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

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Happy Anniversary

2 Today!
It’s 2 years to the day since I got started writing a novel. I’ve only just found out so I decided that this statistic, especially since it just turned midnight, warranted a blog post. Seriously, I gotta talk to someone about this. 2 whole years. It's been a year since I was bragging about how fast I was gunna storm through it right here on the Art Till Death art and writing blog. Huh! Don’t think so sunshine! My outline got scrapped. I made a new one. By outline I mean a 5 minute spider graph. I stopped for months at a time. I’ve just had over 2 months off now. 67 days to be exact. It feels like 3 weeks. It’s still fresh in my mind, and I haven’t thought about it since. Apart from the word SINKHOLE. There will be a sinkhole in the plot.

The idea started as a short story to be honest, originally titled MUDDY ANGEL: DARK DOMAIN. I always start with a title. The title is the first thing down. The conception. The first day writing was in MacDonalds, I think, which felt weird, and most of it has taken place in a cafe ever since, in the library a couple of times, a couple of times in bed, and once on a table outside my patio. Always with a black biro pen in tiny non-slanting joined-up letters. I type up chapter by chapter. 3 chapters are typed up in hard copy, Estrangelo Edessa font, size 10 or 11 maybe. It’s a big clear font. Headers are in...oh let’s not go there (although it is very interesting). I start from the back of the notebook and go backwards like a reverse clock...I don’t cross words out because it looks messy...I don’t use indents or any other blank space on the page...

2 years. 730 days. And you know what? I’ve had 694 non-writing days in all that time. Yes, you read correctly. 694 non-writing days. Only 36 days on the novel in 2 whole years today. What’s more, most of those days have consisted of nothing more than an hour sat in the cafe. Theoretically, I could have done my current amount in just over 1 month. I am now on the edge of the 4th chapter (soon to be the edge of the sinkhole), and knocking on Mister Twenty Five Thousand Word’s door. 36 divided by 25? I’ll leave that one to you (it’s over 500 words a session). Not bad on a daily basis, but not so great on a fortnightly basis.

Is there an advantage to getting it all done sharpish, in 36 days consecutively, compared to 36 days spread over 24 months? You betcha. Your continuity will be better. Tighter. And you’ll be less likely to repeat words. But the longer stretch wins in my opinion, because you grow and change with time, as does the book. Then again, having said that, getting something down and finished while you are still the same person is quite awesome too, because the completed product will be like a snapshot of you as that one person, rather than an album of you in evolution. Hmm...it’s a tough one.

As far as story goes though, and sheer investment, the long haul reaps the harvest of your experiences. That’s why this novel is changing. I’m about to twist it off on a tangent (curveball!), and fly in this new direction for as far as it's sails will carry me. The main characters are sat around a camp fire and about to tell a story. A story within a story is a legitimate excuse to propel a novel. This is the beautiful thing about a novel, it's possibilities. 40k+ words is a helluva spread of playground to explore, and you know what, I don’t care if these main characters fail to feature much from here on in, because they may have already served their purpose by introducing the story they are about to share with each other. The story may even be longer than the preceding 25k words (although I doubt it). But if it was, why not?

One thing that genuinely impresses me is a novel or a movie that transforms into something different to how it started out. Ones that become something else (think chrysalis, think eureka moment, think cross-genre). And over 2 dozen lunar cycles is bound to alter your work. So. Now. I’m ready to take this thing into the unknown. The vaguely known unknown. Ethel Franklyn, a limping 6 foot tall (maybe more) left-handed woman who is addicted to lynching people; then a chase out of a church tower, across a canal, and into a sinkhole. A holographic female entity is doing the chasing by the way, and to avoid the HOW TO, I’m afraid it will have to be a dream. Then it’s back to reality, which might involve a twin on horseback fresh on a gun-toting rampage thru rehab. And that’s it, essentially. That’s my 3rd outline summarised. But it’s all the filling in between that takes time. The padding tends to expand and bear fruit of its own. Ethel’s history, for one thing: She was stolen as a baby, survived a stoning and other execution attempts for multiple witch accusations, befriended a land owner...oh who knows what...

