A Crafting of Some Appreciation

The bookshop called me in. I didn’t intend to go in there: it just insisted. I would have preferred it if the sudden inclination had taken me when I was upstream (that is, uptown), where the little side-alley independent place is, but the inclination took me as I walked past the big plate-glass windows of the brand name. It was a bookshop though, at least. I had no thought in my head about looking for anyone on the shelves in particular. New books have an almost irresistible feel to them though (almost: I did resist because the prices were so exorbitant). New books have a crispness, a quality that suggests that anyone who just walks in off the street is the first person ever to have opened that book in all its life.

I was drawn like a magnet, and before my conscious self had had time to know it, to Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (which I know I need to read). Its first line drew me in: ‘Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.’ This is one of those books I know I should already have read but haven’t. I’m already a friend to the words of Márquez, and sometimes we can stand in bookshops for long periods of time trying to justify spending exorbitant amounts of money on crisp new books we know we should have read. I will read it, but later. Writers like Márquez know this is fine because he knows he already has me on his side.

Writers unlike Márquez rely on other friends. So it is I can say I’m truly privileged for the support of people like Kirsty at Bees Make Honey Creative Community, in this case on several counts: (i) for her continued support of my work; (ii) for agreeing to take on copies of Disintegration and Other Stories at the Memories of the Future event in Nottingham this October; (iii) for agreeing to take in a non-Nottingham southerner’s work (that’ll be me!). By way of reciprocal support, if you’re in the area, I trust you can get there (see links above for details).

This support for the independent, the small amongst the megalithic corporates (even though we too are sometimes obliged to make use of the latter to get words out there), the craftspeople of the world, as I see it, is very much appreciated. Of course, in the modern world we know there’s a place for those monsters of industry (we can, perhaps, all be consumers of convenience, and we can like it), but knowing that there are groups of people out there who are focused on the minutiae of it all is inspiring and heartening.

So, in coming back to my own reading, I walk into a corporate-branded bookshop and I find I need Márquez, but I find he can wait. There are still plenty of crisp newnesses to discover in other, yet to be known places first.

Book Release: Four Kinds of Wreckage (Savage Short Loves: Volume I)

Four Kinds of Wreckage (Savage Short Loves: Volume I) Cover Introducing my latest ebook release, ahead of schedule. I had planned to release this collection on or around February 28, but it all came together. Having learned the bulk of what I needed to learn for my first ebook release towards the end of last year, it was just a process of remembering the details. It gets easier, this publication process, especially if you follow the template you’ve devised the first time round.

Now to the book itself. This has not been a quick write. This is fine. I like my words to settle, to take their time, to marinate. Four Kinds of Wreckage (FKoW) is a book of micro-fictions. I’ve been saying to anyone who’ll listen, and for quite some time now, that writing succinctly isn’t always as easy as it might appear. FKoW is comprised of thirty micro-fictions, ‘short shorts’, which range from a mere 60 words in length to just over 700 words.

I would like to make it clear that this collection hasn’t just been trotted out in a couple of hours. On the contrary, it was written in parallel with my other recently published book, Disintegration and Other Stories (DaOS), and the two titles have taken — in total — three years to produce: in the writing, in various peer review processes, in editing, in the loving removal — where necessary — of aspects that needed this. Micro-fiction does not mean micro-thinking!

There are some overlaps in themes in the two books. I aim to produce a ‘body of work’: this is the writing plan. As such, FKoW (Volume I) will inform Volumes II and III. They will be linked. FKoW and DaOS overlap in places. The individual pieces in FKoW each connect, not in characters or storyline or the like, necessarily, but they connect to the piece immediately before and after in the running order. In these ways, this body of work, this density of the written assemblage is gathering around me.

I had aimed to release FKoW for free. However, the cheapest I can release it for, as a permanent price, would appear to be £0.77 / $1.17 / €0,89, etc., at the time of writing (Amazon have an annoying habit of shifting the dollar price, slightly and occasionally, and not making that known). The sterling price of such offerings does seem to remain pretty constant though. This is a short book, so I offer it at the lowest price.

However, I add a caveat to all readers: please read it slowly. My writing pays deliberate attention to the particular words I’ve used, to the rhythm of the piece, to stories within stories, to references to myths or folklore, in places: just because a piece is 200, 300 or 400 words long, only, it doesn’t mean it should be flicked through at pace.

This is one of the points of micro-fiction, as I see it: that much can be transmitted in few words. Hemingway’s famous six worder is a case study (I won’t repeat it here, but you’ll find it if you need to); Kafka wrote a series of short ‘meditations’; Brautigan was keen on brevity; Calvino wrote some beautiful gems . . .

