I’ve never really been able to do poetry, although I’m quite good at writing song lyrics. I have no idea why I just don’t get how to write a poem.
It may be in part because I don’t understand what differentiates poetry from lyrical prose or plain lyrics. Songs I understand – there is a form to follow. You need to follow rhyme and scansion – even if you can cheat a bit and use half rhymes or assonance, and you can mess about a bit with the length of lines by stretching or compressing words or lengthening bars. I can sort of do lyrical prose as well by working with the rhythms of a sentence and the imagery. But when does that stop and poetry start – especially with free verse.
I am always in awe when I see performance poets in particular – my friend Olly Watson is brilliant at it. I can recognise that when he tells a story it is a poem – even when he uses a structure that on paper would be more like prose. I just can’t do it myself.
Perhaps it is an OuLiPo thing that allows me to write lyrics and not poetry – the constraints of the form are actually freeing rather than restricting – or perhaps it is just that my brain is hardwired for patterns. The structure is less obvious when I write prose, but it is always there. I always have an overarching plot, story arcs for the characters, threaded metaphors and allusions, and a number of set pieces I want to place in the correct pattern. A lot of the stories also place within a meta pattern as a close up on a single part of a larger body of work – a bit like those photo puzzles where you have to identify an item from a small element.
The songs are part of that too – I mention in the novel I’m revising at the moment that the lead character is writing a musical based on the Pied Piper of Hamlin and the Comedia Del Arte canon but set against the backdrop of municipal corruption on Tyneside in the 70s. The novel itself is set against the same background and one of the songs I would use if I ever get round to writing said musical is featured. Others pop up in other stories – never miss a chance to reuse something you’ve done in another context. In the same way stuff I’ve done for writing exercises has made its way into larger works, and I’ve often used bits of the same research to inform stories with radically different settings, genres and feel.
But poetry…I wish I could do what James Branch Cabell did and hide whole poems inside his novels by punctuating them as prose. One to think about.
My first short story collection – The Cat factory and other stories is now available to buy from Amazon as an e-book. You can buy it for the very reasonable price of £2.08 (you have to set a price in dollars and this was as near as I could get to £1.99 with the current exchange rate) by visiting either Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com at searching for The Cat Factory and other stories. Or, you could always borrow it for free if you are a Kindle Unlimited customer (and then buy it).
This is a bit scary – I’ve shared stories with friends but now the great reading public across the world will be able to read and judge for themselves. As soon as you press the publish button, no matter how well you think you have done, the doubts start in your head. Did I sort out all the grammar and spelling properly? Are the cover and illustrations good enough? Most of all, are the stories actually any good? They are the best I can make them without descending into the madness of revision after trivial revision, but how many people will agree?
If you do read it and enjoy it I would appreciate reviews. If you read it and don’t like it, keep your opinions to yourself! (That was a joke – honest feedback is always welcomed).
I’ve been doing some work helping my sister in law set up her online presence for her business Asmarabella Art . The first job was to brainstorm what she felt her art was. After an hour with a flip chart what we came up with was:
– art from the heart
creates beautiful art that inspires creativity and mirrors inner beauty….
Delicate and stunning exquisitely crafted and decorated pieces are designed to touch the heart and open your mind to the miraculous universe around and within us. These jewelled intricate works will give a wow factor when displayed in your home, but can also be the focus of contemplation as part of a spiral of self discovery and spiritual journey.
Many are created by upcycling household objects and making the mundane into beautiful unique creations.
I’m quite proud of being able to encapsulate what the art was about in a way she recognised and liked without being that artistic myself.
Since then I’ve been using my research skills and the joy of following breadcrumbs on the internet to pull up information to populate her business plan. It reminded me that, like the truth, the information is out there as long as you know where to look and what you want.
Having done a pretty thorough job on her business plan, I’ve been inspired to revisit my own and make sure when I launch the short story collection I have a complete plan in place to maximise the sales opportunities. Whether or not people like the stories is not within my control, but giving people who will every opportunity to find them is.
I noticed when editing my short story collection how many times I use my recurring character Tom Robinson – a person who shares a lot of their life experiences with me.
Part of the reason for this is that I wanted to use a lot of the events I have lived through and the feelings I had at the time so it seemed “honest” to have a reasonably accurate version of me go through them in the story. I hope I have been careful not to make Tom a hero but a person who shares my flaws as well as my strengths.
