Sunday, August 22, 2021

Mr Fenman rides again

This is the first time that I have written a piece for this blog in several years. The reason is simple: I am too old to have the time and energy to do any serious work: 82 last May.  In particular, I have been diagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease, which is a form of dementia. The chief effect that this disease has on an Alzheimer's patient is that he, or she, loses his memory. What happens, I'm told, is that the brain actually shrinks, and you can see the effect on a brain scan. There are some drugs which reportedly slow down the shrinkage, and I'm on one, but they do not reverse it. Despite this diagnosis, I remain fairly cheerful -- probably because I do not understand the full implications of the situation.

However, be that as it may, there is one side effect of Alzheimer's which is particularly interesting to a writer, and that is that I can look at a shelf full of various editions of my own books, stretching back nearly sixty years, and realise that I have only the broadest idea of what they are about. For instance, I once wrote a novel entitled Spence in Petal Park (1977). Without even opening it, I know that this is a police procedural of sorts, an old-fashioned English whodunit featuring a certain Superintendent Spence. But that's about all I know. I can't really remember where it's set, who the characters are, who actually dunit, et cetera.

Not that this failure of memory matters very much, but it does have a curious effect: it means that I can read one of my own books pretty much as if I had never even read it before, much less written it. Which is odd.

Bear in mind this background when I tell you that I recently read a "book" of mine entitled Mr Fenman's Farewell to His Readers. I put the word book in inverted commas because it's about 80 pages long in the printed edition, so it's more of a pamphlet really: a long short story perhaps. In any event it's no longer available in print (so far as I can discover) but it is available as a Kindle ebook.

Mr Fenman was written in 2007, and self-published that year. It is fiction, for the most part, though in it I claim at the outset that I bought Mr Fenman's first-person tale in manuscript form from a book dealer. The bulk of the story purports to be told by Mr Fenman himself, and he was, he declares, a writer of over 100 novels, during a long working life. He was born in 1761 and died in 1837. And in this autobiographical sketch he tells how, in 1786, he visited Venice for the first time. There he met a mysterious lady, Madame de Mentou, who taught him how to write fiction. She also had other pupils, in other arts: such as a tenor, and a young lady violinist. In 1836, near the end of his life, Mr Fenman goes back to Venice and meets Madame de Mentou again. Or does he? Or is he, perhaps, confusing her with someone else?

I think that's quite enough to give you a taste of what my little story is about. But at the end of my tale, Mr Fenman himself seems unsure whether the story of his life is true, or a tissue of lies. Perhaps, he admits, he is a liar. For all fiction writers are liars. 

But then, he adds, there is another possibility. "There is the spectre of madness..." Is this story of his true, or is it another of his fictions? Or is he just confused? "What could be more horrible," he asks the reader, "than to be alone in a foreign city, and to lose control of one's senses, to have one's memories fragment and grow faint? These may be the last semi-coherent jottings of a now deranged scribbler who soon will not even know his own face in the glass." 

And so, it seems, in 2007, and through the persona of Mr Fenman, I was anticipating what may, in due course, be the final shape of my own writing life.

You might, perhaps, be tempted to read about Mr Fenman yourself. If so, the story is still available on Kindle -- it might even be free if you understand how to use the various versions of Kindle (I don't). I used to have a Kindle book reader myself, but I haven't used it for some years. For a link, try entering "Mr Fenman's Farewell to His Readers" in Google, and follow the link to your local Amazon. But beware: if you follow the link to, you will find that the book is credited to a quite different sort of person -- a professor of Theology no less! No, I don't understand it either, and I am long past sorting it out. 

