dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Dave Talbot: Audio Analysis

“I’m in the gym 5 o’clock every morning, training for 2 anarf hours, home, breakfast, little boy to school, back to the gym, and again the same again, another 2 anarf hours, I consume 7 8 9 10 thousand calories a day, for breakfast I’ll have like sorta like 200 grams of oats, twenny scrambled eggs, 2 hours later 2 chicken breasts and rice, then I’ll have another protein shake, then I’ll train, another protein shake, then I’ll have some steak an potatoes, then I’ll have another tuna pasta, then I’ll have another 15 eggs before I wenna bed, early to bed every night, religious dieting, 24/7, seven days a week.” Dave Talbot

So let me get this right...you train for 2 and a half hours? What the hell's bells are you doing in there Dave, arms and legs? Your whole friggin body? Does that include shower time as well? Surely it does. Surely it has to. I imagine it’s a hardcore metal den, so there’ll be no sauna or Jacuzzi to eat into what many would consider enough time for 3 training sessions. And I presume you're not standing around texting between sets.

Home, brekkie, little boy to school...but then YOU GO BACK TO THE GYM FOR ANOTHER TWO AND A HALF HOURS. What!? Are you having a laff!? 5 hours training before noon!? That’s not over-training, Dave, that’s overKILL! But I guess you are always mixing it up right, to keep things fresh and interesting, eh? What, you do the same again?...and again the same again... Wow, you even sound bored saying it, so I can't imagine how long and downright monotonous the physical graft is! 5 hours! And again the same again...

Dave, you consume between 7, 8, 9 and 10 thousand calories a day, but the way you reel off these numbers, it sounds like a single word, like SEVENEIGHTNINETEN thousand calories a day. Then you say you have TWENNY EGGS for breakfast like it’s the most normal thing in the world, like it’s a couple of pop tarts. Ha. Awesome.

2 hours later you have 2 chicken breasts and rice, which is fair enough, but then you say you have ANOTHER protein shake, without mentioning protein shakes up until this point, as if you have failed to mention a prior protein shake you had earlier. Or maybe 2 prior protein shakes you had earlier, because is it unreasonable for me to assume that a phenomenon like yourself who trains for 5 hours before noon and eats twenny eggs for brekkie forgets the odd protein shake? I don’t think it is.
Here’s the kicker though. Because then YOU TRAIN AGAIN (or maybe I misunderstand?). Maybe you train so many times a day that you forget your training sessions as well as your protein shakes. Yet ANOTHER protein shake follows (shake-train-shake), then some steak and potatoes, and then ANOTHER tuna pasta. Again you fail to mention any earlier tuna pastas you may have consumed, but I am logical in deducting, because you say ANOTHER, that there was at least one.

Finally you have another 15 eggs before going to bed. That’s 35 eggs a day.

Dave Talbot, BodyBuilder. R.I.P

From the documentary “The Man Whose Arms Exploded.”

Monday, 27 February 2012

Glimpses Gone...and Editing

So let’s talk about some writing. I’ve said before that it’s much easier to write about writing than it is to just write, and probably more interesting to read about too. There is always method behind the madness. Glimpses Gone was written between March and June 2003, two months after the completion of Banishment Pictures. 2003 was a golden year. To pen 64,000 words within four months was probably my most prolific spell (that’s over 500 words a day, every day, which is t’riffic, considering I had a 3 year gap in Exhausturbation, upcoming e-book). I think it was one of three books on the go that year. Applaud now. Danka.

Ban Pic was not my first book, but it was the first book which wasn’t novice work (in my opinion). I’d kind of been learning how to write beforehand and this was the one when I sat down knowing exactly what I wanted to do and how to do it, full of confidence and determination. I remember starting the first sentence sat on a stool in my kitchen very distinctly. Once finished, and starting Glimpses Gone, I was well in my pomp. Killing it. Smashing it. All over it. 