You can find details of how to get a copy of Four Kinds of Wreckage (Savage Short Loves: Volume I), and other releases, at the Bookshop link above or click here. Scroll to the bottom of that page to find out about the free Kindle App for PCs (if you don’t own a Kindle device).

I thank you, and if you buy any of my book offerings please do let me know your thoughts on them.

Interview by Nick Wale

I return from my travels with the possibility of words forming. Until they do, however, the following is a majority excerpt of a recent interview I gave to Nick Wale. Nick helps promote books via his site Novel Ideas and contacted me a few weeks ago through my Facebook writer page (see the link in the side bar here). He’s helped me and I’m happy to help him in his venture by publicising links on my blog. The direct link to the interview below can be found here.
Q) So Joel, why did you become an author?

A) It’s a compulsion, a drive, I suppose. When you write you just need to keep on writing.

Q) What does a compulsive drive to write feel like?

A) It often feels like blocking out, locking in, sinking in. You know? Some days it’s a rush. Some days you read and re-read and it’s like you’re looking at something that shines (or might shine) and you want to keep that, show that, have that, always.

Q) Do you ever find it hard to stop yourself from writing? Is it like a daze or a dream you can’t break from?

A) Physically writing (or typing), yes, I suppose. I mean, it can be extremely immersive, as many writers will know. However, that immersion also plays itself out in the day-to-day, pen not in hand, computer not on. Words (or the possibility of them) are everywhere.

Q) Words are your thing as a writer? So what is your favourite word?

A) What an excellent question! A barman asked me what my favourite book was recently (your question reminds me of that): how to pick one? You can tell by the long pause that this has given me cause to think. I can tell you what my most recently learned word is (and, by extension, a current favourite): tenebrous.

Q) Tenebrous? So what does tenebrous mean?

A) It’s to do with the obscure, the dark, as I understand it. This isn’t a reflection of my writing; rather, the word has a sort of rhythmic quality to me.

Q) Well, you have to learn something new everyday! So, lets reflect on your writing. What do you like to write about? Tell me about your writing.

A) In all its forms, long and short, my writing is intended as a means of finding the small gems of this world. There are hidden things in between what we just see on the surface — there are textures and layers to relationships, subtleties, moments. I’m looking for the moments that also linger. There are ‘objects’ of beauty, even in the laments, in many places.

Q) It’s interesting that you write about ‘beauty’, as everyone’s definition of beauty is so different. What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever written about? What is ‘beautiful’ to you?

A) Well, beauty is subjective, of course, but I’m sometimes taken aback by how things turn out. It’s unexpected. There are moments that happen which I read time and again because they still have some power over me. In one of my stories, a child’s brief interaction with the narrator takes me in every time; in another piece, it was something I wrote in a female voice because I needed to do this more, I was there with her, as her, in Venice because the words were in that flow state; poetry is a vanity, but there are lines of colour and there are lines that sink me sometimes. Questions such as these are like choosing between children!

Q) If you could write anywhere in the world, where would it be? What landscape would really incite your creativity?

A) On a beach, in the mountains, in a forest, all of these. Specifically, though I’ve done my fair share of overseas travelling, I’d come back to the west of Cornwall. Standing on the cliffs overlooking some of the little unknown coves down there, the sea and the wind in your hair and on your face, that huge sky (it really is huge, like they say in their tourism promotions), makes words just come in for me. The artists there laud it for the light; I just can’t get enough of the energy.

Q) I understand that you’re published so others can enjoy your creative energy. Which of your works are currently available?

A) I’ve got a collection out at the moment (Disintegration and Other Stories). I loosely label this as literary fiction (though that term can be interpreted in many ways). DaOS is out in ebook and print. This collection came together in an odd way: I didn’t realise that there’d been a thread running through some of my writings for a number of years. It was like seeing invisible ink slowly become visible. I’m working on a collection of micro fiction, which will be a first volume (Four Kinds of Wreckage) to be added to. Micro fiction is much misunderstood. Away from fiction, I’m also published in the field of what’s known as ‘playwork’ (a particular way of working with children). I’ve had writings taken on by the national/international playwork publication for the sector, as well as credits with the organisation concerned with psycholudic playwork practice. (Now though, I fear I’m stepping into the jargon of my other calling — though writing is also a big part of this, too).

Q) So tell me, Joel — why did you want to be interviewed by me?

A) You do a good job of finding writers, Nick. When I became aware of your work I came over to your blog, and yes, I like what I see here. What you’re doing is exactly what writers need — a way of getting their words out there.

Q) Thank you, Joel. One of my stock questions is to ask — if you could be any writer from any time who would it be?

