Monday, 23 January 2012


Posted by RLL for REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE. © RLL, 2012.

This next blog is written before the release of my second Amazon Kindle book. I am gambling that I will have the thing ready for D-Day. My first Deployment-Day was chaotic. I managed to stay calm. Did the job. Four hours after I pressed the button, Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords went on sale.
   Now it’s the turn of INCOMPLETE UNCOLLECTED SHORT WORKS, which I published just before I posted this blog. LYGHTNYNG STRYKES is out next, six weeks from now if all goes well. (Whenever NOW is, given that I’m writing ahead of the game.) Then, I’m faced with decisions.
   Commit to a genuine formatting war in carving four volumes out of one story, illustrations and all. Revisit old material. Or? Write something new. Tackle more stories about Neon Gods. The Chalice in the Snow is set for publication in a short story collection. That gathering goes by the title Neon Gods Adrift in Mist. Unless I change my mind, and call it The Chalice in the Snow and Other Tales. (Or, being Scottish, Ither Tales.)
   I could knock out a short story every week, for a volume like that, and stop when I feel the book’s large enough to go on sale. And I could still work on other things, or ither things, besides. Decisions. I may just be making those decisions as I type.
   So far, I’ve managed to stick to the initial plan. Write six blogs and post those in the run-up to my book’s publication. Follow that by repeating the formula. Write six more blog posts in the run-up to publishing a second book. For my next trick, it’s the same trick. Keep blogging. Write six final blogs, and put out book three.
   Then what? Shut the blog down while I take stock? That seems likely. I could blog weekly, turning myself into an internet version of Alistair Cooke. It never occurred that I’d follow in his footsteps, yet I’ve done that.
   I doff my hat to Cooke for having invented his own job as he went along, and for having held on to that job decade in, decade out, until retirement was forced upon him. Death will do that to a writer. Cooke held tenaciously to his place in broadcasting. The longer he held on, the more likely that his place in broadcasting became a place in broadcasting history.
   There’s an obvious lesson to be had from that. He did repeat himself. Impossible to avoid. Embrace the fact that you will repeat stuff. This is called creating a style. These days, it is also known as developing a platform.
   What do I hope to achieve by blogging? I hope to gather an army of fans who will feed me. Kind strangers will provide sustenance by purchasing my fiction and furnishing me with handy paper tokens which may be exchanged for goods or services. If that army swells to actual army-size, my war-chest will pay for exotic trips to locations which would then feature heavily in my stories.
   Cooke observed the world, and gave his radio audience glimpses of that world. He met Duke Ellington, and was present when Robert Kennedy was shot. For my part, as a mere constructor of this blog, I’m no great observer as Cooke was. I was simply once part of Cooke’s audience.
   So I’m no Alistair Cooke. And I’m no Studs Terkel, or Harvey Pekar. Though, like Harvey, I have dabbled in the world of the comic book. Albert Crabbe has a comic script attached to his name. As does Julio Mud. The cover art for INCOMPLETE UNCOLLECTED SHORT WORKS was meant to be part of a comic strip.
   It was always my intention, from the moment Karen Woodward thumped me over the head prodded my career as a blogger, to write selective blog entries that I’d collect and publish alongside my fiction. This, I have now done. Are these blogs worth reading? Of course. You’d expect me to say that, for two reasons.
   One. When it comes to my writing, though critical of it, I cannot avoid being biased. Two. As I sit typing, I read the words aloud. Shades of Alistair Cooke, there. He was speaking to a radio audience. I speak to myself, and the worms in the walls, just to keep a lid on sentence-length.
   What level of planning goes into a blog entry that’s bound for a collected edition further down the line? Should I lie, and say that I read up on Alistair Cooke and his work? I listened to his work while he was alive. All I did was check the spelling of his name. I did this by summoning the memory of the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.
   Cooke’s television work was spoofed as Cookie, with the monster in the role, reminding me that the broadcaster’s name ended in an e. Yes, that’s what passes for research in this blog. Be thankful that I apply these high standards on your behalf.
   I also struggle, heroically, with the punishing limitations delightful quirks of Microsoft Word. My wild flailing superb typing ability comes in handy, too. I considered being as grumpy as Harvey Pekar. No one on the face of the globe, Pekar included, could be that grumpy and live as long as Pekar did. You must accept my curmudgeonly nature with a mountain of salt.
   Does this make it difficult for the accidental reader to deal with my sense of humour? Of course. I managed to type that with a straight face, even though I was reading the words aloud in a high fluting tone – mimicking the speaking style of H.G. Wells.
