Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Understand me – I’m a Writer

Writers have rituals. Charles Dickens would walk around his house, or take long walks at night. Alfred Lord Tennyson would walk with his son saying his latest poem out loud. This is something those who are not creative do not understand. To them the writer is procrastinating, lazy, or worse playing games. That is not true. The creative process just doesn’t happen it takes time for the brain to work out what to put on the paper. Inspiration comes at anytime not when you try to recall it.

All writers have had writer’s block. The mind is closed to anything creative. Therefore the frustrated writer must do things that bring the inspiration to the forefront. This is when the writer is misunderstood. As a spouse/partner of the writer it is their job to assist not nag the creative genius. How you may ask?

First make sure there are no distractions, such as children, and pets. They make the best reason for a writer to find an excuse not to write. The environment for a writer is important. Don’t re-pot plants or decide that corner bookcase needs moving, cleaning or painting in the writers room. Although cleaning by vacuuming is possibly the biggest culprit to stop the writer’s stream of conscious thoughts. The writer will use it as an excuse to do research at the local café or bar.

I like to have music when I write, there are others who need silence. I chose the music to fit what I am writing. It’s an emotional scene tears are running down your face as you write the death of a beloved character. The music swells you are just putting the final touches to this important part of the story. Your spouse/partner walks into the room and asks if you want rice or potatoes with your lunch.

Writers are selfish about their time to write the non-creative partners need to understand that interruptions can stop the flow.

The final kick come when you have finished the work and your partner reads it. You have to ask them what they thought. They reply, “Interesting, what would you like for dinner.”

Partners, spouses and children should not be seen or heard during the creative hours. That way the writer has to be creative to find an excuse not to write. Most will just write it is easier.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

What behind the Picture?

Sorting through the family photos can be an enjoyable experience. There will be those moments when reflecting on the picture we remember sad moments. After my mothers death I asked for one thing, the family photos. For what reason I never really thought. Maybe to hide the embarrassing ones of me dressed as a little girl called Monica for a fancy dress competition. Don’t think I won.

There was one photo I knew on what day it was taken even though it was torn at the edges. June 3rd 1953, the day the Queen was crowned. Our street had a party for the children inside some one house. Sandwiches, cake, ice cream and jelly would have been the menu. It was after all just after the Second World War and the rationing of food was coming to an end. I look at the picture and wonder what happened to the others who sat down at the tables. I grew up with them, many I played Cowboys and Indians. I think I was always an Indian. Okay, I like the feather hat. With a few of them I played doctors and nurses but that another story.

I know their names and check out to see if they are on Facebook or Friends United. Sadly I only found one. What happened to their lives, did they marry have children of their own?

Many questions unanswered, yet the source of inspiration for a writer to use. Until recently School reunions were a rare event in Britain. Like prom dances reunions were imported from America.

The accompanying this blog is the party picture. I am the little boy in the middle of the back row with the flowers behind me. Looking like butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth, oh so innocent.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writer’s Dilemma

The book is finished and has even been edited by a professional editor. Those who have read it, and some are English academics tell me it is very good. So why hasn’t it sold? Do I need to revisit and re-edit?

I took several books off the shelf on ‘editing your work’. They all seem so broad in suggestions as to what I might need to do. Of course there is always the reader critic who also happens to be an editor. The problem like so many today is my lack of cash.

This is my dilemma and like all problems I sit and mull over looking for the best solution. I will read again Michael Seidman book “The Complete Guide to Editing Your Fiction.” If my memory serves me well I didn’t really find it helpful the first time because I had already had the book edited and there seem nothing wrong with it. Maybe I should look for over long sentences.

My protagonist is a very likable young man; he does have extra baggage with his very large family. The sub plot carries the story along without interfering with the main plot. The location is real and believable although I did use a little literary license when necessary.

I know I am doing what most writers do and procrastinate. I must knuckle under and while I finish my sixth book I will revisit and hope I don’t have to change too much on the first book.

Here is the synopsis: -

Coronation Souvenir a murder mystery introduces the handsome James Pidgley to the world. He is the seventh child of eleven children to Matthew and Sarah Pidgley. With his father and two brothers James is a partner in the Pidgley Property Company.

Elizabeth Friedman, a property agent, is showing 13 Crowhurst Road Birmingham England to James. It was his father’s childhood home and the very first house this Romani family lived in. Until that day they moved in they had wandered the side roads and lanes of England’s countryside living the lives of gypsies as their descendants had.

While viewing the property James and Elizabeth are interrupted by a distraught workman. He and his fellow workmate had just dug up the remains of a dead woman wrapped in an old carpet. Elizabeth Friedman is found murdered in the house several days later. Incredibly, the first corpse, dead more than fifty years, is determined to be Elizabeth's aunt who reportedly went missing three days before Her Majesty the Queen of England had her Coronation.

