India

Lydney Grandad

This is a work in progress, inspired by the above photograph of my Grandfather and his family.

India

Part One -

Looking out of the window of what they call a “care home”

You call it a hospital

Pick up the photograph

Oh to see the Ganges again, feel the ground of sun-soaked history beneath your toes

Himalayas the breath-taking backdrop to your everyday

Playing games at Tughluqabad Fort in Delhi, dreaming of Lakshmi Bai

Chai-Spiced air and sepia toned memories

It’s like looking into the eyes of your own future-past

Uttar Pradesh a long way back

Uttar Pradesh, shining indelibly

Uttar Pradesh a place you called home

 

Part 2

In a cold grey forest

Recollections hard to come by

British weather never acclimatised

Married a dentist in a west London registry office

From forts in Bombay to greengrocers in Acton

A train station in Lydney, such are life’s journeys

What were your thoughts on a cold day in May

thousands of miles away from early morning drills in the blistering sunshine

Met you but never knew you

Looking into photographic eyes

A dear sister gone, set free upon the wind, only her far off stare remains

The man who loved her also just a footnote on a family tree

 

 

Part Three

A familiar whisper talks to me in dream flecked shadows

There was a banjo you sometimes played

Scrambling up the stairs away from excited dogs

Dentistry equipment on a rack in the bathroom

Cars coated in iron

Hiding in cupboards, climbing over fences

Wooden ladybirds perched in a row, their gas-fired mantel a domestic throne

Questions never asked

I dream of your face

The last of your memories may have escaped

The white paint on the gate is still the same

but the years have faded it along with my face

Walking down the road we followed the hearse

A son holding a mother’s hand

You both came from far away

Strong and mythical

Now frail and small

In my imagination I hear Shāstriya Sangīt

Drifting over the banks

of a mighty famous river

Mighty river

now a lake full of ducks

I can see the rugby posts and hear the steam trains

The slide as tall as before

Every time I approach with a note-book

the chances seem further away

Close my eyes and hear distant drums

The warm sun is calling me back to my ancestral home

©John de Gruyther 2014

Live From My Living Room – Blog Tour 2014

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Welcome to the latest stop on the writing process Blog Tour 2014. I am enjoying the beautiful sunshine and the peace I often find during Easter. I am feeling tranquil, relaxed and really pleased that Julie Stock invited me to join this writing process blog tour. I recommend following her blog, it is a great read and a fascinating glimpse into the process of writing a novel.

The idea of a blog tour is one that appealed to me straight away, I like the sense of community you get from recommending other people’s blogs and it is interesting getting a glimpse into the mind of a fellow writer. The next stop on the blog tour will be Anna Mosca and The Jenny Mac Book Blog – these great blogs will be posting on 28th April. Here is a little bit about them -

The Jenny Mac Book Blog

I’m an aspiring author Chelsea Brown and I started writing at the age of twelve; after being inspired by my English teacher. I wrote my first short story when I was thirteen and that eventually led to writing my first young adult novel Jenny Mac at fifteen. I’ve been working on Jenny Mac through the years trying to get down a story that I could be proud of. It’s been a nine-year process, but I feel that I am closer to creating a very intriguing story than I’ve ever been before.

Anna Mosca

Anna Mosca (Milan, Italy) is an artist, a poet and a photographer. Lives for many years abroad until her return to Italy. Started her artistic walk as a painter and sculptor in the United States of America to move to her new phase of “Thoughts Sculpting” around the year 2000. Studied Fine Arts in U.S.A to then continued her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan, Italy. Her graduating thesis on Conceptual Art is titled: “The Word Becomes Art”. Through the years she planned and realized her own shows and performances of Conceptual Nature, in which she emphasized the use of text. Poetry is a recurrent tool in her expression. In photography as well, where she continues her artistic research, playing with light, spaces and lines her images have the synthetic structure of poetry. She writes poetry in English and Italian

My Writing Process

And without further procrastination here are some questions I have been asked to answer about my writing process -

What am I working on at the moment?

I have a few non-fiction articles I am writing for magazines and websites. I seem to specialise in science-fiction based articles and the occasional film critique. My major projects are my first novel The Paisley Soul of a Stricken Man, an illustrated story The Days of Love and all That Followed and a themed poetry collection called The Tall Man Chronicles. I plan to try and get the novel and illustrated story published via the “traditional” route and am currently in the process of drafting query letters to agents for the illustrated story. I am exploring self-publishing options for my poetry collection.

