The Emperor’s New Book

ST ALBANS, May 15 – ‘Brilliant, just brilliant from the first page to the last. I just couldn’t put it down and had tears the size of Labrador puppies rolling down my eyes. If you’re looking for a hot read that will really make you need a cold shower THIS IS FOR YOU’

‘Cute and awesome. #1 international bestseller. The latest in the MuckRaker SF-cum-YA tantric-gaia-fantasy series’

All seven pages of it. But don’t let a mere want of words deter you. Oh no! For The Emperor, actually it is more likely to be an Empress these days. For The Empress has done it again, has dug deep into her pornucopia of costume talent and pulled out a shimmering disco ball of dystopian, young adult, rolls your socks up and down, gun-toting, drug-fuelled crime writing, romance-cum-erotica, memoire meme, literature lite masterpiece you could ever want to download onto your beloved e-bleeder (free to Kindle select members).

Phew. Thank Amazon-Starbucks-Microsoft-Facebook and other bearded Brands for making our lives profitable

And so, beloved Empress – moving on to the Youtube intervu – 10 billion hits and likes, like, like-like-like-like-ike-ike-ike-ke-ke-ke-e-e-e-e. Let the record show your interviewer, Sir Lickspittle of Lower Lickspittle, Buckinghamshire – motto: no Rsss knowingly unlicked – Sir Licky-Lappy genuflects before THE BELOVED EMPRESS NUMBER ONE to suckle tenderly each and every one of her twelve talented toes, each razor sharp nail of which bears her omnipotence’s $ Brand logo.

‘Tell me dearest Empress, how do you do it? How did you achieve inter-galactic dominance with your MuckRaker Series of SF-cum-YA wonderworks? Get the box set of all 106 titles on Amazon here – 99cents exclusively to readers of this blog.

Let the record show said EMPRESS NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER IN THIS AND ALL OTHER UNIVERSES, KNOWN AND TO BE KNOWN miracles a stone, a slab of the purest thought from her Athena-kissed forehead upon which appear, as if by some celestial brilliance beyond ponderous philosophy and physics, these ’17 ways to boost your ebook $ales and achieve the $uccess you deserve’ – dash a $ Publishing Ink webinar is available at $399.

1. Spend more time on Facebook. Open more accounts. Cultivate more friends. Like more pages. Post more CUTE & AWESOME cat vids. For example one of your neighbour’s cat reading your lastest ebook product.

2.  Buy a million twitter followers. Tweet, ‘Hi, I’m Taylor’. Never give too much away. Always leave them wondering and wanting more of your genius.

3. Work your way through $ Publishing Ink’s suite-to-suit of online cluster courses in Spam Marketing, Advanced Spam, PhD Spam, Black Belt 9th Dan Spam.

4. Meta data. The impotence of meta data cannot be stressed highly enough and must be at the top of any list of must-dos. $Publishing Ink has a short $9.99 per month special offer on right now in how to boost your meta data spam count. (Highly Recommended by Meta Gym Bunny).

5. Be post-post-post modern in your 360 degree orientation and image action analysis profile. This will bring you super-uber-mega-massive hipster approval feedbacks.

6. Go to as many industry related gatherings such as the London Book Fair and the Dallas RT fest. And don’t overlook a series of book signings at a bookshop near you. Remember: the way to go is super micro.

7. E-mail Chimp. Don’t be a chumpa-wamba, learn to chimp-chimminee your way to THE SUCCESS YOU DESERVE.

8. Disengage brain.

9. Forget gramma n spulling and other eleetist shit. Cause this is an inclusive peoples media, OK? We is in the golden age of da peoples voice. MONSTA!

10. Write another book or three. And don’t let nobody tell you that they need to be more than about 7-9 pages. No one will thank you for writing a book of more than 20 pages these days. Who has the time?

12. Set up a mega-facebook bake off. Sort it.

13. Smile. Count money. Repeat. A book a week should be your start up aim – minimum. You will soon be doing a book a day.

Plant this priceless marble in the garden of your dreams. And remember – you read The Emperor’s New Book here first, last, and forever yours. Sir Lickspittle of Lower Lickspittle *bows*

This book was brought to you by R J Askew Ink – a division of Pisstaken Press, Satire Central St Albans.

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Grand Mother Divided By Monkey Equals Outer Space – book review

ST ALBANS, May 6 – I bought my copy of Nora Chassler’s ‘Grand mother divided by Monkey equals Outer Space’ http://amzn.to/1HhwjiM directly from its smiling publisher in person, on the last day of The London Book Fair, 2015.

