Cleo's Patra
Why Comedy?

Had a rather long anonymous comment drop into the ask box, that is worth a full blog post in response.

The short answer is, of course, why not? Life is not exactly all skittle shitting unicorns, which is a huge shame for both shovel and insulin manufacturers. Sometimes laughing at the absurdity of it all is the only way to cope. Well, you could cry, but who wants to be constantly wetly red eyed and dripping snot? It gets uncomfortable, your nose becomes raw and the used tissues wind up everywhere.

I think the main challenge though is to make people smile with a few well chosen words. Unlike many, I have not been gifted with either a terribly flexible voice or the sheer gall to stand in front of a crowd and be laughed at. Couldn’t tell a joke reliably to save me soul - one liners and atrocious puns are more my speed anyway - yet I can write jokes or funny stories perfectly well.

Influences? Many and varied and probably no one you have heard of. The Navy Lark, The Grumbleweeds, The News Hudlines, Mike Harding. All radio, you might note. For TV, Not the Nine O’clock News, Spitting Image, Jasper Carrot, To The Manor Born, Only When I Laugh - again long on verbal play and fairly short on visual humor. Yeah, it is a bit of a time capsule, but your sense of humor is formed early. Hell, probably one of the few people left who will admit to liking Robin Williams. Before you blow a raspberry, find his Live at the Met show and watch that. He was funny, once. Promise.

That leads to the inevitable “But you are not funny.” It gets a bit disheartening to hear that every single time, like when your own reflection laughs and points at you from the safety of the mirror. That is OK. I don’t write comedy for you. I write it for me. If you like it, great. If you don’t, tough, I had a good time writing it.

A Tale of Two Cities

If I need a city to destroy, my two go-to places are Paris and Galveston.

Galveston makes sense. The hurricane of 1900 plus one of the biggest firestorms ever recorded gives a sense of reality - there are eye witness accounts of what happens during bad shit to a city built basically on sand. It gives an immediacy to the writing that makes it stronger.

Paris, though? I freaking love that city, apart from the filth, the crime and it being full of the French. It is just a city I know well enough to write about that I am not hugely emotionally invested in, iconic enough to be recognized. In one of my novels, the finale was set in the sewers of Paris. Yes, it is 100% accurate - I took the tour. Twice.

Couldn’t destroy New York - that’d be a little on the tacky side, especially now, and besides it isn’t healthy to increase NYC’s self importance.

London? Hey, I live here and don’t believe in tempting fate.It is a shithole, but it is my shithole.

LA? Why even bother? Fictional cities make poor settings and I am pretty sure LA is a joke played on the rest of the world by the Americans.

Tokyo? Nope, I stay off Godzilla’s turf. I know my limitations.Besides, it is scarier if it isn’t destroyed.

Nagasaki? Seriously dude? You want me to fictionally destroy a place that was literally flattened by a nuke?

Rome? No way. It is a wonderful place. I use it for settings a lot, but gentler and kinder and less “kill everything” stuff.

Detroit? Hey, I am way too late for that bandwagon.

Baltimore? There is no way I can out write The Wire so skip trying.

Washington DC? I have zero interest on being on a watch list for the rest of my life.

Nairobi? Nope - like the place too much to destroy it. It has enough problems already without getting a comet dropped on it.

Port Louis? One word - honeymoon.

There are a lot of cities missing from the list - that is for a reason. Never been to them. It is the little things that count while writing. The casual note that the wait for a table at Le Pachyderm is about 35 minutes. The incredible vanishing curry house in the middle of London (seriously, it disappears constantly. It is the Diagon Alley of vindaloos). The Sunday morning ritual of sweeping up the empty beer cans and broken bottles if you live within two streets of Maine Road in Manchester. The incredible rudeness of knocking on a door in Gaborone. Little things, but real, that help with the suspension of disbelief.

When you write, one of the first bits of advice you get is “Write what you know.” It’s good, accurate and makes for either totally fascinating or incredibly boring novels. “Write where you know” is equally important.

Addiction

So fucking tired right now. 23000 words into the new novel, 57000 into Legacy, getting by on about an hours sleep per day and trying to deal with both a constantly fussing kid and assholes who don’t understand the concept of time zones.
So why do it at all? It is not as if the current one has a publisher - that is a whole other pile of crap to deal with in December or January, or really whenever I can compose an email without sounding totally psychotic. Legacy does have a publisher, but isn’t due for a while.

I can’t not write. I tried. Spent a month and a half refusing to do so and it was the worst time of my life. In 9 days I’ll be three years sober, and giving up the booze after 40 years of getting totally fucking crocked most nights was nothing in comparison to trying not to write. I’d sooner give up cigarettes than the keyboard.

Not because writing is fun, or good, or lucrative (it is and it isn’t) - but because even though I wasn’t writing them down, the stories never stopped appearing in my mind.

When I was a kid, Dad used to read to me of an evening. All sorts of books. Once, in total desperation, he read two straight chapters from a welding manual, and believe me, that is instant snooze time. But by far my favorite was him reading the poems in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. He’d sit on the edge of my bed, do different voices for different parts, sometimes ad-lib extra verses and generally make bed time fun. Some of his additions to The Walrus and the Carpenter are still family favorites even now. If you thought the oysters were funny, you should really hear about the winkles and the fisherman.

Dad is pretty fucking cool. Pretty hardcore too, but that can wait til a later post.

