So, here's the thing! Do you remember what's his name - Max Bygraves? His catchphrase was, "I wanna tell you a story". Oh! Before I forget, I've got a new story out: A Lamb to the Slaughter (Parish & Richards 11)
, and for those who are still interested after the long and tortuous journey - the truth is out about Parish's beginnings.
I was at a family get together the other night, and I was asked, "How do you do it?" I asked the lady in question to elaborate before I made a fool of myself. "How do you write all these stories?" she said. "Where do you get your ideas from?"
They're good questions, aren't they? At the time, I merely said that, "I just start writing and the stories tumble out," which is true, but the questions got me thinking - well it does, doesn't it? They say that there's a book in everyone - is there? Do we believe that? It might very well be so, but that isn't saying that everyone can write a book.
I'm not talking about the mechanical aspects of writing: words, sentences, paragraphs, spelling, punctuation and grammar, which incorporates style: point-of-view, tone, use of imagery and the multitude of choices that become the writer's style - their voice. I don't need to tell you that they're all a bit important. I'm not talking about the characters (who), plot (what), setting (where and when), theme (why) and style (how).
The reason I'm not talking about any of those things is because you can learn all of them. I know, because I did. In fact, anybody can learn those things, and once you do - are you a writer?
Here's my next book: The Enigma of Apocalypse Heights (Quigg 6)
. I know some people like a bit of Quigg! Anyway, as I was saying, does learning the rules of writing make you a writer? I would at this point refer you to leadership. I know, it's a bit of a yomp from writing, but not dissimilar - as you'll soon find out. If you learn how to be a leader, does that make you one? The boy at the back picking his nose . . .
"Yes, you Sir."
"Are you sure?"
There you go then. The proof is in the pudding. I used to teach and assess leadership skills, you know. I've had this conversation many times. You're either a leader or you're not - regardless of whether you've learnt the how. And I would say that the same goes for writing. You can either tell a story, or you can't. Jokes are the same thing. Some people can't tell a joke if their next meal depended on it. Can I tell a story? You'd have to ask my readers that question. Much in the same way as followers will tell you whether they're following a leader or not.
Let's talk briefly about story structure. The first thing to clarify is: "What is story structure?" Simply put - BME - Beginning, Middle and End, which is easily illustrated by the story of The 3 Little Pigs above. Below is another diagram illustrating the structure of a story - Note that the climax is as close to the end as possible.
Here's a few more diagrams to illustrate story structure:
So, here's the thing! I had a review the other week that suggested one of my books was "bad writing"! Now, I don't mind people having a different opinion from a significant majority of other people, but the person failed to expand on what she/he considered to be bad writing, and it got me thinking - well, it does, doesn't it!
What is bad writing? What is good writing? "Ah, my boy," is the common response. "You'll know it when you see it!" Well, that's not very helpful, is it? That's my response to the common response.
So anyway, having done a bit on statistics - not much, just a bit - I was reminded of the normal distribution (Gaussian distribution, bell curve). And for those who have no idea what it is - and I don't mean to teach people how to suck eggs - it's simply a visual representation of occurrences in a population (and the purists need not send a postcard explaining how my definition differs from the longwinded mathematical one).
Let's take writers as a relevant example. If we get all the writers in the English-speaking world (we don't want any translators, editors, or publishers mixed in with our writers, do we?) and we grade them along a continuum with '0' in the middle and a positive score going left, and a negative score going right as follows:
Now, let's apply this methodology to our group of writers - we've put them all in Greenland for the time being because there's some space available there and Greenland likes writers!
So, we can now see that in the population of writers per se, there are very few good or bad writers, and even fewer 'very good or very bad writers'. The majority of writers group around the middle (mean) of the population - what was termed in the days of 'pre-ereader' publishing as a "mid-list author". Now, we should turn our thoughts to defining - if we can - what is a "good writer", and one assumes a "bad writer" will be at the other extreme of a range of continua.
