AJ Reid

Notes from the Paradise Peninsula

Tag: writing

Potatoes and Literary Genre

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When I’m gone and turned to dust,
You’ll still click my link, I trust,
Give us a like or even a love,
I’ll be watching from above,
If creation truly be not a sin,
Maybe my uploads will get me in?

Followers come and followers go,
Like lovers you never really know,
Unless they too have uploaded theirs,
And put in order their affairs,
So that they can also live forever,
By seeding clouds with their endeavour,
Hoping there might come a rain,
To drop them back to earth again,
If only to give a vague idea,
Of what it meant when they were here.

Will doc files cleanse the streets,
And bring on revolution?
Bedroom wavs rock halls of power,
Halting executions?
Will jpegs of outstanding worth,
Become like stained-glass,
Worshipped by some hipster,
Still talking out of his arse?

But what happens when,
The wind blows again,
And we all take shelter below?
If we survive,
Will we be deprived,
Of the things that we love and know?
If the cloud blows away,
And the authorities say,
That it was always our decision,
We submitted and signed,
We’ll become deaf and blind,
Under a deluge of derision,
Incision and division bells,
Silencing the voices,
That scream against the toughened glass,
Of gilted Rolls-Royces.

Take your books below with you,
And cherish all your vinyl,
So that if the cloud should fall as rain,
Your ecstasy won’t be final.

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Why So Violent?

To ignore or denounce violence as a storyteller seems irresponsible, since conflict is fundamental to the art, as far as I can see.  I wish that I could agree with my staunchly-pacifist friends who look like they want to kick my head in every time we lock horns on the subject, but I know that the most violence they’ve had to contend with is being thrown in a bush at school and therefore, our weltanschauungen are just different.  Some of them even blame me for propagating violence by writing about it, which really shows how little they understand it.

 

My parents had a nightclub and three off-licences in town.  When I was four, I used to clean the sick out of the toilets and save the empty bottles of Newcastle Brown for jukebox Jimi Hendrix money.  Violence was a part of my life from as far back as I can remember, whether it was my nan throwing boiling chip fat over protection racketeers, the bouncers kung-fu-ing the shit out of some unlucky bloke or my mother being threatened with a syringe full of HIV+ blood, it was always around.  I had death threats sent to my school at the age of six from local gangsters, happy about neither my father’s resistance to their proposed protection schemes, nor the scars from the chip fat.  By sixteen, I was sitting in vans with bouncers, waiting to go into tower blocks to retrieve bin bags of stolen cigarettes; guarding ram-raided premises with a baseball bat all night; confronting would-be armed robbers before they pulled the gun/knife on my family working in the off-licence.  The following day I would have to be back in school in my prefect’s cape, trying not to fall asleep in Latin lessons on Cicero’s speeches to the senate.

 

When I was 19 and studying English and Philosophy at Liverpool University, I was the victim of a violent crime that would change me forever.  Sleep became a thing of the past: impossible until I reached the point of exhaustion after a few days and pass out, but even then I was tortured by nightmares, mostly regarding the illusions that we not only live by, but survive by in a so-called civilised society.  I suspended studies for a year and in that year, they reintroduced tuition fees, making the option of returning more difficult.  Having worked with OMD and Atomic Kitten in a Liverpool studio for a few years, I pursued a career in the music business and left for Nashville, which was almost as traumatising as the violent crime, but that’s for another blog post, perhaps.

 

Please bear in mind that none of this even made it into A Smaller Hell: when I returned from Nashville, LA and New York with nothing and started working at the department store in town, the violence became more nebulous than a simple punch in the mouth or knife to the throat.  The whole thing was like some bizarre psychological experiment, shot through with elitism, sexual weirdness and Machiavellian cruelty.  And this is from someone who had been working in the music business for a few years.

 

It was at this time that information about corrupt corporations and governments began to leak on to the internet in a big way, and I began making comparisons between the store manager and these larger-scale villains.   I also began to delve deeper into the part that narcissism played in all of this, and that helped me to forge the character of Dianne Doyle.  It felt like a process of zooming in and out of various concepts for both comic and disturbing effect, which is reflected in the title somewhat.  It was the absurdity of the manager’s craven need for control within the outdated, grandiose crucible of a traditional department store that really inspired me.  Her psychological violence was always calculated, insidious, subtle and usually, amazingly effective at bending staff members to her will.