The novel is a bigger task as it tends to get left to last, the poor thing. If I have an article deadline the novel always gets pushed to the bottom of the queue. I have taken steps to try to remedy this and have designated novel time each week but it is still slow progress. I have recently discovered that the story I am telling is a trilogy (how passé) which has actually solved some issues plot wise in the first book. My plan is to have the first two novels finished in the next 5 years, which seems a long time but the cliché of “time flying” is a reality for me at the moment, so I think 5 years is about right. This includes the time it will take to send the manuscript to the editor and pitch to publishers/agents, so in actual writing time hopefully the first novel will be finished in the next 18 months.

The novel’s plot follows Edgar Choudhury, a 30 something in a dead-end job, whose relationship with his family is defined by the death of his grandfather. His grandfather is killed in a car crash when Edgar is 15 and his already fairly dysfunctional family falls apart. Edgar discovers a time portal in his Nan’s back garden, and the time portal enables Edgar to travel back into his own past, offering him the chance to prevent his grandfather’s death. It focusses closely on one family and the emotional turmoil wreaked by grief - it is funny, sad and it asks the question of whether changing the past will really bring Edgar true happiness and the girl of his dreams or will it just bring further tragedy?

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This question has caused me lots of issues. It would seem rather egotistical to state without irony that my work is unique from all others in its genre, not to mention disingenuous. All work is in some ways derivative because we cannot help but be influenced by others and those influences sometimes appear in our work. Even if that influence is a mentor type figure, who has given you strength to try new things, their philosophy is somehow inherent in the words committed to print. There have been time travel novels in the past, and there will be time travel novels in the future (especially if you happen to have a DeLorean handy). My illustrated story has been compared (not by me) to the work of Neil Gaiman, a comparison that I found flattering but any similarities are completely unintentional because I have never read his work before. My work differs from all other work because it has been written by me, and there is only one me, and in that way at least it is unique.

Why do I write what I do?

I write about anything that interests me. For my novel I am writing about some personal experiences and I have found the process cathartic. It is not autobiographical but I have certainly poured some real life experiences into it and it has been really interesting. I like to look at the world for inspiration – nature, society, relationships and politics often get my creative juices flowing but I tend to come at things from an offbeat perspective, not deliberately but things just tend to come out sideways.

Sometimes something very simple like the sun on the pavement or a tree in a neighbour’s garden can give me an idea and it can keep me writing for days. Even if I am writing articles for magazines and the “brief” is to write about a particular topic I try to find an angle that reflects something that is of a personal interest to me. For example I interviewed a Star Trek novelist about a trilogy of books he had written and one of the sub-plots was a miscarriage for one of the main characters. This story arc was only a few lines but it struck me as a really interesting decision by the author and miscarriage conjures up very personal emotions for me, so I asked the author about it and he was very open with his replies. His comments about this were really powerful and they made the final edit and this has proved the most rewarding experience of my article writing career so far.

How does my writing process work?

I recently did an interview with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (full details and a transcript of our chat will appear on the blog very soon) and in answer to my question about how their writing process worked they remarked that “like Agent Coulson’s Tahiti, our writing process is a magical thing”. It was an amusing answer and it chimed with me because I do not really think about my process, it just happens. On a practical basis my writing routine involves a comfy chair, my desk, hot chai tea, some biscuits and a guitar. I always have a guitar near by for those moments when I am tempted to give up because I find a brief interlude of playing and singing helps get me back in the groove. Despite all that I am still a terrible procrastinator but I think most writers are. I often get epiphanies when waiting for the bus or when I am cycling, that’s why I take my notebook and pen everywhere.

Well that’s it, I hope you enjoyed my random musings and do check out the other posts in the Blog Tour, especially Julie Stock, Anna Mosca and The Jenny Mac Book Blog.

Happy Easter x

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Saying No

Tales From The Edge Of My Living Room, Black and White Photography, Art Images, writers forum, writing process, help

Tales From The Edge Of My Living Room

I recently accepted a commission that I should have turned down. So why did I take it? It is a question I have been asking myself for the last few weeks. There was no financial imperative to take the gig, not because I’m rich, but because I’d achieved the targets I’d set myself for that particular month. The creative merits for taking the commission were also questionable. I guess the main reason I took the commission was ego, I liked the magazine and I thought the writing credit would look good on my CV.

So what was it about this commission that made it wrong from the start? From the first day of writing I was trying to shove a very square peg into a very round hole, and to make matters worse I knew it would be this way because my gut was telling me to decline the commission. The editor had liked my initial pitch but by the time he commissioned me to write the article he had subtly but significantly changed the article’s direction. I knew that the person I was interviewing (I had worked with her previously and she is wonderfully kind and forthcoming about her specialist subject) wouldn’t be able to come up with the gossipy, tabloid style quotes that the editor was now suggesting.

