That Difficult Second Album

In the days before streaming, MP3s and such like – when proper music came in vinyl that they called ‘long players’, there was something called ‘Difficult Second Album Syndrome’.

An album was another name for a LP (long player), being a number of audio recordings issued as a collection, which after vinyl’s heyday was then also used for both tape cassettes and CD collections – gosh, it’s like a history lesson!

And the ‘difficult second album’ was what they called the follow-up LP a band or singer had to bring out pretty quickly after the initial success of their debut. Usually with the record label pushing them hard! The problem referenced the fact that recording artistes had, apparently, often used up all their best ideas on that impressive first record.

Now, novels having been around a lot longer than LPs (did any classical music composers have ‘that difficult second symphony syndrome’?)  you would think more would have been written about ‘Second Novel Syndrome’. Of course it must exist, after all Margaret Mitchell never managed another book after ‘Gone with the Wind’. J D Salinger rather dried up after ‘Catcher in the Rye’. Maybe it’s more success related than the actual writing?

What then can be done to get over this problem? And did I ever suffer from ‘Difficult Second Novel Syndrome’ when writing ‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’ (KELS)? This being the second adventure of the ‘#1 Kindle Bestselling’ Master Detective Nicely Strongoak. (Not exactly ‘Gone With The Wind’ or ‘Catcher in the Rye’ fame I know!)

The answer is no. And not because I’d already published ‘The Resolution Show’ with David Alter in between, because chronologically  that was actually written a lot later.

The explanation, and the way to get round ‘Difficult Second Novel Syndrome’, is to start the second novel before you finish the first! Well, that’s what I did with KELS.

What’s this all about then? Simply put, when writing Nicely’s first adventure ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’ I found that there was a lot of material being generated that just didn’t fit in that first book. It was either connected to events, or characters, which just didn’t belong in ‘A Dead Elf’. They were too good to waste though and I put them elsewhere (in my fester box) and gradually KELS began to take shape there.

Bottom line, I had half of this book finished before I had completed Nicely’s first adventure. This meant I had none of that ‘blank page’ problem when it came to writing KELS for real. There were a lot of other problems of course, but not to do with the actual writing.

And, guess what?

While I was getting the rest of KELS together the elements of Book 3 of Nicely’s adventures were taking shape. Now, on ‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’ publication day, I am delighted to announce that the first draft of Book 3 is also complete. It’s called …

Sorry, you’ll have to wait for that treat, but in putting that book together the basis for Book 4 began to take shape as well. But that, as they say, is another story.

Continue reading That Difficult Second Album

I am interesting, believe me!

I have just completed a really great film script with a writer living abroad and it’s about – well, I can’t actually tell you what it’s about, but it’s great, believe me.

Later next month I am writing another film script. It’s an adaptation of a novel, which I am really enjoying. It will make a great film. It’s about – well, I can’t actually tell you what that’s about either.

Sh! It’s a secret!

 

In the meantime I’m writing a game story for a client that is absolutely fantastic. The idea behind the story is totally unique and the artwork is stunning and … I wish I could tell you some more about it.

But I can’t.

What about the series of children’s poems? Not a word from me, unfortunately.

The Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a vital and necessary part of a writer’s life. So – I am told – is building your ‘brand’ as a writer. Make your readers interested in you, as a person, with information about the things you like and do.

Well, I write a lot – a lot of the time, in different areas and media. And it’s all pretty damn interesting, and thanks to the NDA I generally can’t breathe a word about any of it.

So – tonight I am going to a performance about a woman who died in 1979*. That’s about it.

But I am interesting, believe me!

 

Continue reading I am interesting, believe me!

President of the Rings – politics and fantasy

Just so you know: there’s politics in my fantasy world, because there’s politics everywhere.

To which you might well reply:
“We’re overrun with politics now; can’t we have a break please? I like my fantasy to make me feel better not worse!”

Sorry, fantasy is the real world now. However, politics doesn’t have to be all bad – honest

The politics in Widergard (Wider-earth, gedit?) is different, not just because it was the elves that introduced democracy when they returned from Overseas, but because Widergard is a modern(ish) world with many different races. You know, the usual suspects: men, elves, dwarfs, goblin, trolls etc, who all now have to get on together.

That’s what politics is all about after all, isn’t it? Getting on together – or at least it should be.

You think we have problems here? Just imagine trying to draft a Race Relations Act when there are six different races? Well, seven if you count the Pix, but nobody really does – which is strange as they are some of the oldest inhabitants of all these fantasy worlds.

They don’t get a lot of press the Pix – I think writers worry about them bringing down the tone.

