End of Term

The winter’s apparently over, we Sun-birds are packing up and trudging back ‘home’.  It’s been a great Winter in the Caribbean, the weather and the water of the Caribbean are unassailable.  Going back to UK depresses me, all that traffic and 70 million people dashing about at such high speeds, lousy weather, the price of petrol, and all the worry of those who have nothing, and those who have too much,  those who pay taxes and those who choose not to.  those out of work and those who choose to be out of work.

It’s such a change from the lazy pace of the Caribbean where no one seems to worry about anything!  Here we have the expression when you’re asked how things are going – we reply “I’m giving thanks.”  How lovely is that, giving thanks for life itself and whatever I’ve got.  There are some folks here who have precious little, but they are still ‘giving thanks’.

We may have a rudimentary form of government, large pot holes, electricity cuts and appalling drivers but you know what?  We’re giving thanks.

Listening to criticism

As I’ve said before writing is relatively easy if you are of that mindset.  Then comes the hard bit, editing and reader panel criticism. 

I readily admit to being a useless editor of my own material, i can never spot errors of spelling (USA vs UK English via my wretched computer) typos, omissions, the abuse of the semi-colon and many others mistakes.  To me the story is the thing despite the fact i know that’s not good enough.

So I need help, help I can afford.  My reader panels are usually long term friends and I try to draw on different folk for each work.  I like people from as many countries and cultures as I can, as well as folk who have different reading habits.

What I am trying to establish is firstly whether these  very different people 1) Enjoy the work 2) feel it could be improved with an inkling of -how?, 3) Copy edits, tiresome though they are.

The big issue is how honest am I, the author, when they come back, sometimes with stinging criticism.  It is impossible not to get an emotional response which conditions the practical one.  I think sometimes the readers are too kind and understate the frailties of the work, whilst others stick to pedantic copy errors only, as if the work was an exercise for O level English.

We writers have to be brutally honest with ourselves and find a way around the emotional first responses.  This takes time and experience and even then I don’t think we ever totally succeed.

So here’s to all you writers out there, here’s to brave honesty and to the defense of the semi-colon!

Harvesting the words – reviewing second drafts

Writing can be fun especially when you are in the full flood of imagination – the story unfolds ,the words tumble  out, there is excitement and almost unstoppable momentum.  There are struggles of course, as we build on the initial ideas, but it is easy to drive on and build the story.

When the story is done, then our work begins in earnest as we struggle to correct, polish, precis, and all the other things that bring our work to a minimum level of coherence.  This is hard, it needs patience and a self critical eye.  This is where most of us fail. The glamour of story telling is replaced by this dreadful pedantic nit picking; it’s not what we ant to do.  But do it we must.

Sadly this reluctance to perfect our once shining ‘idea’ of a story overwhelms us and we fall short.  It is just this failing which is what the literary agent focuses upon when he/she reject our work.  The story is lost often never to be seen again.  This is the dark place I spend too much time.

On then, on to the next blazing, side splitting story that perhaps no one will ever read.

Don’t forget – the words

Yesterday’s tragedy in Boston serves to remind us all of the risks of democracy.  Letting people believe what they want to believe, the problem lies with the extremes of these beliefs, whether it’s the right to bear arms, or the belief in an interpretation of an almighty. To nurture freedom we have to take the risk. 

The tears will not cease for the families of those who so needlessly died, but the world will go on bearing another scar that has wounded America  once more;

So let us not forget, but let us go on and take the risk – despite the price.

 

 

We grieve- use words not bombs

Once more we grieve because some  maniac has killed and maimed good folk gathered in Boston for the Marathon.  A small boy who went to see his daddy is amoungst the dead – how tragic is that.  Who ever did this awful thing is one of many sad people who have poisoned minds.

For the rest of us we cannot comprehend the evil of their ways let alone understand what it is these people seek to achieve.  If these people ever had a God they have lost him, for no faith I know of would countenance such evil.

Writers, all of us must stand full square and proclaim that words not bombs are the way to a harmonious family of mankind. Words not only of love and reconciliation but also words about the human condition and the rights and responsibilities of us all.

Words too of solidarity with all who share our grief for those we do not know or will never meet.

May peace be upon them and may they find solace in the friendship and love of their families and friends.

We hope too that we respond to this evil not with evil and hatred but with measured justice and our beliefs in harmony unshaken.

We Grieve. for the people of Boston

 

They know we love them,

Yet we tip toe round their grief,

We are afraid

to touch the open wounds.

 

They know we love them,

And we know we are afraid

To hold them,

or just give them  time to chat.

 

They know we love them

we don’t know what to give

A smile, a minute

A hug, a greeting on the mat.

 

We know we love them

And all they want from us

Is just the time of day

To talk of this or that.

 

They know we love them

So come and share a prayer

Hold their hands and shed a tear

You know that’s where they’re are at

 

They know that we love them

So please don’t walk away

Grief is not a gift they bring

Just help them bear the pain.

 

Anthony James (c) 2013

Digging deep to find a story

Another day in paradise, not long now till be beat a retreat to the UK for the summer. Worked this morning writing and editing, my wife is top gun when it comes to syntax and punctuation.

Working on ‘A Touch of Class’ is not as easy as I thought in the sense that, I find the discipline of tense and person  hard, the story limps along a bit because of all these stops and starts, ensuring I’ve got this sentence and that paragraph nicely bedded.

This morning I had a lot of interruptions, about a termite attack, and the plan to repulse the attack and what it will cost, plenty, I’m afraid.

I work on, determined to do my thousand words, edit and work on this wretched platform stuff, no time left to think about the next story.