If we look at what makes a good writer we find that: It depends on the audience who is going to read your drivel! Mmmm, that's not very helpful. Or is it? Maybe, the only measure of a good writer is for a reader to determine. How do readers identify a good writer?
Sometimes, we're told who are good (or great) writers, such as: Stephen King, JK Rowling, Leo Tolstoy, JD Salinger, Ray Bradbury, JRR Tolkien, Mark Twain, but even great writers are not necessarily good writers all the time. For instance (and this isn't my list), Ulysses - James Joyce; Sons & Lovers - DH Lawrence; The Old Man and the Sea - Earnest Hemingway; Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy; Moby Dick - Melville . . . the list goes on.
So, we are still left with "What is a good or bad writer?" I leave it up to the reader. If the bulk of my reviews were 1* or 2* I might think that I was a bad writer, but they're not. A few people obviously think I am a bad writer, but then I'm comforted by the fact that some people think JK Rowling, Steig Larsson, William Shakespear, and many others
So, here's the thing! I've just published my new book. Yeah, it's that one on the left, as if you didn't know!
Anyway, besides that, I read an interview with Stephen King in which he talks about opening lines. Hey, I've read about opening paragraphs, scenes and chapters, but opening lines!
So, it got me thinking . . . Well, it does, doesn't it? If it's good enough for Steve, it's good enough for me. I had a look at my opening lines:A Life for a Life (Parish & Richards 1)The machine swallowed Greg Taylor’s day-return ticket to London.The Wages of Sin (Parish & Richards 2)‘Right, Richards,’ Detective Inspector Jed Parish said as he pulled away from the kerb outside 38 Puck Road in Chigwell in his nearly four year old Ford Focus.‘The Flesh is Weak (Parish & Richards 3)‘Are you sure you don’t want to give this one to Kowalski and Gorman, Chief?'Footprints of the Dead (Tom Gabriel 1)Tom Gabriel poked the business end of the Smith & Wesson 686P six-inch 7-shot double-action revolver into the soft unshaven flesh beneath his jaw and pulled the trigger.Solomon's Key (Harte & KP 1)The woman’s breasts had been removed.The Breath of Life (Parish & Richards 6)‘Breathe in, and hold...’ the antenatal midwife said. ‘Slowly breathing out.’The Dead Know Not (Parish & Richards 7)He placed his Blackberry on the desk in front of Kowalski and said, ‘Listen.’The Graves at Angel Brook (Quigg 3)‘Shit, Duffy. Don’t you take contraceptives like normal twenty-one year olds?’ The House of Mourning (Parish & Richards 9)He’d heard about murderers being able to get hold of drugs, syringes, guns and all the other paraphernalia that was needed to be a proper murderer, but he didn’t have any of it.Through a Glass Darkly (Parish & Richards 10)Viktor eased the lever clockwise on top of the trephine. It had been many years since anybody had operated the contraption.
"I don't know! What do you think, Toady?"
"Some of them are a bit bland, non-committal, boring . . ."
"I don't think you need to get over-personal.'
"Sorry, Boss - you did ask."
"True, but let's keep things positive, shall we? Some of them are pretty damn good."
"True. What did Steve say?"
"He hasn't read my opening lines."
"I find that hard to believe, Boss! I mean, everybody who's anybody has read your opening lines."
"Have you read my opening lines, Toady?"
"That's true. Steve said that teachers advise you to open a book in the middle of a dramatic or compelling situation."
'You can't tell that from your opening lines.'
"No, but take the first one - Greg Taylor is walking to his death; and the second one - Richards is just about to describe an horrific murder."
"Yeah, but I think Steve means you have to grab 'em by the . . ."
"This is a family blog, Toady"
"He says that it begins by voice - he thinks people choose a book because of the voice."
"You've got a voice, Boss."
"Is it a fingerprint? If people pick up one of my books would they know it was one of mine?"
"I think they would. It'd have your name on the front."
