ‘incapacitated’, ‘assaulted’, suggests a level of humour on her part at the demise of such creatures. The fact that she likes to tease Daniel, the cartographer, also gives us a small insight into her personality – which leads one to question the agreeableness of this character.

The Amazon

The party reach a tributary in the Amazon River – a tributary is a river or stream flowing into a larger river or lake. We know that it is eight feet wide and is ‘dotted with islands’. There has been a heavy rain at some point in the near past, as we are told that there is debris from uphill. The Amazon contains a wide variety of animals including capybara, parrots, alligators and snakes, among other things. There are also unseen creatures living in the trees, as evidenced by, ‘Things gibbered above us in the overhanging branches,’ Even though this is a tributary of the main river, we know that it is fairly deep, as the party must carry their belongings over their heads to prevent equipment from getting wet.

Doppler

There is little mention of this character in the passage. What we can glean is that she is intrepid – otherwise she would not be on such a venture, and she is skilled in poisons. At the end of the passage, she is trying to extract poison from small frogs. From this, we might conclude that she A) knows about animal poisons, and B) has used poisons in the past. One might further conjecture that this tells us that Doppler is either a medic, a collector, or quite simply – a poisoner.

Daniel

There is very little information about this character; however, we can speculate that he is not comfortable in this environment. He is probably frightened of the wildlife, ‘Daniel squealed as it touched his thigh.’ He also makes a good cup of tea; Lockhart comments on it, whilst simultaneously taking a sideways swipe at his manhood.

We might conclude from this extract that the tale is not set in the present day. The narrator carries bladed weapons and at least one gun, which she refers to as ‘blades and blasters.’ This is not parlance from the 21st century, neither is ‘Says I…’ The narrator is clearly sexist from a contemporary reader’s point of view, otherwise she would not use the phrase “You’ll make someone a lovely wife one day Daniel.” In our 21st century society, there is little issue with stay-at-home husbands. In addition, the narrator’s attitude towards killing animals is not commendable, from a modern standpoint. We do not condone the careless destruction of wildlife to suit our own means, and none of the characters seems disconcerted at their demise.

 

I hope this has been of some use, to someone, somewhere.

 

Should you be at all interested – The Life and Crimes of Lockhart & Doppler: A Journal of Amusement, Adventure and Instruction is available on Amazon https://www.amazon.de/Life-Crimes-Lockhart-Doppler-Illustrated/dp/1723026891

 

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer or, How to embrace Twitter as an aid.

Years ago, I watched the film, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner starring Tom Courtenay. It’s a great film, very British, very much of it’s time; made in 1962. But it has a quality that resonates and made a lasting impression on me.

Courtenay plays Colin Smith; a rebellious teenager in a poverty-stricken town in northern England, who enjoys running as an escape from his harsh reality. He gets caught stealing and is sent to a reform school. The governor wants to impress officials and so forth by promoting sports as rehabilitation. Colin gets inducted to race against a prestigious rival school.

I won’t tell you the ending – that’s not the point of this post – what I am interested in is how this compares to writing. I’ve been growing my connections on Twitter recently, via the #WritingCommunity. There are people who write who are very much engaged with a wider community, not just their immediate friends, and who make an effort to help others to connect through list-making, shout-outs, #FollowFridays and so forth.

Now I’m a lot like Colin. I like my own company, I positively revel in the times that I spend alone, so that I can immerse myself into my world building, characters and narrative. I love to run alone, not only that – I want to run alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sociable; when I am required to be. I don’t have anxiety about meeting people – I just don’t want to – I am not anti-social; I don’t behave inappropriately (well, not often!), but I am unsociable by nature; when I want to be.

Writing is a bit like being a long-distance runner. You might rise early and limber up with some brief exercises, or set about your working day in a casual manner. Regardless of when you write, where you write, or how you put the words down, you will do this alone. And alone you will be until you have finished the process. Then you will edit; alone. The whole process of creating, editing, re-writing etc. might take you months, even years. Only you can do this, no-one else. It’s your ideas, your work, your creation. Then you will send your work off – and receive rejections – alone.

