Saturday, 22 December 2012

A Christmas Tale

A Christmas tale for you:


AND so it was, that Christmas Eve, that he was visited by three spirits.
            The first showed him his past. Showed him how happy he had been before disappointment and circumstance had soured him.  Showed him how many of those who had clustered about his childhood and young adulthood had made his life the easy and content one it had been.  Showed him how misfortune had been arbitrary and his bitterness unfounded.  Showed him that his success was the result of all those who had helped him along his way and how he was linked with all those he had shared his youthful years with, how he had not stood aloof and alone above them all.  Showed him how much he owed their kindness.
            The second spirit showed him the present.  Showered him with images of small and great kindnesses from high to low.  Showed his loathed wastrel relatives and cheating employees as human figures, not the simplistic caricatures that he had moulded of them in his mind.  This spirit foretold of the death of a child and showed him the orphans his people had created, the mewling miserable Want and the vicious spitting Ignorance.
            The third spoke not a single word, but took him forwards and showed him a lonely death, unmourned by any who knew him with squabbles over his inheritance and finally a neglected grave in a municipal cemetery, it’s green gravel slimy and noisome, the name on the stone almost, but not quite, illegible.

AND then he woke up.
            And it was Christmas Morning!  He had not missed it.  The spirits had done their work in one night.  And he rejoiced and promised to mend his ways.  And he turned on his computer and searched for a site that could deliver a prize goose that very day.
            There wasn’t one.
            And the good will chilled within him.  And he reminded himself that these were hard times.  He spoke to himself to the need to be realistic, to face up to the mess the last lot had left and of the unfortunate fact that hard times required hard policy.  And he realised that throwing money at a problem solves nothing and it was time that people stood on their own feet.  The memory of those who had helped him to his success faded to be replaced by his comforting assurance that his wealth was solely down to his own hard work.
            And still the good will chilled within him as he considered the fecklessness of those who had children they could not afford.  He rehearsed half remembered rows with his relatives, and recast them with himself as the misunderstood but nobly realistic hero.  He wondered when other peoples’ want and ignorance had become his problem.
            And the good will finally bled away as he considered the inevitability of his end and he told himself that while he might not be remembered with affection, he would be remembered with respect.
            And so chilled had his good will become that it spread to his heart and froze it so that it never could beat again.  Not once.

CHRISTMAS, as a rule, is not observed in Hell.  For sure some of the demons might put on paper hats, but their intention is more satirical than festive.  Presents are not swapped and good wishes, for rather obvious reasons, are not offered.  That would make a mockery of the whole thing.
            So it was, on his obsidian throne, Lucifer Morningstar sat and pondered.  Once the most beloved of the angels, before his rebellion and fall, he often became melancholy at this time of year.  But then he would shake out his leathern wings, give an arrogant flick to his left horn, making it ting, and continue ruling in Hell.
            This Christmas, however, seemed different.  He was finding it difficult to shake off his heavy inertia and get on with the torturing and punishing of the damn├ęd souls.  It all seemed so pointless.
            And then came a small still voice that only he could hear.  And after that came a golden glow that shone before his throne which faded to reveal the soul of a rich human who had let his arrogance and greed chill his heart to an absolute stop this very Christmas morn.
            And Lucifer Morningstar looked up to see the Celestial City that he alone in Hell could still perceive and whispered:
            ‘Thank you, it’s just what I wanted.’

‘A Christmas Present’ copyright © 2012 Alastair Chadwin

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Friday, 21 December 2012

William Blake and Me

As those who have the misfortune to have spoken or otherwise been in contact with me in the last twenty-four hours may be aware, I have published a book.  It’s called The Fernal Files and you can get it here

While this is all very gratifying, it is essentially a self-published book and as anyone knows who paddles in the puddles of the literary life will know, self-published authors are the lowest form of life there is.  Several commentators on The Guardian website book section hold us in the deepest contempt.  And they have their reasons.  As I have said before, there is an also lot of rubbish fiction on the internet, I know, I’ve read some of and, God forgive me, written some as well.  Some self-publishers try to avoid this censure by calling themselves 'independent publishers' and fooling nobody.  Independent publisher is a mealy mouthed phrase like graphic novel in the comics world, used by people trying to hold onto the respect of their peers.  It rarely works. 

The unhappy aura of vanity publishing hangs over the self-publishing world as well*.  My worst ever reading experience (and I’ve read DH Lawrence) occurred when I was asked to look over a couple of vanity published books.  One was just dull, while the other, a sprawling fantasy, had trundled along its weary way for about fifty pages before the author suddenly announced that the preceding section actually belonged in a later novel, yet to be written, and then started again.  I did not join him.  Another reason is that, filled with unwarranted confidence in their skills, many self-publishers eschew such things as proof-reading and independent editing, which can make for a memorable, if not enjoyable, reading experience.  I have endeavoured to avoid such traps and got others to proof-read and edit my meretricious effort before inflicting it onto the public.

*The difference is subtle.  Basically, self-publishing is when the author does it him/herself, vanity publishing is when you pay a company to print it for you.

Amazon claim that you can be published in five minutes.  Far be it for me to doubt their tax avoiding word, but I cannot say that I found this to be the case.  It took about three to four hours.  Admittedly this included a trip to the bank to obtain a couple of highly obscure account numbers amazon required in order to pay me any royalties from the USA, as if, and the previewing does take a while to do, especially as you can’t jump around in the text so you have to go through the whole thing page by page.  Luckily my little effort is a novella.

So why do I open myself up to the sneers of the Guardianistas and the glum realisation that no-one really wants to read the bloody thing?  Sheer bloody arrogance plays a part.  The fact that the book is a novella told in the epistolatory form which I suspect would be a hard sell to any grown-up publisher is another factor.  But mainly it was because I have plans to grow this into a publishing operation and, like the scientist in a ‘50s horror film, I though it best to experiment first on myself.  Next year we shall be publishing a novel not written by me and so, in one leap, move up a tiny step of respectability from self-publisher to small publisher, maybe even to sunny uplands of small press.  And once you get there you can point to such luminaries as JL Carr and William Blake.

Anyway, must be away as there’s an angel in the garden wants a word.