A) As far as writers are concerned, I have a range (as we all do probably): Milan Kundera, Gabriel García Márquez, Jeannette Winterson, Iain Banks, Ian McEwan, Italo Calvino, Jack Kerouac, Neil Gaiman, Adrian Henri. There are others. I wouldn’t want just one small list to define me, though we start somewhere with questions such as these.

Q) Characters are important to you. What makes a good character for you?

A) The unusual wrapped up in the usual. Subtlety people often might not see. The strangely put. Love in odd places, ways; perceptions of this. Someone who aches in some way.

Q) It has often been said that ‘repeated readability makes a book’. Would you, as an author, agree with that?

A) Yes, I think I would. Who was it who said that journalism is read once, whilst literature more than this? Something like that. Anyway, it’s the sentiment here that counts. There are books on my shelf that I come back to time and again; there are passages on some pages that just astound me. Kerouac wrote about ‘fields the colour of love and Spanish mysteries’ in On the Road. I come back to that time and again.

Q) You strike me as an intellectual — someone striving for the beautiful things in life. Would you agree with that?

A) I don’t know about intellectual! I certainly am on the search for the beauty of the world though. That’s in words, in moments, in art, in love and lament, in the play of children, in the play of us, in nature.

Q) What would you personally deem as ‘ugly’?

A) There’s nothing so ugly as not wanting to see, perhaps. Ugliness is also wrapped up in the politics of power, greed, deceit.

[End of excerpt]

About a Baby

I’d like to share a small moment with you. Do you know the moment when you hold your newborn baby? (You’re forewarned that this post could get a little sentimental). There he or she is, just beautiful. This morning my newborn baby arrived. I almost missed the delivery. The door had been knocked several times and there was a van outside. I wasn’t expecting delivery for another week, but this was it. This was the day. The man held out the small brown package and asked me to sign.

Here she was (I’ll call her ‘she’ because I need to call her something). Here was my book. The delivery of any book is special enough, but this was the delivery of my book. I took my time. I hoped she’d be perfectly formed, everything in the right place. She was wrapped up and I couldn’t see. These vanities we writers have can be excused on the day our books arrive. All that time and love in the making, we can indulge in just a few minutes for ourselves: our newborn, tiny in our hands, should be perfect.

I can honestly say I felt some trepidation. What if she was bruised or not well bound, or misprinted? On the first count, she’d come all the way from South Carolina: had they wrapped her well? On the second count, I’d entrusted her to people I didn’t know, and had they treated her with the love I’d sent the digital her to them with? On the third count, what if she was misaligned or if I’d neglected some small detail because of tiredness and there were tiny errors buried in her pages?

It took me some minutes to take the cardboard from her. Then I saw her, and how beautiful my baby is. I indulge myself now too because we owe ourselves this as writers. How beautiful my baby is. I held her with such care. I read deeply into her pages, looking for those imperfections. She’s in place, though I see two slight things, like tiny birth marks, I want to smooth away. They’re not typos or mistakes, so all is well, I suppose: my baby is still my baby.

I put her down, now, because she’s born and so she grows. Her future brothers and sisters also need my love.

DaOS Physical Print (Front)DaOS Physical Print (Back)
Available from: www.joelseath.wordpress.com/bookshop

Please handle with love and care.

For Those Who Prefer the Proper Print Book

DaOS Print Version CoverThe digital proofs have been approved and so here it is: the ‘proper’ print book version of Disintegration and Other Stories. I write that tongue in cheek, not in any disparaging way towards the ebook — I know there are people out there who prefer the physical object of the ‘proper’ book.

I’m extremely pleased with the way this book has turned out: the new cover, the layout of the interior, the Garamond font, all of it. Books are things of beauty, and every effort has been made to create something special here.
I trust you’ll enjoy it. That means, of course, that I’d very much like you to buy it.

It’s currently available via its CreateSpace eStore page.

$6.42 in the US / £3.99 UK (+ shipping fees)

Amazon distribution channels will become available just as soon as Amazon do what they have to do their end. In the meantime, you can take a look inside the Kindle version to read the preface info and the start of the content: Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com or go to this site’s bookshop for other worldwide Amazon channels (the Kindle version layout is not the same as the print version and will undergo a little tweaking).

I thank you. Onwards and onwards.

Writing as the Opposite Gender

How do you get inside the head of a woman? That is, how do you think like a woman if you’re a man, and vice versa? Getting inside the thinking processes of any other person (in the shape of character) is difficult enough. Switching genders in your thinking — for the duration of that writing period, and more, for the duration of the ‘building up’ to writing — is a stretching of the imagination. We have different brain processes, men and women (I would imagine!), and we have different psyches.

Even Carl Jung suffered from this difficulty. In his analytical psychology, Jung developed ideas on the anima and the animus: the first being the female representation within the male, and the second being the male representation within the female. Jung, being male, focused more on the anima. This is how I read it. He could, perhaps, only really speculate on the unconscious male archetype — the animus — within the female.