 

I am not championing violence by portraying it in accordance with my experiences: I hate it more than anything.  However, to water down what I have learnt through painful experience would render my writing redundant, not only to me, but to anyone reading it.  I find it difficult to apologise or even sympathise with anyone “offended” by violence in storytelling, because existence itself is a form of violence: as a consequence of sexual congress (itself a violent act), our spirits are plucked from the dark shelves of the netherworld, stuffed into pink bags of flesh, bone and blood and ejected through some poor lady’s bits into a world where the screaming never ends.  Who would choose it?  The rest of the multiverse would have to be hellish in comparison.

Have a nice day.

Check out A Smaller Hell and let me know what you think in the comments.

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The Horseman’s Dream Update

It’s only taken me eight years of drafts, scraps and rewrites to get to this point.  Since I was (and still am) no scientist, I read psychology books and articles daily during those years for the sole purpose of writing The Horseman’s Dream.  I studied other fields of science, met with psychologists, military veterans and brushed up on my theology, or divinity, as we used to call it when I were a lad.  I’ve even visited abandoned Victorian lunatic asylums in the dead of night on the Welsh moors and consulted with staff at the notorious Ashworth Hospital.  Over the years, researching this book has led me to a cup of coffee with the local vicar; chicken, greens and cornbread with a preacher from Mississippi; beer with a Zionist and lasagne with an evangelist from Birkenhead, amongst others.  It’s been an obsession by most psychological standards.  I remember how it started: sitting in a garage, waiting for my car to be MOT’d and the only reading material provided was Heat magazine and the Holy Bible.  The juxtaposition of the two texts right there on the coffee table set a few wheels in motion concerning doctrine, escapism, existence and control.  I scribbled as much down as I could while I was waiting, paid my bill, then drove home to resume scribbling.  The idea was so absurdly complicated that it’s taken me this long to unravel it into a story, rather than a rant.
Writing Third Person Multiple POV hurts my brain, but it’s the only way to tell this one.  Summoning each character makes it obvious why many successful actors also write: it’s an extension of what they have already practised and honed for years.  Imagining how a completely different personality would respond in any given situation whilst retaining authenticity is a dark art indeed, but what fun.  Apart from the needs of the story, the Third Person Multiple ties in with the psychological/sociological subject matter of the book: the broadcasting of the contents of peoples’ minds for entertainment and propaganda purposes.  Alternate reality entertainment, if you like.  At least, that’s the kind of pretentious tagline that Grosvenor Media favour when advertising Totem.  I hope to include some equally pretentious tagline for the book at some point to complete the oh-so-meta meta-ness, dahling.  So far the best I can do is “live the dream” – horribly unoriginal, but then that’s the point: that the benign creations of brilliant minds are often used for banal – or even evil – ends.  The TV was an amazing invention, as was the internet.  You may have noticed my use of past tense there.  I used it because they have been hijacked, restricted, censored and controlled to suit the demands of very wealthy corporations and individuals even now in 2015.  It begs the question of who provides our reality and just how far our illusions go.  What would you do if faced with the truth behind the veil?  Would you beg for the illusion to resume or would you revel in your freedom from it?

Horseman's Dream Logo-Recovered

In more news, I’ve started working with some very talented photographers, painters and other visual artists, who are going to help to bring the world of The Horseman’s Dream to life in images and video.  I will be posting their work here on ajreid.org over the next few months in the run-up to the launch of The Horseman’s Dream later this year, and I am most grateful to them for their collaboration on this project.  Any photographers or other visual artists who would like more details should contact me at thehorsemansdream@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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Street Carnival in Birkenhead, UK 1902

What a great photograph.  Is it any wonder that A Smaller Hell is set in this weird and wonderful town?

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Mark Twain’s Rules For Writing

1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.

3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.

4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.

7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a minstrel at the end of it.

8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.

9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausably set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.

11. The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

An author should:

12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage.
15. Not omit necessary details.
16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
17. Use good grammar.
18. Employ a simple, straightforward style.

 

 

 

 

 

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