One of the driving forces behind my writing is the desire to express myself in any way I choose. So I'm not going to limit my words and imagery because it might be, to some, a little too unreal or or unconventional and break accepted writing conventions or go against current publishing fashions.

I think that to be a writer, in fact to be any kind of artist, you have to be breaking rules on a daily basis. If you're not, you're not really trying; you're staying within the boundaries set by other people and your/our own limitations.

Art is not about following rules.

Or is it? 

It's easy enough to say that I will break the rules and not give a damn - but at the same time I also want enough commercial success to retire from being an employee and regain control of my life.

Can I do that and break the rules? Surely staying within the rules is the fast path to success? I suppose it can be, but that's about the best I can say.

What about breaking the rules to succeed? Loads of poeple have done it this way. Many have stayed true to themselves and their art and won. Given that there is no garantee of success either way, why should we bother to stay safe?

One of the problems we face nowadays is that the marketing depts of publishers are very focussed on what sells, so they like genres, something that is easy to sell, something that slots straight into the current template - fast and easy, bang, bang, bang and it's done.

You can't blame them for that. But it's not all they do. There are reams of books out there that break the rules or aren't a safe read - and the first that leaps to mind is The Road by Cormac McCarthy

It's not exactly a comfortable read is it? It's grey and dirty and depressing from start to finish, but I still think it's great, as are all his other books.

So, given that publishers are willing to stick their necks out, why do we as writers/artists stay within the rules, within our own comfort zones?

This is a question I ask myself again and again as I dream of writing the sort of story that I really want to write, whilst doing my best to ignore the demons that crawl around inside my head urging me into pastel green pastures with paths, easily accessed and well worn, with no surprises and no food for the soul.

So my advice, assuming I'm qualified to give any, is to follow what you think is right; write what you want and write it for you. Bring poetry into your work and dare to find your own images and way. You should also gather a few supporting friends, friends who will speak the truth and want you to achieve the best you can.

I'm still struggling with this, and I expect that struggle to go on for a long time. My thanks and love go to those who help me to realise better things, it's because of you that it will happen.

Welcome to IAAY number four!

This week it's all about British writer Russ King who's been known to double up as a pirate and/or Batman in North Somerset. He also works from home.

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Russ King
It’s all about Roald Dahl

Just to be different I’m going to ignore the obvious effect Roald Dahl’s children’s fiction had on my imagination and love of books as a child. Today I want to tell you about the legendary diaries of Oswald Hendryks Cornelius, ‘the greatest bounder, bon vivant and fornicator of all time’.

Dahl’s fiction for children featured fantastically nasty villains that you couldn’t wait to reach a spectacularly sticky end, but in Uncle Oswald we have a flamboyant, reckless and bad character that you somehow can’t help liking.

This dastardly seducer first appears in Dahl’s short stories but he gets a whole book in My Uncle Oswald and it is the most ridiculous, rude and funny romp you will ever read. It centres on the discovery of the ‘invigorating properties’ of the Sudanese Blister Beetle that makes Viagra look impotent. In partnership with the stunning Yasmin Howcomely he uses his potent sex potion to steal the most unusual and profitable substances ever.

We see Dahl’s compelling sense of mischief in a sexual context and the true skill of the book is that while it covers uncontrollable sexual urges it is never explicit or vulgar. Well, you might disagree with the vulgar claim, but the charm of the story telling far outstrips any possible feeling of shock.

There’s loads of info about Roald Dahl’s varied repertoire at: www.roalddahl.com

It’s All About Me

I've been writing for a living in some form or other for about 15 years now and that included working on social networks before MySpace and Facebook appeared on the scene. I’ve had three books published the most recent is almost still warm off the press - a romantic comedy - Working from home: Mixing with pleasure? - available as an eBook in all formats.

Being an indie author is both empowering and sobering as the competition to get people buy your book is immense. My latest ruse is T-shirts printed with a sales pitch for the book. This is great fun as strangers start talking to you when you least expect it. This can be quite surreal when you’re in the supermarket with two young children!

Oh yes, I am now a stay at home dad looking after our four and three year old kids, mixing with those yummy mummies and writing in spare time and evenings. The TV doesn’t get much of a look in these days…

So is Working from home inspired by My Uncle Oswald? Not directly. One aim was to give people an insight into what it is like to work for yourself; having breakfast meetings with strangers and getting clients via Facebook and Twitter.

The other aim was to make people laugh out loud while reading it. Not a wry smile, a little snigger, but a proper laugh that really annoys everyone else around you. From the reviews so far it seems I have succeeded and I have to thank Mr Dahl for the inspiration.

