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Stuart Lennon

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Z is for Zenith

Matterhorn

If the A to Z is a Challenge, then today is the zenith, the highest point.

This post was drafted in early April. It represents the clearing of the decks – leaving me free to concentrate on the redrafting of the best debut novel ever written by me. So, by the time you read this, the first draft will be no more, replaced by a pacier, tighter draft. You, the reader will be propelled through Central Europe in the last decade of the twentieth century, where ambition could make you rich and get you killed.

To get to that point, a zenith of sorts, I have meandered through a variety of writing approaches and spent a kings ransom on stationery and fountain pens. I have driven my wife to distraction and even the poor dog is sick of listening to tales of Sean and Natalya.

Congratulations to everyone who completed the A to Z Challenge. Give yourselves a big pat on the back.

Thank you to all of you lovely people who came by, commented or signed up to the blog.

I entreat you all. Sign up for updates from any blog that you enjoy. It is a massive boon to the writer. Read more. It’s the zenith of learning and civilisation.

And of course, buy books.

Read new authors.

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Y is for Years

SnakeOil

‘Last month, I wrote a book, one hundred and twenty four blog posts and made six hundred and eighteen thousand dollars.’

Well done! It is always nice to see a fellow writer do well.

There are a few claims like the above out there. Gurus who have cracked the secrets of making gazillions from writing ‘by following these few simple steps’.

One of the few simple steps is, of course, to wire some money to the guru.

I am an open-minded sort of guy and have read a few of these ‘written-in-a-month’ books. My overriding feeling on finishing is always ‘what did you do with the other twenty nine days?’

I’m sure that there are writers out there who write fast, edit quickly and publish in a heartbeat. I’m sure that they have produced brilliance. I just haven’t found any yet.

I can tell you from experience that there are definitely writers out there who write fast, edit quickly and publish in a heartbeat. They produce crap.

Books that have moved me contain years of work. Years of thought, years of experience, years of work. The drafting might not take years, but the process as a whole does. At least that is my perception.

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X is for Xenophobia

sabre-tooth-tiger-_1117360c

(Image taken from The Daily Telegraph.)

Xenophobia. ‘Fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.’ Wikipedia.

More recently Xenophobia is understood to mean specifically a fear of foreigners.

In the best debut novel ever written by me, the hero Sean finds himself in a new country, facing new people and challenges.

He is Xenophobic. Of course he is. We all are. We would be stupid not to be. I am no evolutionary scientist, but I suspect that fear of the foreign or strange was essential. It is what made our ancestors look at a sabre-tooth tiger and think ‘Hmmm… Not sure that I’m going to go give that thing a hug’

When I hear or read the word xenophobia now, people are using it to lament that prejudice remains. Prejudice about gender, race, disability and sexuality. I believe that it is in our nature to fear that which is strange or foreign. We overcome these fears through learning and education. At the root of learning is reading.

Read more.

book_guide_hero_books

To eradicate prejudice, we need to read more, to learn more, to become familiar with more and more different people and situations. This will help us overcome Xenophobia.

In short, sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I’ll let you know when the best debut novel ever written by me is available – and you can join the fight.

By buying it.

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Bye Bye Desktop

Optimized-IMG_0171

I have posted about how I am becoming a little more analogue in my approach to life.

I felt that technology was beginning to dominate and dictate my days. Through a combination of electronic tools, I was always connected and always looking at one or more screens. I decided to reassess how I used all these wonderful gadgets. First, I swapped my iPhone for a ‘dumb’ mobile phone – one that works just as a telephone.

My next target was my desktop at home, where I sit to write. The picture above shows how dominating the computer is – both in terms of real estate and visual impact. The iMac is a beautiful piece of kit – and its screen demands attention. Attention that I very often gave it.

Below, is how my desk looks now.

Optimized-IMG_0173

Quite Zen isn’t it?

I still have access to my electronic life – I am writing this post on my MacBook.

The laptop sits either on the slide out shelf under the main desktop – or in a book stand to the side. I open the laptop out when I specifically want to use it: At other times – I use the desk to write letters or notes with a pen, on paper.

How novel.