Some have been known to say that GG is my finest work (and also that I devour Big Macs in 3 bites). Granted, it has a very soft spot in my heart. I remember wanting not just to write but to write well, a feeling that has not returned until Escaping Hazel. They are both alike also in the way that their openings are very laboured, and if I’m honest, even a little repetitive. Okay, very repetitive – or thorough, as I prefer. GG has no real dialogue interaction until about 10,000 words or so. I am well aware that an editor would recommend cutting all the extraneous stuff unless it is essential to the plot, but I have never understood all that revamp, redraft, rehash, rewrite philosophy: 

 “An artist never finishes a painting – he just stops working on it.” Columbiana (2011) Know what I'm saying? It’s the same for stories. You’d be there until Doomsday. I say: “Lay the egg and move on.”

They reckon you need a tough skin. Correctomundo. A single offhand comment can pierce your armour like a dart. Going back thru a long-ass book and removing a bunch of characters, for example, or cutting it beyond recognition, because somebody else says so? I tell you what, why don’t you do it, seen as you’re so smart, and save me the hassle?

It’s like somebody taking the mick out of your baby, and it’s hard to draw the line between 10 proofreads with a yellow highlighter or doing a quick spell-check and calling it good to go. I’ve never read one of those How To Write books (although I’ve had some given to and bought for me...what does that tell you), because if you think too much about doing something then it becomes a hindrance. Did I mishear, or was the name of this game CREATIVE writing? That means my way, not yours. Your way is technical, like in school. My way is doing what the bejesus I feel like and then self-pubbing the living daylights out of it to make dollars for Bieber CDs...eventually. They do say it's important to know the rules before you break them, however. Fair point.

No but yeah but seriously, creative covers, expensive editing and fancy formatting don’t make a hardcore genuine story, although a hardcore story deserves all that and more. The main thing, in all of this, is love and coping. You love it, and it helps you cope. Everything else is incidental. F**k writing begging notes to agents, which you can’t even do without first reading a book of How To Write Begging Notes To Agents. I’d rather cope in love with the odd typo, up to my knees in grammar traps. I doubt the reader even notices anyway. This is, after all, as bestselling author Dr Loomis says  – played by Malcolm McDowell  in Halloween (2007): “Spoon-feeding drivel to the masses.” And I thought Steve King was patronising his supporters by calling them Constant Readers. "Fan is a dirty word." Gregg Valentino

Read the preview of Glimpses Gone on Amazon. It’s so flippin long you don’t need me to brief you about it here. Why such a long preview Amazon? FFS. It’s like going into a car dealership and the dude on the forecourt offering you a test drive for a whole chuffin month.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Overseer, by Albert E. Cowdrey

When watching the likes of Conrad Williams, Nicholas Royle and Paul Finch perform readings at Waterstones in Liverpool last year, each member of the audience was automatically entered into a free raffle. My number came out the hat and I won a choice of brand new anthologies. I picked the first one on the pile because I was blushing, but after having time to browse the index, I noticed that Tanith Lee was not listed, so I swapped titles at the end and took home Best New Horror 20, in which she was (plus 20 had a better cover).

I often borrowed titles in this range, but had never got around to buying one. Indeed, it's a case of picking the best short stories from the bunch, never really needing to consume the whole book. Some of the stories are too long and off-putting, as I like to consume shorts in single sittings, maximum 20 pages or so. But since having my own copy (thanks Twisted Tales), and not bouncing between 3-week library lending periods, I’ve had time (12 months) to get around to reading one of these lengthy off-putting long short stories I don’t usually bother with. A novella, you might call it, at around 20,000 words.

It was 12am last night/this morning, and I fancied burning some midnight oil, but by 1am, after 1 hour’s editing, I turned into bed. A spot of reading is in order, I thought, and started The Overseer, thoroughly expecting it to be so gash (rubbish) that I would be asleep after 3 or 4 pages. Not so. After just 1 or 2 pages, I already had an idea that this was probably gunna be the best thing I have ever read.

For a month I’ve been poised at a juncture balls-deep in my novel (I can go balls-in at a push) where the next thing due to take place is some kind of traumatic hanging scene from the slavery days a hundred years ago. I wanted to start a short story called Lynch Mob Addicto about an evil woman called Ethel Franklyn who did it for fun, but thought what the hell, I’ll bung it into the novel as a camp fire story and kill 2 birds with one stone (no more short stories, ever!). Only thing stalling me has been editing older bodies of work for delivery into the public domain.