Continue reading President of the Rings – politics and fantasy

The Natural History of Elves, Dwarfs, Men, Goblins, Gnomes and Trolls

The Paleoanthropological Relationships That Exist in the Hominini Lines of Middle-earth like Fairylands

The current resurgence of interest in the more recent history of worlds like Middle-earth, (often classified as Fairylands) in books such as ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’, has come at a time when academic research into the field has also never been more fertile. Perhaps the productive area of investigation has been in the understanding of the Paleoanthropological relationships that exist in the Hominini lines of ‘Fairyland’ and how they relate to what is known about our own (Homo sapiens) developmental history. This article will give a necessarily brief review of thinking in the field and highlight some of the more interesting ramifications especially as they relate to Widergard.

No Fairies in Fairyland
The name of Fairyland is of course a misnomer and harks back to a period when our limited level of understanding of the Realm lead to several suspect classifications of the Hominini species present, including the rather nebulous class referred to as ‘fairies’ – a rag-bag group which could include elves, ‘pixies’ and even gnomes. It is interesting that although current revisions have excluded this division, the name ‘Fairyland’ still remains a useful reminder that there does exist a large body of study of the realm that predates the admittedly revelational works of modern authors. Whether it’s called Fairyland, or indeed other names, places such as Widergard continue to fascinate.

The family tree of the Hominini of Fairyland is given in Figure 1. Although some parts of the relationships are perhaps more controversial and speculative than others, particularly in the dating of the divergence of the dwarf/elf branch from that of gnomes, goblins and men, in general it provides a useful framework for further discussion.

fairy1

Continue reading The Natural History of Elves, Dwarfs, Men, Goblins, Gnomes and Trolls

What’s in a Number?

Writing recently about ‘The Prisoner’ recently I forgot to mention that Patrick Mcgoohan’s previous incarnation as John Drake, ‘Danger Man’, was known, for reasons I never quite worked out, as ‘Secret Agent’ in the USA. Probably broadcast elsewhere by this name as well – maybe.

I thought it would be jolly to have a listen to the opening credits, because ‘Danger Man’ had one of the best themes ever! All praise to the late Edwin Astley, who also wrote the theme for ‘The Saint’. No way could ‘Secret Agent’ beat that! It couldn’t, of course, but I did recognise the theme as the song ‘Secret Agent Man’ sung by Johnny Rivers and written by P. F. Sloan‎and Steve Barri (of ‘Eve of Destruction’ fame).

When it got to the chorus I sort of stopped and my heart skipped a beat (didn’t really).

Here it is:

“Secret agent man, secret agent man
They’ve given you a number and taken away your name.”

So, the question must be: was the whole of ‘The Prisoner’ inspired by the lyrics of ‘Secret Agent’, the American name for ‘Danger Man’?

To is there something else we don’t know about going on here? Continue reading What’s in a Number?

21st Century Schizoid Man – I am not a number!

‘The Prisoner’ was a 17 episode television series broadcast in the UK in 1967. Wow, that makes it 50 years old. Wow, that makes me old too!

Co-created by its star Patrick McGoohan, combining spy fiction with fantasy, science fiction, allegory and psychological drama, there had been nothing like it before and probably very little like it since. After the airing of the far from illuminating last episode people wandered the street looking dazed and confused for days.

Or maybe that was just me.

I loved it, partly because I had been a huge fan of Mcgoohan’s previous secret agent series ‘Danger Man’ and partly because it had just about everything the younger me liked at that time. No breasts, so ‘Game of Thrones’ is ahead there. (“Oh grow up Dr Tel!” “No, won’t! Tried it, didn’t like it!”)

The good news is that it is currently getting an airing on the ‘True Entertainment Channel’ for those that have Freesat (and heaven’s knows what other providers.) I caught up with an episode last night and the even better news is that it hardly creaked at all!

What is more, back in 1967, some genius had decided to film the series in a widescreen format. I was literally seeing more ‘Prisoner’ than ever!

I never knew that. The Wiki document says it was filmed in 4:3 picture format. It fitted my 16:9 TV beautifully! Portmeirion, the ‘Italianate’ Welsh resort village had never looked better. It was one of my favourite episodes too: ‘Schizoid Man’, which is very close to one of my favourite songs of all time ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ by the ‘mighty’ King Crimson, also produced in the late ‘60s. (Yes, I do have favourites from other eras too!). I am writing a TV series for a European Production company, guess what it’s going to have lots of in it? Fantasy, science fiction, allegory and psychological drama – if I can convince them.

And then it occurred to me last night, for the first time I was watching ‘Schizoid Man’ in the 21st Century! I’m not saying the thought ‘blew my mind’, but it got me typing this morning!

Catch up with both of them if you can.

Continue reading 21st Century Schizoid Man – I am not a number!