W is for writingchat

twitter

Every Wednesday evening, at eight o’clock, a bunch of people get together on twitter. Each week there is a different writing related theme determined by a shadowy collective that I think of as the ‘White Witches of Words’. (Boy, am I going to get stick for writing that!)

For any not familiar with twitter – to participate, we add #writingchat to each comment and then follow all comments with that #.

The chat is light-hearted, and fun. Participants are generous with their time, knowledge and experience. The forum that the chat provides allows newbies like me the opportunity to glimpse other writers and learn that many challenges are shared by all.

I have met some great people at writingchat, not least, my writing buddy Amanda Fleet. As you are reading this, the self-effacing Amanda is too – and muttering to herself something along the lines of ‘stop talking about me.’ That night’s writingchat was ‘Writing Buddies’ and neither I nor Amanda had one. We skirted the subject shyly. An experienced writer tweeted “Just swap 1,000 words and see how you get on.” So we did.

Despite her best efforts, she can’t shake me now.

Very soon, Amanda is releasing her first novel, ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’ as a paperback and e-book. Skip along to her blog here for details – and even a discount if you are quick enough.

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V is for Venality

dollars

The Oxford English Dictionary defines venality as;

  1. The quality or fact of being for sale.
  2. The quality of being venal; readiness to give support or favour in return for profit or reward; prostitution of talents or principles for mercenary considerations.

Like it or not, venality is a fact of the world that we live in. I don’t think that I have ever read venality used as a positive attribute, it is always used pejoratively.

In the best debut novel ever written by me, the protagonist, Sean, could be characterised as venal. He is ambitious, he wants to get on and, he wants to succeed. He is prepared to work hard to achieve these aims. Does this make him venal?

I suspect that it comes down to how far he is prepared to go to get what he wants. The actions that he takes will determine our view of his motivation. After all, one person’s ‘venal’ is another’s ‘driven’.

Are we not all venal in some way? Certainly in the ‘developed’ world, many, if not all of of us, satisfy number 1 in the definition above. We sell our time and effort. That is how our world works. What is far more interesting to me is what principles we are prepared to put aside or suppress in return for reward.

Is venality inevitable in our world?

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BREXIT. Yes Please.

Brexit

I love Europe. I have lived in several countries on the continent and visited pretty much all of the rest. I speak a few of the languages. My wife has an Italian ID card.

Whether it be for business or pleasure, I am forever travelling around Europe.

Then why do I want Britain out of the European Union? (BREXIT)

I live in a village in England. I vote for my parish council, my borough council, my independent Police Commissioner and my Member of Parliament. Lest I be worried about under-representation, there is also the House of the Lords; for whom I don’t vote. To support all of these folk, the UK has constructed enormous bureaucracies, that support the democratic structures of the UK and implement the policies agreed.

As a member of the EU, the UK also has to elect members to the European Parliament, as does every member state. To ensure that these people are able to effectively discharge their duty, the EU has also built an enormous bureaucracy to support it, in many languages across a wide area.

Who are these structures paid by?

Well, by the tax-payer, of course.

As I am sure every European has experienced – each element of these mammoth structures is desperate to constantly prove its importance; by fixing something. Should there be an absence of things needing to be fixed, there is no let up – they simply fix things that aren’t broken, or even break things, so that they can fix them.

In my business life, I have spent some time inside the ‘Brussels Bubble’. The term is surprisingly accurate. There is a bubble. Life within the bubble involves quite a lot of lunch, long and voluminous meetings about not very much at all and the occasional migration, when the whole bubble packs up and becomes the Strasbourg bubble for a while. (On a positive note, I should point out that the lunches were excellent, and always involved good wine.)

Everyone in the bubble is very well paid.

By the tax-payer, of course. 

For me, BREXIT is about paying for less idle and needless government.

Politicians and the bureaucrats are in the business of shaping our perceptions. (Bullshitting in other words.) I will give one more recent example.

Mr Obama, President of the United States has recently popped over to the UK to share his wisdom. He seems like a friendly enough sort of guy and he is President of the United States of America – so I, for one, was interested to hear what he had to say.

