::: By The Way ::: Raith Tenement’s Online Journal :::
Take a leaf from my book! I’m opening the pages of my diary wide open to the world. Some days I’ll give you some insight into the craft of writing, how I became a bestseller author and yet how on occasion I still can’t string two words, er… together. Othertimes I’ll give you a picture of what I’m up to, notes scribbled on the serviette of the fast-food meal that is my life. And I’ll do my best to answer some of the questions from my enthusiastic fanbase. On with the motley! ::: RT :::
January 3rd 2003
Q. Where do you live? Do you find the location you write in is important?
Of course, you have to be happy to write anywhere I think. When I moved to the States a year or so ago I told the estate agent I was really hankering after a house like the Munsters used to live in. I was amazed when the very next day she rang up and told me this place had come up on their books. It’s all very American Gothic, turrets and gargoyles and all the things I love. And I have to say that the fact it was built on a Native American burial ground was just the icing on the cake. At first my wife and I were a bit worried about the price and we didn’t think we would be able to afford it, but then a rich distant aunt of hers died suddenly and we got a bequest within the month – for exactly the price of the house, isn’t it amazing the way things turn out sometimes?
It has so many perfect places for writing. Sometimes I’ll just sit at the coffinwood table in the kitchen with a strong cup of mocha coffee and just create. (I should probably add that the table is made from offcuts left over from the coffin-makers in town. I didn’t dig them up if that’s what you’re thinking). Or if I need some peace and quiet from the kids I may go up to one of the Numberless Attics, brush the dust off the faded red velvet window-seat, and jot down my latest ideas in one of my trademark moleskin notebooks (available from my online store – I recommend ’em! Okay, commercial over). But my absolute favourite place is the grotto out in the garden. We only discovered it partway through last year, it was so overgrown. It gets a bit damp and chilly at this time of year, enough to chill the bones you might say, but at the height of summer it’s something else, like the gateway to another, far more tranquil world. I think some of that atmosphere makes it into Times Squared which sees publication in the next few weeks. ::: RT :::
Q. I was at a book signing a few months ago when you led a session discussing how people could get over their writer’s block. Well I have the complete opposite problem – I can’t stop writing for the life of me! Do you know any strategies I can put into action to stop the flow of inspiration and ideas? I say flow, but it’s more like a torrent!!!
Of course. One famous strategy is to take copious and lengthy baths. You should find that your ideas-bank becomes as dry as your new prune-skin! Cleaning out kitchen cupboards, going through financial paperwork (so long as it is at least 5 years old: you don’t want to read more recent stuff, it might worry you), sorting cans and bottles for recycling, all act as useful displacement activity, because they are all things that need to be done at some stage. You need to change your attitude and prioritise everything over and above your writing. In addition, people often praise the Internet as invaluable for writers: it’s a great tool for research, they say. Sure it’s great, but why limit it for research? You can spend hours just faffing about aimlessly reading sites that have no relevance to what you’re working on. But absolutely the best remedy I can suggest is to start writing a Web Journal or Blog. You’ll start feeling you have to tell the world about your current thoughts and preoccupations and then all your creative writing time will drift away without you noticing. Hope this helps. ::: RT :::
Someone asked what Times Squared is about. Well, why keep a blurb and bark yourself, that's what I always say!
Beth is running away. From what, she won't say - maybe she isn't sure herself. And she's been told that if you're homeless, one place you should definitely avoid is Times Square. But Beth doesn't like doing what she's told, and anyway, she can take care of herself. After a chance encounter with Bilge, one of the Square's picaresque inhabitants, she begins to realise that there's more to the place than meets the eye. Because Times Square has undercurrents. And things are about to get very turbulent... ::: RT :::
A fairly typical exchange between my wife and myself this morning:
Her: Raith, I really don't like the gargoyles on the roof. They give me the creeps.
Me: Honey, that's what gargoyles are supposed to do!
