THE WRITER’S LIFE
I’m on a brief hiatus between projects: I’m in flux but it’s not an impasse. The main project at the moment is Infana Kolonia (previously Bloodstained Knaves and it may revert to the original title): It’s a big and complicated book. One of the central themes is one girl’s quest for identity, in many parallel worlds around her. In writing the book in a certain way, I’m introducing many other quite profound questions and concepts. I can’t say much more but it’s going to be a big book, both in length and depth. The chapters are averaging 3000 words each and there are likely to be 60 – 70 chapters. I’m currently writing chapter five and as it’s a “crossover” chapter in the overall plot, it could run to 6-8000 words alone. Before I get back to work on the book, I need to spend some time getting the last story to the back of my mind.
The piece I’ve recently finished is a short horror story I wrote as a filler for Schlock! webzine: The perpetuity of memory was earmarked for a better paying market or a competition but the editor of Schlock! has become a close personal acquaintance and supporter as my writing has matured. The webzine had a very brief hiatus of its own recently because of a family bereavement, so when the editor put a call out for submissions, I thought I’d give them something really good. The perpetuity of memory will be in an upcoming edition of Schlock! and I hope that the editor will see sufficient merit in the story for it to secure a place in a future printed edition of Schlock! bi-monthly magazine / book.
When I look back at some of my older writing, my work has obviously matured and the majority of my new material seems to find paid markets. A comment from one beta reader was perfect, as it was exactly the kind of remark I’d hoped to prompt with the latest story: “Brilliantly creepy. I shuddered after reading that ending.” To make a reader shudder takes some real skill. I do think it’s an affecting tale.
Aboard a metaphorical vehicle, I continue to research, plan and write Infana Kolonia and hope to have a first draft of around 450 pages by December. The book is at a stage, with a synopsis, chapter plan and the first 12’000 words written, and of a quality which gives me confidence that it will be noticed in the writing world. If chapter five does require the amount of work I envisage, beta readers may be a little saddened by the wait, as they are enjoying the ride so far. Two have proclaimed it (independently) “Fucking brilliant.” My test readers are proving particularly useful for this book, as they represent my target audience. The book contains some really quite advanced scientific concepts, like Artificial Psychology and it asks the reader and the characters within it to question things like intelligence, reality and existence. I realise all have been done before and that’s the case with most fiction but the effectiveness of the work is down to how the writer treats it. The idea for The perpetuity of memory came from a sub-plot in a box set which myself and my close young female friend and test reader had watched together. Even though she was privy to the concept, she was still surprised and impressed by the telling of the story. The subjects covered in Infana Kolonia are ones which I’m familiar with but that have required a great deal of further research to write about convincingly. I have to remember as I write though that there are likely to be few in my readership who are fortunate or cursed enough to have an IQ similar to my own, so I am having to simplify things a little: not by talking or writing down to my audience because I wouldn’t insult their collective intelligence. Sometimes though, a simple word submission can make a sentence or passage more easily digestible: that is one of the many reasons that like my main influence in literature – Paul Auster – I am pleased if at the end of a working day I’ve produced one page of final prose. Two pages is a bonus and three, a rarity worthy of quiet celebration. It’s research, writing, reviewing and editing. I don’t want readers keeping a dictionary to hand but I do give them credit for a certain level of intelligence.
As with previous work, some drafts of short stories can now be worked on some more, and at least one will form the basis of a chapter in Infana Kolonia, as well as being a good piece of short fiction in itself: It’s both a diversionary and linking thing.
Meanwhile, A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie is in this month’s Writing Magazine and I have three illustrators preparing samples before it can be turned into the planned children’s book. I’m unlikely to self publish that, as I have sufficient backing that I’m confident it’ll be accepted by an agent or publisher directly. The story is in print and on news stands because it won a writing competition; a competition for professional writers. Alongside the story are the magazine editor’s comments: “…The tragic reality of [Ellie’s] situation could have made for bleak reading but Ellie’s bubbly character and [some] fantastical elements keep the story light and uplifting. Indeed, this is exactly the kind of approach publishers like to use to tackle serious life elements in children’s literature.” This is all good and it may well be my first mainstream deal with a publisher but I’m meant to be a fucking sci-fi, horror and fantasy writer. I’m getting gradually more recognition and respect as such and the exposure in Writing Magazine and my continual output of dark fiction could be a catalyst.