Then last night, in The Overseer, I unexpectedly hit head-on all the stuff I’ve been contemplating in the back motor rooms of me brain recently: themes of persecution, masters, slaves, the Deep South, etc. Executed very, very professionally, of a standard never before met. These same themes are where I am up to, after 16 years on the job, after much rigorous, spiritual, emotionally-instinctive soul searching. I directly addressed this area in a poem 10 years ago called Karma 1882, and now I’m ready to explore the frig out of it with a tall gaunty woman called Ethel. Sheesh, I might even have to dedicate an entire chapter of Escaping Hazel to it.
During my, cough, career, between repeating myself far more than I realised and branching out experimentally with unpredictably dodgy results, I understand that virtually none of it matters, because everything you ever do as a scribbler is only an ambling prologue for your forthcoming definitive masterpiece; it's only value is that it was necessary for you to go through it to get to where you teeter, to arrive ready and able with the goods to produce, and if you don’t believe what you next do might be the best thing you have ever done, then you may as well sack it and do nothing but gloat over your former glories for the rest of your days, banging on about previous successes like a one-book washed-up has-been.
I stayed up for 3 hrs and 40 mins last night, until near 5 in the morning, to finish The Overseer, stopping halfway through for cornflakes and yogurt. I’m well aware the expression “I couldn’t put it down” is an overused fancy blurb, but sometimes it’s true. This stuff was right up my street at a time in my life when I was absolutely primed for it. It stayed on my mind afterwards, like, but many times better than, a resonant movie. It was factual, educational, informative...but most of all utterly entertaining/thrilling every twist/turn of the way.  I hold my hands up and say this guy, this Albert E. Cowdrey, is much better than me! I can’t do that! No sir, never!

And where now? Coz I still have to write my own take on these themes. Has he spoiled it for me, or inspired me? His story alone could provide all the research I need. Although I do my own. I don’t pilfer. I don’t steal. I pick up on what others miss, and travel with it. It’s where you take something. What you do with it. How you make things evolve into better places with the added benefit of your own skilled signature. No one ever knocked a genuine homage. I already have ideas of my own, lest I forget in my salivating worship of this, and might I can’t formulate them into a story in the way this genius can, I can damn well try-try-try. What a coincidence! I must remember, I had already arrived, before him, on my personal journey, at this subject matter. 

The greatest compliment a story can get is someone else saying they wish they had written it themselves. I understand that totally now, because I feel a case of that envy. I wish I had pledged a novella to this topic, not to mention Albert’s staggeringly impressive historical insight, of which I am incapable of (it was even nearly all written in italics, a splendid trick!) I feel sheer joy too, of course. Reading is awesome, these Best New Horror Books are class, and The Overseer, by Albert E. Cowdrey, IS THE BEST PIECE OF FICTION I HAVE EVER READ.

Even better than the red satin bed scene in James Herbert’s Others when Constance Bell is about to be molested by a genetically-engineered mutant on camera in the basement of the nursing home called Perfect Rest at the hands of evil doctor Leonard K. Wisbeech as her newfound love Nicholas Dismas watches helplessly on? Even better than that, you say.......

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Hal & Roger

<<<<<<<<<<<<Roots: The First Books>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

First words in the search engine today were Hal and Roger. This brought up the name Willard Price. Sometimes I question my own reading habits. I tell myself I need to read someone like Tolkien or Tolstoy to stop myself being just another clone raised on King, Herbert n Koontz (for years I thought Steve King invented italics and everybody else was copying him). But no. It all started not with the influence of these big hitters, but with Willard Price. Hal and Roger were his two main characters in a series of 19 children’s adventure books, spanning 30 years from 1950 to 1980. He lived from 1887 to 1983. It’s swell to know I’ve read the work of a man from the 1800s without being pointed to him by an English teacher, and what’s more, I’ve never seen an image of him. Clive Barker, for example, looks nothing at all like his all-masterful legendary name suggests. Author photographs should be released sparingly. Contrast this with the truly inspirational modern ebook behemoth J. A. Konrath, drinking beer, topless, on YouTube (fair play).  
I read some of these adventure books before the days of Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) and Street Fighter 2 (1991). I remember being entertained by man-eating lions and witch doctors in leopard skins. It made me want to be a naturalist, the same as Hal and Roger, whose job it was to catch wild animals for zoos. It instilled in me a sense of the continent. I can’t remember when or why I forgot all this. 
Reading on paper automatically makes the connection between ink and print, I reckon. If you have access to a pen, you can write. When reading on a screen, where does the connection come from? A keyboard, I would imagine (preferably QWERTY). Young’uns in da future will be writing what I call “straight into the computer”. Or maybe they will be writing longhand onto a tablet. Or dictating. Or thinking it via their brainwaves into an apple app. They’ll be very lucky if they can manage to pick up paperback gems from the 1800s. Let’s have a virtual beer and make a toast to Willard, Hal and Roger. Sláinte