Just trust and believe that this is the last time I talk the talk about it until I make some good ground up. I feel the ink about to flow again sometime this week. The predominant feeling is relief. Somewhere I can go. Somewhere other than the restricted realms of my environment. In order to flourish in this world I have to investigate hers.

And how does a writer flourish? By sales? By numbers? By pats on the back? By signings and talks and leather-clad notebooks? By over-emphasising their bohemian aspect with a disastrous fashion sense? Or by writing? Or by writing. A writer writes, goddamn it. A writer goddamn writes.

Escaping Hazel
Coming, uh, soonish  

Monday, 26 March 2012

A Keyboard Song Remix

Das Truth
I remember one of the first CDs ever purchased (progressive Euro-Trance) had a track called 'The Truth' on one of it's four disks lasting about nine minutes long. It was a memorable tune but the disk unfortunately snapped so naming the keyboard upload above by the same name is my way of saying 'I Remember You'. I've twisted one word into German as a mark of respect to the influential Neue Deutsche Harte scene, which literally translates as New German Hardness. Many people hear foreign lyrics and switch off, but this particular branch of music has more female backing vocals than any other. By music I mean keyboards/synths, drums and guitars. Think of how many songs you have heard in your life, on the radio, on the stereo, in work, at the weekend and so on...then add them all up, and now single out the ones which have a man and a woman singing together at the same time. It's not a large proportion, is it? It's hardly a fraction. Usually, it's either or. Hardly ever together. Why is that? You never hear Latin male choirs backed by cockney teenage rap, for example. Maybe the perfect music doesn't and will never exist, it's just that some bands strive closer to your idea of it than others.
There's definitely an essay here somewhere. Isn't it great to discuss music? To talk about what makes you tick. 
DB Tink

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Staying Creative

Staying creative can be hard with the tossernet, phone, TV and radio always out to distract you. Sometimes all you wanna do is cuddle up in front of the gas fire with Hugh Jackman on the box, or have a duvet day with the curtains drawn, or catapult some dogshit walkers with ice cubes, or whatever floats your boat, and that’s dandy. You may dry up like a prune and take up to a whole year off from any innovative production at all, but you know you’ll return to your craft, your calling, eventually, don’t cha? Don't cha though...?

Fulltime writers have my utterest most respect. To be immersed in words even part time, four hours a day, is enviable. That’s a goal of mine, e-vent-u-ally, to be a part time writer. Perhaps more than a goal. Perhaps a salvation. There are dudes out there doing a lot more too, for laughs. Any more than 8 hours and you are basically tapping into a collective subconscious with a pen in your hand. Remote viewing is the psychic term. There’s no disputing the most prolific author in the world, however. That has to be Richard Laymon. He’s so practised at churning out books, he’s been doing it even after his death. Now that’s what I call prolific.

Imagination is one thing, but work ethic is another entirely. A good case of the  latter is rarer. Together, they forge a formidable combination. Authors like Jeffrey Deaver and John Grisham who have had previous careers in law have took to the novel business like ducks to water. Our Jeffers stands at the island in his kitchen and works through his 8 month outlines on his feet! Is it 8 months he spends on an outline? Don’t hold me to it, but I can’t be too far off ya know.

Steve King [I keep mentioning this guy’s name! Does he need all this free advertising? Not in the slightest. Does he deserve it? Abso-bloody-lutely], says he would shoot himself if he had to write full time. It would be overkill. And in the words of Lorenzo Quinn, the best sculptor in the world, for me, “It is the sum of one’s talents that makes the artist.” Did you know Steve King plays guitar in a band? I’d be very surprised if all writers were not good at something else as well. Everyone is good at something, but no one is good at everything.