Jungian archetypes, in writing, are interesting with regards to character. That is, archetypes are ‘figures’, characters, call them what you will, within the collective unconscious (something we can all tap in to), and are ‘characters’ we can all associate with. These are not stereotypes. So, for example, we can all associate with ‘mother figure’ (not ‘mother’ here), ‘healer’, ‘goddess’, etc.

Archetypes, for me, can provide a useful starting point. By their very nature, archetypes aren’t fleshed out at all: they’re just outlines, templates. As such, the writing still needs to be put in. However, the template is the easy part: just take it off the shelf. How do you get inside the thinking of someone of the opposite gender though?

We need other starting points too. Within the text of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), Milan Kundera wrote:

It would be senseless for the author to try to convince the reader that his characters once actually lived. They were not born of a mother’s womb; they were born of a stimulating phrase or two or from a basic situation. Tomas was born of the saying ‘Einmal ist keinmal’. Tereza was born of the rumbling of a stomach.

This has stayed with me for years. Just like chance meetings with strangers in pubs, the after image of which might play itself out in characterisation in some story somewhere down the line, some other small oddities and insistences also find form and become personified. Thoughts on the minor movements of a dancer, perhaps, might play themselves out and grow into a character themselves.

That said, it doesn’t fully resolve the question: how do you get inside the head of a woman? How do you think like a woman if you’re a man, and vice versa? In what turned out to become Disintegration (2012), I realised that I was writing plenty of pieces from male perspectives because that was the way my brain was tuned. When the epiphany hit, I focused on tuning out of myself and into ‘the other’. What transpired are examples that still fascinate me.

In Kundera’s model, I don’t know what the equivalent rumbling of the stomach was for pieces such as Salute di Castellaneta, Tristan and Isolde, and Mbayo. Perhaps the main rumbling was my conscious focus on genders. However, what the other drives were, I can’t now tell. This is not troubling. The pieces have found their own forms, their own ways, and I am now not a part of them, as I might have been in other discarded works.

Briefly, Salute took me from an unknown start point (or, at least, not now remembered) to a way of thinking mainly alien to me; Tristan/Isolde was a conscious effort at voicing the female part through the medium of the male character; Mbayo came about as a thought on oral histories and, as such, the story and the narrator took on their own forms.

What I have learned in these departures is something I’ve known for a while, but something that I needed to be reminded of: stories take their own shapes, after a while, and characters written from unusual perspectives, such as those of the opposite gender, can also manifest in such ways.

Whether we start from archetypes, or templates, from observing the oddities of real others, or from developing characters based on minor moments (such as rumbling stomachs), richer characters can form the farther away from the writer they are.

In Appreciation

Writing the book was, in some ways, the ‘easy’ part of this e-publishing journey I’ve been on! The writing, the editing, the re-writing, the re-editing, the peer reviewing, etc., took a while, but the next stage was a frustrating one. Formatting my writing so that it worked when uploading to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) cost me many hours of trial and error.

Of course, I should have turned to the worldwide web, for help, sooner than I did! The things we learn on the way (despite our bloody-mindedness!)

So, I asked and I am very much appreciative of the prompt support given by Jason Matthews in the US. I didn’t know Jason at all, but I found his site and he answered my questions quickly and as best he could.

I haven’t read any of Jason’s books, nor do I know anything more about him apart from what I’ve read on his site. (So that’s my caveat: you make your own choices!) However, I promised myself that, when I finally got to the point of pulling it all together with my own book, I’d give credit where it’s due. So, thank you, Jason. You are appreciated.

Book Release

Hello and thank you for visiting. This site is a work in progress (as is the art of writing itself). Please do browse around, send feedback and, of course, buy the books that will be on offer here.

Published November 2012
Disintegration and Other Stories

Available from Amazon
£1.94 / $3.08 / €2,68 / ¥238
Amazon.co.uk (UK)
Amazon.com (including USA and India)
Amazon.de (Germany)
Amazon.es (Spain)
Amazon.it (Italy)
Amazon.fr (France)
Amazon.co.jp (Japan)

Three years in the making, this book includes a preface by fellow writers Sonam C. Gyamtsho and Ian Rochford.

Details of works in progress can be found here in due course.

This book is written for Kindle, iPad and iPhone devices. However, you don’t need to own these devices to be able to buy and download it. Amazon have a FREE KINDLE READING APP to enable you to access books on your PC. It downloads quickly, and I can verify that it works having downloaded it myself.

You can also lend your support by visiting, and ‘liking’ the Joel Seath: Writer Facebook page (coming soon). Thank you.