Mr O thinks that the UK should stay in Europe – apparently to save the US the bother of having to negotiate individually with the UK. It’s just so much easier to do everyone in one go.

Not the most persuasive argument.

There was even a mild tone of threat – as he explained that it might take ten years for a UK outside of the EU, to negotiate a trade deal with the USA. The sub-text (sorry, bullshit) for this line of argument is that trade deals are BIG. Difficult. Tough. Require LOTS of highly skilled (and paid) negotiating teams.

Here is my effort to help the world move forward.

Mr O. Take the trade agreement that you have with the EU and save it in a word document. Do a ‘search and replace’ or two. Replace EU with UK for example. Proof-read it, make a couple of manual changes where necessary and sign it. I think we could start on Monday morning, and be on the first tee by lunch-time.

You’re very welcome.

I am led to understand that the Brussels bubble is very similar to the Westminster bubble. It may well be. I will tell you one key difference:

On June 23rd, I have a chance to vote myself out of the Brussels bubble and the enormous cost of it.

 

U is for Un-

 

bored-girl-with-laptop

Uninteresting, unbelievable, unfair.

Reading the first draft of the best debut novel ever written by me, I bumped into all three of these ‘un-s’.

A lot of the novel’s narrative was based on personal experiences and real events. Tall tales of high times in Prague and Budapest.

These were vaguely amusing to read about for those  present at the time, but uninteresting for anyone else. Minute detail about the journey from one part of the city to another, was nostalgic for me, dull for others. Uninteresting.

“He wouldn’t do that!” I had pebbledashed the manuscript with muesli. I had made Sean, the hero, do something that moved the plot along, but did not fit with what the reader knew of him as a character. Unbelievable.

A couple of characters were inconvenient. They had served their purpose in plot terms, but were a loose end. I invented a flimsy premise to remove them. Reading the passage, it felt like a cop out; which is exactly what it was. Unfair.

These three ‘un-s’ and a few others will quickly turn off any reader.

A good novel is built on trust. A trust that is built up through the book. A writer abuses that trust at his or her peril. Don’t let an un- turn your reader off.

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T is for ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’

The Wrong Kind of Clouds cover

It’s Saturday. One week until the end of the A to Z Challenge.

Today I am writing about ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’, the best ever debut novel written by Amanda Fleet, my writing buddy. You can order a copy here, and even get a discount.

Amanda Fleet

I haven’t read it. Amanda had this one in the bag before I turned up. I have ‘met’ a couple of the characters. They turn up in a novella that Amanda is planning to let people have for free.

The protagonist, Summer is someone I would like to spend some time with; tough, but good fun, I think. She also has a medical condition that I had never heard of; synasthesia. Broadly, any emotion Summer feels is ‘in colour’. Mad. But great.

I’m looking forward to the release, I have pre-ordered a paperback version.

Obviously, when ‘clouds’  sells well and Amanda topples J.K. Rowling, I’ll claim all the credit.

‘She’d be nobody without me, you know.’

Go and pre-order one. If you are an e-book person, sign up to her website and get notified the moment the novel is available in your preferred format.

Remember, you heard it here first.

‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’.

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S is for Stationery

Spotlight logo

I have already blogged about Bureau Direct, where I get my notebooks. Another outlet where I recently purchased lovely headed paper is Honey Tree.

Spurred on by my enjoyment of writing in notebooks and sending letters, and egged on by my fellow addict Amanda, I signed up to Spotlight Stationery. For a small monthly fee, they send me a surprise box of stationery at the end of each month. Amanda wrote a great post on her other blog about these boxes.

They are beautiful. I received my first one in March and was instantly smitten. The day of receipt, I sent all of the postcards from the box to surprised friends.

Go check Spotlight Stationery out, they are fantastic.

If you haven’t already deduced it, I am a big believer in enthusiasm. In the past, I ran training courses and had a slide that read;

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

It’s absolutely true. Whether it be business, blogging, writing, love or even stationery, do it with enthusiasm. The outcome may not be everything that you hoped for – but does it matter? The other thing about enthusiastic people, is that they are forever smiling.

Funny that.

Must dash, my new stationery box is due any day now.

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