There’s a certain excitement to reading a book you have not heard of before. It’s like a blind date. You never know how things will go. Luckily all was well. Grand Mother Divided won my curiosity and held it to the end.

GRAND MOTHER DIVIDED - cover

My copy is on my desk right now, covered in copious notes. I like it being close to me. You just can’t have that kind of intimacy with an ebook, now can you?

So what’s it all about?

Vic, a pot-head, forty-something woman with a couple of kids and a great body gets pregnant by her coke-fuelled, teen boyfriend in early-1980s New York and ends up having an abortion.

The writing is often excellent and evokes the mood of the moment, and what a moment it was, with hedonism and chaos rampant.

I collated my notes into nine categories, the most fruitful of which was ‘ace dabs’ which are liberally scattered throughout Grand Mother Divided. The author has a gimlet eye for the sorts of details that convince. For example, ‘Carrie’s colorless hair dropped into one of the cokelines on the mirror. Arnie lifted it between his thumb and index fingers, like he was plucking a dandelion for wish-blowing.’ And this, Viv, Carrie’s mother, has ‘dowel-like, graspable wrists’. So too, the walls of an office building are ‘glossy cockroach brown.’ Great stuff. Once I knew the author could serve up such tasty dabs I read in part to look for more, and was not disappointed. It’s the poet in me, and the prose in Grand Mother Divided definitely has a poetic feel to it.

ny poets walk 1

But the core of the story is the way in which Viv’s little family mills around in a semi-dysfunctional way. Mom is still hot and knows it. But she is nearing  the end of her ‘purposefulness’ in terms of her biological clock. Yet she pulls Arnie – a fact that bothers him – and makes him a member of the family. He almost has as much in common with Viv’s two kids, Elie and Carrie, as he does with Viv. None of this is ideal from a social cohesion viewpoint. Nor is it ideal from the kids’ viewpoint either. Eli becomes increasingly pissed that none of the adults in his life can get him to see The Shining. And Carrie was horrified to find that her mom had set fire to an application she’d toiled over for a place in a better school. Of all the characters in the story it was Carrie I felt for the most, having to suffer such a mom. That said, I felt sorry for most of the characters at one point or another, but it was Carrie who seemed to suffer the most. Finding her mom comatose in bed with a brazen lesbian was… ach. Poor kid.

FAME!

That said, Viv is not beaten down. She works things out and tends to get her way, though her idea of what is good is limited. The drugs don’t help. But then how would her life look sober? ‘Some people just like (need) to alter their perception,’ she tells her daughter.

Drugs feature frequently in Grand Mother Divided, are commonplace in the lives of Viv and Arnie. Viv is coming down from coke and suddenly feels wrecked because, ‘Cocaine didn’t peter out; coke ducked out, like a robber.’ Viv loves her pot, loves it: ‘The aroma of the moist half-ounce made her feel very happy and calm.’ Oh yes, Viv and many millions like her. Moments later, her daughter’s school application is going up in flames as Viv accidentally torches it in her haste to light her joint. Oh mommmm!

Perhaps much of American life hinges on that little toot of something or other to give it meaning. But then – confusion! – Arnie falls in actual love with Lucy, real love of the 3D walking-around variety. Up to now his love life has comprised being taken by a woman twice his age, and casual blow jobs from the guys down on the dock. Real love in NY circa 1980 seems more shocking than any amount of casual sex on a bed of coke. Where was I? Oh yes, Lucy is compared, counter-intuitively, to a ‘flat coke, sweet and warm, with no edge.’ But then she is not a native of the parish, being from out of town, Georgia even. Though even she looks like Fame’s Irene Cara.

NY - irene cara

New York is a the elephant in the room of this story. Everything the characters are is because they are New Yorkers to their fingertips. Viv’s little crew is a New York family, assertive and active. They get on with it. Yes, their lives might not be ideal, but they sure as hell live ’em, even the kids. And Viv loves her city, the very air of which, ‘felt cosy as a quilt, warm and muffled and welcoming.’ Arnie to-and-fros to the local Gristedes where he has a dealer. There are still mourners outside The Dakota, where John Lennon met his end. And out-of-town Lucy sees Arnie, Carrie and Eli as, ‘the kind of interesting people she wanted to meet’. Yes, New York makes to much possible, but is also perhaps a harsh trap for families like Viv’s. Their lives are interesting to outsiders, but you would not want to living as one of them. Carrie knows it, feeling like she was, ‘in a sit-com someone had forgot to make funny’. Arnie is in love NY style. Out-of-town Lucy lives ‘inside a pretty picture’. He watches over her sleeping form as the sun rises over Central Park going ‘through the shades of a healing bruise’. Now how NY is that description?! Perhaps out-of-town Lucy’s love is healing some bruise Viv inflicted on him by ‘initiating their affair’. NY and bruise seem to go together perfectly somehow. Behind his Ray-Ban Wayfarers Arnie – who is also sick of coke – turns out to have a soft heart. That said, that said, he also leaves Viv in a brutal NY sort of way by just going.

