Dreaming

I dreamt of playing Rugby for Wales
Last night. Were broadcast Premiership scores
I heard drifting off to sleep keys for doors
To lost desires? My mind unveils
Itself and I’m shocked awake. Details
Fade, but whistfulness lingers, gives me pause.
What deeply buried thing could be the cause
Of this? My mind’s conjured fairy tales
Far beyond anything in real life.
Am I mourning a youth that never
Existed when it was within my grasp?
Or was the game a metaphor for strife
That exists in the present forever
Entombed in the subconsciousness’s clasp?

Walking the dog

Bertie owning the Internet

The gravel path spares footwear from the wet
That slickly glistens to the right and left
Pooling twixt the mole hills, plotting the theft
Of any boots that chance to stray and get
Stuck in the mud. But Bertie doesn’t let
It cramp his style, he bounds around the cleft
Tree felled by winter’s storm, his path the weft,
The warp the avenue of bare trees set
On either side. As he weaves snuffling,
Bushy tailed grey squirrels slide around
Trunks and run up, or slip under threadbare
Rhododendrons, silently shuffling
Out of sight. But Bertie is no sight hound.
The squirrels might just as well not be there!

Morning Glory

Bertie loves shoes …

Let out of the crate where he’s spent the night
Bertie steps gingerly onto the grass,
A one dog furry cloud he makes his pass
Across the lawn collecting moisture right
Before he squats, squirts, adds a bit to spite
The green, lifts his tail, shits then licks his arse,
Seeks out the birds whose song drowns out the cars
On the motorway, barks and they take flight.
Honour satisfied, he heads back inside,
Takes a running jump and I take a blow.
He slobbers on my face my neck my hair
Banishing sleep as he lies alongside
Delivering garden dew with a show
Of enthusiasm which I don’t share.

The Mighty Hood

HMS Hood visits Dundee
HMS Hood at Dundee in 1936 (Dundee Telegraph)

Forty six thousand tons of twisted steel
Litter the bottom of the Denmark Strait.
Fourteen hundred men met a dreadful fate
When the Hood exploded, to reveal
The brutally identical seal
To their stories. Hitherto disparate
Strands cut. Fire and water extirpate
All life, all ability to feel
Leaving nothing but a feast for fishes
In place of the manifold hopes and dreams
Of men who’d had a life before the war
And would have had one still, with their wishes
For friendship, love, food, sex, anything seems
Preferable to the mid-ocean floor.

HMS Hood explodes
The Hood explodes

Did he really matter? I ask. I
Ponder the death of my Uncle who died
With hundreds of others. His mother cried
When the boy with the telegram called by
To deliver the news. I suppose. My
Birth was in the future. Were she dry-eyed
Mother Courage, gifting children’s lives I’d
Never know. The charge levied to incise
His name at Chatham enraged his parents.
They baulked, so he went unremarked save for
The brother he’d sung with at New Year in
Welsh raising pennies for treats, sister, once
Worshipping younger brother, cousin sure
To carry his torch. He mattered to kin.

Uncle Melville

Is death the end? We cannot know for sure
However strong our faith doubt must remain
For those who’ve passed are mute. In vain
We seek answers from them who’ve gone before.
We should live life as if there is no more
And help our fellows to live theirs, sustain
With love the bonds we share with all, refrain
From hatred, ego, greed, those dogs of war
That drive the killing madness as men take
From others what they hold themselves most dear.
‘Live and let live’ must become our watchwords.
Tolerance begets trust, once men forsake
Violence then knowledge vanquishes fear
And Perfect Peace leads mankind’s march onwards.

On Visiting The Parthenon

The Parthenon

Traffic-belched vampire fumes acidified
The air, drained life from stones atop the slope
Where the Acropolis bones, picked bare, mope,
Mourning the empire that in its pride supplied
Phidias the wherewithal to provide
The host of wonders lain within its scope.
Truly temples are graves for human hope
Shattered aspirations clawing, bestride
The ancient seat of power diminished
By looting justified as protective
Custody for remains that survived for
Millennia once history finished
With the glory that was Greece, effective
Anointment of London’s glories in store?

Reflection

Then and now

Where are they now? The people who once touched
Our lives but then disappeared from view
To enjoy endless time off in lieu,
Recompense for the numbered days spent clutched
To our bosoms, before love’s stems were scutched,
Pounded to pieces by rough edges too
Diamond hard for years to wear them through
To soft toleration of being hutched
Together, sharing chores and life’s little
Triumphs, as we have done for decades since.
It’s not regret exactly but sometimes
Chance will start a chain of thought and it’ll
Awaken dormant feelings and evince
Reflection that the bell tolls not, it chimes.