When we had our first kid, a long time ago, I remembered that sheer uncomplicated joy. Bath time and bedtime was a sacred time, a time to read and have a little fun before they went to sleep. Poems, fairy tales, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, Where the Wild Things Are, Doctor Seuss, Mad Magazine, hell even the local paper all were read to kids of varying ages and levels of wakefulness.

But the favorite of our kids and their kids? A pure accident. We had two at the time, wife pregnant again, so we got married and went away for a week. Nothing exotic, just to a chalet in Cornwall near Padstow. Saint Merryn, if I recall correctly.

We forgot to take any books along, and not giving a three year old a bedtime story is simply not an option. In desperation, I invented a story on the spot, about a fox (our eldest had a much beloved stuffed fox that went everywhere with her) and my motorbike which they were both fascinated by. It has been an intermittent serial for nearly 40 years now. If I could recall it all, we are talking well over a million words of puns, high drama and morality plays (hey, it was for kids, what do you expect?). That poor damned fox - which not only still exists but sits more or less hairless and with only one eye on a shelf in our bedroom - has got into more scrapes and trouble than an entire bus load of convicts.

Telling stories is in my blood. Writing them, well, that is a new thing, only about 3 years old. Yet it is what I do and what I am good at.

It’s worth giving up a bit of sleep for.

18 Days

Getting warmed up. There are only 18 days left before NaNoWriMo kicks off, which means 18 days to get Legacy finished.

Not a hope in hell of that happening. Sure, 10k words per day is feasible - it’s about 3 and a half hours worth at my best composing speed (50 WPM, if you must know) - but it is an hour longer than I actually have spare to write and would mean stopping all other writing completely. Writing that actually pays the bills. Throw in the aspects of research needed, which are interviews and not just looking things up online, and it will be simply impossible.

At the same time I also get pulled from it to jot down plot points and character outlines for The Weatherman since, if I don’t make notes I lose the idea.

Who just said “That is probably a good thing?!”

Tried to make notes with pen and paper during the small bits of downtime that creep into your day, but my handwriting is both painfully slow and so bad that half the time I can’t even read it.

Like many people this miserable grey November, I am participating in NaNoWriMo. It is fun, and the discipline is a lot more lax that the usual you have to do to write commercially.

I love it. A time to let my inner insanity out and go nuts with pure story. This time, musings on what it means to be human and the boundaries of acceptable behavior, in the obligatory sci fi setting.

As chapters fall into place, me being foolishly an A to Z sort of person, they will be added here. If you want to waste a bit of time and read it, well, go for it. I’d appreciate your comments. And yes, there are sex and poop jokes, trans genderism in it’s purest form and weird alien orgies.

Just a little something I whipped up, that survivalmom thought worth running. Very flattering indeed to have it run there.

Graphic Text

A friend and hugely talented artist asked me to write dialogue for her graphic novel. After me mind stopped screaming and running in circles, I came up with something. Something good. In fact, something really fucking good.

Hell, life is good.

Another Day at the Office

I have never had an office job, so their rituals and daily routines are a mystery to me. The closest I have ever been to one was two weeks as a mail clerk/porter in an office building.

My home office, where I run my business from, is my chair, a small bookcase with my diary in easy reach, a laptop and a massive draughting table that does double duty as a clean laundry store and has to be excavated whenever I need to design something.

Until now.

Having spent all evening yesterday griping about being constantly interupted and the TV volume, my beloved turned to me and with sweet venom said, “Go work somewhere else. You don’t use the attic as a workshop any more, go work up there.”

As always, she is right. Though even when she is wrong, when she gets that certain glint in her eye I just shut up and agree anyway.

I wandered up the stairs and took stock. Piles of boxes, some dead furniture to be restored and sold at some stage, a huge and incredibly ugly old desk. Shelves, once full of planes and finishing supplies, now housing my rather large collection of books on antique furniture. My worktable, where I cut and sew fabric for upholstery.

And best of all, it is quiet up there, just the gentle hum of the fluorescents. In a corner, sad and neglected, my bigass old stereo system. Just a quick tidy and re-arrangement and I have an office.

Ha.

9 hours of solid hard graft later, the desk is set up, with enough room, barely, for a chair, surrounded by walls of boxes containing God knows what. The stuff to be restored is neatly sorted, ready to be taken down to the main workshop. The dust is mostly gone, thanks to a rediscovered shop vac, excavated from a pile of old clothes which have been kept for some long forgotten reason.

But, it is an office of sorts. A place where I can sit and write my obligations, do my Wordplague editing and administration in peace and, as soon as I manage to set up the wifi, a place where I can research the weird and wonderful shit I need for articles or novels without constantly having to explain why I am looking at tentacle porn.

And the ultimate luxury? There is a bolt on the inside of the door.

A place of no distractions. Except, I really wonder what is in all those boxes …

Editing vs Writing

A dilemma that hits me every time I sit at the computer now is “write or edit?” Writing fiction is, for me, a pleasure. A release. A way of getting the tales that constantly drop into my head out, so there is room for more to come for a visit.

The factual stuff and the comedy is just fun too, especially when you finally find the right twist.

Editing, on the other hand, is a job. A sacred trust NOT to fuck up the author’s work. Hard, yet also surprisingly fun to do, unless it is your own stuff.

Sometimes I feel like the donkey that starved to death between two piles of hay. Should I have fun, or just have fun?

I love my new job!