You can find out more about Russ's writing at: 

Tabla de Contenidos
1. The Darkness Beneath - Free Copy
2. It's All About You

The Darkness Beneath: Sex, Death and Trains, all Yours For Nothing (still!)*

*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy.

It's All About You - Time to Get the Excitements On
This Wednesday an unsuspecting world will wake/be already awake/fall asleep to the news that my very first It's All About You blog will be published.

And our first contributor will be the very marvellous writer and extremely industrious Maureen Hovermale. She'll be catapulted into the digital stratosphere on the 20th June.

It's All About You will then appear every Wednesday and will probably vary a bit for a while as I'm sure I'll have to get all experimental on the format. 

I've already got five people lined (three writers/two artists) but I'm greedy and want more contributors, and I want them now! And any of these could be you. Yes, that's you I'm talking to, the one looking at your computer or other handy digital device. 

I want to know what turns you on about being creative: what book or work of art gave you the wanna-do's and the I-must's? And when you did done or were all must-ered out, what did you produce?

I want to know about that too, so it's a great chance to show a slice of your work and tell everyone why it thrills you to have created it. You never know, you might even give someone else the wanna-do's and I-must's - and sharing and spreading the power of creativity has got to be, in my opinion, one of the best things any of us can do.

All you have to do is write 250 words on something or someone that inspired you to go create (and supply the quote or a pic of the art work). The second part features an example of your work and another 250 words on why you like it or how it makes you feel or... well, whatever you like really.

The only rule is that this isn't an opportunity to big up a mate, unless you happen to be mates with Cormac McCarthy or Francis Bacon. That said, it doesn't matter where you are in your career: I want to hear as much from the unpublished or unexhibited as much as I want to hear from those further up the success ladder. All are welcome.

If you want to take part, contact me via my blog's comments or comments form, or on the Twitter: @mickdavidson.

Table des Matières
1. The Darkness Beneath - my book - for free!
2. Prometheus Promo - minimalist film review
3. Back Of The Book- Blurb Is The Word
4. It's All About You - get yourself featured

Sex, Death and Trains: All Yours For Nothing (still!)*
*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy. 

Another birthday comes and goes and I have to say I was cheered by the great response from my lovely friends around the globe: thank you all for all the love I received. The photo is of a beautiful painting my dear friend Rebecca Venn, of Kenosha, created for my birthday. She emailed it to another friend, Paola Bakx, of Oosterhout, who printed it out and then surprised me with it on the eve of my birthday. I have some lovely friends; I just can't trust some of them.

Prometheus Promo
On Tuesday I went to see Prometheus (in 3D) which I enjoyed, although I was more captivated by the visuals than the story. The latter was rather thin and the cast, though excellent, didn't really pop out of the screen as they should have, despite the 3D. A triumph of style over content in my opinion, but still worth watching.

Back Of The Book - Blurb Is The Word
Another slight disappointment was the great 'Blurb Novel Publishing Experiment'. Although the process of converting from Word to Blurb is pretty simple (providing your Word doc is prepared properly), the cost of buying one is prohibitive. For example, my 114,000 word novel The Darkness Beneath, is available for more or less €40 - and who's going to pay that much for a paperback? No one of course. Although I think what they're offering, especially the ability to convert to ebook for only $1.99, is very good, the cost is prohibitive in my case. Still, if you've money to burn, let me know and I'll send you the link.

It's All About You
I've been thinking of inviting other writers or creative people to feature their work on my blog for a while, but until now was stuck for an idea that didn't copy what pretty much everyone else does, which is guest blogs and/or interviews.

And then over breakfast this morning it came to me: invite people to talk about a piece of work they like by someone else, and then do the same for a piece of their own work. The reasult is a new section which I'll be calling: What I Read, What I Wrote. 

The idea is to describe why you like the work, but it could also be how it inspires you or what you learnt about being creative from it. Anything, as long as it's positive, i.e., this 
isn't going to be a slanging pit.

If you want to take part in this, all you have to do is:
  1. Step One: write about 250 words on a passage from a favourite book. This can be any genre, fact or fiction. This should include the passage itself or a brief outline of it, but the passage itself does not contribute to your 250 word total. If you're a visual artist, you can do the same for a painting or sculpture etc. Please note this is not an opportunity to promote an unpublished mate's work. 
  2. Step Two: the same thing again, but this time it has to be about a piece that you've written or created. This has to include the extract itself, but again this does not contribute to your 250 word total.

I'd also like to include your twitter name or other contact details, a photo of you (optional, though I may add a pic that I think represents you...) and a link to anything you want to promote, such as your website/blog/Amazon etc.