"Sometimes I wonder about you, Toady."
"He says his favouritist first line is: "You've been here before." It's from Needful Things
"You've been here before?"
"If I'd been there before, why would I want to go again?"
"I think we're done for today, Toady."
"Right you are, Boss."
So, here's the thing! Let's talk about typos - typographical errors. I mean - come on! Who's ever read a book without a typo? Answers on a postcard to . . . Is there such an animal? I've just finished a book by a well-known author and there was at least a baker's dozen of typos. So, if the traditionally published books are still riddled with typos - what hope for the rest of us? Yes, I know - proofread, proofread, proofread - and when you've done that, get someone else to proofread. Yep, done all of that, seen the DVD, wearing the T-shirt and yet . . . those typos still get through. Humans are just imperfect beings, this human most of all. But . . . at least my typos aren't featured HERE
I know, you're thinking: Who's that good-looking guy? Well, the wife has nearly finished my bust. She's thinking of throwing me out of bed and putting this on the pillow beside her instead, and who could blame her? Not I!
Now, if you were wondering where my plot ideas come from - wonder no more. The wife has revealed my well-kept secret - I have a pole inside my head instead of a brain!
As you can see, the pole is a space-saving device and leaves plenty of room for ideas to accumulate and mature like vintage cheese or wine!
If you're interested in replacing your brain with one of these poles, please send another postcard to . . .
Anyway, I've waffled enough for today, but my new book 'Through a Glass Darkly' (Parish & Richards 10)
will be published in two weeks time.
So, here's the thing! I have a new opportunity for someone who likes to live dangerously, push the envelope, teeter on the edge, balance on the rim . . . Anyway, I'm surprised no one has come up with the idea of a loaf of crusts! I don't know if you've peeked inside a loaf of bread lately, but it only has two crusts - one at either end! I know, how mean is that?
Let me elaborate - I like to have two pieces of brown bread in the morning, but here's my dilemma - once I've eaten the first crust I have to wait nearly two weeks before I can have another one. Of course, I cheat a lot. Well, you'd expect it of me, wouldn't you? I give some of the middle slices to the birds - In fact, the birds where I live can hardly fly and because of all the roughage they eat, and they go to the toilet regularly as well. Also, I squeeze my hand over the last few slices and eat the second crust early - desperate times need desperate measures. Or as my wife is fond of saying, "Monkey see, monkey do!"
So, what I'm saying is that someone should start a business selling "Sliced Crusts"! I can't be the only one who is a crust addict. My wife doesn't like crusts, which is probably a good job for her. Anyone who thinks they can steal my crusts and live to tell the tale needs their head examining.
So, we have people who like crusts and people who don't like crusts - the answer seems obvious to me - sell loaves of sliced crusts and loaves of sliced bread. Now, the mechanics involved in this chicanery require a calculator and a waste bin. Let's work on a figure of 20 - can you imagine the joy of having two crusts every morning for ten days? I mean, that would be like having a birthday every day of the week. So, snaffle the crusts from 9 loaves, put the slices from those loaves in the other loaves, and anything left give to the birds, homeless shelters and so on.
Now, I'm not setting a precedent here. Oh no! Let me take you back a few years and whisper the name "SPOG" in your lughole. You've never heard of it! Gott in Himmel! Where have been? Open a bag of Liquorice Allsorts and those liquorice jelly sweets are just the best - Well, someone had the bright idea of selling them separately, because people loved 'em - I loved 'em! And then there was those green triangular chocolates from Quality Street, so you wouldn't be alone in your endeavours. You might even do some market research first to see if there are more people out there like me - I bet there are! I bet the truth is out there!
