Metamorphosis in chameleons



I’ve been through massive changes, like the character in my book and the book certainly is a documented record of a change. Those who know me will recognise that it is semi-autobiographical but it’s also being hailed as a good book in its own right: you don’t have to know me to be able to like the book. One of the first to begin reading the hardback edition (The Director’s Cut) commented on how it was unlike anything they’ve read before: that was my intention. I look forward to that reader completing the novel and having something stay with them for life. Some of the short stories included in the expanded book are also ones which ought to stick with readers: that’s why I curated the volume in the way that it’s presented.

The characters in my first book are in conflict but in unison, with one trying to teach the other; where one possesses answers if the other were only qualified to ask the right questions. It’s by no means a perfect novel but now that it’s published and I’ve had to re-read it carefully several times to approve proofs, I am very pleased with the words which are out there in the world. I’m especially pleased with The Director’s Cut.

Although my stock in trade is shocking horror stories, I can and have moved people in ways besides revulsion. I’m really hopeful that A Girl, Frank Burnside and Hailie Selassie might be used as a counselling tool for young people grieving over the loss of a friend and dealing with adolescent changes. As I have the means to self-publish and in doing so, create an official UK publication with an ISBN, there is no reason why my children’s book shouldn’t be available in public libraries. I was never going to write to get rich and I have a heart. I may have to jump through some bureaucratic hoops but I’m hoping I might be able to take a more humanitarian and poetic route: I can order printed copies of my published book and receive an author discount. So I will and I’ll take a few copies to local libraries, in the hope that a librarian might take an interest and help to speed the process. 

It was some sort of reignited sense of adventure which took me to London last weekend, for an invigilated entrance exam to join Mensa. As is typical, I made a day out memorable. Even though I planned to take black cabs from Charing Cross to Birkbeck College and back, I bought a travel card, in case I was taken by a whim to visit another part of town. It’s always a pleasure to take a ride with some of the most knowledgeable and opinionated people on the planet and both cabbies served their kind well on the day. Both engaged me in interesting conversation and took an interest in my book. I left them each with a business card and hope that one day they might buy a copy. Further engaging conversation was provided by others on the return train journey: as I sat at a table in a train carriage, reading The Guardian and making notes in my notebook, I was fortunate to be surrounded by some very pleasant people. Memorable among them was a painter and a girl who told a tale of such altruism that it is another thing which has inspired me to write a story.

Birkbeck College is one of London’s many respected seats of learning and I was humbled to be on campus, surrounded by academics and those of intellect. To walk through corridors and hear Doctors and Professors lecturing students is inspiring.

The test itself was fiendishly hard in places but it was designed that way: a mental assault course for the gifted. The entry exam lasted just over two and a half hours and the last quarter was pretty exhausting. The exam questions were the kind that I’m used to answering in IQ tests: matters of logic and lateral thinking. Towards the end though, it became a test of intuition. Each section of questions was strictly timed and the time allowed for the last few questions was so short that some answers had to be based on pure gut instinct. Sharing a cigarette with fellow candidates afterwards, all of the others had found the same and concluded that it was by design. Together we await our results in a couple of weeks’ time, when we find out if we’ve gained entry to Mensa and we get our official IQ scores.

The next two weeks are set aside for a labour of love: a short story with two alternate working titles: Dust to funky, or Up the hill backwards. As I’m devoting time to marketing the existing book, especially The Director’s Cut, I’ve cut back on the novels for now. Bloodstained Knaves and The Inner Leviathan are going to become short stories, to be included in my Travels to The Paradoxicon anthology, due for publication once I’ve written 42 short stories. 33 have been published already and my current short fiction workload will increase that to 37. The latter two may well become more at a later date and the planned labour of love could be the introduction to another book which I’m writing: Paradoxica (In Dusk to funky / Up the hill backwards, we meet two characters: Major Tom and Miles Brunner). Meanwhile, there’s the children’s book to publish, as soon as copyright reverts to me after publication in Writing Magazine. Forgive me no-one is still being drafted as a background project and the target publication as a book around May is in the balance. I get more like the professional writer every day.

The tribute / crossover / prequel story, as well as being a beautiful thing, carries a terrifying undertone: something which I now know is almost inevitable, since I changed my life. I have to question whether the benefit I’m getting now is worth what awaits. It’s too late though. Like death, some changes are like a missile driving you and those around you into the ground. I made a choice and I have to face a later consequence. I know what I want this story to look like and it’s going to take a long time on every word to produce something perfect. Part of the process when I write something special is to first design a mock book cover, then I’ll assemble a kind of story board: this will be newspaper clippings, magazine articles, books, DVDs and CDs. I don’t have to consume them all but their collective content gives me a kind of feel for how a work is going to go. Welcome to my new world.

I’m doing well and surrounded by beautiful tools of the trade (stationery), and often my young female friend and occasional collaborator: the only person who would ever have been likely to make me postpone my trip to America. First, I’m going to France but only once I’ve become fluent in the native language. I admire the French for many things, including the same ones I love about my home country. What I find particularly endearing about the French though, is that despite English being the business language of the world and welcomed in most other countries, the French expect to be addressed in their own language. So learning French is kind of a qualification to paying a visit. They are tolerant but expect respect: when in Paris…

The simplest way to become fluent in a language is to immerse oneself in it, like a child growing up among people who speak a certain language. I am surrounded by the means to learn French, by the Savage Cinema collection. All I have to do is watch movies with the audio set to French. Then I may diversify a little with my planned degree and look into a combination of creative writing and French culture or art. I have made the promise to a very special person that I will only make the trip back to America when I am able to promise her that I’ll be back.

Almost poetically and artistically, my metamorphosis into something else is punctuated heavily by the sense of personal loss which I have over an idol who has passed: David Bowie. It is a measure of how those in my inner circle know me, that they offered personal condolences on my hero’s death. Those closest to me, know what he means to me. I have all of his recorded material and I have a signed copy of Diamond Dogs on Vinyl. I grew up on Bowie, first hearing his music aged 13. Then, I was an adolescent boy at an all-boys’ grammar school and my hormones were a bit confused. Among many other things, Bowie taught me that it’s okay to develop a crush on your best friend of the same sex. It’s because I struggle to put into words right here about how he affected me on such a fundamental level, that I have chosen to embark on the labour-of-love short story. I am grieving and coming to terms with many changes. I am fortunate enough to possess the intelligence to work with my emotions and the skill to use writing as therapy.

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