Friday, 10 February 2012

BaNiShMeNt PicTuREs

It’s not far off the 10 year anniversary of Banishment Pictures. It was written in a bad place full of pain and hurting. For a decade it’s been gathering dust, a manuscript printed in bits and bobs in libraries on inkjet printers and bound in Staples some five or six years afterwards for £2.50. It’s the kind of bad egg you lay and dump in the drawer under the bed, underneath whatever you already keep in the drawer under the bed. Tried reading it 2 summers ago and bailed halfway thru. Banishment Pictures is a dark book. It was born from a bitter state of mind, and it stayed on course for the 44,000 word journey without coming up for air. For years it was forgotten, labelled as harsh and cringe worthy, but now it’s out there and packing a punch. Packing a punch because it ain’t no joke book. This is a serious endeavour with very few wry smiles along the way, if any at all. There ain’t no werewolves, wizards or witches (nothing against ‘em, mind, that’s what the www dot before every web address stands for).

The quest is to reach others who have been in, or are in, a dark place, who will recognise and understand. The goal was never to entertain, like a fast-paced generic thriller whose outlines, character bios and story arcs take longer than the writing itself (although admittedly several pages of notes were made, including an index in tiny neurotic handwritten scrawl...) The idea, as always so far, is to clear the old head out and see what’s what while somewhere along the way dressing it up as a story. Nod and say “Yes Piebald” if you know what I’m talking about.

You think getting read was a possibility, 10 years ago? Think again. It took a monumental effort to make one copy in print (Today, a page of black and white in the library costs 15p. You’re talking 45 bangers for a 300 page manuscript if you bother to double-space it. What, you decry, no printer! Ahem, fraid so. Buying a printer is investing in stress.) Back then, it meant catching buses before the I.T suite shut at the college where one wasn’t even a student anymore. It meant getting it down in some kind of hard copy format for future use. This was rescued from a FLOPPY DISK, after being handwritten, as standard ;-)

And a decade on we have Amazon Kindle. Nice one, Amazon Kindle. Never gunna get one, but sure do love ya.   

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Essential Ingredients

The last post was supposed to be an ending. This post was never supposed to exist. The idea was to move over to Wordpress, and start another, simpler blog, entitled piebald88.ballache.com (it feels weird putting a full stop after the dot com of a web address, ever notice that? better to put any sentence in brackets instead). The idea of starting from scratch on a fresh format is very not-very-inspiring. Every douche-ball has a blog. There are blogs coming out of people's ears. Every which way you turn on the tossernet, dudes are showing off on their blogs. Apparently, however, it's absolutely critical to literary success. What, no blog? Forget about a writing career mate. No chance. Stick to ransom notes. They pay better. Everybody knows the 3 essential self-promotional necessities to become a world famous author are:
1. Facebook
2. Twitter
3. Blog
Preferably in your pocket, too, on a sleek n sexy i-phone. Don't forget the actual books, as well. You'll need some material to promote. Don't worry about the content or quality. The important thing is promoting the living daylights out of them on your latest impossible-to-live-without gadget. That's the main thing. Bugging people. Getting in their face. Book signings are for sentimental old fools. The way forward is a virus of your e-books infecting every digital device on the globe, with you getting 77p for each one in return. Your e-books will be about the importance of having Facebook, Twitter, and *deep sigh* Turdpress in your quest for worldwide recognition and super-celeb-stardom. If you're a writer, get on it. If you're a reader, shoo along. You're either a writer or a reader in this world. You're either a seller or a buyer. You're either full of love or full of hate. You're either rich or you're poor. You either like marmite or you don't. You're either somebody, or you're nobody. Even Denzil Washington said that in Training Day (2001), so it must be true.
He said it. I believe it. That settles it.