I shall be glad when ‘The Psychedelic Traveler’ is finished, it might be today’s mood. but it has been a work I have enjoyed only in parts.  Short stories need such a wealth themes and ideas, and yet they are finished so soon.  This book is not like writing a novel where you see your idea grow, sometimes very slowly.  With short stories, no sooner do I have the idea and it is finished and the necessity to find another is like a blister on your brain.

Then it will be time to think of Publishing, how?  I’ve tried many ways, all of them fairly unsatisfactory.  If I add to my daily chores, the pursuit of a useful agent, I will never have time to write anything worthwhile.

I sound like a manic depressive, I am not, it is just hard some times pushing myself to another thousand words, and worst of all admitting sometimes that those thousand words are shit.  Occasionally of course they are not shit, they are lovely, glorious, they make me cry and laugh and smile. Then I think how lucky I am to suffer from this obsession to write.

I’ve just been reading some of my old poetry, it has been a good experience. I cried a lot – surprised sometimes that I had written such moving stuff.  Maybe I should take a sabbatical and go back to it(poetry).

On BEING Seventy

 

Three score years and ten,

the end they say, my time is up!

My lurch into decrepitude lies unavoidably

beneath my uncertain feet.

 

Then downwards? Towards what end?

Hopefully to peace of mind and spirit.

Not hopelessly to hell, condemned by unforgiving diety

judging me as I  probably deserve.

 

Bits are metaphorically falling off,

Arthritic fingers, and flaccid parts

The extremities that mattered,

matter less as days tick by.

 

But things do still matter,

My accomplished grumpy rudeness

threatens equanimity in others.

I must resist the gurgled satisfaction.

 

All the hours, days and seconds do matter,

as things rush to their inevitable end,

There are those I love and care about

Much more than anyone would guess.

 

Each ticking second is as much worth

as when I wailed, balling in my pram.

Others giggled and enjoyed my baby charms,

more innocent than my  old acerbic wit.

 

Enjoy each remaining day,

Enchant the world with one’s experienced head and heart,

Be kind and mild, calm and quiet,

unlike the child, unlike the man.

 

So three score years and ten, is not the end!

It is a start to put so many rights and wrongs in place

and leave the dust of eternity untroubled

and of hearing laughs fade, and smiles melt sweetly away.

 

 

 

Using time and growing old

Each day that passes is a tick of the clock, and although I live in paradise (see pics) small things rob me of the experiences that really matter. Defining what really matters is almost a life long lesson, all I know now is in my eighth decade, i have a clearer idea.  I don’t want anything that spoils my loving relationships, nor do I want to leave anyone behind who will be lost without me.  I want to share everything with them as well as write something that’ll move a person or two whether I’m here or not.

Today i have been mulling over some important challenges and choices that I face, and I am resolved to change nothing.

Tonight we will have some chums over for dinner, share some good food and some decent wine, what a joy, what a lucky bugger I am.  I just want it all to go on.

I’m older than I used to be……

 

       

I’m older than I used to be,

I remember yesterday quite clearly

I was clever smart and sharp,

each day had purpose

Now I’m not so sure, what to do.

I search for yesterday.

 

No one knows nor cares about my worth,

my talent or my wit.

Each day that passes is lost in nemesis,

What can I do to stop the rot,

the decay of sitting still and waiting

For publisher or acolyte to call, –  they never do.

 

How shall I shout and make the world aware

of all I have to offer.

The world shouts back in stony silence,

alarming with disinterest,

The insistence to do something

rings hollowly from within,

 

I cannot stand that silent din of emptiness,

come muse and help me sing,

What music is irrelevant,

as long as there is a tune,

It’s mine that no one else can play

or write or paint or sing.

 

It matters not that no one hears,

perhaps the word will entertain

When I am dead and gone,

the words echoing in my wake,

Perhaps they too will die silently,

unknown unread and dead.

 

No one will care, so why all the trouble

to make a new creation?

I have no idea, – to fill the days?

To live In hope of some tiny immortality?,

But if those words and songs,

they die with me.  So what?

Image

Writer finding his voice – in short stories.

Spent this morning writing a short story of a self deprecating male and his sexual fantasies.  The story which will feature in my new book; The Psychedelic Traveler is the last of twelve stories that have one thing in common – exotic places.  Each story is set somewhere unusual including, Brazil, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea, China, Siberia, Crimea, Iraq, New Zealand, the Pacific, Japan, and India.  I hope that this collection of short stories will find a place with travelers whether at home in their armchairs or on a plane or train. Each story is around 5000 words

The moods of the stories vary from suspense, comedy and human interest.

The art of the short story is alive and well though I find no support from the larger commercial literary enterprises.  However the advent of the electronic age has cast us all into the pit of unmerciful competition, where the multitude of talents, both big and small vie for a moment in the literary sun.

My two novels,”Smiles in Africa”, “The Poisoned Banquet”, one memoir- “My Boy” still languish in the dark, let’s hope “The Psychedelic Traveler” gets a little sun.

Writer lost for too many words

Creating a platform, tweeting, blogging, socializing takes so much  time,  creative writing which is my raison d’etre is almost crowded out.  Whilst the electronic age opens so many channels we are in danger of being submerged in the rush of self promotion.  Good literature is being dwarfed by the cult of cheap celebrity and instant self publicity.  I feel that I will write my best work that no one will read because it will demand an effort from the reader and of course his opportunity to discover me.  In this crowded ether it seems that neither is likely to happen. 

So should I surrender to the inevitable, one thing or the other?  Write good literature or join the sad gossiping frippery of the pursuit of celebrity?  It seems I must have faith and be happy, write as well as i can, each piece a small work of art, an end in itself, it is just sad that few, if any, will read it.  Time to write then and end this Blog.