Book number five ...
I know, I know...
I am still working on the editing of Book number two, I have written only one chapter of Book number three and I haven't really done any work at all on Book number four...
And then up pops the idea for Book number five!
After an animated conversation in the car with Matt ArtPix - those pesky creative couples, always bouncing ideas off each other all the time! - whilst on our way back from Devon, here's what I have come up with: a Hound of The Baskervilles-inspired vintage mystery set on moody Exmoor, with a rural detective named Barton Stacey - it is the name of a parish in Hampshire. When my partner saw it on the map, he decided here and there that it was the perfect name for a detective! I have no idea whatsoever whether I can pull it off or not. I want it to be a bit outrageous, a bit humorous (can I do humour?) and we'll have a cover inspired by vintage classic detective novels...
I have my work schedule sorted for the next ten years, I think!
The Book of Thoth, draft 2 finished!
Yesterday evening, I finished Draft 2 of The Book of Thoth. I've been on a mission to cut the word count, and I have ended up with 139,790 words - down from over 151,000! Still, it looks a bit long... An editor probably would pitilessly tell me to cut whole scenes, but at the moment, I do think that everything that's left is important to the story in some way. I still have a lot of work to do on this - for example, PART VI is far too long and I need to find the right place where to stop it and insert a PART V title.
I am going to leave draft 3 in the drawer for a week and get back to it a bit refreshed. I need to read it first without stopping for corrections, to get a general sense of the flow of the narrative. Then it will be back to corrections.
It's funny how your brain works: now that I am on draft 3 of The Book of Thoth, it seems to have turned its attention to Book 3, The Right Place, without any prompting on my part.
This morning, I woke up with an idea for the story which I had to write down immediately, as it could end up being crucial to the structure of the book. I have to admit that I am getting slightly worried about Book 3; to write it, I will need to spend quite a bit of time in Dorset and at the moment, I do not have the funds to pay for accommodation there. My intention is to apply for an Arts Council Grant; therefore, this spring, I am going to start putting my statements and budget together and hopefully, I can send my application in the summer.
If I get the grant - which will not be very big, as I do not need that much money really, it will be game-changing and The Right Place could get published within two years. If I am not successful, then I would have to look at alternative ways of financing it, which I haven't really considered yet...
In our house, there is a writer/editor and a designer, which means that we spend most of our waking hours at a desk in the middle of an urban area. It can get pretty claustrophobic and often cripples the thought process. There's nothing better than a good walk to get your brain to work again.
Robert Macfarlane has written extensively about the kinship that exists between walking and thinking and how he "remains fascinated by the idea that when on foot, we think in ways that would never otherwise be possible."
I agree. After a good walk in an inspiring environment, I could easily write half a book in one sitting!
So as we love walking and nature, we put our walking boots on and get out there. If you read the blog regularly, you know that our favourite place to do this is Dorset, but as we currently reside in Essex, we try and explore the area.
We have had some gorgeous weather during the Christmas holidays, and managed to get to Brightlingsea, Bradwell and Paglesham.
We barely saw anyone...
Go to Matt ArtPix's blog to see more pictures!
I have found an informative blog about Brightlingsea HERE.
Turner or Turnip?
I love art and believe creativity, imagination, etc. are the most important aspects of what it is to be a human being. I go to a lot of exhibitions and always keep an open mind. I almost went to art school myself, after all, before literature and English language won the day...
Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I do have a problem with most contemporary art, though.
You know, the Tracey Emins and Damien Hirsts of this Earth, whose only talent is a knack for self-publicity and "shocking" rubbish - the only shocking thing about their work is that it's being lauded as art worth millions. And it looks like that's the direction taken by Art schools, who seem to teach their students how to write a stupid statement to cover-up your complete lack of artistic skills.
By the way, if you are an artist and you want to create your own artistic statement, THIS WEBSITE does it for you; the texts sound so much like real artists statements I've read, recently... Actually, scrap that, the "real" ones were much, much worse...
Have you ever been to the Serpentine Gallery, where, a few years ago, I had the immense pleasure of admiring bits of clear plastic stuck to a white wall? The meaning was probably incredibly profound and deep, but it escaped me, somehow...
Anyway. So, the Turner Prize... Don't even get me started.
At least, one of the competitors could paint OK, but the fact that she was shortlisted might have had more to do about where she was from then her actual painting skills.
You know, art and culture are really having a hard time these days, when it is all about hardworking families (I really, really hate that expression) and cuts to the arts. It shouldn't happen, because art and culture are essential for a healthy, successful and prosperous society - just like education. It is not random chance that in dictatorships and countries ran by religious fundamentalists, the first things to go are the arts, music, cinema and academia.
But honestly, when the Turner Prize entries are the only kind of art that is shown in the mainstream media, when it gets repeated over and over that this is the only type of art that will get grants and prizes, that filming someone sneezing in slow motion and exhibiting their soiled tissue in a glass cabinet will get you rich and famous, then are we surprised if non-artistic minded people sneer and shrug and think it a waste of time?
It makes me incredibly angry.
But I have found the remedy for my anger...
The one good thing about the Turner Prize is that it is the reason the Turnip Prize exists. Conceived in 1999 in a pub in Somerset as a joke response to the Turner Prize, it has carried on and acquired a certain... shall we say, prestige...
HAVE A LOOK AT THIS YEAR'S TURNIP PRIZE ENTRIES
If you really want a laugh, go to the Turnip Prize Wikipedia page and read through the previous years's entries and their description.
It's pure genius.
I don't go to parties. I've never liked them.
During my first years in London, I had a short spell of going to clubs and parties and ALWAYS got bored senseless after about 15mn and spent the rest of the night wanting to go home. Sometimes I did.
I love going to gigs and exhibitions, but there, you don't have to try and talk to people at all, so it's fine!
THIS LOVELY LITTLE COMIC captures the simple pleasures of an introvert perfectly. It's SPOT ON!
I was supposed to write this blog last Monday, but got caught up in stuff: ie freelance work and the preparations for yesterday's Christmas edition of The Secret Vintage Fair.
We started last weekend with the first (well, second really if, unlike us, you follow the chronology) of The Southend Shakespeare Company's marathon performances of The Romans: Antony and Cleopatra (We saw Julius Caesar this Thursday). The two plays were terrific; we love seeing productions by the SSC as their productions are so professionally done and the acting always excellent. We try to go to as many of them as possible, and their programme for 2014 is fantastic: some Shakespeare, of course, but also Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward, so hopefully we will get tickets for all of them!
Of course, going to the theatre in the West End is a wonderful, not-to-be-missed experience, and therefore, on the Saturday, we made our way to the Gielgud theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue and bought our tickets to see Strangers On a Train in early January. I can't wait!
The queue at the London Transport Museum was a bit too long for our taste and it was not particularly early - we always spend ages in exhibitions and thought that we'd like to see Poster Art 150 - London Underground's Greatest Designs without having to rush, so we opted for a tea at their lovely cafe instead and decided to go back to see the exhibition later in December.
Refreshed, we trotted off to The Cartoon Museum to see another of the exhibitions on our list: the utterly fabulous The Age of Glamour: R.S. Sherriffs's stars of stage and screen. We did spend ages in this gorgeous little exhibition, marvelling at the illustrator's skills and humourous depiction of the stars of the era. I did laugh out loud quite a few times! I have instantly become a fan of his work and would love to find out more about him - unfortunately, the museum didn't produce any book or postcards to go with the exhibition...
A bit (a lot) of browsing in Pleasures of Past Times in Cecil Court is in order...
The Guardian have a slide show of the exhibition HERE.
Read my partner in crime Matt ArtPix's blog about the exhibition HERE.
Then at the end of the day, there was some music...
Despite London's ridiculous transport system - the WHOLE of the Northern Line closed ON A SATURDAY EVENING, no comment...), we managed to make our way to The Forum to see one of our favourite bands, New Model Army.
Still going strong, as relevant as ever - especially in the current social and political climate - and with a brand new, absolutely fantastic new album (Between Dog and Wolf) just out, current sold out tour and a feature film being made about them, New Model Army is one of those bands whose work is essential to thousands of people around the world without the mainstream media being interested in the slightest. Which, thinking about it, is a bit of a mistake as they understand and chronicle the evolution of our society better than anyone else and translate them into powerful songs that have a thrillingly poetic and poignantly philosophical quality to them.