Where was I?

Oh yes, sex. Yes there is sex, not overt in your face sex, background sex, matter-of-fact sex. Yes, sex with Arnie lands Viv with a tricky little problem. But hey, nothing that a $500 loan from her father-in-law can’t fix. Two passages in Grand Mother Divided were disturbing. Firstly, one of the kids can’t sleep because of the ‘sound of her mother fucking’. Not nice for the kid, for any kid. But the toughest passage in the book for this reader was where Carrie was solicited to pose for some pics to go in a book to be called ‘The Sex Lives of Children’. Seriously bad stuff. Some taboos should never be broken. Libertarianism must have its limits. Rant over.

Grand Mother Divided is an excellent retrospective of life in the badbrands of haute-postmodernism – crap food, regular drugs, booze, chaos. Yes, the city offers life with an edge for those stuck out in the Labrador-breeding suburbs, but it’s not an ideal place to get stuck trying to bring up a couple of kids. But what do I know? Some will argue kids grow up stronger from the experience. So no judgement. Actually, no, I feel so strongly for Carrie. Viv is a bad mum. It has to be said. I really felt for Carrie.

LOVESEAT BLUES

That said I loved the arch humour, too. Like the all-girl band that got worse and worse the more they practised, Viv sucking so hard on her joint she swallows the roach, the fuck-off fake owl with an NY pigeon perched on its head.

And then, and then, there was a wonderful passage near the end which seemed to cut to the truth behind all the name-checked brands, films, sounds, celebs of the time: ‘Some people don’t want to know the truth; they cling to their fictions for dear life, they kill for them…’ The read was worth it for that thought alone.

The emotional engineering then gets seriously good. A few pages on, Viv is weeping as she leaves the abortion clinic, not because the life she was carrying has been terminated but ‘about her lack of money’. Damn, don’t want her giving in to – shhhhh – moral scruples.

And then –  the most moving part of the story for me – we see her stretched out alone on the loveseat in her rubbish apartment. Life. Bleeding.

NY - elephants belt

If NY – the big, bold and beauteous beast of a city – is the elephant in the story, this description of Viv seems artly fitting. There she is dancing by the jukebox her Wonder Woman tits jiggling around in her ‘little t-shirt that said Carnaby Street on it in faded letters. She had a belt of silver elephants, in a chain: trunk to tail, tail to trunk.’

Yes, I loved this writing.

Yes, I baulked a little at the title of Chapters 1 and 17: Chapter Zero. Why? Because it instantly put me in mind of Ground Zero and NY 2001, thus diluting the 1980s retro feel. But this is a small criticism. More seriously, I am not entirely into the full-fat title, which I think is maybe trying too hard.

I finished  the story thinking I really wanted to know what became of Viv, Carrie and Eli. And Arnie, too. I think there is excellent scope to write a 2015 sequel. Viv wld be, what, 75 now? Does she still like a spliff? Is she still hot? And does Carrie end up with a doctorate in marine-biology? Eli maybe becomes a cop? And Arnie? A dad with five kids in the Labrador-breeding burbs? Not for me to say. But I would dearly like to know!

Grand Mother Divided is published by Valley Press – http://bit.ly/1vRRo1N

By R J Askew

Swift fever – a hopeless case

ST ALBANS, April 24 – Forget the election, there are far more important matters afoot cross the heartlands of Britain right now. Spring is bursting all around us in a riot of natural vigour. And it has been a good one so far this year with masses of blossom.

Above all though, the swifts will soon be back in our skies, screeching their hearts out as they zip around like happy banshees.

So here is a little curtain-raiser to their arrival. I hesitate to quote from my own writing but confess that the cockayne of heady expectation has me in its grip. I have a bad case of swift fever, no less. It happens every year at this time.

And so, this from the first chapter of ‘One Swift Summer’, by yours truly:

‘They’ll soon be back. The swifts that is.

What did you think I meant…not the tourists, surely not the tourists? Though they will be winging in as well soon from your Osakas, Maines and Melbornes, though not to nest – entirely different migratory patters and purposes – though a good number will certainly mate while they’re among us.

Meanwhile, here we are, you and I, thrown together on the cusp of summer, you with your camera, me with me pad and pencils, watching, waiting, wanting, set apart from life’s mainstream by our curiosity perhaps. A curious thing curiosity. I wonder what you are looking for? Do you even know? Are you a question or an answer?