Another reason is that I was attracted to Rudy Rucker’s concept of Transreal fiction where you use your own life as a jumping off point in fantasy or science fiction so that the characters are realistic even if the setting is fantastic.
Other authors have used the inclusion of a “me” character as wish fulfilment, but I didn’t want to do that. Tom is normally the narrator retelling what has happened to other characters while he is only a peripheral part of the action.
There are exceptions – particularly the “Dulwich” short story and novel – based on my experiences as a journalist but taking their stylistic cues from two alumni of Dulwich School: P.G.Wodhouse and Raymond Chandler respectively.
The short story – included in The Cat Factory and Other Stories and attached below as a free taster – is a farce where I tried to emulate Wodhouse’s wonderful domino rally plotting. The plot elements are carefully installed at the start and you then just push the first one over and see the pattern emerge as they tumble.
The novel is a noirish crime story with a lot of black humour in the background. A dark sense of humour is endemic in journalism as well as other professions where you deal with the aftermath of tragedy on a regular basis. It gives you a way of being empathic but keeping a degree of distance.
Most of the background incidents in both stories are completely true, although the characters they happen to are removed from reality in order to protect the innocent (and me from libel, although I still have the notebooks). The newspaper I worked for has already featured in one comic novel: Yeah,Yeah, Yeah by Angus McGill, and formed the basis for Norman Wisdom’s Press for Time.
As well as putting in a fictional crime plot I used the mythic subtext of the Fisher King legend. It is set in the Queen’s Jubilee year of 1977 when Elvis died and punk was king. It was also a year of economic and political turmoil as Militant Tendency were struggling for the soul of the Labour Party and the seeds of the Thatcherite revolution and the death of Tyneside’s traditional heavy industries were being sown, as well as the start of change in the newspaper industry as it moved from hot metal to litho and computers. It seemed the perfect setting for a coming of age story with the death of the Council leader echoing the death of so many other things we thought would keep getting better in the heady freedom of the sixties.
Although on the face of it the novel is in the crime genre, I added a few things to make it an alternate reality novel – just because I could.
Tom so far has featured in two novels and five short stories – nine if you realise he is the unnamed narrator of the London Institute of ‘Pataphysics stories. He will feature again in the rest of the novels in the series started with Masonic Fire and may have a walk on part in the Three Wise Monkeys stories.
To read Identity Crisis click here
I’m busy preparing my short story collection The Cat Factory and other stories for publication via Amazon. It seems pretty straightforward so far.
There are, of course, lots of paperwork to sort out. As Amazon only has a US based service, although I can sign in via Amazon UK, I have to give details so I don’t pay US taxes and then declare them on my UK tax form.
It also allows you to create a cover so I could use one of the drawings I created.
I also used my new writing name – Tim Newton Anderson. I decided to add the middle name as there are a lot of Tim Anderson’s on the internet, including someone who won Masterchef in the UK a few years ago, and someone who writes on IT. Newton is my mother’s maiden name so it seemed a good option. I am the only person with that name who comes up on Google at the moment.
I also created a publisher with a few keystrokes – ATJ Entertainments which is the partnership my wife and I formed when we took over the hotel.
This is exciting and scary at the same time. Doing everything yourself avoids the trauma of someone else messing about with what you have written – although as an ex journalist I’m used to someone changing my words. However I am now the only person I can complain to if there are problems.
It also means I have to do my own marketing so I’ve been busy researching potential blogging reviewers, how to use sites like Bookbub etc, and thinking of a strategy for discounts etc. as well as ways to get followers so I can get the news out as soon as widely as possible.
Watch this space for more information and a launch date.
The Cat Factory
Tangled In the Tree of Ghosts
Sniffing Out The Truth
Stripping the Past
I’ve been preparing the various short stories I’ve written to publish as an e-book on Amazon.
I decided it needed some illustrations and rather than get someone to do them thought I would have a go myself. I haven’t done much drawing for forty years so getting out the Rotoring pens was fun as well as a challenge.
I’ve never been that good at freestyling so used some photographs as a basis and then adjusting the images to fit the stories. They were drawn freehand, however, rather than copying or tracing. I’m not sure they are that good, but I’m quite proud of them so have pasted some below.
Those familiar with the work of Georges Perec may recognise the inspiration of the first of these – appropriate as the inspiration of the story it comes from: The Cat Factory, was also inspired by Perec’s life and writing.