Revenge is a dish … or a warship?

There’s definitely a lot of authorial self-doubt about, evidenced by the way five star reviews are triumphantly trumpeted whilst one star trolling prompts hand-wringing and wails.

A few months ago I reviewed a thriller, The Source by Zach Abrams. It is a well-written lighthearted romp with occasional depths, and I enjoyed it very much. O.K., the plot may creak a bit in places, but so does ‘Othello’. I’m a generous reviewer (There But For The Grace Of God Walk I), and I gave it five stars. When I was posting my review, I had a look at the one star review for the same work, by an Amazon Top 1,000 Reviewer, no less. This was not your average trolling one-line ‘It stinks’ effort, but several detailed paragraphs. The reviewer had clearly read the book, described bits of it, and then written ‘it stinks’ after each snippet.

My conclusion; the author had majorly pissed off someone who then decided that this was the best way to put the boot in. After all, both Shelley and Byron thought Keats expired in reaction to an unfavourable review of Endymion in the Quarterly Review. Fortunately the author concerned is made of sterner stuff.

Roll up, roll up – Insensitive Editing Service!

Gratuitous Sex

This YA story gave ‘Sensitivity Reading’ a boost. Having baddies with dark skins raised a storm of protest.

On the basis that no publicity is bad publicity, the insensitive version generated masses of visibility. I am therefore launching an Insensitivity Editing Service. For £500 I will take your manuscript and litter it with casual racism, misogyny, gratuitous pornography and acrostics claiming that sex with vacuum cleaners sucks.

Creative Sales Techniques

Selling systematically is a numbers game. The first stage is prospecting, identifying possible customers, and you funnel your prospects through successively finer sieves until customers drop out the bottom.

As a book cover designer, your prospects are authors. Those who are currently looking for a cover are a small, hard-to-identify sub-set, and they may be perfectly happy with whoever designed their last cover.

On the other hand, authors who already have book covers are all who have published, and they are easy to find.

If you can persuade an existing author that their current covers are unsatisfactory, you both gain credibility from identifying the problem and you’re on the inside track to sell a solution, possibly for multiple books in one go.

So, you slag off all authors’ covers at every opportunity.

This approach is termed Provocation-based Selling, and it is touted as the panacea for economic downturns. On occasion, I’ve wondered about its applicability to book peddling. For instance:

“You don’t want to waste your time on that Charles Dickens. He believed in spontaneous human combustion. And he’s spent most of the last 150 years stone dead!”

Should you find yourself the recipient of such an approach, you should consider yourself no more favoured than were ‘The widow of the late General Sani Abacha’ to drop a request in your in-box for your help getting her husband’s ill-gotten gains out of Nigeria in return for untold riches.

Introducing Robo-review

Public Service Announcement
It is a truth universally acknowledged that published writers crave readers, and it is almost as widely accepted that four and five star book reviews aid their acquisition. Whilst it is customary for reviewers to be drawn from the ranks of previous readers, this imposes an artificial and wholly unnecessary constraint on review production. For example, when my seminal work, The Spirit Of The Age was first published, it had but a single review on-line, and I’d written it myself (with Goodreads’ blessing, I should add. I registered the book and it insisted I reviewed it).

Elsewhere on the Internet plagiarism has been re-branded as ‘Mash-up’ and the voice of experience is under attack e.g. Michael Gove’s “The British People have had enough of experts”, the climate-change deniers and the credence given by many to ‘anti-vaxxers’. Why should literary reviews be any different? Thus I offer the following ‘fill-in the blanks’ generic 5 star review as a public service to writers, independent or otherwise, everywhere. Wannabe reviewers, disseminate it further as your own work with my blessing!

A New Star Has Risen In The Firmament – 5 out of 5 stars

(Choose author, e.g. David Melville Edwards (first,latest) novel (insert name of novel and link to buy here) takes the (choose most appropriate genre based on jacket blurb, e.g. fish out of water, urban fantasy, magical realism, gritty police procedural, paranormal romance, comedy of manners, erotic romance) genre and turns it on its head. Likeable characters, taut writing and tight plotting kept me turning pages, living vicariously through their triumphs and disasters. I laughed out loud at some of their antics and the scenarios, then I cried when (tragedy struck, or choose an invented scenario using character names from the jacket blurb; remember, neither you nor the future reader have yet read the book). Make no mistake, this book has an edge.

I loved (delete according to taste: Harry Potter, Twilight Saga, Peter Grant, Cancer Ward, War and Peace) and feel sure that this book will appeal to other fans. Highly recommended!