Now, you're probably wondering why I don't run with it, shoot the rapids, patent the whole concept and pitch it to the bread industry. Well, I'm writing! Hey, that's what I do. I'm not a bread entrepreneur. My days of tottering on the abyss are long gone - I do a lot of tottering, but I stay clear of the abyss because you never know what might crawl out and grab you! And talking of writing, I'm over half-way through the next Parish & Richards - Number 10: 'Through a Glass Darkly
', which is due out during the last week of July. Hey, that's this month - gotta go, I've a book to finish! Love ya, hugs and kisses, blah!
So, here's the thing! I've been neglecting you, Toady my friend! The trouble is, once I get on that book-writing rollercoaster I'm like a man possessed! And the result of my demonic possession is on the left - The Gordian Knot (Stone & Randall 2)
. I know, you're saying about time. Well, say it no more - here it is!
I begin - by taking tentative steps, and with no idea where the hell I'm going - and gradually, the fog obscuring the road ahead lifts a little. I can see the undulating hills, the ponds and meadows, hear the birds singing, the pot-bellied pigs snuffling in the undergrowth, but that's not all . . . there are maggot-riddled corpses hiding in the weeds by the river, psychopaths lurking behind the gravestones in the abandoned churchyard and . . .
Anyway, let me update you on the wife's sterling efforts to chisel my handsomeness into a chunk of clay. Even as I write, it's sitting on top of a sideboard in a black plastic bag like a severed head waiting to be finished - it needs ears, it needs to look a bit more like Clint Eastwood and the bits of brain that are lying on the wooden base need to be put back!
As you can see from the photographs below - which she keeps sending my by email - she's made significant progress. It looks nothing like me, but hey - a man can't have everything in life!
So, here's the thing! My wife decided to do a bust of me. Fame at last, I thought. Well, you do, don't you? She goes to pottery on a Monday nights, and thought she'd try something a bit more adventerous than a pot.
I had visions of something akin to a regal Caesar, maybe an intelligent-looking Albert Einstein, or a thoughtful Socrates.
The first week, she came home and said she'd been sticking paper on a stick. Of course, I was suitably impressed. Well, you have to be, don't you?
"Why?" I asked.
"Busts aren't solid, you know."
"Oh!" I said, fully convinced by her convincing argument.
So, this week she came home with a couple of digital photographs of her progress thus far. Normally, when she arrives home, I make my weary way to bed, but she said, "No, no, let me show you what I've done."
When she couldn't stop laughing I should have refused to look, of course, but well, you have to show support for the efforts of her indoors, don't you?
The trouble is, I think I'm psychologically damaged now! I mean, I know people's perceptions differ, but is that really how she sees me?
Anyway, I'm hoping that she'll finish torturing me soon.
In the meantime, I have to go, because the nurse is here with my tablets!
Hey! Have a nice day.
So, here's the thing! I'm up at 5am writing, and I've started having these thoughts - don't ask!
I'm just starting Chapter 2 of my WIP, and I'm thinking:
I'm not writing very fast.
Where do I begin?
I'm never going to get this book finished.
Is there another book in me?
Can I write this book?
Am I going in the right direction?
Am I any good? And so on . . .
I carry on stringing words together, and gradually - as if it were a new life being created from my own DNA - the scene begins to take shape. Oh, at first it's an ugly formless blob that I'm ashamed to call mine, but then slowly . . . I move a word; flesh out a description; re-write a sentence; re-locate a paragraph; introduce a smell, a touch, a feeling. I interrogate myself: What is this scene trying to convey? What does that introspection tell us about who the character is? What he's lost? What his hopes for the future are? Add a touch of backstory - not too much - just enough to give an insight into who he is, his relationship with the woman, how they spend their Sundays. Do the metaphors and similies work? Is there a variation in the length of sentences and the size of the paragraphs? Is there lots of white space - dialogue, action? Have I used active instead of passive words? - I used to have a checklist, but now that checklist is part of who I am.
And then . . . As if as if the universe has stopped turning on its axis, I think I can make out it's little fingers and toes, a nose, some ears, and then it begins kicking and squirming trying to decide what it wants to be. I re-read it a thousand times. I begin to love it. It has my nose, my quirky humour, my voice. I'm not ashamed of it anymore. I know, if I show it to people, they won't say, "What an ugly baby!"