This does not mean you have to be lonely. For those writers who struggle with this isolation, the community of writers on Twitter might be somewhere to reach out and relieve that feeling. There are professional writers as well as amateurs. Published and unpublished. Dabblers and specialists.

I have experienced authors who reach out and lend a helping hand; such as @garethlpowell. Gareth is an award winning science fiction writer, you’d think he would be too busy, but no, he gives of his time on a daily basis. A new arrival on Twitter, @EliselsWritinYA, stormed onto the writing scene by listing ALL the writers she followed, classified them and sent numerous Tweets out into the community. Elise Carlson just dived straight in there in her very first month.

The point is, you don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to be. I have encountered new ‘Tweeters’ who are very apologetic, filled with trepidation, are shy about announcing their presence. But I reckon 99% of the time, they find a warm welcome into the #WritingCommunity – sure, you get the odd dick who tries to tell you how things should be (I may even be one of those dicks myself at times), but you can be sure that you will make connections; maybe even friends. You can let off steam, ask questions, get moral support in times of need.

It will not, I hasten to add, make you a better writer! This can only be done by dedication, application, self-criticism and honesty.

Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring once said – “Writing is a lonely occupation at best. Of course there are stimulating and even happy associations with friends and colleagues, but during the actual work of creation the writer cuts himself off from all others and confronts his subject alone. He moves into a realm where he has never been before — perhaps where no one has ever been. It is a lonely place, even a little frightening.

So, back to Colin. The title of the film suggests he himself is lonely, not at all. The runner in this instance is a metaphor for choosing to be alone – so he isn’t actually ‘lonely’. Colin has chosen running so that he can, not only escape his mundane, poverty-ridden existence, but to allow time to develop his own thoughts, and through this, he comes to understand the societal differences and class divisions of the time. Colin sees through the authority figures; especially that of the prison governor, and the image conveyed to others of their ilk, and what really lies beneath. Colin questions; if only in his own head, the establishment.

As a writer, you will probably be doing some of the same things, questioning authority; of a character’s parents, the government he or she resides in, that of movements, peers, received opinions, taught mythologies.

You will live inside your own head until you have completed your idea.

You may work alone – but you don’t have to be lonely.

Plough on or Chill Out?

We’re fast approaching the end of 2018 – has it been a good one for you? A wild ride? Productive? Or has it been a fallow year, with less accomplished than you had hoped?

I know I definitely tried to accomplish too much this November making me feel, like Bilbo Baggins, “… sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” I took on three online courses in one month, completed two. The third hangs in the balance. I tried to be the ‘Little Engine That Could’ – turns out I couldn’t, not quite…

Part of my problem is that I am a dilettante – a dabbler, a tinkerer, a potterer. I have been told on the one hand that I have the mind of a butterfly, on the other, that I am a mine of useless information. I have taken part in NaNoWriMo with a novel planned, and also writing by the seat of the pants. The second works best for me. You’ll have your way of doing stuff.

Don’t despair if you didn’t get to do all the things you’d hoped to, it’s all a learning process and next year is a fresh start. As Professor Albus Dumbledore said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Image result for albus dumbledore
Professor Dumbledore

Though I do have to admit to feeling a little miffed when I hear, on the radio, as I did this morning, about someone who began writing five minutes ago and just got their first novel published! What’s that all about? I ask myself, how did anyone even know they had written this little gem? I am by inclination, a combination of melancholic and choleric, and have been trying to train myself to be more pragmatic, so forced myself to feel good for them- sort of, a little bit, maybe. Oh all right, I hate them!

Lyra Belacqua tells her father in Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass, “You told me that was my nature, and I shouldn’t argue with it…you were wrong… I can’t choose my nature, but I can choose what I do. And I will choose, because now I’m free.” She learnt that as a child, I, in my mid-life am just beginning to.
Do you take stock at the end of each year, of your accomplishments? And how do we assess our own accomplishments anyway? Some believe we are too close to give an accurate appraisal of our own selves and work done.

I have met many people who are extraordinarily hard on themselves, they are the perfectionists who can never meet their own high standards – this does not mean all they do is done well, sometimes effort isn’t exerted so as there is an excuse to have not met one’s own exacting standards. Then there are those people who – and this is particularly pertinent in regards to creativity – think what they have made is wonderful, when in fact the rest of us can see the awfulness, or blandness, of it. Self-criticism does not come easy to these folks.

