5 FOR FRIDAY: BOOKS EVERY WRITER SHOULD HAVE

It’s been a couple of weeks: full-time employment called, and while I may not have been engaged in the writah-dahlink life I crave, my son’s Scout Jamboree for next year has been paid for, so that’s a thing that happened.

While I desperately try to re-insert writing back into my daily routine, I’ll need a bit of help and guidance. Here, then, are five books that form the cornerstone of my industry reading, and the pillars upon which my library of books about writing stand.

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5 FOR FRIDAY CALLS BULLSHIT ON YOUR WRITING MYTHS

Every month, patrons of my Patreon account who pledge $3 or more have the opportunity to choose the topic of a 5 for Friday post. This month, thanks to the generosity of patrons Narrelle M Harris and Andrew McKiernan, I’m looking at five myths about the writing process that make my teeth itch.

We all know the myths the general community believe about writers and writing: anyone can do it; we must all be rich from those sweet, sweet publishing dollars; yet somehow we’re all willing to do anything for free because exposure…… Sure, it’s risible, but at least the general community has the excuse of ignorance. We actually do the business, and yet, somehow, we manage to perpetuate just as many harmful myths about the process amongst ourselves.

Perhaps it’s because, deep down, we know that the only true secret to writing is to sit our arse on the chair and keep doing it until we get better. And because it really is just that simple, we have to build up an air of mystique  to prove to ourselves that we’re really magical, mysterious artistes. Here are five lines of bullshit you hear authors spinning to each other while we all nod sagely as if we believe it, even though we damn well know better.

5 FOR FRIDAY: HONEST, WE’RE SPECIAL.

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5 FOR FRIDAY WILL, 5 FOR FRIDAY WILL, ROCK YOU.

We’re still in the midst of Battcon, and while the focus is on the inevitable writerly pursuits– writing, drinking, bitching about the successes of others, drinking, hanging around the pool, complaining that my career is over, drinking, watching TV and drinking, with the occasional bout of writing and self-hatred– it’s important that it all be done to the correct soundtrack, because, you know, generation that grew up on The Breakfast Club.

Queen is the first band for whom I ever felt a fannish attraction, predating even my all-encompassing and lifelong Madness love. Outside of Bohemian Rhapsody (the only song to realistically challenge Stairway to Heaven for the unofficial Greatest Song Ever Recorded title), their catalogue up until the demise of their hypnotic genius front man Freddie Mercury is a wall to wall layer of brilliance and bona fide superhits. I have owned their Greatest Hits Volume 1 album in at least 4 different media, and worn it through in each one.

Between Mercury’s voice, guitar god Brian May’s soaring riffs, and the joyous flip-flopping between whimsical Victoriana and tear-your-balls-off rock and roll, they are unforgettable, and simply impossible to recreate. What we can do, however, is take a moment to step outside the long list of radio staples we still teach our children (boom boom, CLAP, boom boom CLAP…) and highlight five works that haven’t stuck in the general consciousness, despite their brilliance.

Here, then, are five of my favourites from outside the long, long list of giant monster hits we all know and sing regularly wherever there’s an outdoor event with a taped soundtrack (boom boom, CLAP, boom boom CLAP…)……

 

5 for FRIDAY: KILLER QUEEN

 

Continue reading “5 FOR FRIDAY WILL, 5 FOR FRIDAY WILL, ROCK YOU.”

5 FOR FRIDAY: A MATHOM OF OPENINGS

The longer you write, the more you begin. The more you begin, the more you accumulate false starts, mis-steps, and generally unusable fragments.

Writers are hoarders, at least of ideas: a good writer never throws anything away, and it can be years between writing a false start and finding the one perfect moment, idea, or circumstance that allows us to finish the story. My personal record is 11 years between abandoning an opening, and completing– and selling– the finished story (At The End There Was a Man, which appeared in the Coeur De Lion anthology Anywhere But Earth). I know of other authors who have gone more than 20 years between beginning and finishing a story. Ask around: we’ve all got one.

So, for your entertainment and education, here are five openings I’ve been carrying around for over 5 years, waiting for that spark to see them through to completion.

 

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5 FOR FRIDAY: TV COMEDIES THAT INFLUENCED ME

Those of you who still don’t roll over and pretend to be asleep when I mention my Patreon campaign will know that patrons of a certain level (Okay, it’s 3 bucks a month. We’re not talking high finance, here) get to determine which 5 for Friday posts will be among those I blog each month. Thanks to patron Narrelle M Harris, this week I’ll be discussing five TV comedies that have influenced my writing, my performing, and my approach to art.

I grew up in a time when an episode of a TV show was shown once, at a specific time, and if you missed it, well, you might just never see it. As I grew into a teen, and then a comedy obsessed young adult, the list of shows I obsessed over grew and grew into, well, an obsession. One I should have followed all the way to a PhD thesis, but that’s a story for another time. I compulsively purchased books of sketch scripts, and spent hours picking apart and analysing Beyond the Fringe, The Goon Show, Round the Horne, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, A Show Called Fred, Steptoe and Son, Hancock’s Half Hour…… the list is enormous, and largely British. I recorded scripts on tape– sometimes with friends, sometimes solo– playing with voice, and timing, and pitch. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I collected LPs– and did up until my second marriage. And I watched: over and over, episodes of every show I could find: first on TV, and then, when video cassettes became available, on tape, then disc. I am a fan. I could easily have become an historian. Here are five shows that changed the way my brains works.
5 FOR FRIDAY: AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

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5 FOR FRIDAY: XTC

Those of you who have been paying attention to my Patreon campaign will know that one of the rewards offered to patrons is the ability to determine which 5 for Friday posts will be among those I blog each month. Thanks to patron Colin Sharpe, this week I’ll be discussing five of my favourite songs by those master of British pop perfection, XTC.

Back in the 1980s, among the Chock Solid Block of Oz Cock Rock on which I was weaned, I uncovered a deep and lasting love for those British songwriters who defined the world in acid-etched clarity and humour: Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, Madness and the Specials all retain a special place in my heart. And alongside them, XTC, and three songs in particular that were FM radio staples– Senses Working Overtime; Making Plans for Nigel; and Generals and Majors are magnificent songs that remain close to my heart, and I could probably wax on about them until we’re both blue in the brain. (If you haven’t heard them before, follow the links now, then come back. We’ll wait, ready with a hearty I KNOW, RIGHT? at your return.)

I KNOW, RIGHT?

Now, in all honesty, we could begin and end right there, but those gateway drugs of songs were only the beginning of a life-long love. So here are five other songs that hit me right in the frontal cortex, and which I’ll be humming as they carry me to my grave.

Next week, thanks to patron Narrelle M Harris, I’ll be discussing five TV comedies that have influenced my approach to writing, performance, and public speaking. But for now, get out the headphones and sink into 15 minutes of musical bliss as Andy and Colin do what they do best: swan around being brilliant.

 

LIKE A 5 FOR FRIDAY IN A FURNISHED CAGE

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