The police loosely and prejudicially tie James’s father, Matthew, to each of the two women and arrest him for the murders. Detective Mark Smith surmises that Matthew must have known Elizabeth Friedman because she was the property agent selling the house. Also, as he lived in the house at the time of the first murder, he must have known Elizabeth’s aunt even though he was only five years old at the time!

James is incensed and sets out to prove his father’s innocence out of his own sense of guilt for buying Matthew's childhood home and the desire to fight the prejudice displayed by the Detective toward the family’s gypsy roots. Detective Mark Smith, along with many other police officers, believes that gypsies are nothing more than a band of thieves, kidnappers and murderers. The Pidgley’s, in Mark Smiths’ opinion had crossed the line into the world of respectability and he would never accept that.

James’ investigations put him on the trail of two local wanna-be-big-time drug dealers, Dave Lily and Brian Steal. They have been using the unoccupied house to hoard illicit prescription drugs. Lily and Steal, threatened by James’ investigation, kidnap Anne, James’s most difficult younger sister. Heroically, James rescues Anne from a near death situation. Lily and Steal go into hiding taking their illicit prescription drugs with them. James dupes the pair into an underground abandoned World War Two bunker and locks them inside pumping water into the bunker. Trapped, Lily and Steal confess to the murder of Elizabeth Friedman after realizing they would drown. A few days later at a family party to celebrate Matthew's release and Anne’s rescue, James is surprised to learn that the drug dealers had merely assaulted Elizabeth Friedman. They are clearly not her murderers. Fearing his father would be arrested again, James continues to investigate.

When the real killers threaten James by shooting at him and then giving chase through a popular park, he realizes he must be close to solving the mystery.

Through further investigation he learns that Elizabeth had been a threat to the fifty-year-old secret surrounding the death of her aunt. To protect that secret she had to die. The actual killers are a mentally unstable brother and sister who have lived across the street from 13 Crowhurst Road all their lives and are Elizabeth’s cousins. They have been protecting the real story of their mother’s murder from the rest of the world all these years!

You can contact me at

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Readers Understood

A presenter must always be aware of the type of people in the audience. Each person listens and learns differently. As writers do we ever consider the reader in the same way? What we write must be of interest to the reader or they won’t bother to read it. How many times have you started to read a book only to put down after a few pages? Never to pick the book up again and to disregard the authors other books. I analyzed three books I started but gave up on and found the writers hadn’t taken into considered the type of person I was.

The first type of person we must consider is the ‘what in if for me’. The reader needs to get something out of the book without too much hard work. The writer must give the reader a reason to continue reading. In the mystery writing genre this can be accomplished by holding back a secret only to hint at what it is to the reader. They will continue to turn pages to find out the answer. Remember it has to be something worthwhile rather than a red herring. In the romance novel they are the lover and daydream themselves in the plot endlessly.

The “what” type of reader is looking for information, structure and theories. They like facts and as much as they can get. They need to solve the mystery as it unfolds and this is very important to them. Three quarters the way through the book they are certain they know who did it. In general fiction the “what” type crave the knowledge that they know where the story is heading. In romance novels they want a happy ending with lots of love scenes. The lovers are on the side of the good and over come evil created by the villain.

If the reader is a “how” type of person then the more action, role-playing in the book the better. It’s the mechanics of a story, which interest them. They are the sleuth solving the crime, or the gamekeeper lover of the lady of the manor. Books for the “how” type must show a high level of practical skills on behalf of the protagonist. You cannot have a weak ending to the book, the ‘how ‘ type need closure regardless how you end the book. No setting up the squeal for them.

Finally we have the “what if” type of reader, with very few readers in this group and they are usually very creative in thinking. They get the plot quickly and workout several paths the story can take as they read. Always hoping the writer has found a story they haven’t thought of so they can add to their vast collection stored in their minds. Most “what if” type of reader do not finish the book as they get bored with the plot and or protagonist. They have already decided how the book ends even if they are sometimes wrong.

Writers need make sure they cover all the personality types in their books or they will limit the readership. This has nothing to do with the genre of the writer. I use mystery writing as my main example in this blog because this is my genre.

You can contact me at

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Star Struck

I have never been a star struck person for me they are just human being who have had the luck and in some case the talent to become famous. After all we all started the same way out of the womb of our mothers. Some may have arrived in privileged surroundings but they are no better than you or I.

I remember the staff at Goldman Sachs when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the office. Those middle-aged ladies were acting as though they were thirteen and Justin Beiber had arrived. I continued to work ignoring a man who has since left the state of California in a mess. My instinct was right and I still believe he needs acting lessons.

So you will be surprised to know I was once star struck. I had just finished the Vogue cover shoot with photographer David Bailey. It was David who in the nineteen sixties made people like Twiggy famous. We had agreed to work on a Japanese advertisement reminiscent of Curt Jurgens in The Blue Angel. I never saw the finished product but I played it but like Curt and Tonio from I Pagliacci composed by Ruggiero Leonavallo.

Meeting for dinner at Mr Chow’s was David, his then wife Marie Helvin she and I were on the front cover of the Vogue issue. John Frieda the hairdresser and his then wife Lulu had joined us. It was Lulu who made me speechless. I had for years been a fan but to sit down with her and listen to her talk about life growing up in Scotland was intriguing. She had become part of my artistic intelligence over the years. It is one of those moments that sculpture how I perceive the world. It wasn’t just because of her performance in To Sir with Love. She was real, to use a Scottish expression ‘pure dead brilliant’.

Little did I know a few years later we would both work on a show at the Royal Albert Hall. Of course she was headlining I mere Tonio the clown madly in love with an incredible artist.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mythological Agent

Like so many authors I am in search of an agent. I had one, a brilliant one based in London with the William Morris Agency. Then they closed the agency in London and Steve Kenis started his own agency without a literary department. So my journey began.

First I asked friends who write and several came up with good ideas. Willard Hope suggested I looked under a rock then he had just lost his agent in a very nasty divorce. His wife was his agent had run off with a very young ghost-writer from Philadelphia. Other writer friends recommended I send out query letters. So I did and found most went to the black bin filing cabinet beneath the desk.

I needed to be creative and catch the attention of an agent who has the same taste as myself. I placed Madama Butterfly by Puccini in the CD player and let the music wash over my tense body. The tension faded and I began to be inspired only it wasn’t for an agent. An idea for a new book fizzled inside my head. I wrote the idea down knowing it would join the long list of ideas I already had.

Puccini wasn’t working maybe I was being too cultured so scanning my collection of CD’s I looked for something more suitable. I love music and my large library of CD’s extends from Wagner to heavy techno and everything in between. As most agents seem to live in New York maybe it was a musical I needed. Chorus Line, Cats or Les Miserables so many to choose from and none that inspired me.

Who would motivate me there was only one thing I could do close my eye and pick a CD. Without looking at what I had picked I place the CD in the player and sat back to listen. Cleo Laine sang ‘Don’t get around much anymore’. It was perfect I sat down and began to write ‘Mythological Agent’

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dreams are little dramas

I rarely take notice of dreams unless I can use them in a story. The one’s I usually remember are more like a Jackson Pollock painting than a coherent image. So when I had a recurring dream that someone had stolen my underwear from its drawer I realized there was a reason for it.

All I can remember in the dream is waking up and find my underwear drawer open and empty. I checked out the dream interpretation on line and found nothing very helpful. In another search I found a very interesting if not simple explanation as to what is a dream.

“Dreams are the little dramas our minds make up when the "self" system is not keeping us alert to the world around us.”

If this is true then my mind has more dramas than an American daytime soap. Friends often ask me to interrupt their dreams. I use common sense logic as to where they are in their life suggesting the dream is about their current situation. My fear of flying (because I am not in control of the plane) is always a recurring dream if I know I have to travel. Thankfully these days I am but a prisoner in my library, my computer is my window to the outside world.

Back to this dream of the stolen underwear it has conjured up many ideas and a future book will start with the following.

Peter Brewick was a self-satisfied man who would spend hours lying on his bed looking at the ceiling. He imaged he could see pictures in the rough plaster above his bed. This Saturday morning was no exception, he was warm under the bed covers and had very little to do that day. On Friday nights he would wash and dry his clothes before neatly putting them away. He never saw himself as an obsessive-compulsive person, his friends did and this was why he had so few of them.

Pushing back the bed covers he sat on the bed and perused his bedroom. The drawer for his underwear was open and he was sure he had closed it the night before when he put his clean perfectly folded white boxer briefs away. The drawer was empty his underwear gone. He took the drawer out and turned it over as thought by magic the underwear was some how stuck to the base.

Picking up his cell phone he called the local police station.

“Burbank Police how can we help?”

“Someone stole my underwear.”

Dreams are what they are so we must use them when we can even if they seem absurd.

This dream as occurred four more times since the first time. My perfectly folded underwear is now kept under lock and key.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Marcel Marceau Drops His Balls

French mine artist Marcel Marceau creator of Bip the Clown died in September 2007. I was fortunate to meet him on a live BBC radio four “Woman’s Hour” program. The interviewer was Sue MacGregor along with a family member from the Robert Brothers Circus. Topic was the importance of making people laugh.

