Paperback Righter


Here’s two I finished earlier…

I buy a newspaper on a Saturday. This is somewhat of an anachronism (the purchase of a paper, not Saturday), going back to a time when there was actually something on the TV that might be worth watching but no reliable TV guide (either provided by the TV itself or available via the internet). In those days, the cryptic crossword had a prize worth teasing the old brain cells for and, well, probably the summers were better, the water sweeter and you could have a three course meal, a crate of wine and a taxi home and still have change from a fiver.

Nowadays, the crossword is available on the day online for free, and even our 8 year-old TV has its own guide-thing at the press of a button, helpfully labelled “Guide”. I have always felt that it would be more useful if, on pushing it, the TV told you what the hell was happening, either with the programme showing, or maybe just life in general.

I digress. In last Saturday’s newspaper, in the Review section, there was an article where various writers and writing-teachers waxed lyrical with tips for would-be writers. They are the people in the title, trying to “Right” authors with their hints on how to be good at it.* I have to say that I am not a great fan of tips like this because IMHO what you need to do is write first and develop your writing muscle, then see about the other stuff. Once other people have read your work, then you can start the refinement of your writing style.

Of all the dozen tips, there was one that I did actually like – so I will share it with you, provided you promise to let my novel be ahead of yours in the bestseller list for the first couple of weeks.


Here are some that I haven’t started…

It is an easy one – sort of – and comes from William Boyd, who is a novelist and screenwriter (it says here):


Mr Boyd says that he sees lots of good ideas presented to him by budding authors who, when asked the question “How does it end?”, answer “No idea”. Or words to that effect.

In the case of my latest novel, I have been very, very slow at finishing it. In fact, I have known for some time how it will end, but that detail is still in my head, and not on the page, electronic or anachronistically paper. This tip from William Boyd has made me wonder whether that is part of the problem – the ending isn’t concrete, solid, has no physical existence.

Guess what I am not doing right now (because I am writing this)? The last few pages of “The Xylophone at the Gates of Dawn” are slowly coming to life on my other screen. I think the ending might just be the start…


* And in no way just a lame excuse for a pun.


Categories: BATDIG, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

What’s in a… Name?

About to do the deed

Yeah! Go on! Call your first novel a non-existent word!

You look out your window, maybe for the first time since you started your magnus opus, maybe for the millionth (because that’s how it works with you). Your masterpiece is complete. Maybe it is a novel, a short story, a canvas depicting the adoration of the magi using emojis*; perhaps you have successfully created the first jam-filled round cake from spuds**.

Whatever your creative juices have poured over (ew!), one thing is certain: it needs a name.

As a round in one my favourite radio comedy programmes, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, repeatedly demonstrates, a good title is everything. Who would have read, let alone wrote a song about, a book called “Wuthering Hillocks”?

Would “Catch-22” be such a, well, catchy title if it had been called “Catch-18” as originally planned?

And what fool would call their first novel a title that was a made-up word? Well, OK, me, but that isn’t the point.

Certainly, you want to ensure that the name you give your novel/album/painting/sculpture/offspring is memorable, carries the general atmosphere of the thing you have created and will, if a literary or musical offering, at least fit on the cover.

So, spare a thought for fans (and indeed the graphic design artist) of Fiona Apple who decided to entitle her second album thus:

“When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right”

Strangely, fans refer to her second album as “When the Pawn…” or “her second album”.

But that isn’t the longest album title in the world, oh no. That honour (?) is held by Chumbawamba who called one of their outpourings:

“The Boy Bands Have Won, and All the Copyists and the Tribute Bands and the TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture to Be Shaped by Mimicry, Whether from Lack of Ideas or from Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try to Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother’s Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don’t Just Regurgitate Creative History, or Hold Art and Music and Literature as Fixed, Untouchable and Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try to ‘Guard’ Any Particular Form of Music Are, Like the Copyists and Manufactured Bands, Doing It the Worst Disservice, Because the Only Thing That You Can Do to Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It’s Over, Then It’s Done, and the Boy Bands Have Won”

Frequently referred to as “The Boy Bands Have Won”, the thing about this epic song-lyric-in-its-own-right-title is that it strikes me as being pretty much on the money.

My third novel is entitled “A Xylophone at the Gates of Dawn” which is a pastiche of Pink Floyd’s first album name, itself taken from the title of chapter 7 of “Wind in the Willows”  by Kenneth Grahame.

So, there’ll be no problem fitting on the front cover. I hope.


* The Adoration of the E-Maji, obviously.

** Why would you do that, why, why?

Categories: Artist, BATDIG, General silliness, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Book (and photo)-bombing on the High Seas

Auguste Banque’oliday believes in the gift of giving. He thinks waiting until the midnight sun is shining and then donating a copy of a book to a local library is a great thing to do.

About to do the deed

About to do the deed

So, now the MS Trollfjord has a copy of BATDIG in its library, for present and future passengers to find and wonder what language the word “BATDIG” comes from.

In Photobombing mood

In Photobombing mood

Good work, Auguste!


Categories: Auguste, BATDIG, General silliness, Writing | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Slow Boat to Kirkenes



The Snail, Auguste and I are on a boat, heading for the North Pole. We will, of course, turn and miss by a few hundred miles but it still has that feeling of adventure, of entering into the unknown, the exact unknown we went to two and a half years ago (but not Auguste, his passport wasn’t ready for that trip). Then, it was polar night, the sun was shy to shine and it was the type of cold that makes your bones snuggle down under your skin, trying to remember the feel of warmer climes.

Now it is spring and the sun is like that guest at a party that, whilst great to have there, insists on staying until every other guest has left, drinks the last of the decent whisky and then demands breakfast, before deciding to move in for 6 months*.

Sunset...well, nearly

Sunset…well, nearly

Actually, we are going to Kirkenes, somewhere I hope we don’t miss by a hundred miles, or even one. We won’t, unlike the sun, stay there long but it gives me a chance to check out the feel of the place again as I try to finish Kirkenes Blue. The novel was supposed to be done and dusted by now; indeed Auguste was going to be leaving a copy of that in the library of the MS Trollfjord instead of BATDIG as he is going to do very soon – he just has to finish reading it first.

Now for a good book...oh, this'll do...

Now for a good book…oh, this’ll do…

Although it is becoming colder as we head further North, the days are becoming longer which means that, by the time we reach Kirkenes, there will be about 22 hours of usable daylight every day. Already, the sun isn’t really setting as such, just going through the motions.

No rush

No rush

So, the three of us slowly head towards the point where we turn around and head south again, with the sun slowly realising there are no more twiglets to be had, no more rum to be punched.

Slow is good**. We like slow.


* It happens. I’ll say no more.

**Except possibly when you’re trying to upload a blog post from the middle of a fjord via a damp piece of string.

Categories: Auguste, BATDIG, General silliness, ships, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Just a quick one…

I haven’t blogged much recently – I have no idea where my time is going but it isn’t going into writing at the moment!

Someone who I have only worked with since September was by St Paul’s last weekend and Facebooked (if that is a verb) a picture of the cathedral. I commented something to the effect of had she seen any yellow packages? Her reply? This:



Apparently, this required a certain amount of dexterity to place the bag and the cathedral in shot. There were some bemused Japanese tourists and serves them right – no one in that distant country has bought BATDIG yet.

A big thanks to Liz for endangering her joints and her street cred too, in the name of art. And maybe literature*.


 * Not my literature, obviously.

Categories: BATDIG, General silliness, Writing | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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