The first swift. That’s what I’m looking for. And he’s getting closer as we speak, arrowing through the blue over Spain perhaps, sharp wings slashing the air. Look at that sky. I sense it’s going to be a vintage swift summer. This deckchair weather’s perfect, mercury rising, sky full of food, aerial plankton. When I look at the sky I see life, which is why the early May sky is the most becoming of skies with all its inspiring freshness and promise. Two more days to May and I can come alive again…………’

Best not give too much away.

You will find the full story here:  myBook.to/OneSwiftSummer  – thank you.

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Getting on in the literary world, circa 1937 – George Orwell

ST ALBANS, April 17 – It is always easier to read a good book, a real book, than waste time blasting out spam on Twitter and Facebook about the radiance of one’s own literary efforts. Spamming is demeaning to anyone with any sense of decorum.

And so I found myself re-reading George Orwell’s THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER this week. And enjoying every page of it because of the sheer clarity of his writing, his acute insights into how things were in 1930s Britain, and his common sense political analysis.

Orwell

And then I came across this passage in a chapter on the effects of the British class system with its self-reinforcing status quo:

‘For it is not easy to crash your way into the literary intelligentsia if you happen to be a decent human being. The modern English literary world, at any rate the highbrow section of it, is a sort of poisonous jungle where only weeds can flourish. It is just possible to be a literary gent and to keep you decency if you are a definitely popular writer – a writer of detective stories, for instance; but to be a highbrow, with a footing in the snootier magazines, means delivering yourself over to horrible campaigns of wire-pulling and backstairs-crawling. In the highbrow world you “get on”, if you “get on” at all, not so much by your literary ability as by being the life and soul of cocktail parties and kissing the bums of verminous little lions.’

LIKE, LIKE, YAWN

No change there then. These days, of course, it is is more the potency of your ‘author’s brand’ and the sheer vigour and volume of your tweeting and the analytical cunning of your metadata that really matter. And your ability to muster an army of drones to ‘like’ your Facebook pages to death.

Of course, this is all merely sour grapes as my ‘wire-pulling’ skills are limited to slicing the odd lump of cheddar cheese on a board. As for my ‘backstairs-crawling’, well, what can I say? I don’t know the name of a single commissioning editor in London. So I would not know which stairs to crawl up, were I inclined to. That said, there is probably a list to be had somehow, somewhere – names, emails, mobile numbers – at a price.

You can be absolutely sure that a great many wannabe writers would pay handsomely for such a list. As to the quality of their writing… Best not ask. And what does it matter anyway? With the right plugging campaign any old tut can be catapulted into some listing or other. Then all the ‘best selling’ writer has to do is watch that algorithm go bro!

Not that I am jealous, mind.

By R J Askew – myBook.to/OneSwiftSummer 

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Buzzfeed through your teeth – at London Book Fair

(PG – contains mild swearing in in the final graph.)

ST ALBANS, Apr 10 – Hurrah, big Publishing will be in town next week for the London Book Fair! Picture the scene: thousands of suited-n-booted gatekeepers and shabby chic gatecrashers, smiling, smirking, slavering and slurping.

Beware the the stampede of the desperate for the roped off pen where literary agents be a-sitting in speed-dating judgement. It’s a cage fight. The Indians (Indie Authors) have been planning for weeks. Pitches – oh those killer pitches! – pitches fly like rocket-propelled tomahawks. Carnage, sheer bloody, caffeine-fuelled carnage, dahling! Love it!

london book fair 1

Most will be swept aside like gnats in a cyclone. ‘Is that Becks? And Victoria? Surely not! Yes, yes it is. David! David! Got a five book deal! A ten book deal! Thirty book… SPLATT.

Meanwhile, our shabby chic wannabe has an agent’s card tucked away in her purse. And is now free to live the dream – and trawl the stands for freebie ebooks. (Odd how ebooks get made into pbooks? And why an ebook still need a cover. But who am I?)

london book fair

Observe how said wannabe’s London Book Fair branded plastic bag is starting bulge with stuff and nonsense. But this is how it is. So it is. Ach, such is the weight of bookage her ego-thin heel snaps and there she lies and dies in an ego-thin heap in a fine layer of sushi spam in the rock record of life as we know it.

And so it goes. Well-spoken Swiss salesmen will press a bzillion hands and still look immaculate at three p.m., as they evangelise on and on and on the subject of toothpaste with content. You hadn’t heard? It’s all the rage. You clean your teeth and get Buzzfeed through your gums. No? Step this way! We at Pishtaken Press -no arse knowingly unlicked – have something big, bold, and beauteous for your E-go-a-go-go.