But instead of stopping I ploughed on regardless, letting pride claim victory over sense and not surprisingly the finished piece didn’t meet the editor’s approval. I was never going to be able to betray my contact’s integrity and ask the salacious questions required to make the piece work, so I should have stopped and saved myself, and my contact, some time and stress.

This has been a hugely enlightening process as I am increasingly learning to trust my instincts and turn negatives into positives. The other important thing I have learnt is to be a little more savvy when dealing with editors. This is something I already knew I had to get better at and this experience has just built an extra layer to this necessity. The fact is that editors don’t always volunteer up a contract, they should – it is professional if they do so, but sometimes they don’t. This editor didn’t send me a contract to sign yet I started work on the piece regardless, I naively went on trust. Whilst having no contract meant I retained the rights to the piece of work, it also meant I had no chance of getting a kill fee. I wasted a lot of time and effort and it had mostly been my fault.

It is an unfortunate fact that some editors withhold a contract as a deliberate ploy, so if they change their minds about a piece they can just say, “thanks for the effort but I don’t want this anymore”. This is of course an editor’s prerogative but it is the freelance writer’s duty to get a contract before they start work.

Halfway through writing the article, I got another email from the editor and he wanted the article to change again, so because I’m nothing if not stubborn, I complied and changed the article to fit yet another new set of requirements. I hated the new direction the article had to go in but I changed it anyway, even though my inner creative voice (his name is Malcolm by the way) was screaming PULL THE PLUG YOU STUBBORN IDIOT!!! Sometimes you write whatever is required, a job is a job and that’s the nature of freelance work. However on occasion you need to accept the fact that it’s ok to say no.

I have taken a lot of positive things from this experience (and it is overwhelmingly not a common experience for me in my dealings with editors) and this positivity is the message I wanted to share. I have managed to split the article in question into two separate articles and a blog post, so I feel it has turned out to be a worthwhile endeavour.

Let me know your thoughts on editors, contracts and the art of saying no. I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Passover

q7lbb

Shalom Aleichem

Peace be upon you

Peace be with you

This is the bread

This is the wine

We share

So we are whole

This is the world

We share

So we are whole

Don’t pass peace over

Shalom Aleichem

Don’t pass over to the other side of the road

This is love

We share

So we are whole

Shalom Aleichem

Peace be upon you

Peace be among you

Peace drenched in harmony

Pass over this way

©John de Gruyther 2014

Passover

q7lbb

Shalom Aleichem

Peace be upon you

Peace be with you

This is the bread

This is the wine

We share

So we are whole

This is the world

We share

So we are whole

Don’t pass peace over

Shalom Aleichem

Don’t pass over to the other side of the road

This is love

We share

So we are whole

Shalom Aleichem

Peace be upon you

Peace be among you

Peace drenched in harmony

Pass over this way

©John de Gruyther 2014

Asbestos Skies

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Asbestos Skies

Rusty old pipe on the ancient stone wall
Run through the decaying car park
Uncomfortable companions in this modern paradise
not even aware of what has been lost

Water cascades into the abandoned canal
echoes onto the asbestos sky
All these dark signs built on top of Blake’s refrain
no image remains only shadows


As our lives set on asbestos skies

As our lives set on asbestos skies

Clutching a little cheap book about Marx
smoking a roll up cigarette
Let’s meet we said at the Rene after work
and spin yarns about disillusionment

I stared at Love and the boys with respect
but tinged with surreal bewilderment
So I chased down the street my hopes and my cares
sun soaked on the city of smoke and despair

As I look out at the city that’s my brother and my friend
are you blind to all noise and pollution
In my concrete tower I am perfectly alone
but long for nature’s reunion


As our lives set on asbestos skies

By John de Gruyther
©John de Gruyther

Robin Hood versus Batman: Vigilantes and Villains

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Robin Hood and Batman have always had a lot in common; aside from their penchant for dressing up, their main point of commonality is that they share a particular brand of stylish vigilante justice. Both the caped and capped crusaders are driven by isolation and personal tragedy, each working outside the accepted laws of the land to achieve singular aims. They both skirt the grey area of right versus wrong, posing the audience questions like “is it ok to kill someone as long as they are super evil?” Or “is it ok to steal from someone as long as they are mega rich and their wealth is ill-gotten?” They staunchly stick to a self-devised moral code that is at times in conflict with perceived social norms. A recurring issue for Batman is his rule that he will NEVER kill, he can beat someone half to death with his bare hands but killing is a step too far. Robin Hood is similarly concerned about upholding his code of honour, but it is a code of his own design and when he crosses the line, is anyone able to stop him going too far?.. READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE