A Life Of Fiction CLXIX

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Books You May Want To Read: I am not really a big recommender of books, whether fiction or non-fiction, as I never seem to get through books as quickly as I like. I find that life always gets in the way.
I have recommended novels to people on other posts. I’m sure that I must have told you how great The Master and Margarita is, at some stage in the past. But I don’t think that I have waffled on about non-fiction books.
I buy non-fiction books for only two reasons. The first reason is that the books are going to occupy a place on my shelves at home, in what I think of as my ‘research library.’ The other reason is that the subject of the book is so fascinating (to me, at least) that I cannot resist picking it up. Here are three non-fiction books (I could name only a couple of others) which passed the test of See: Must Buy. All three of the books were acquired from charity shops (two came from Oxfam, one came from the British Heart Foundation).
I will try to briefly describe the books without giving away too much about them.
The Lost City of Z by David Grann. This book is about the search to discover what happened to the British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett. Fawcett had become obsessed with the idea that there was a real-life lost city – the Lost City of Z – deep in the Amazon jungle. Fawcett went in search of it in 1925 and was never seen again.
Fawcett was not some dilettantish, amateur explorer. He was a tough and seasoned individual; and it is possible that The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was partially inspired by Fawcett’s adventures. The character of Lord John Roxton was probably modelled on him.
I have not yet finished this book as I write these words. But how could I resist a book with the title of The Lost City of Z. I have been obsessed with lost cities since I was a little kid, ever since I heard about Atlantis and places like that. I have featured lost cities in my novels in the past (in City of Gold, for example). I think that, in my Gas-Lamp Fantasy Game, I even mention the lost City of Z, in one of the supplements. As soon as I saw this book on the shelves in the charity store I knew that it was going to be a good read.
The Riddle and the Knight by Giles Milton. The author was also the writer of Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, another good book. I’m recommending this book because it is probably (and undeservingly) less well known; and because the book is mainly about Sir John Mandeville. Like Fawcett Mandeville was an explorer – but Mandeville lived around six hundred years before Fawcett.
According to legend Mandeville spent around three decades exploring the world. After his travels he reputedly returned to Britain claiming to have travelled to the Far East, and to have encountered all manner of strange men and creatures. He claimed to have encountered Amazons, ; people with only one, giant leg and foot (inspiring a race in the Narnia books of C S Lewis); and Andaman Islanders who only had a small hole instead of a mouth. Anything to do with Sir John Mandeville – a person who I used as a character in Victoria Forever! – was something which I could not resist. I like things which are strange and quirky.
My last recommendation is The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, by Jeremy Narby. The book was originally published in French. It is another book dealing with South America. This one is about the claim made by some South American shamans that knowledge of plants was learned directly from the plants themselves while taking hallucinogenic substances. The book deals with the ideas of the double helix of DNA bring connected with the Rod of Asclepius. Narby claims that shamans (and ancient civilisations) had knowledge which modern science did not rediscover until the 1950s. It does not really matter whether Narby is correct or not. What is important is that you, at least, consider the possibility that he might be right. We should consider any such outlandish theories seriously, and not simply reject them out of hand. Some of the ideas in this book were an influence on my novel The Impossibilities.
Well, that is my selection of non-faction books. Maybe none of the above books are for you. Or maybe you have discovered your own favourite books which are quirky and strange.
That’s it for this post. Another one soon.

A Life of Fiction CLXVIII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

What To Read First If You’re Into Gas-Lamp Fantasy: This article relates to my WordPress site, and it is, basically, a guide as to what parts of my site you should check out if you’re into gas-lamp fantasy and you want to read some fiction, rather than my blog.

The only gas-lamp fantasy stuff which I have of any length (on this site) is my two Edwyn le Fay novellas.

[The adventures of] Edwyn le Fay comes first. Read it from zero onwards. Roanoke is set years later, after he has become a little more competent. Empire of Steam is not gas-lamp fantasy, but pure steampunk, and was written for NaNoWriMo 2014.