I used to have a Kindle ebook reader, but I haven't used it for some time. I have no doubt stored it in a safe place in my office; but, as with so much else, I have forgotten where it is.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Robert Eggleton: Rarity from the Hollow

Back in July 2006, as you doubtless remember, I mentioned a well reviewed book by Robert Eggleton: Rarity from the Hollow. Well, it's still in print, from a different publisher, and in Kindle, and still getting good reviews. As witness:

The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in several years

Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton is the most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in several years. Who could think of an intergalactic handbook for entrepreneurs? Who could turn a tree-hugger into a paranormal event of death-defying significance? Who could create characters so believable, so funny, so astonishingly human (and not)?
Robert Eggleton, that’s who.
I put this book on my IPhone, and it followed me everywhere for several days. Strangers smiled politely at my unexpected laughter in the men’s room toilet stall. They looked away as I emerged, waving the IPhone at them as if it might explain something significant.
Oddly, the novel explains a great deal that has become significant in our society. Rarity from the Hollow is satire at its best and highest level. It is a psychological thriller, true to traits of mankind (and other species). It is an animal rights dissertation (you will laugh when you understand why I write that). It celebrates the vilest insect on earth (make that Universe).
The characters created by Robert Eggleton will bug your brain long after you smoke, uh, read the final page. Thanks for the laughs, the serious thoughts, the absolute wonder of your mind, Mr. Eggleton. A truly magnificent job.

Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former Reader’s Digest editor 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The real Virginia Woolf?

Loren Kantor has completed another woodcut of a famous author: this time Virginia Woolf. (For Loren's portrait of Hemingway, click here.)

To my eye, this woodcut makes the troubled lady look more peaceful and beautiful than most photographic images of her. Nice work.

Loren's woodcuts are available for sale via his web site.

I was never a great enthusiast for Mrs Woolf's novels, but Orlando made a wonderful film.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

More Guides for Writers

You will be thrilled, indifferent, or mildly interested to know that I have now completed all seven volumes in my guides for writers series.

The previous post described number 5. Number 6 in the series is on Literary Agents:

And number 7 is on Career Planning.

More to the point, perhaps, there is now an Omnibus Edition, containing all seven of the guides, this time arranged in a more logical order (I hope) than the one in which they were written. By buying the Omnibus Edition you will save yourself half the cost of buying all seven separately.

All are available from whichever branch of Amazon you favour, and only from there, in Kindle format.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Writer's Guide to Traditional Publishing

Just a brief note to let you know that the fifth in my series of Writer's Guides is now available. Title: A Writer's Guide to Traditional Publishing.

Here's the blurb:

This is a book which will tell you all you need to know about traditional publishing.

Publishing is a business which goes back over 500 years, and if you’re going to succeed as a writer you need to know how the business has developed and changed over that time. Otherwise you can make serious mistakes, with long-lasting effects.

The aims of this book are therefore as follows:

(i) To provide you with a short history of publishing, from the beginning of the trade in the late fifteenth century to the present day;
(ii) To enable you to understand how likely – or unlikely – it is that you will be able to interest a traditional publisher in your work;
(iii) To enable you make informed and realistic decisions on what sort of books to write, and how much time and effort you might sensibly devote to that work;
(iv) And, finally, to show you that there are now more ways than one to make your work available to the reading public.

A Writer’s Guide to Traditional Publishing is the fifth in Michael Allen’s series of practical, down-to-earth guides for writers; the previous ones deal with emotion, viewpoint, style, and success. This one will be most relevant to those who write fiction, whether short stories or novels – but non-fiction writers will also find it useful.

Michael Allen’s first novel was published over fifty years ago (1963). He is the author of numerous other novels and short stories (some written under pen-names) which have variously been published in hardback, paperback, and ebook editions, in the UK, USA, France and Denmark. He has also run two small publishing companies.

Just for the record, all the Writer's Guides have now been reduced in price to 99 cents, which is about 77 pence in the UK. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mr Accident-Prone

Here is another in Loren Kantor's series of woodcuts of writers. (I mentioned other examples here.)

I knew quite a lot of the Hemingway life story, but until I read Loren's accompanying article I hadn't realised that the old bastard had such a history of accidents. Extraordinary.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Akme another

Some time ago, specifically on 24 September 2004, I wrote a description on this blog of a web site set up by one Andrew Malcolm: it went by the name of Akme, and it took the form, mainly, of a critical (highly critical) examination of the activities of Oxford University Press and other parts of said University.