And yet…should we just not try? Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

As Christmas approaches, will you slow down your production? Will you take a complete break from your current project to frolic with family and friends? Or, will you be the snow plough that keeps on going through the deep mid winter? Will you plough onward, or take time out to chill and recuperate?

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Does Father Christmas write all year round?

One habit to cultivate is taking account of our successes and failures – and do not be afraid to use the word fail, we cannot all be winners in everything we do, if we don’t fail we don’t learn –only ‘snowflakes’ don’t like to fail – some will keep an actual written account, for others it might be a simple check-list, or just a mental run-through. Have a general idea of what you wish to achieve in the coming year. Bloggers are encouraged to plan, keep a calendar of what will be written every week for months – I typically tend to waft from week to week writing whatever takes my fancy. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go...” Doctor Seuss.

Here comes the end of the year, approaching fast, like a steam train with the whistle not quite screaming, and the engine driver trying to wave me off the track, because I’m too stupid to move! Each year I make myself promises and set targets and charge headlong into too many projects at once – like I said, too stupid to move off the same track!

 

THAT’S MORTALS FOR YOU, Death continued. THEY’VE ONLY GOT A FEW YEARS IN THE WORLD AND THEY SPEND THEM ALL IN MAKING THINGS COMPLICATED FOR THEMSELVES.

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Death as The Hogfather (Source: https://ani-izzy.com)

NaNoWriMo 18 – What Now?

Apologies for the huge gap between my last post and this – it’s been a busy time.

NaNo-2018-Writer-Badge
NaNoWriMo 2018

We haven’t quite reached the end of the month – but – I have hit the 50,000 target with five days to spare.

It’s an odd sensation, a combination of exhilaration; I did it! I finally did it! And, What now?

I am sure that if you have been following my blog for any length of time, you will be aware of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. There are around 400,000 writers taking part, it’s a wonderful image isn’t it? People from all over the world, from all walks of life, busy beavering away at their stories.

To describe it as a race doesn’t quite do it justice. To talk about competitiveness only grazes the surface.

When you take part in NaNoWriMo, you can, if you wish to, award yourself Personal Achievement Badges; Planner/Pantser/Procrastinator/Word Sprinter and so on. You also gain Earned Badges; Word Count/Update/Winner. You can also add Buddies. I know, it’s tres American, but it can be a device that helps you get through the difficult times.

my NaNoWriMo Badges
My NaNoWriMo Badges

I have eight Buddies, I don’t get in touch with all of them, but this year three in particular have been on this journey with me – and that’s the point of having Buddies. Three of mine are based in America, one in France, two in the UK and the others haven’t posted their locations. Amy, David and Kristi and I have, this year, mailed each other throughout the event. Congratulating each other on reaching benchmarks, 10,000, 30,000 etc. We have spoken of time – not enough, word counts – falling behind, and emotional barriers – varied.

It reminds me of a tribe I once read about, and watched on TV many years ago – ‘Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World’ by David Maybury-Lewis. (The Xavante of South America I think it was, but I cannot be absolutely sure.)

This community held a race each year. Everyone took part who wanted to – from the smallest kid to the oldest tribal member. An exciting event where everyone gathered at the starting line amidst cheers and joyful shouts. And off they went, running. I remember watching this really elderly man fall midway. The race slowed down. A couple of others came and raised him up and continued to run alongside him, everyone, every single participant crossed in a muddled lump of laughing and cheering.

The point was, the race was symbolic. They were sort of competing against each other, but more importantly – they were running the race together, as one. It was an analogy of life.

In the NaNo writing event, we all compete against ourselves. We push to reach that Finish Line ahead of others, but at the same time we are supportive of each other. Should someone not make it, then that is okay, they have written something and that’s what matters. We all begin with different skills at different levels and that is to be expected and appreciated.

So it is never an ‘In your face!’ moment. It’s a kind of ‘Phew! I made it. And you can too.’ moment. It’s not only about the individual; you, but about interconnectedness.

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Helping Hand

Last year I did not reach the Word Count goal – but I had never intended to. It was a 30,000 word novella. The previous year, my first NaNo, I hit the goal in good time – but – and this is important to remember for all participants – I am still writing it! When NaNo ends, the writing doesn’t. 50,000 words does not a novel make. And it will depend greatly on which genre one is writing in. Just over that word count might be a YA fiction story, but if it’s fantasy your writing, which is what I am doing this year, then I’m only half way there.

So a goal was reached. Now there is a new one – finish the novel. After that there will be another goal – edit the novel. After that another – re-edit/re-write.

And so on and so forth.

As with life in general.

Good luck to all those still working at their word counts, but remember, that reaching it is only one stage in the life of a novel.

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Finishing. Not the end.

FL/RPGWW/NANOWRIMO- or How I Bit Off More Than I Can Chew

Header for Blog 3 courses

Its NaNoWriMo time.

For those readers not familiar with this acronym, this is – National Novel Writing Month. An annual event lasting the whole of November for writers to encourage us to attempt 50,000 words in a month – no research, no editing, no worries – just write.

This is my third year of taking part. Previous  years I wrote a sci-fi story and a historical/magical realism story. This year it’s fantasy.

Plus…

It’s RPG Writer Workshop month. A new pilot programme being run by Ashley Warren to help gamers write a ‘one-shot-game’ before the first week in December. Game writers range from absolute beginners; never played TTRPG (Table Top Role Playing Games), to those who have already had work published and sold.

This is the first time -obviously – and although I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons for around 30 years or so, I am WAY behind with the changes that have taken place in this scene. Plus, it’s all online, so digital comms, chat rooms, etc are a challenge!

Plus…

FutureLearn  is currently running a course title, Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People. It’s running throughout November only and it’s something that will be useful for the job I am employed in – Learning Support Assistant.

This is probably the easiest of the three as I need no tools, except my laptop to access the course.

I have to say, I do not know how many people are on each of these courses, but combined, it’s thousands – NaNoWriMo itself gets around 500,000 writers enrolling. As someone who is not au faix with Discord, or chat rooms, or, let’s be honest, any digital technology beyond TV’s before the advent of the remote control, I do struggle, but people are so helpful. Really. The number of times I’ve posted in the wrong place, been unable to find something, couldn’t do whatever needed to be done – someone has ALWAYS come to my rescue.

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Things were getting heated in the chatroom. 

However…

I hadn’t really thought this through when I signed up for all these online courses. In previous months; the build up and promotion of these courses, I had paid very little attention to the time they all took place.

Of course, I just had to do NaNo again. And wouldn’t it be cool as a writer to be able to design/write games and sell them? Yup – sign me up for that too. And what opportunities are there for what essentially boils down to free training?! Most industries provide staff training, but that little extra you do yourself always goes down well. So, yeah, I’ll do another course to help me do my job better.

So I find myself now, a mere 9 days into November, staring at blank docs. A kind of numb terror creeping up on me….how am I ever going to get 50,000 words written before the months end? How can I read a whole new rule-set for games and make a decision. How do I complete ‘Thinking Diary’ when my brain is turning to cheese? How can I go to work and give my best to those who rely on me? I know, thinks I, I’ll write my blog – as if I don’t already have enough writing to do -but the folks will be waiting for something, some pearls of wisdom, some amazing insight into creativity and gardening – phtuh! – no pearls here folks – brain, cheese = panic…

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What if I get some hideous cross-over like in a 50’s B-movie!!

Characters from the RPG workshop sneaking into the NaNo story and developing depression!

The low mood student wends his/her way into the game writing and ruins the jolly humour!

My NaNo protagonists burst free and run amok amongst the comments section of well-meaning, kind-hearted people studying on FutureLearn, swords flailing, and continue the charge into the RPG workshop, dog-lock pistols ablaze – there’s bullets and documents flying…people fling their laptops aside as a black-eyed soldier leers from a video of a gentle soul telling his tale…nascent character ideas from the minds of newbie gamers are quickly laid to rest by a swift and smartly placed stiletto blade…and the Dark Order find an in-road during all the mayhem and the seeds of disorder are planted and then the NPC’s take over and…and…

Genre Mashups. Image from Indiereader.com

but that’s never going to happen!!!!

