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Sunday, 14 March 2010

Great Expectations

I have great expectations.

As a writer, I expect to have my work read and enjoyed.  If I make some money at the same time, then all well and good but no big deal if that doesn't happen.

As a runner, I expect to run further and faster each time I set foot on tarmac.  If I'm not able to, I expect that I'll have a sufficiently sound excuse for my deficiencies (too many cars to dodge, adverse weather, too many drinks the night before etc.)

As a food lover, I expect a restaurant with a big reputation to deliver quality and something to remember.  I'll come back to this later.

Some expectations, of course, are doomed to failure from the outset.  I expect my football team to win every game they play, but the facts (and history) clearly indicate that such a feat is virtually impossible.  A win once in a while would be nice, though.

But some expectations seem almost so likely - so sure of being realised - that the realisation that the result hasn't turned out right ends up leading to acute disappointment.  Many writers out there (in fact, all writers at some point or other) will be familiar with this sensation.  I have a nice pile of rejection letters from various agents that I like to keep as a reminder of the folly of too many great expectations.

However, this is not strictly a writing-related post today.  No, I'm writing about great expectations to ease the disappointment I suffered this week at the hands of a restaurant (much frequented by celebrities with more money than sense) that appeared to have such a high opinion of itself that it had actually forgotten the one thing that make a restaurant a good restaurant: good food.  Fame (infamy) from its much-vaunted reputation in the press had clearly gone to their collective heads and in a very self-congratulatory environment we were served food of a standard that even I, in my inept style of cooking, wouldn't serve to my dog (if I had one).  Well, that's an exaggeration, perhaps - the food was fine, average, about what you'd expect in a fair-to-middling pub, but when you're paying (well, someone is paying) a decent whack of money there's an expectation that the meal will be memorable for all the right reasons.

A case, I suspect, of the emperor's new clothes.  And I suspect that it won't be too long before they get found out for what they are.  Especially if I keep telling everyone not to go there...

And such is the danger of expectations.  When people expect great things and end up with something only average at best, then reputations can very quickly be eroded.  In music, a great first album from a band is often followed by a second album that is less well received and then the record label decides the band is past it and cuts them loose.  The same, I suppose, probably applies equally to authors who suffer from second book syndrome.

Which, then, leads me to my question(s) of the day...

How do you handle disappointment?  When you've reached the stars but are now falling down to earth, how do you soften the blow?  How do you point yourself in the right direction once again?  And have you ever suffered from the second book syndrome?  And if so, what next?

I look forward to your comments.  I expect to read hundreds... ;-)

Thanks for reading.

p.s. to those you provided comments to my previous post, you may be pleased to know I am writing again -- not necessarily anything of quality, but writing nonetheless.  Thanks.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

"Writing", right?

Some interesting selections on the Margaret Atwood suggestion front (see previous post's comments).  I will be visiting a bookstore in due course to peruse and choose.  I will let you know what I acquire.

That aside, this week has reminded me, once again, of the trials of being a writer (at least, a writer of sorts).  And for me, this boils down to one or two things: firstly, distractions (of any kind); and secondly, life just getting in the way.

I've been sitting (not literally) on a novel idea for the best part of four months and have so far done little more than sketch out the rough premise, type up ten or so pages of the first chapter, and then... well, that's it basically.  Other things - the aforementioned distractions and life - got in the way and then some months flew by and now - boom - here I am, typing this up, and distracting myself yet again...

Anyway, point is, there is no point really.  This past week I have just been contemplating the slippage of time, bemoaning my inactivity on my latest creation (amongst a myriad of other half-started ideas), and now I'm mulling over the first step to getting back to work.

I can't imagine I'm alone in this malaise (for lack of a better word) so for those of you out there who have broken out of the habit of letting time slip by I ask the question, how do you handle the distractions (the "life") that gets in a writer's way?

Any answer will be gratefully received.

Yours,

A frustrated "writer"

Sunday, 28 February 2010

A wasted youth and the novels of Margaret Atwood

Off the back of my previous post (Top 10 Novels of All Time), there were a number of people suggesting that Margaret Atwood should feature in anyone's Top 10.

I am, of course, familiar with the name having acquired one of her novels for reading during my English Literature degree many moons ago; but I must confess that, like many novels I "read" during that period, I suspect I may have read the first quarter, looked at the blurb on the back, quickly scanned the internet for an even quicker run-down of what it was all about, and then - realising I knew next to nothing about it - kept quiet during the end of week discussions on those novels and hoped that my enthusiastic smiling and nodding would be sufficient to get away with pride and credit intact.

My wrists should be duly slapped, I know.

Still, time has moved on - as has my ability to start, finish and contemplate a novel - and while I no longer possess that copy of Margaret Atwood's novel that I so diligently ignored in my youth, I must admit that my interest in (re)discovering her novels has been piqued.

Therefore, a request to those stumbling upon this post today... what are Margaret Atwood's finest novels and which one is best for introducing her talents?

I await suggestions with interest.

Have a nice day!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Top 10 Novels of All Time...

This is a listing that is always subject to great conjencture, even within my own mind, but at the time of writing this post, my current top 10 stands like so...

10 -- The Alchemist (by Paulo Coelho)
9   -- The Time Traveller's Wife (by Audrey Niffenegger)
8   -- Shadow of the Wind (by Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
7   -- Atonement (by Ian McEwan)
6   -- The Kite Runner (by Khaled Hosseini)
5   -- The Lovely Bones (by Alice Sebold)
4   -- To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee)
3   -- The English Patient (by Michael Ondjaate)
2   -- Bleak House (by Charles Dickens)
1   -- The Book Thief (by Markus Zusak)
0   -- Ghostwritten (by David Mitchell)
-1  -- A Thousand Splendid Suns (by Khaled Hosseini)

It's a list, I'll give it that.  And it's a list that is two longer than the announced ten.  Oh well.

And while I've put them in some degree of order, these novels tend to float around their relative positions on an almost daily basis.  Feel free to disagree/agree, spit on and abuse, as you will.  Nice suggestions will, of course, be posted.

I'll be adding some reasons behind my thinking in due course, but for the time being...

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Randomisation of Facts and Figures

Yes, well, as you can see, posts to this blog to date have been rare in the extreme.  However, we will be pulling our finger out of the proverbial in due course and blogging with abandon... unfortunately, today is not that day.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Posting Irregularities

Posts on this website will be infrequent and prone to random reliance on nonsense.  However, should you - the reader - be a writer and like to contribute a post to be displayed here, please feel free to email us at writtenwordsofmadmen@live.co.uk and we will gladly do the necessary.  Thanks.