In addition to the above, I do have some steampunk stories on the internet, if you would like to read those as well as gas-lamp fantasy ones. There is Empire of Steam, mentioned above. There are a few others, but spread over the internet.

If you are one of those people who don’t mind paying for things on Kindle then here is a list of what I have published on there (so far), and a rough idea of order in which you might want to read them:

He Sees His World In Red

Rex Mundi

The Sifter Of The Sands Of Time

The Magician At The End Of The World

On Her Majesty’s Mystic Service

The Rift

The Return Of Rex Mundi

An American Adventure

Victoria Forever!

Serpent Rising

Blackchapel

The Return of the Ogre

The Last Alchemist

City Of Gold

The Wondrous Adventures of John Briggs and William Prenderghast

The Further Adventures of Briggs and Prenderghast

The Exploits of Briggs and Prenderghast

The Final Adventures of Briggs and Prenderghast

Grailquest

Deserter

Valley Of The Kings

Kali

Boxers

The Mole Machine

Beneath The Ocean Waves

Into The Ether

The Madman Of The Air

Captain Renegade

Phantom Island

There are a few other bits and pieces on Kindle, and more to go on. But those, I think, are the main ones on there, at the moment.

A Life Of Fiction CLXVII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Find Your Own Voice: I’m not sure if I’ve covered this before. I find that I am running out of interesting things to say on this blog. So apologies if I am retreading the same ground as before.

In poetry, and in writing in general, you need to find your own voice. I think that, even after writing poetry for more years than I would care to admit, I am still searching for a unique voice.

Think of the poetry of somebody like William Blake. His poems, from the Songs of Innocence and Experience, or from elsewhere, are nearly always recognisably his. You aren’t going to confuse his works with those of John Keats. William Blake had found his voice.

I think that my voice is not a modernist one. I don’t think that I am the sort of poet who is ever going to get published by somebody like Bloodaxe or Carcanet.

But why should every modern day poet be a modernist? Why abandon all of the forms of the past? If you want to write unrhymed blank verse that is fine, if that is your voice, and it speaks from your heart. But I don’t think that you should feel under any compulsion to do so. If you want to write a Petrarchan sonnet then go and write a Petrarchan sonnet. or you could try to invent some rhyme scheme of your own, if you find that that is the best way for you to speak to other people. It’s easy. Here we go: a poem about personal darkness and depression. We don’t want it to sound like a nursery rhyme, so we’ll try a rhyme scheme ABCBACDEFEDF and see what the result is. If we don’t like it, or feel that it is not really our voice, we can file it under the drawer Do Not Open.

Each day I wake to thoughts of doom

I fear the passing of the hours

Each knock upon my duplex door

Each frailty of my mental powers

I hide inside my darkened room

And fracture just a little more.

One day, perhaps, I’ll be like you

You people who all seem so well

Who cope with fear and laugh it off

And aren’t a slave to living hell

One day, perhaps, I’ll live anew

And not exist in ways so rough.

Just a little ditty, in my voice. And I feel a little better for getting it off my chest (poetry as therapy, I guess). But still a little bit too rhyming. And was that really my voice, or just the way that I think that it should sound?

What voice would you give the above? How would these words spill forth from your pen? Perhaps like this:

Bad thoughts wake me

The hours haunt me

Visitors enfrail me

I am alone in darkness

Fractured, enslaved, and doomed.

There are many ways of putting your thoughts onto the page (or the computer screen). What you, as a writer, need to do is to find a way which is yours, and does not ape anybody else.

Anyway, that’s enough for today. I suspect that I will come back to this theme at some time in the future.

A Life Of Fiction CLXVI

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Tweets: So now I’m on Twitter. I had never intended to go on Twitter. I do not like social media, as I consider some of it to be very ant-social. But I had to try and find some way of getting people interested in my WordPress site and, hopefully, my work on Kindle. The fact is that my sales have ceased. As I write these words I have not sold a single thing in six weeks, anywhere in the world.

It is not about the money, although I would love to earn enough money to be independent. No, I want people to read my work. Isn’t that a motivating factor of all writers? My fear is that I will write wonderful (and, maybe, just okay) stories, and that, when I die, they will linger in the hard drive of my computer (until that dies as well), not published, not even given away for free. Stories are meant to be read. They need to be out there. Even if only one other person finds pleasure from them.

Anyway, I’m now on Twitter. My handle, of course, is gaslampfantasy. At the moment I can only send out tweets on a friend’s computer, due to issues with my mobile phone. So I don’t tweet very often at the moment. I hope that that will change in the future, though.

I will be sending out the occasional haiku on Twitter. It is about the only poetic form which is short enough for Twitter. I hope that when I have enough of these haiku tweets to put them all together in a poetry collection.

I don’t have any followers yet. But I’m hopeful.

I’m following three people so far: Dan Hartland (I have a link to his website in my links); the poet Steve Pottinger; and the green Part politician Caroline Lucas.

I won’t ever be on Facebook, by the way.

A Life of Fiction CLXV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Various Events In This Poet’s Life: Despite my best attempts to live a life in which absolutely nothing happens to me I am constantly stymied, in that events insist on occurring. Perhaps I accumulated a lot of bad karma in some previous existence. Maybe I was the Portuguese sailor who killed the very last dodo.

I must admit, in the interest of honesty, that the occurrence of some of these events might be considered to be my fault. So, perhaps, I have been asking for it.

Anyway, to explain: one of these events is not so much a happening, as thinking about what I am going to write for the next NaNoWriMo. For those confused by that word – and the confused includes my spell-checker – NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month. It takes place in November every year. The idea is to write a fifty thousand piece of work (it can be something other than a novel) within the calendar month of November. I have completed it twice. The first novel was Empire of Steam, which you can read for free elsewhere on this website. The other was Steam Park, which I keep intending to stick on the Kindle store, if I have not already done so by now.

I write these words in July 2016. But it is not that long to November. Novels, in my opinion, need a lot of thought.

When the first of November comes around, heralded by cold weather and thoughts of fireworks, I want to be able to hit the ground running, as they say (although I have never been entirely sure just who those people are). I will not cheat by starting before the first of November. But I intend to have a mental plan of what the novel will be, including how it is going to end. Knowing how something is going to end is important if you want to complete a project in only thirty days. At three thousand words a day, though, I hope to complete this prospective novel some days before the end of November.

Already I have some idea of what the novel is going to be about. I have a working title. But I am not going to say too much here just in case I decide to publish it (on that joke called the Kindle website), as I do not want to spoil the surprise.

What else? Oh, I went along to a spoken word night in the town where I live. It was at a location called the Scary Canary. I spent half the evening listening to the other poets. They were good, and some of their poems were intense. But, late on in the evening, in the second half of the open mic night, I had drunk enough beer that I felt confident about performing. I read out three of my poems, inflicting my bad verse in unsuspecting members of the public. They were surprisingly well received. I suspect that either somebody was putting drugs in the water (or beer), or that the place was attended by escapees from a lunatic asylum.

One person, afterwards, even came up to me and told me that he had really liked the poem “Waiting For Shelley.” That is Exhibit #1, m’lud.

Will I go again? Yes, I think so, because, obviously, the good burghers of Stourbridge have not suffered enough.

Is there anything else? Nothing important comes to mind. So I guess that this is the end of this post.

Everybody out there, please take care. Expect another post in a week and a half.

A Life Of Fiction CLXIV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Words On Screen. I have a little theory, so bear with me. I think that when you see words written on an electronic screen, whether on some website or on something like a Kindle, that they seem better than if written out longhand in some writer’s notebook. The reason why I think this is that when I reject poetry for publication I don’t leave it in a notebook, but collect together all my failed verse in collections which I call Fractions of Verse (I now have ten volumes of poems which are either unfinished or simply too bad to stick on the Kindle store). Yet when I write up those bad poems on my computer they don’t look as bad as in my notebooks. The words are the same. So it can only be the way in which they are portrayed.

I find that when I read something on my computer, as opposed to in a book, that I have the tendency to scroll through the content. It feels natural to scroll down if I’m reading something which is, perhaps, a little dull. I’m not entirely sure why this should be. Maybe we simply value words in a printed book more than words on an electrical screen. Do those monitors make words appear more ephemeral than if they are written in ink? It is my theory that they do.

Ephemeral, yet also better. We write differently, I think, if we right directly onto a computer. So I have gone back, of late, to doing a first draft in a notebook, and writing it up on my computer a day or so later. I’m hoping that my content will be better, or at least just different. It does mean that it takes me a lot longer to write things. Now I do the second draft in the morning, taking my notebook and writing up around three thousand words, improving the grammar, rewriting the odd section, and all of the things that you do in a second draft. Then, unless I am busy with other matters that day, I will spend the rest of the day with my notebooks next to me, slowly writing my stories as sentences occur to me.

Anyway, that was my idea about words on screen. Just a few odd thoughts.

A Life Of Fiction CLXIII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Editorial: Yes, this is my irregular editorial. But the blog subject this week is also about the process of editing work.

This subject has come about because one of my close friends keeps suggesting that I try to become an editor. I find that I am not keen on the idea. I think that one of the reasons why I am not keen on the suggestion is because he keeps going on about the subject. I am one of those ornery people who really don’t like other people telling me what to do – even if it is in my interest to do what they are suggesting.

There is also the small matter of the fact that I probably don’t quite possess the qualifications which a person is expected to possess when becoming an editor. I have English and English Literature O levels, as well as an English Literature A level. But that, officially, is the extent of my command of the language. Those exams were also a very long time ago.

Not that I think that I am unable to edit work – far from it. If I am not writing then I am reading. I can spot quickly if something does not appear to be correct. Even in published novels I spot the occasional typo (presumably errors of the printer, rather than the author). They stick out like very sore thumbs.

I have never read a book whose subject matter, specifically, is English grammar. Wading through Eats, Shoots and Leaves has never appealed to me. I think that sometimes the self-appointed guardians of our language can have a too proscriptive approach to variants of grammar and syntax.

I have read a few books on English and on philology, though, by the wonderful David Crystal, and I recommend fully his approach. I have spent the years since failing to get into university getting to know English in my own way.

I know many of the supposed dos and don’ts of the English language. I know that Oxford commas and ending a sentence with a preposition are frowned upon. But, also, I know that the English language is more fluid than some people care to admit. The language is forever changing. It is not something which is set in stone. The only languages which are graven in stone are dead languages.

So if I could edit work to a reasonable degree why not do so? The main reason, I think, far more than any fear of failure, is because I would see it as an implicit admission that I have failed as a novelist and poet and short story writer. For the moment I want to keep retaining the illusion that, one day, I might be discovered and become successful. If editing was to become a source of income – and I certainly don’t make anything from writing, at the moment – I would not be an author, but an editor who also writes.

I have gone as far, though, as to edit a piece of work which was handed to me. Due to the fact that I edit and re-edit as I construct my stories I do very little editing of my work once that work has been completed. This blog, though, has been through a single edit after I completed it.

I would like to say that my editing of somebody else’s work was interesting. It was not. I found it dull and tedious. Every single minute that I was changing commas into full stops, or correcting tenses, I was thinking that I could have been working on my stuff instead. Well, I’m never going to say never. But, unless something drastic occurs to change my point of view, I do not think that such an occupation is for me.

By the way, the above has one glaringly obvious syntactical error. Did you spot it?