From tentative beginnings that were mired in doubt and lack of direction, a scene is fashioned, moulded and created out of the DNA of my imagination - some mornings a writer can begin to feel like a creator, like a god!
So, here's the thing! I've just published my latest The House of Mourning
(Parish & Richards 9). I know, call me a scribbler, creator, writer - your names can't hurt me!
You know, I tried but I couldn't do it. There's a million things that need doing, but I just want to write. I got up this morning and finished the first chapter of my WIP: The Gordian Knot
(Stone & Randall 2). Yeah, yeah, it's been a long time coming. Well, I'm into it now, so expect it around the end of May. My wife walks round with a list you know. It's a long list with DIY jobs, gardening, shopping and the like. On top of the page a psychopath has written: Tim's To-Do List. There's some crazy people about. Tim's To-Do List only has books on it - Ha, ha!
Now look, you're gonna love this one. My wife was on eBay - not for the first time I might add - and she was looking at ebooks. Yes, I know, you're asking yourself what are ebooks doing on eBay. Well, people are selling them. Oh yes, brothers and sisters - and the people who are selling them are not the authors of said ebooks.
Do you know, you can buy about a million ebooks on a CD for about £5.00 (US exchange rate = $7.60, and that's being generous)! So, here's the scam! You download all the books people keep making free on Amazon, you drag and drop them from your Kindle onto a CD/DVD/memory stick/ flashcard/etc and sell them on eBay/your own website/anywhere you fancy! No problemo. The author makes nothing from any sales because he/she gave them away for free in the first place, and the eBay entrepreneur is merely re-selling used items on - perfectly legal. My books are on there and I never give anything away for free. You know what, I think there's a lesson to be learned somewhere here abouts!
So, here's the thing. I've been a bit remiss lately. I haven't published a blog since way back when. In fact, I think the Rolling Stones were in the charts with Angie, the last time I wrote a blog! Don'tcha just love that song? I used to have a girlfriend called Angie. I wonder what happened to her! Anyway, I've published three books since my last blog. "THREE BOOKS!" I hear you howl at the moon. Yeah, I know. Scary, isn't it? So, which three books are these? You had to go and ask didn't you?
The start of a new Private Investigator
series set in St, Augustine, Florida. Did you know that St Augustine
is the most haunted place in America. The next in the Quigg series (Quigg 5): The Terror at Grisly Park
- a police procedural
. As well as leaning towards the paranormal, Quigg is up to his old tricks again. And as if that weren't enough to get your laughing gear round, I've put together another poetry book called Summer of my Soul. I know, call me a mad impetuous fool.
What's next? You're asking all the right questions today, Toady. I'm cobbling together a non-fiction book called 'The Writer's A - Z of Body Language', which does what it says on the tin. I hope to get that out by the weekend, and then I'm straight on to Parish & Richards 9: 'The House of Mourning'. You're probably wondering what's going to happen to the characters. Well, here's a few clues.
Remember the money (£50,000) that Erin Donnelly transferred into the Kowalski's bank account? Yeah well, if you recall, it belonged to a Columbian drug cartel run by a most unsavoury character called Holgar de Moreno (or some such), and he wants his money back. The trouble is, Jerry's using it to finance her law degree. Also, remember the box of files relating to the Epsilon experiment? Well, do you think Xena and Stick are going to tell Parish about them? And let's not forget that Parish has still got to get that briefcase from the railway lost property storage warehouse. What do you think is in that briefcase? And do you think he's ever going to find out the truth? Then, of course, there's Richards and her search for a decent guy - are there any left? We've also got Charlie Baxter, Jerry, and the squatters on a case, Xena and Stick investigating something, and Parish & Richards up to their eyballs in serial killers. Yeah, I'm looking forward to getting my teeth into this one.