Marcel told several stories about how he gather the idea’s for Bip the Clown from what he saw on the street. It wasn’t just a man slipping on a banana skin but observation on how people stand and walk. I will always remember him miming standing at a fireplace with a drink in his hand. You believed he really had a drink. When I was teaching others how to learn the art of the clown I would always tell them to look at how people behaviour in public. Marcel said he would sit in a shopping centre in Paris just people watching, how he would love American shopping Malls.

When friends say they are bored I suggest they go to the Mall and people watch. It is truly amazing how we human’s go about of daily lives. Next the lady from Robert Brother’s Circus explained how circuses were moving away from animal acts. It wasn’t just a reaction to the animal rights groups. Audience love to see people skills and it inspires children to take up dance, acrobatic and other performance type skills.

When it was my turn to talk I became serious and explain that clowning and comedy was a very serious business. Making people laugh wasn’t easy, timing, body and face expressions don’t just appear over night. Marcel agreed and said he would rehearse for fourteen hours a day to perfect a body movement. He asked me if I did the same, I told the story of how when performing my show “The Great Custard Pie Mystery” at the Royal National Theatre in London. I had to open a sash window and climb through it. The window was small so getting my body through was no mean feat. I rehearsed it for two week four hours a day until I could do it without thinking.

Sue McGregor asked if any of us could juggle. Marcel said he had always wanted to learn. I explain it was easy to get the basics but patience and practice were important. Sue produced three rubber balls and I explained how to start. Marcel with great gusto picked up the balls and began to throw them in the air. The balls fell to the floor bouncing around the BBC radio studio.

As if it was a normal thing to say Sue McGregor said, “Oh Marcel has dropped his balls.”

I am not sure who laughed the most Marcel or me. The program was quickly taken to a news flash. I saw him several years later and he just said, “I still drop my balls.” We laughed so much that those around us looked at us with shock and surprised.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

There are times in your life when you think that someone else has a hand in your density. After watching “The Adjustment Bureau” last night I now question if those people exist.

It is a beautiful love story, except for a group of men in suits and hats spending their time trying to break up the loving couple. He is destined to be the President of the United States and she a world renowned dancer/chorographer but not together.

Creatively brilliant. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt were perfectly cast while Terence Stamp seemed a little wooden. I was hoping they didn’t cop out and make a cheesy ending and they didn’t.

During and after watching the film I began to wonder if they the Adjustment Bureau had been playing with my life. Okay I know it’s just a movie but it leaves you thinking and to me that is the sign of a good movie. Be careful which door you open, it could lead you away from your own destiny.

I pushed open the revolving door into Corporate America a complete cultural shock. Although I learnt a lot I really believe it was a deviation from the road I was suppose to be on. My constant desire to bring creativity to a dull, cold and insensitive world failed.

The Adjustment Bureau reminds me I need to get back to doing what I am good at – story telling. I recommend The Adjustment Bureau to everyone.

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Willy and the Poor Boys - A Beatle Secret

Bill Wyman base player of the Rolling Stones asked if we would be interested to direct ‘Willie and the Poor Boys’ a half hour music special. The scene was to be nineteen fifty’s at Fulham Town Hall, London. When local bands would play on a Friday night at a local dance hall. Ringo Starr was going to play the janitor, a cameo role at the end of the film. We hired several professional dancers besides inviting the public to turn up in period costumes.

Like all films the music was pre-recorded and the many wonderful musician played along with soundtrack. (I have listed the musician below)

We had six cameras shooting the action but behind me where eight international news camera capturing the event with so many famous rock stars on stage. After the first take I took Bill on one side and told him they lacked energy. Expecting Bill to be diplomatic with the rock stars he walked back on to the stage and said, “The director thinks we stink and need to get some energy.” They did with great passion and camaraderie helping to produce an excellent music extravaganza.

Once the performance had been captured the dancers and public were released. Ringo Starr the true professional he is breezed through his part. We just needed the last shot of the film, his ringed fingers switching off the light. He added a comment to the script, which we kept in the film.

“That band will go far with a little practice.” He added “not far enough for Jimmy Hargreaves.” So who was this Mr. Hargreaves? Ringo finally several months late told me it was the mythical man the Beatles blamed for everything that went wrong. Since then I have always added it in the credits of the films I directed and/or produced. Thanking the mysterious Jimmy Hargreaves for helping me getting through the ordeal of making a film.

Willie and the Poor Boys Staring: Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Mickey Gee, Chris Rea, Andy Fairweather-Low, Geraint Watlins, Ronnie Wood, Terry Taylor, Mel Collins, Kenny Jones, Raf Ravenscroft, Henry Spinetti and Ringo Starr.

Written and Directed by Edward Arno and Markus Innocenti

Music Link:

DVD purchase Amazon (The DVD includes a making of Willie and the Poor Boys film):

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