Well, if you kick the shins of a big boy, over and over again, there may well come a day when he loses patience and thumps you into the middle of next week. Which is what appears to have happened recently to Andrew. In October last, his original web site, hosted by BT, was wiped out, and all links to that site, including my own, were rendered useless. More recently, a replacement web site was somehow 'airbrushed out of all the search engines'.

What this means, in practice, is that it is difficult to find parts of the Akme site which may be of practical value to all those involved in doing business with publishers: I have in mind, for instance, the Akme Literary and Charity Law Library. This library, which is more accurately perhaps a list of highly relevant case histories and well informed discussions, contains some fascinating stuff.

However, all is not lost. Andrew Malcolm has now set up shop elsewhere, and, with fingers crossed, has tried to resume doing business as usual.

So, for the main Akme site, you should now go to There you can follow links to, for instance, the law library.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Writer's Guide to Success

Further to what I was saying in August, I have another book out in my series of guides for writers. This one is called A Writer's Guide to Success -- subtitled A Serious Look at a Serious Subject.

As was the case with earlier books in this series, this one is going to be available free for five days. So get your keyboard in gear and visit the appropriate Amazon. Probably the main US site or the UK one.

Free dates are 14 to 18 September 2013, inclusive.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Writer's Guide to Fame, Fortune, and Fantastic Orgasms

I seem to have been around for quite a long time now, and the world has changed while I've been watching it. But one unchanging characteristic of the world is that it always seems to be crammed full of people who want to be writers. Myself foremost among them, of course.

Occasionally, some of these people even ask me for advice. And my instinct is usually to suck my teeth and say, 'Ooh, I wouldn't go there if I were you, my lad.' Or 'young lady', as appropriate. But they never take any notice. They just assume I'm joking.

Same with most things, I suppose. Young people always want to do something that's bad for them. Witness the schoolchildren whom I observe virtually every afternoon. Not a single one of them can pass the shops in town without emerging with hands full of Coke bottles, bars of chocolate, burgers, ice creams, and all like that.

But I digress, as usual. The mind wanders as one gets older.

Given the vast numbers of ambitious young, and not-so-young, writers, I suppose the sensible thing to do would be to set up some sort of consultancy business, under the terms of which I charge substantial sums of money for assessing manuscripts. Or some such. But frankly I can't be arsed. What I do instead is write the occasional book which I hope will be of genuine assistance to those who are setting out on the road to fame, fortune, and (of course) a vastly improved sex life, through the simple art of writing fiction. It can't be all that difficult, can it?

Well, we shall see. And so will they.

I hereby announce a new series of short books, written by myself, on various aspects of the writer's art. These are intended to act as pocket guides, so to speak, on particular aspects of narrative technique and related matters.

The first three are now available. At present they are published only in Kindle ebook form, and they normally cost about the same as a cup of coffee -- depending, course, on where you buy your morning reviver.

However! As an incentive to those who don't yet know me, and as a small reward to those who follow thhis distressingly infrequent blog, for a short period each of these books will be available free! Details below.

Free offer periods as follows:

Emotion: 14-18 August
Viewpoint: 19-23 August
Style: 24-28 August

Hie thee, as ever, to your local branch of Amazon, which is probably going to be either the American one or the British one.

Friday, June 21, 2013

How to Write a Novel that Works

Just to let you know that my latest book for writers, How to Write a Novel that Works, is available FREE in Kindle format as of 22 June for 5 days.

Subtitled A Straightforward, Practical Guide this tells you everything important that I have learnt about writing fiction in the past fifty years. As I may have mentioned before, my first novel was published in England in 1963. So actually I have been collecting information about how to do the job for much longer than fifty years.

For the US Kindle version click here.

And if you buy in the UK, go here.