Stagnation in one area of your creative wellspring can easily be solved with some diversifying flirtations with another of your passions. Clive Barker, originally of Liverpool, says that he finds the world of paint a glorious polar opposite after toiling with the grammatical rigidities of the alphabet. To cast aside those troublesome 26 letters and pick up a paintbrush, while still remaining in your creative element, is indeed a universe apart. Like a sportsman, in a way, leaving the field for the pool, or the decathlete, swapping one event for another. Like those Jacks of all Trades you may have met in your working life at one point; we all know that kind of guy who has built his own house...the one whose van looks like a D.I.Y store exploded in the back of it? That's right, the one with the leather tool belt and Gore Tex work boots! We are 'remote viewing' together here now see, a ha! I picture one called Barry, who does renovations, and pays double on Bank Holiday weekends. See ya.

Remember, a change is like a rest.

unfurl like cards in freefall

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Pottery, Ceramics or Sculpting?

Pottery, or ceramics, can't half be boring at times. When your hands are sore from rubbing a rolling pin up and down like a pastry chef, and you're stood there in your apron, you might even start to feel like a pastry chef, minus the wage packet and free food. You're constantly dirty, you're constantly washing your hands, your work goes into a hot oven, and there's always a big clean up at the end. But with pottery, or ceramics shall I say, there's the added danger of breathing in dust and dangerous chemicals. If you're lucky, while another old vase is drying, you might have something already fired, just sat there waiting to be painted. Aren't you ever so lucky now? Feel free to spend x amount of hours faffing around with paint brushes, pots of water, mixing pallets, and toilet roll. Don't forget to breathe in those leady fumes from the open ends of half a dozen different poisonous glazes too. And don't forget those three coats.
There's quite a lot to be done in pottery. I mean ceramics. But truthfully, the very best part about all of it, besides maybe positioning the finished article on top of the telly, is sculpting something irregular like the Catacomb Heart, pictured top and bottom. Stick your plant pots, with all the best due respect in the world, understand, and your bronze-cast animal busts. Throw all your teapots in "the biggest bloody dustbin you can find" [Brian Clough, The Damned United (2009), played by Michael Sheen, in reference to what the Leed's players should do with their previous season's trophy haul]. Sorry, have I been saying pottery and ceramics? Actually, I should have been saying sculpting. Sculpting is the best part about pottery and ceramics. Using your hands. Not a cookery implement. The cookery implement parts tend to be much harder.
It's surprising how little sculpting you can do in pottery and ceramics though. Honestly. There are so many tools and trays and boxes and bits and bottles...who the frig needs to handle any sticky wet clay? Why not skip that part, as I did for so long, and jump straight into the bit where you paint a nice pre-made cup, or nice pre-made plate, or nice pre-made xmas tree, or nice already-made just about anything else? Above is a rolled slab with aztec markings repeatedly pressed all over it, with texture, in my booky-wook, being the name of the game. What do you call that? Pressing? Stamping? Dotting? Dabbing? Indenting? Making marks? Don't ask me. I Dunno with a capital D.
Above is a Graveyard Plot. If you see differently, answers on the usual postcards. Who the fluff knows what this thing is? Hands were used, okay, but I'd be hesitant to call it sculpture. I'd call it a Pizza Clock decorated with roly-poly worms from the extruder machine, that's what I'd call it. All good fun, when it's not tedious, monotonous, frustrating and boring, mind. Passes a few hours. But it's nothing like making something unusual with your bare hands, shaping it as you go along. Nothing like making a lump of something like the Catacomb Heart which will end up like nobody knows what. Just grab a lump, make some grooves and stuff, and that's it. Simples.
Here is where I conceived the Alien Planet this morning, on my front lawn, due to a caffeine buzz and a nicotine rush. This portal, when constructed (plinths seen here were borrowed from tutor, although I am halfway through making my own), will allow the passage of myself and two yoga-practising virgin  Mermaids on a hyperbolic trajectory through Mintakas's orbit into the left empty eyeball socket of the Skull of Golgotha, densest black hole in western Andromeda, but only if we each have tickets stamped and approved by Ramsbottom's Presbyterian County Cricket and Hopscotch Association. To create a 3-D representational model of the Alien Planet, I will need only egg boxes, lego, and circuit boards. Next time, padres, next time...
any mistakes are not mine 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Multiverse, Millenia, Movies, etc

...When the Writing gets tough, the Photoshop gets going... 