Oh, erm, and by the way, I almost forgot, my pitch: myBook.to/OneSwiftSummer 

Books + candle

An English April Villanelle

ST ALBANS, April 3 – I’ll be brief. You have better things to do. A villanelle is a nineteen line poem, often on a pastoral theme. That said, I’ve deviated slightly in the repetitions here. Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do no go gentle into that good night’ is a villanelle.

The hawthorn is traditionally known as the May bush. But with the seasons advancing as they are, it sometimes blooms earlier. That said, that said, the white to be seen in hedgerows at this point in April is more likely to be blackthorn. Still, there’s no harm in looking forward to a little hawthorn blossom . The verse is below the blossom…

.

An English April Villanelle

.

We walk beneath our hawthorn tree

Its blossom of a pinkish white

We blink and find that we are free

.

It feels so right, it feels so right

To feel this touch of spring sunlight

We sit beneath our hawthorn tree

.

There is a beauty in this sight:

A song thrush lands upon our knee

We smile and think that we are free

.

O, hark you! hark you! sing to me

Of what it is to truly be

We rest beneath this hawthorn tree

.

It feels so right, it feels so right

To feel this touch of spring sunlight

We sigh and feel that we are free

.

There is a beauty in this sight

This blossom of a pinkish white

We dream beneath our hawthorn tree

To  fly on wings of verse made free

by R J Askew

myBook.to/OneSwiftSummer

Kew to Westminster – five o’clock boat.

ST ALBANS, March 27 – Click. Kew Bridge, one spring afternoon, 2014. I’d been taking photographs in The Royal Botanic Gardens in search of inspiration for a book cover. I knew I’d not found what I was looking for. I’m no photographer. And my camera was a basic silver compact.

Kew Bridge a short bee flight to the botanic gardens.

Still, the return journey down river became a spangled trance of mind. Time to think things through. My story was going nowhere. So what? I was on a river, gliding along on a small boat with time to think. Perhaps stories are bridges in the mind.

3 Open Reach

You surrender to the moment, the mood of the place, the gentle motion of the boat and your own life as you oxbow along. It’s easy to forget that just beyond those trees is a city of nine million souls. Busy, busy. But not here, not on this boat, not this afternoon – cruising along on this soul of soft-flowing water.

It’s some ten miles from the filigree wrought-iron glasshouses of Kew Gardens, to the Palace of Westminster with its green and red benches for commons and Lords. A theme continued in the bridges, Westminster Bridge being green, Lambeth Bridge being red.

But for now we are close to Chelsea Harbour. There’s something exquisitely pleasing in the arch of the Victorian railway bridge below, a simple artistry, an elegant story. Click.

7 Nameless railyway bridge SC05565

Albert Bridge looks almost coy when seen through the arch of Battersea Bridge with its golden livery – a sight which reflects perfectly the power of the magnates securely ensconced in their mansions to the north. A story through a story.

10 version 3

A satisfyingly golden site for Chelsea's billionaires.

Albert Bridge in its turn frames Chelsea Bridge. But first there follows an aficionado’s view of some steam-punk riveting. And then – click – the railway bridge that thinks it’s a fairytale swan. Yes, there’s a beauty in bridges. From mind to next. From heart to heart. From soul to soul.

Chelsea Bridge, framed in a span of Albert Bridge.

14 Rivetting

And so to the bridge that would be a swan - Grosvenor Bridge.

Click. Bridges thick and  fast. Next up is Vauxhall Bridge, with MI6 to the south and Tate Britain to the north. Each a store stories, living and breathing, here and now.

Vauxhall with Lambeth Bridge just beyond, almost back.

Lambeth Bridge with Westminster Bridge beyond.

People! Readers! - Erm, excuse me up there, care to read 'One Swift Summer'?

And always there is the river. The greatest power in all this. Our inspiration. Our subconscious from which all flows, from which we raise up our little dreams into piers of words, spans and carriages of meaning. We look down into the waters and dream our dreams. And then look up as we glide beneath, a story raised up, a bridge of words, from mind to mind, from heart to heart, from soul to soul. To see how it is, to feel its presence.

Damn, another failed sales peach.

Borne along on a river of dreams, we think of our story and how it will be, whether it will ever prove its worth in the mind and the heart and soul of a reader. Or whether it will be a bridge from nowhere to…

Blackfriars Bridge and the biz.

And so to the tale of the swivel-eyed loon fish who swam from the depths and into the realm of shape-shifting winners, where the best-selling story is money.  Care for a story?