A Life On The Tiles

My Life on the tiles in deepest France

Summertime and the living is easy. Oh yes – you can’t keep a good old hedonist down. Someone – take command, put away the sun, chain me to the desk, hide the oysters and the scent of roses on the Quai des Fleurs. Flatten the surf, sour the wine, give me guilt without guilty pleasure. I suppose I could see it all as research particularly when it’s the first Wednesday and time for the Insecure Writers Support Group.


Well, perhaps it will be cloudy tomorrow. If something does not intervene then this is how things will end, in the late warm air from the South, glass raised to the moon in the dark star stabbed sky. 
There are mosquitoes, cellulite and sunburn of course. I think this is the path to tread back to work. I have been writing a fairy story in the way that hedonist romantics write – kinda in the head a bit. It will hit the page today I promise.

So, pretty insecure I guess and made even worse by the book I’m reading. It has galloped off like a full frontal sexy romance which had me considering what time I could get my man to bed. There’s only one problem – the author is a bloke, un homme, a guy. Yes, it looks like the old monopoly might be slipping away. Now THAT does make me feel insecure. Better double up on the wine and chocolate – just to get some extra passion in the mix. The book is “The Gaze” by Javier A. Robayo.  I’ll just have to finish it and the sun is warm on the Terrasse. As soon as I’m feeling secure enough I’ll post a review. I think it will be hot.

Emma thinx: You get more sex out of a good book than there is in it. 


Beached Wail

It is that insecure first Wednesday. All in all life is good since I am alive and in France. As for the writing – well, I wish I could claim great success. These days it is very important for me to try to remember that I have been at this game since my teens. Sadly that is about 35 years. I also try to remember that the “writer” is someone other than my whole being. In here there is a woman who goes to work, talks to neighbours, shares lives with children and grandchildren etc etc. Once again I find myself  hammered by remarkably spiteful critics – all of whom arise from free book days. I do pose the question to myself that if I am that bad, would I be worth attacking with such vehemence? It  is all very much of a puzzlement to me. Why are there no readers who just kinda find a book OK, not bad, quite entertaining, undemanding but not life changing? If a free book is so bad that you can only face a few pages, why would you spend half an hour pounding it when it has not cost you anything and, by your own admission, you have not read it?


This problem of the free book critical wave appears to strike many writers. Dotting around the forums I find writers who were doing well until they went free but now have had to pull their books, change their names and titles. So far I still have more likes than not but it is something I am watching carefully. The real problem is that I do not think anyone involved in publishing knows where to go. I often feel like a complete innocent longing for those simple days when I typed out stories for magazines, sent them off and sold about one in five. At least dealing with editors meant that they made sense and knew their readers tastes. If they did not like the story they did not buy it. They did not waste time telling you how bad you were.  The internet and celebrity mags largely killed the print market for stories. The affairs of the stars trumped any invention of the old story hacks. 


And finally about reviews, recently I checked out Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” on Amazon because I was going to buy a copy for a young student of history. A guy had done a puffed up (Aren’t I clever) review stating the grammar was incorrect in the translation from German and had accorded the one star of his lofty judgement. The truth is that the the translation does a brilliant interpretation of Hitler’s atrocious grammar. The guy was a murdering dictator – not a budding author likely to be grateful for a grammar lesson from the underlings who transcribed his rantings. I must be one of the only people ever to have been cheered up by Adolph Hitler.

Figures in an unwritten book



I still want to write but the writing always gets shuffled to the bottom of the pile both by the business of life and to some extent the discouragement of it all. The same story wanders about in my head but will not form. They are like strangers on a huge beach, unknown to me, always walking away with backs turned. They have a life and a story in their faces. I took a picture of them on my local beach….


Emma thinx: Relax: all the sand will run out long before the time.

Insecure? I’m not sure really.



Actually I was feeling relatively secure as I sat down to write my blog. Then an 85 mph gust of wind hit a tree just to the right of my office window. Several tons of wood split from the trunk and destroyed my neighbour’s garage and a good portion of the house roof. The rest of the tree now leans towards my very position. Now, I’ve always maintained that any sense of security in this world is misplaced. We are helpless creatures of no account, clinging to our fragile capsule of individual conscious time. As dear old John Keats wrote for his own epitaph “Here lies one whose name was writ in water”.  I’m OK with the water, but I wonder if I could have it 50/50 with a decent brandy? Of course,  John Keats did not have the benefit of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.  The course of English Literature could have been so very different…


Insecurity as a writer is of course another thing all together. I mean, who is not a writer? Any time I tell someone I’ve written a book I find that they have already written several or believe that they have a host of unwritten brilliant narratives ready to wow the Readerverse. So – who would bother with me?  Um – well – there are always the critics.


When I first launched “Knockout” I came across a lady who offered to review books. Her verdict opened “I knew at once that I would hate this book.” All the same she carried on in what I can only assume was an orgy of masochistic self loathing. “The characters were unrealistic since no Police Inspector would just fall in love with some guy.” She followed it it with the suggestion that “The writer is clearly a foreigner with no idea of England. (I am a Londoner) Names of places in London are used as if it were a guide book.”  The critic then turned to the matter of a restaurant menu which she felt was a poorly designed combination of dishes.  Finally she declared that the character of a Police commander was “unrealistic since such a bombastic character would have been brought up before some kind of employment tribunal”.  I thanked her for her kind efforts but some small part of me wanted to say that it was a Romance where rather larger than life characters behaved rather “Romantically” in a world of unsuitable menus and horrid bosses. I could also have said that the Police Commander was based on someone I knew and if anything, underestimated his odiousness. As a final salvo the lady opined that the choice of the name Freddie for the French/American male hero was a ridiculous pun on a sitcom character called “Freddie the Frog” of whom I had never heard. 


The choice then was whether to accept all her criticisms and not publish or kinda stick to my self belief that, although not high art, it was not that bad. Perhaps some of you guys will let me know.


I think I’m in my 35th year of more or less continuous rejections. I suppose my confidence wavers as I wait for the letter. By now I feel utterly secure in my prediction of the outcome. I know there is a novel from 20 years ago possibly in a slush pile, still out there somewhere. Some rejections have become treasures. A famous poetry editor wrote back to me to say that my work was ghastly but that he loved my covering letter. I felt validated and secure. It was the only time. I have always taken comfort from the notion that all the GREATS were rejected, cut their ears off and ended up in a pauper’s grave. The only problem is that this is not true. 


If I’m being serious I would say that all the years of rejections have never stopped me from trying and have convinced me that I’m unlikely to please any publisher/agent. This realisation is my freedom and I am secure in it. My good friend Oscar Sparrow, the poet, has recorded the supposed world’s worst poem. People get in touch with him just to say they love it. If you wanna hear the sweet sound of heroic failure here is a link. By the way, the “world’s worst” poet Theo Marzials was a huge success in his own life-time!


Emma thinx: The trouble with insecurities is that they tie you down.