Author Neil Gaiman gave a lecture at the Reading Agency on 14th October. An edited version of that lecture has been made available on The Guardian's website.
It is essential reading: a passionate, poignant, rousing, intelligent plea for books, fiction, literacy, libraries and imagination. Everything is in there. Our uncultured and boorish politicians should be MADE to read it. Below, I have reproduced my favourite bits - although the whole thing is my favourite bit really...
Some of these quotes remind me of the child and teenager I was - an avid reader with a wild imagination, desperate to live somewhere else, to experience something else, knowing there was more to life than what I could see around me. Books and the ambition of becoming a writer have pushed me, have made me study hard and stay focused, curious, inquisitive, interested. They saved me in my (numerous) hours of need... Here's to books and fiction...
Neil Gaiman on The Guardian
Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading.
When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed.
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn't you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with (and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.
I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.
Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.
According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the "only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account".
We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.
Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all.
So what do you do if you are the richest artist - read "rather talentless self-publicist trying his best to cash in on his pseudo-controversial reputation" - in Britain with your heydays firmly behind you but a bulging bank account (or two?)?
You buy yourself a town.
Or at least, this is what it's starting to feel like with Damien Hirst and Ilfracombe, in North Devon.
I wrote about the quite horrid Verity in a previous blog; Hirst has also owned a restaurant on Quay Road, Number 11, The Quay, since 2000. Now, he has got his hands on no less than four properties in the harbour (the lovely Driftwood gallery, the first in a series of art galleries to open under the same name in the South West, is having to relocate somewhere else in town), and is also planning a - yes, of course, controversial! - housing estate in the fields opposite the Tesco supermarket (more on this HERE).
It looks like councillors have been dragging their feet, but don't fret, Hirst will triumph in the end. Money - and celebrity - talks, and Ilfracombe has been in dire need of regeneration since the railway was scrapped in 1970.
True, Hirst could be seen as some kind of "saviour", although things are not as simple as it seems (see HERE for an interesting comment on the situation).
Most certainly, something seems to be happening: art galleries are popping up everywhere around the town, and the pub chain Wetherspoon is building a - completely inappropriate - "futuristic" establishment (they have pulled down the wonderful old hotel that used to stand there!).
On the up side, one of the new galleries is located on the high street and is definitely worth a visit: the Jessica Dove gallery (a good write-up about the gallery can be found HERE). Set up by a former artist and art teacher who was born in the town before going to live and work in London, the gallery is bright and packed full of very interesting works. I particularly loved the sculptures by Jessica's husband, Stanley Dove, and my new favourite sculptor, Philip Wakeham - see his work on his Beautiful If Oblique website. His sculptures are simply stunning; they have a delicate, mythical, haunting quality. Perfect inspiration for a novel!
More on Ilfracombe and North Devon in the forthcoming days.
Now is time to get back into things after a few days away!
New event! Maldon Motor show
Tomorrow, Sunday 7th July, I will be at the Maldon Motor Show. I will not be selling I Am a Muse - customers will get a flyer for the book! - but I will have a great range of second-hand books: cinema, entertainment, classic cars, glamourous Hollywood stars, football,... And of course, Matt ArtPix will be selling his range of vintage-inspired art (read his blog about the event HERE)!
Next week, we will be posting some news about I Am a Muse and we will start the count down to Shorelines: literature festival of the sea!
After weeks of not being able to write, I have next week free to work on The Book of Thoth. Deadline for the first draft is approaching dangerously... I might have to change the publication date from summer 2014 to autumn 2014...
In the next few weeks, I am hoping to start working again on the promo for I Am a Muse and Arcane Publishing...
Legal Deposit Libraries
Just to show that still have a lot yet to learn about publishing... I have received today a request from the ALDL (Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries) for five copies of I Am a Muse. I only knew about sending a copy to The British Library, but didn't know about our books having to be made available to the Bodleian Library Oxford University, The Cambridge University Library, National Library of Scotland and Trinity College Dublin! So if you walk into one of these libraries in the next few months, you'll be able to borrow I Am a Muse! How cool is that?
It feels odd, but incredibly satisfying. Especially when you read the blurb in the legal deposit section of The British Library website:
The legal deposit system also has benefits for authors and publishers:
I think therefore I write.
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