Well we both had a good laugh about that. I can never tell when she's being entirely serious, even after thirteen years of marriage and I-don't-recall-how-many living in Sin before that. The thing is, she does genuinely seem a little on edge about our little architectural appurtenances, but they just don't bother me. I'm a little more worried about the damp patches on some of the walls upstairs. Guess it's time to think about getting a local handyman in. Sometime soon, anyway. ::: RT :::
I just had to share this with you. I was browsing through the used bookstore in town today and I couldn't leave this one on the shelf. Certainly looks like 1935 was a vintage year.
It is worth noting, I think, that the "No Other Price" is a sticker, so it looks as if even 70 years ago book-buyers could be subjected to sudden price increases! I showed the book to my wife , but all she said was, "I always knew bounders have their decent points, darling, otherwise I wouldn't have married you." She's such a kidder. ::: RT :::
The first web-review of Times Squared is up at Hackadoodledoo, the satirical site that prides itself on Attitude. They either jocked an advance copy from my publisher, or snagged a proof from eBay. The (anonymous) reviewer says "Raith Tenement is aptly named, because after 2 pages I felt I'd 'raither' be anywhere than reading this heap of crap." Well all I can say is, thanks buddy! Those who can write, write. Those who can't, criticise. Let the public decide... I know who my money's on. ::: RT :::
Q. I've just read a copy of Times Squared, and I loved it! I can't wait until the next story from you. Have you got anything in the works soon?
Yes, next up is This Is Where I Make My Noises, a short story for Vestiges, the fantasy/horror collection being edited by Bovin Derby. ::: RT :::
Man, what do they put in those hamburgers? I have been as sick as a dawg these past days. Last time I try to economise when I eat out locally. Fast food in all respects, y'all know what I'm sayin'. ::: RT :::
Q. I read your short story "Pigments" and now I can't get it out of my mind. I was wondering, how do you cope with having all those scary ideas inside of your head? And what do you find frightening?
Okay, well, if I have a scary idea or nightmare, I find it's best if I trap it on paper. It can't do any damage there. Or can it?? Only kidding. Second question, what do I find frightening apart from the local hamburger restaurant? Depends. Weird things. Like this. (QuickTime VR, 720KB). Deeply unsettling. ::: RT :::
I finally cracked. My name is Raith Tenement and from today I am the owner of a mobile phone. Everybody's been on at me to get one for years now. My family. My agent. Even my webmaster, dammit. I kinda liked not going with the herd, being the last guy in the area not to have one - and I could always argue that reception fluctuates around here - but it was something that my brother said that spurred me into action. You can get away with opting out for just so long, he said. After that people start to look at you like you're some kind of crank for not doing what everyone else sees as perfectly acceptable. And he had a point. Now, I'll admit, I do cranky, a lot, especially if the latest book isn't going how I hope, and that's usually the case. But I do not do crank. And just so I don't get any crank calls, no you can't have my number. ::: RT :::
Q. Do you still have the haunted door you wrote about in your story "Unhinged"?
I am afraid not. That was a fabrication. Guess that's the problem with first-person narratives: they automatically confer an authenticity whereas the third person generally has the reader more willing to question what they're reading. That said, did anybody hear something just then? Like a mysterious creaking? Ooohh... ::: RT :::
Heh. Well you probably noticed your ol' Unca Raith has been away. But how far away? Some way, that's how away. Still am, as a "maddera" fact (a phrase I picked up from a guy in the bar back home). I am posting this from a cybercafe in the former Eastern Bloc. I'd better not say where, as that's going to be a crucial point in my new novel, provisionally titled Fish and Guests. Been staying with my old friends Yuri and Svetlana (not the one who's been sending you those e-mails about Russian Brides, in case you were wondering).
