Music to write by – 2

 

This was a great discovery when I was writing my novella set in 1950s America. I had never been keen on Sinatra’s ‘anthem’ type songs in the ’60s and ’70s but these three albums are superb. You can just imagine him leaning against a piano with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other effortlessly singing these songs. I tracked down the CD and bought it and the sleeve contains interesting information about the three albums, how one was recorded when Sinatra had broken up a relationship and the other two when he was much happier. The production is excellent on all the tunes and the arrangements of Nelson Riddle unbeatable. Give them a try!

Book review: The White Devil by Justin Evans

The White DevilThe White Devil by Justin Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started this book I wasn’t sure it would hold my attention. However I have to admit it did grow on me and after a couple of lengthy reading sessions I was quite addicted to it. I raced through the last fifteen pages or so as I was keen to find out the ending.
It’s a fairly conventional ghost story, there’s nothing new or novel in the plot and early on I found some of the erotic scenes a little voyeuristic and unnecessary – although as the story unfolded I did see why the writer included these brief, really quite innocent scenes.
The POV does alter throughout the book although Andrew is the main one used. It is a little distracting switching the POVs but I suppose it was done to show us the motives and ‘baggage’ of the other characters. As Andrew is in his late teens I suppose he would not have understood or guessed at the other characters’ motivations.
Andrew’s relationship with Persephone did strike me at times as just a grown up version of Harry Potter and Hermione but again, as the story unfolds, I could see why it was there.
The ending was well done. I’m sure readers will immediately think of an alternative one as I did. But the author probably got it right with the one he went for.
A surprisingly enjoyable read. Strange Justin Evans hasn’t seemed to have written anything else since 2011.

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Downtown

(something I wrote back in 2015 and which has been posted on one of my earlier blogs)

Downtown

Deepest dark downtown, alive when the sun dies. My home, my hunting ground, populated by myriads of unchosen people. Shops, like whores, offering their weary wares, backlit and foreshadowed, cheap, and dead smiling to fake out your cash. Towers, Morse-coding with lights, messages of profit and greed, solitary security circumambulate corridors like the down-and-outs down here. The sky, starless and black-fogged, trapping the hot air of a thousand expelled exasperated sighs.

Here the homeless, bootlaces scraping grimed sidewalks, bags dangling, heads nodding with unsleep, circle the streets like vengeful vultures, seeking out weaknesses in doorways, alleyways and arches. Balaclava-hatted, with lip protruding tobacco stubs, green-eyed eyes greeting co-habitants, they judge rivalry and comradeship. Lines line from charity vans, scolding soup sipped by burnt numbed lips, shuffling dancers vigilant not to spill their guilt-laden manna. Groups congregate, unholy but brotherly blessed, out of wind and rain, comparing cardboard, exchanging newspaper, swapping mythical histories.

Walking the erotic walk, girls balance heels and lives, both precarious, long cigarettes pretending poise, smoke clouds concealing fear and shiver. Cars glide, drift and dive, offering new life, or the death of this one. Officers stop and smile, knowing names, rap sheets and preferences, elbows hanging out wide hulled cruisers, only a uniform division from clients hovering in shadowed queues. Women walk on, spirits momentarily innocent, dreaming of stage careers and red carpet posed poses, knowing one room awaits, with dead-sprung bed and coughing pipes.

Young lives cavort uncourteously, voices vocal and decorum low, giggling away the best of years, memories etched in alcohol and amnesia. Arms linked, all one against an ageing world, courting lovers and disaster with abandon, congaing lamp posts and crises, timeless under sun and moon. Quoting literary giants while behaving as illiterate dwarves, gushing mouths pour out unique youthful lives, never to return as they disappear into the dawning day.

Lonely spouses tread the sputtering gutters, lost in past, befuddled in present, hands deep-pocketed, eyes sidewalk skedaddled. Free of wails and feeds, remembering single happiness and envying passing youth, aching with heartbroken heartaches for the one they missed, so long ago, so far away. Bar-driven plight, counter-end seated, nursing the one shot, target of the waitress’s demure gaze. Music old school echoes around empty glasses, as clock hands tick to dangerous times; they leave, shuffling the deck back home.

The stalker shadows, silent silhouette shifting, gaze preying on herds of the inebriated, watching stilted stilettos meander and stutter. Doorway camouflage concealing demented lusts, eyeing the slow or lonely, dogging tracks ever closer, a life nearer to final curtain. Bewaring quietly drifting bluecoats, avoiding big brother’s prying camera, breaths rising as distance falls, selecting perverted love’s desire. A crumpled coke can cries a warning, a head of tangled tired locks turns, widening pupils alerting senses and pace quickens with heartbeat, the safety of the pack swift recovered. Thwarted passion scuttles home, hungry and unsatiated.

Motherly smiles beckon and warm, church vans offer soup ministry, scooping flotsam and jetsam of misjudged lives. Congregations collect, hands cup-warmed, receiving the Word, a small price paid for subsistence. Preachers enthuse self-believed words, misunderstanding listeners’ plethora of plights, dreaming of cosy home comforts and a bed made in heaven. As the sheep wander wayward, nightly fields to find, self-congratulated do-gooders hug, unspokenly saying ‘But for the grace of luck…’

I turn and retreat, leaving the night city to settle, camera shot, notebook noted, espying the creep of dawn, removing from visibility the city’s viscera of nocturnal life.