If you want to take part, please contact me via Twitter: @mickdavidson.  I'd also be very happy for you to promote this idea to your friends. This offer is open to anyone and everyone, known to me or yet to be introduced.

Here's the dilemma: I'm reading a book that I want to review. It is not a good book. It is poorly written, unimaginative and dull. At best it's a short story, because the basic idea is good. The editing is also questionable. I think that, given how hard many aspiring authors work to produce something good, and how much attention we give to following the advice from industry professionals and published writers, this book is insulting and really taking the piss. It should not have been published in its current form and is, in my opinion, about 50% of the way there. The only upside of this is that I didn't pay for the book, it was given to me.

My problem is that although I feel the need to point out its failings, I'm not sure if I ought to. Perhaps my time would be better spent reviewing (and
reading!) something I like. And surely beauty is in the eye of the beholder and people's tastes are not all the same?

Yes, both of the latter are true, but in this case it's not about taste, it's about poor workmanship. I will quote two examples from this book to demonstrate my point, but I could easily quote or more.

Quote 1
The following comes from a long passage where an FBI agent is describing a fight with a vampire:

"...he picked me up by the neck like I weighed nothing and threw me down onto the ground. I started shouting questions at him, asking him to tell me about himself. For some astounding reason, he stepped back and started

So we're supposed to believe that at one moment the agent is being nigh on
murdered by a vampire, and in the next - and with no explanation whatsoever they're having a nice chat. Really!? Call me demanding but I want the writer to explain this dramatic turnaround. In fact the story can't proceed without being explained. I think this is should have been picked up in the editing process at the very least (where were you editors?). My main question here is, why doesn't the author bother to take the time to fill in the missing details of this sudden change of events? It should IMPOSSIBLE not to describe because you know your readers are going to ask themselves the same question. Then there's the 'For some astounding reason' sentence which the author assumes lets her off the hook of explaining what's going on. If the author can't be bothered to spend the time writing a few hundred words to explain what happened, then why should I bother reading on? Because you've already proved that shoddy workmanship is ok with you. It is not ok for paying customers.

This 'can't be bothered to explain' trick is used many times throughout the course of the book.

Quote 2
Much later in the book the main character is at a gathering of vampires for a ceremony where, not surprisingly, reality is a little challening:

"Candles floated in the air of their own volition, just like in the Harry Potter movies,..."

This starts well enough but then 'just like in the Harry Potter movies'? How lazy can you be? First there's the assumption that the reader has seen any of the films, secondly why doesn't the writer exercise their imagination and supposed writing skills rather than using graphical shorthand? The book is riddled with this sort of thing, all of which should have been picked up by the editor.

Critical Failure
Because I've been caught on the horns of this dilemma, I've asked other writers what they think about critiquing poor work, most prefer to ignore it and instead review books they do like. A few months ago I read another writer's blog about the same issue. Her attitude was that she didn't want to give a bad critique because she didn't want to create negative feelings within a close-knit industry and among people she may need at some point in her career. She is not alone in the POV, and I understand where she's coming from. It's hard enough to become a published/successful writer as it is without creating waves that may bounce back of distant shores later in life and slap you across the face.

On the other hand, we've a right to our opinion and to point out shoddy workmanship to others who might be tempted to spend their money on it, only to find out that it's crap. They should at least have the opportunity to know other people's opinion before they buy.

But we shouldn't live in fear of stating our opinion: that is not good for us as individuals or for our society. In fact, because of our moral obligation to be honest to ourselves, I'd say we're almost obligated to state our opinion.

Writing this blog has helped sorting my thinking out: I will be writing a critique (assuming I can reach the end before death overtakes me). And I will be as balanced as I can be, using examples to back up my comments, which is what I owe the author and publisher. It won't be a hatchet job. But I won't be holding back either, I owe that to everyone considering buying the book and all of the writers who sweat and toil to produce the best work they can.

If we don't take a stand against what we see as poor work, then we are allowing the lazy authors and quick-buck publishers to get away with literary murder. And while I know not all books are meant to be high art (and I love many things that could easily be called low-brow such as B-movies and pulp fiction for example), I don't accept that work that sinks to this level of mediocrity should be published, ever. To do this insults all writers and readers, and the memory of others, such as Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker, who were masters of this genre. While many of us may never achieve their level of excellence as writers, we should aspire to. If not, then there's no point in calling ourselves writers, we're just painting by numbers.

If that's what you aspire to, please don't bother. It's hard enough to get published as it is without having you cluttering up the slush piles.