Or is it…

Oh, hey, remember that pearl of wisdom? Let me know if you find it! Right, I’m off to dig a hole and scream into it.

 

Steampunk Collection

The Life and Crimes of Lockhart & Doppler

The Life and Crimes of Lockhart & Doppler
Steampunk Adventures

I forgot to mention – This:

A book, I wrote!

The Life and Crimes of Lockhart & Doppler: An Illustrated Journal of Amusement, Adventure and Instruction 

It’s got treasure hunting, monsters, strange aliens, alternative history, it’s got dashing young men, a ballsy woman with a dangerous ‘side-kick’! It’s got pictures – well, a couple.

It’s pulp fiction, penny dreadful. It’s 12 stories starring the titular Lockhart & Doppler, who travel from Lancashire to France, South America, North America, Saxe-Coburg, Italy and Somaliland!

Grab a copy now! (You could always use it to line the cat’s litter tray!)

Extract:

I stood on the drive smoking a cigarette, taking in the cool evening air and disparaging the stiflingly formal gardens. At a sound behind me I turned. Lord Nelson Orange stood about five feet away. I looked at what he held;

An 1860 Tesla ray gun with delayed action paralysis release bullets, explosive heads an added option – why is it pointed at me?”

You know,” Nelson Orange said, “at first I wasn’t sure what about you drew my attention, then I realised it was exactly that, you’re designed not to draw attention. Very subtle, playing the slightly dull mother-in-law to be and melting into the background. But how many mothers would leave their daughter in the company of strangers?”

Damn! I thought.

Then when I looked for you again at the buffet, poof,” he made a motion with his free hand, “You were gone. And grandmamma left in the corridor? Tut, tut.”

Lord Nelson,” I continued with the ploy, “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

And there’s another thing, your accent, doesn’t quite fit, no breeding you see, one can always spot a lack of breeding.”

I beg your pardon?!”

Very good ma’am, keep at it.” He lowered his chin and gave me a chilly smirk.

 

Created and only available on FeedARead.com

 

lucylockhart
L.A.G. Lockhart

 

 

Getting into TTRPG Writing

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Image curtesy of  @TTRPG Twitter

You all know I write stuff. ‘Course I do, I write this blog for one. Had some stuff published. Done posts for other blog sites.

So, what’s this TTRPG Writing all about Alex?

Table-top Role Playing Games. As opposed to LARP- Live Action Role Play (kind of like historical re-enactment societies, but with fantasy, and monsters, and probably more drugs!) or RPG in relation to video games (which I also spend quite a bit of time on)

It does what it says on the tin – you play it on your table, like a board-game, with dice and little pewter figures (painted or not), and maps, well some maps, sometimes.

I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons for nigh on 30 years – oh, my wasted youth!

I have been DMing campaigns for about 10 of those.

Then a pal sent me a link to – https://morrus.podbean.com/e/8-whats-an-rpg-freelancer-worth/

What? People get paid to write gaming stuff? Thinks me. Of course I knew people wrote all the initial games books – Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Rulebook, Monster Manual, blahdy, blah blah – but get paid?

To write new ideas?

To create new monsters?

And magic items?

Really?

Wow!

But how do you do it? How do you actually go about writing a game for others to play? To sell? What’s the process? How should it look or be presented?

Who does what to whom and when and how?

I haven’t a feckin’ clue!

I have been trawling the internet for three days – and it seems there is some sort of D&D gaming conspiracy going on! *Sh! Don’t talk about it otherwise more writers and creative types will muscle in on our patch.

Today I discovered – Life as a Hired Gun: Freelance RPG Writing https://youtu.be/U7EXayaK-TQ

and I thank those guys (John Bennet, Keith Ryan Kappel, and Christopher Hunt), for sharing their experiences and suggestions.

I’m going to start putting a few posts up here as I go along to share what knowledge and experience I gain on my path to becoming an #RPG writer.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey – who knows where we will end up – roll a D10 and we could run into a brick wall and fall at the first hurdle, twisting our ankle and hobbling back home shamefaced – or – we could vanquish the mummy of apprehension and discover the giant glow-worm of enlightenment!

Huzzah!

Now, where did I put my +2 Bow?

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The female Archer is more deadlier than the male...