 

Social media

If you search the web for help in promoting your book most ‘experts’ will suggest setting up a presence on the various branches of social media. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious ones but all the other regular ones will be thrown in too. Having run my own Twitter account for my writing over the last couple of months I can see why other ‘experts’ argue the other way and say you will never sell many books via your social media outlets.

Apart from the large commercial accounts which follow just about everyone, most of your followers will be other writers, some experiencing mild sales from their ebooks and others like yourself with few or no sales. The chances that any of these followers will purchase your book is very small. Perhaps if you give away a copy of your book they might download it but it will have to be pretty fantastic for them to read it all. Most writers want to sell their own books, not help you sell yours, in my opinion.

Setting up a blog, maybe on WordPress, could have some benefits. If you put up lots of your writing it is possible to gain a lengthy list of followers and interaction via comments can strike up something of a relationship. If you put up poetry you can build up substantial numbers of followers quite quickly. I’m guessing this is because it is very hard to get published a a poet and very easy to put up your poems on a blog. And it’s a lot easier to keep writing poems, even if of poor quality, rather than write a story of say 1000 words. I know that sounds a little cynical, it’s just my impression from running blogs over the last ten years. I’ve been guilty of writing crap poems just to get a few comments from people who are desperately hoping you’ll comment on their work in return.

So, with Twitter and Facebook I think you can only really grow your readership if you are already a successful author. People will then seek you out, hoping for news of your next book, or freebies, or news about you. Even then, unless you’re selling thousands and thousands of copies, I don’t think social media is going to improve your sales. Only my opinion, maybe people out there making money from scratch with books can let me know how wrong I am.

The Dark Tear

(I don’t write much poetry but I went through a phase of churning out dark or funny poems back around 2009-10. Here’s one dated in my computer folder as 2015 so it may be an edited version of an earlier version)

The Dark Tear

The dark tear flows not

But gouges deep valleys,

Acidic trails

Marking a line for a life;

Beware the streaked face,

The rivulets of broken memory,

A warning wall to leave unscaled

 

Music to write by – 1

I like to wallow in nostalgia as I write with this on in the background. It takes me back to my teenage years in the ’70s and the long tracks are great to have playing as I try to get into a scene or episode. Jon Anderson has a fantastic voice and any track or album from the earliest through to this one can be chosen. I’m not so keen on the Yes work from the 1980s onwards.

 

Change of plan

There I was happily editing my novella of hyphenated words when I began to grind to a halt. Having spent a year developing this curious style and being absorbed in using it to write not one but two novellas I found I had had enough of these creations, at least for a while. So yesterday I began editing a second version of the first novella, this time editing out all the hyphenated words and turning the story into a conventional tale.

I have to admit it was quite therapeutic to carry this out and to end up with several chapters of ‘normal’ script, something which I can promote without having the added weight of convincing people that hyphenated words were the language of the future. I haven’t given up on the new style, I think I just need a rest from its complications and implications. The aim now is to produce two versions of the story.

Here’s an example of the difference between the two versions:

Hyphenated style of opening chapter

New York, mid-December ’58, and my snowshoes were basement-stored but ready for unpacking should the hanging snowflakes hold hands on the ground. The blizzard back in March had dawned slow weather-wise and in folks’ brains; no-one wanted catching second time with their pants down in a snow drift.

Now I was out walking down 48th Street with the words of ‘Sugartime’ lyric-lashing my head. I tried forcing phrases of the Everly’s ‘Dream’ into the early evening air but the McGuire Sisters’ sugar rush kept returning.

After a weekend celebrating twelve months since my PI registration with Dirk and his alcohol-awash sidekicks, I wanted something more carefree cerebral. I stopped outside the Plymouth Theatre and watched people shuffle inside. The Marriage-Go-Round was rave-reviewing and the chance to eyeball Boyer and Colbert was not to be missed, promising light laughs easy-jawed. I took a position second balcony high and played writer eye-watching near eight hundred people creaking worn seats.

 

Conventional style

New York, mid-December ’58, and my snowshoes were stored in the basement but ready for unpacking should the hanging snowflakes hold hands on the ground. The blizzard back in March had dawned slow on the weather horizon and in folks’ brains; no-one wanted catching second time with their pants down in a snow drift.

Now I was out walking down 48th Street with the words of ‘Sugartime’ lashing my head. I tried forcing phrases of the Everly’s ‘Dream’ into the early evening air but the McGuire Sisters’ sugar rush kept returning.

After a weekend celebrating twelve months since my PI registration with Dirk and his alcoholic sidekicks, I wanted something more carefree cerebral. I stopped outside the Plymouth Theatre and watched people shuffle inside. The Marriage-Go-Round was getting rave reviews and the chance to eyeball Boyer and Colbert was not to be missed, promising light laughs in abundance. I took a position second balcony high and played writer watching near eight hundred people creaking worn seats.

I intend to read the latter opening chapter at the next Writers’ Group meeting. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is, I know some like the hyphenated style but others don’t. I’ll probably get the same division of opinion.

Still, two books from one story – can’t be bad!