The novel’s on hold. Been shelved for a month. But there’s absolutely no problemos, because the path and plot are kinda set, and the outlook is special. So let’s not get our frilly pink Asda knickers in a knot about that. More worrying is Mr. Ridiculous, a side project that is only 10,000 words in after over a year. The average must be a paragraph a week! Half a page every now and then is good going. It was always going to be slow because it’s unique, and relies on notes. You can’t make notes up. They arrive every now and again. Sometimes 3 a day. Sometimes none for 4 days. I text myself notes, on my portable mobile telephone. But still, progress at the moment, in all written endeavours, is snail-like. 

Even editing the backlist, which was like a breeze for the first 2 books, has run into a wall. Exhausturbation is proving to be as much a headache to sift through as it was to write a draft. As Michael Douglas says, in the writing film Wonderboys (2001), starring Robert Downey Junior of Iron Man, Katie Holmes of Batman, and Toby Maguire of Spiderman...phew...much of it was written ‘under the influence’, meaning a tipple of premium Dutch lager by the way, not Valium crushed and snorted through a blunt. His unfinished script in that film takes up a couple of boxes, and in loose pages to boot. And like the Constant Writer Steve King says about his doorstop tome The Tommyknockers, “It wasn’t so much written, but gutted out.”

In Exhausturbation, at a part where the story goes into the main characters mind, describing the makeup of his psyche as an actual physical place, very much like in The Cell (2000), guess who was shatted on by a dollop of writer’s block, regarding this particular work, that lasted 3 whole years? Yup, yours truly, who else! And alas, at the same place during editing, guess who has been stuck again for several weeks? The passage is about a metaphysical dome called THE LOBBY OF HIS PERSONAL HELL, an enormous cathedral-like structure of bio-mechanic matter like that godforsaken sludge pit where the robots feed off humans in The Matrix (1999). Basically, it has just dawned that the book fleeces (rips off) movies from around the millennium...although of course it is ten times well better than all of them combined.

Exhausturbation is so far the most difficult story to ‘make work’. And in a way, the most exciting. It went on such a tangent that the only way to wrap things up was to include a black hole/multi-verse/parallel reality. This abstract diversion would give way to the kind of dreamscape prose that would rise in The Violent Arsonist, 2 years later, although because of the long gap, I came back to Exhausturbation after The Violent Arsonist was finished and did the 36,000 word flash fiction collection Kixter in between (the titles Exhausturbation and Kixter are words of my own making...voila). And that’s how the themes of books interlink, see? Because at times you juggle and flip from one to another, taking with you what you learn in each...

At times even I, the dude who wrote it, thinks wowsers, gracious me, what the frig is going on in this man!? I can’t believe or remember what I’m reading. It's a pwopa (proper) mental journey. I killed a main character for no good reason and introduced a giant child in a force field as big as the Marshmellow Man in Ghostbusters (1984). All good zany fun, if nothing else! The plot literally fell apart at the seams and had to be stitched up with alternative drink thinking. Martin Rees, eminent cosmologist and astrophysicist, has been discussing dark matter and multi-verse theories just this morning on BBC Radio 4, which is doubly-fitting after the meteor on Friday night, which, for dangsakes, I missed. There was a new programme called Orbit aired on Sunday night too, and the skies have been clear over here in Northern England, so inklings of space are in the old grey matter, like – cliché alert – distant jewels. Or sequestered sequins.

Does space conflict with faith? Why is there a black hole in the middle of our galaxy? What is the universe expanding into? Are the aliens already among us? And most bafflingly of all, joking aside, just who the flying fook IS Carmen Sandiago? Answers in an email with the subject heading WHOCARES please. Danka.