With 35 short stories now published in various places, I have seven more to write before the anthology of 42 is released, possibly mainstream if things continue to go as they are. I’ve flirted with the idea of agents before but I really am getting to a point where I’m so busy that I have to out-source business processes. I rarely have the time to research markets which aren’t immediately obvious for each project. I need an agent. Having run businesses before, I’ve been in this one long enough now to have built up a decent contacts section in my Filofax. Rather than go courting, I’ll rely on old business, networking and referrals methodology.
The collection of short stories will most likely now be called The perpetuity of memory, after the short story: the story really is that good and the title is both appropriate to the content of the volume and complimentary to the titles and sub-titles of my published books. The anthology will be curated in a certain way, which will just make sense.
I still have to remind myself that there are books already – written by me – which I have made available for all to read, regardless of means: I am many things and among them, I am inclusive. I have a legacy, albeit self-made but that’s because I’m confident of my skill as a writer now and as such, I’m not afraid to put myself out there. If all of the investment of time and personal money amounts to nothing in my lifetime, then at least I might be discovered after I’m gone. I have ISBNs registered to my name and all of my published work will forever be available, not least of which in The British Library.
The memoir is still going to be written but it’s on the back burner as it could be that the next few months elevate me to a position where more people want to read about me and it takes on a greater urgency. It was a pretty incredible journey and in many respects, one which is only just beginning. When it will end is most people’s guess but if I keep writing at my current rate, my bibliography will run to at least five books by the time the next couple of years are over. The overall story is not complete yet.
There is a lot of potential upheaval coming up in my personal life, as well as the hope that the professional one may continue to improve. I have hoops to jump through before May with DWP but if I remain compensated at the current level, things should continue smoothly. Should anything go seriously wrong while I’m still living, I have a large enough network of friends around me to know that there are people who will help. I don’t plan on ending up on the street again after working this hard and I know it won’t be allowed to happen. Moving from the pub would be with mixed emotions but with all that I’ve gone through so far, the next few months should be a walk. The time here has given me plenty of material which I may turn into writing at a later date.
I’ll be asked questions by DWP as they re-assess my entitlement and I’ll have to show again that, although I appear to be fit, I’m fucking mental: It’s PTSD, following 18 months of homelessness, alcohol, drugs, crime and violence; I already had PTSD after being robbed at knifepoint in Lewisham and as a result of something else. PTSD on top of existing PTSD and with a diagnosis of chronic clinical depression does tend to make one unfit for work. Nevertheless, I shall be judged to be physically fit and have to prove all over again – through tribunal – that I’m a fucking raving nut case, only contained by medication. I have not received any additional treatment because my brain is a bit complicated. I don’t understand it and I’ve got an IQ of 147. I study it instead: I talk to it. I do indeed talk to myself.
With the lump sum awards now spent, donated, repaid or collected by people who caught up with me, I’m back to having a modest regular income but no savings. The regular money coming in is sufficient for me to save, now that I have everything I need and want around me: The Savage Cinema, a nice office and small but comfortable home. I’ve even indulged in some new apparel, which was being coveted downstairs in the bar earlier: I do have a good dress sense and people sometimes ask me where I get my clobber: wherever I see something I like. A new laptop, the PS4, the trip to America and the new website will have to wait until after I’ve moved because that will come at a financial cost. I am not moving to America. I have money invested in personal loans and am drawing down on one of those as a favour of a friend to help me pack and move.
Once the benefits are confirmed for another arbitrary period of time, I will start looking into the degree again and I am beginning to study the French language course I bought when I have the time. Life is far better than it was: how could it not be? It could just be that it gets better still, depending on where I end up. Although the writing isn’t really paying yet, it’s still what I love to do and it’s the best thing for me. Apparently I’m quite good at it. It helps me and others. For as long as I’m able to keep doing it, I will.
I’ll always have a notebook and pen. No-one knows what’s in my notebook but one person besides me needs to know what to do with it, should anything happen to me. One such person already knows who they are but it took me a while, because I’m a bit choosy about these things. Part of my planning for this whole life thing has been very much like researching a large and complex book. In most fiction, the main protagonist has a muse. My muse reads this blog and as is my way, it will only be when the subject is brought up by the right person other than me,that a page of my private notes will be removed from it’s binding and placed into safekeeping.
Well, I’m a writer…