   For no reason other than that I could. If nothing else, it added (that is to say, padded) a paragraph. Though I set out to collect my pre-publication blogs in a book, I didn’t sit down at the keyboard with the express intention of ensuring every proclamation became the Statement of the Age. That way, madness lies.
   This blog entry has been the most disjointed, in the writing. I find that I must tear myself away from the typing now, to see to my dinner Lofty Affairs of State. That last swipe was not true. In this part of the world, dinner is what other people call lunch. The main evening meal is not called dinner, but tea.
   Not to be confused with the drink. Which is also called tea. To confound the issue, it is possible to have tea with your tea. My wild flailing fingers admirable typing skills added a t to the end of the first tea in that last sentence. I do check this stuff for errors of that nature.
   Though I do not check in silence. Typing in the foreground is inspired by music in the background. I won’t always have music playing as I write. Generally, something is burbling away. Perhaps I’m looking for a sense of mood, or atmosphere.
   Maybe I’m revisiting music I haven’t heard in a little while. The soundscape of typing is no longer the thunderous rattle provided by the manual typewriter. It has softened from rattle to clatter. What do I listen to, as I type? Voices inside my head, is the short answer.
   I battle, constantly, to replicate human speech-patterns in text. Casting runes onto the blank page. I listen to music, too. Movie soundtracks, if I want to concentrate on the unfolding tale. Songs by artists who love to sing impenetrable lyrics, if I don’t want to be caught up in the words.
   Occasionally, I’ll decide that there’s something in a song that is of direct consequence to what I’m writing about. Windows Media Player allows me to set up my own playlist, tailored to the way I think a story is going. I have a playlist set for my Hamlet adaptation. Half an hour of music.
   There’s another playlist for Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords. Specifically attuned to the stories of the past. Almost 90 minutes of material. Not one song connects to the main plot featuring Gilach Mac Gilach. The playlist was created for the tales in Sir Bradwyn’s section of the saga.
   I still have the cassette I cobbled together for that, back in the day. The technology has improved somewhat. Now I’m looking at the actual playlist for Neon Gods. Twenty minutes of music that I use to visualise a few scenes from the book and several scenes from future tales of past exploits.
   This musical swirl reminds me of the original inspiration for the villainous King Valentyne. The Battle of Evermore was a collaboration between Led Zeppelin and Sandy Denny. There’s a clear mention of a tyrant. Valentyne the Tyrant was born. He became Valentyne the Conqueror. Then he switched to his final title. Vortigern the Tyrant. I just couldn’t shake the tyrannical character conjured up by that song. So the villain stayed.
   I used the song that followed The Battle of Evermore as a continuation of inspirational themes. In Stairway to Heaven, the lady who buys the stairway to heaven becomes the Red Queen in my stories. This is on the fourth Led Zeppelin album. Yes, the untitled one.
   The Battle of Evermore inspired scenes that led to the start of the war between Vortigern and everyone else. A war he thought he’d won after a year. Stairway to Heaven was a song I used to form images of Sir Bradwyn, old beyond his years, dozing by a fire. Remembering the final battle.
   A fight he barely wins, as Robert Plant sings about being a rock. With the lady herself, her kingdom, and all her people, lost in the deluge of a defeat that drags most of her foes down with her. Does this mean anything to my readers? It needn’t.
   As I’ve stated elsewhere, sources of inspiration are meaningless. Here’s the playlist. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. The Battle of Evermore. Stairway to Heaven. Kashmir. Charlie Big Potato. Kashmir. (No Quarter.) The Battle of Evermore. (No Quarter.) Stairway to Heaven. (How the West Was Won.) She Moves Through the Fair. Road to Your Soul. Scarlet. Only One Reason. Drowning.
   Led Zeppelin songs to start with. Charlie Big Potato is by Skunk Anansie, all Paranoid & Sunburnt, conjuring images of the tragedy relating to the Fair Elaine and her brother the Knight of the Glass Shield. Then it’s familiar Led Zeppelin stuff performed by Page and Plant or done live. After that, from She Moves Through the Fair on, music is by the band All About Eve featuring the haunting tones of Julianne Regan. She’s a MASSIVE Beverley Craven fan.
   Irony. Look it up.
   There’s a song in which Julianne’s spectral voice is buried under layers of technology, to great effect, and that inspires a scene I’ve not yet committed to paper. The song is Phased, and the scene involves alteration of the perception of time. That song’s on a separate playlist dominated by Annie Lennox. Those songs do inspire scenes from Gilach’s side of the story told in Neon Gods.
   Sparks fly. I’d like to say I didn’t listen to any lightning-based music while writing LYGHTNYNG STRYKES. Shelter from the Rain is another All About Eve song, and uses the phrase lightning strikes again in the lyrics. Lightning is a Thea Gilmore song that played merrily away as I typed. But tales of lyghtnyng are for another tyme.


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