Weirdest part of the whole trip so far: heading off in a minibus-taxi to some club somewhere at 11pm, and before we set out one of the people handed round a bottle of the local Black Schnapps to the rest of us, even the driver. Yuri said it should be drunk out of little white cups, like espresso coffee, but all we had was the lid of the flask. Stuff has quite a kick to it. I don't remember much about the club though, or even if we got to it in the end!
::: RT :::
Dam' toothache. ::: RT :::
Dam' antibiotics. ::: RT :::
Another Times Squared review catches my eye. At least the headline of it does: "Sick and Tired". Heh, I kinda like that. Anyway, my signing tour starts next week - hope to see you in Washington on Monday 18th at boToks! ::: RT :::
"You should start your Times Squared signing tour in Washington," said my publisher's publicity department. Yup, in February. Heh. I do not think I have ever been so cold. I'd just like to thank those brave souls who made it through the ice and mile-high drifting snow to attend my reading on Monday. And of course the staff of boToks who, let's face it, outnumbered the patrons on that day. Still, it's always good to be able to get to know your fans "close up and personal" and I really like the fact that I'm on first name terms with some of you by now; Marcie, I hope the ulcer is healing up nicely. I really did think I might never get away due to the weather, and in the end it did take me 24 hours to get home! Sorry to the rest of you, but the rest of the tour is on hold until things warm up a bit (my things, as well as the weather!) ::: RT :::
One of those gloomy days when my Muse deserts me and I cannot write a single satisfying word. ::: RT :::
Crocky Doyle missed out on the Children's Literature Award (picture-book category) in the end, though the judges praised "the tale of a crocodile who disguises herself as an alligator-skin handbag and gets taken shopping by an absent-minded old lady. The picture of the woman trying to put her purse away in the crocodile's mouth without noticing its sharp teeth amused us all". ::: RT :::
Q. I've loved your writing ever since the early days of The Hangman comic series (I even have a copy of issue #1!) and I still have the occasional nightmare inspired by "Eye In Cyst". I need to know, will you return to that world again? In words if not pictures?
Sure, I'd hate to think that the story would be "suspended" indefinitely. I just have a few tales that need telling more urgently I'm afraid. (Very Afraid!) ::: RT :::
In this dream, I am in a meadow. A line of people walks past me. An old woman, their leader, says to me: "You are the Saris." I say no, I am just Raith Tenement, but she is dissatisfied with my answer. "You ARE the Saris," she repeats. I wake. I should emphasise that this is pronounced "Sariss" not "Sareez" like the the garment. Now what in the hell is a, or the, Saris? That's the way my mind spelt it, but it's an unfamiliar word to me. I did a Google search and there are a few Sarises out there, but nothing I can immediately relate to moi. Some kind of web-site? A destroyed village? Odd. It left me unsettled all day. ::: RT :::
Well those of you in the Dream Syndicate have been busy! I thank you all for your interpretations, but my wife would prefer it if some of you stopped thinking that, right now. So, here are some of the ones that I liked.
Maybe the word was "Souris" - are you a French mouse? Well I go "from age" to age, but I don't squeak. Apart from my joints sometimes, it's the damp.
Did you notice Saris is an anagram of Raiss? You mean I am who I am, just rather more sibilant?
Could you have mis-heard? Did the crone say "You are Versaris"? Good question. She wasn't a crone by the way, just some elder woman. As for mis-hearing words, is that possible in a dream? There's nothing to misread or mispronounce, the words are just appearing in your head. So I'm still convinced it was The Saris. But I guess that's part of the mystery of the land we call Dream. ::: RT :::
Yes, I'm back. Away on a writing project again. I don't mind telling you I've been staying out at my private cabin in Wisconsin... basically because I don't have a cabin in Wisconsin. No, this was in the nature of a private commission and not something I can talk about until launch date. Or even afterwards, I suspect. Anyway, it was great to be back in the bosom of my family, even if it's their turn to go away for a month next week. ::: RT :::
Q. Were you in jail or something?
That's flattering. You see the words Raith Tenement and think "America's Most Wanted". Sheesh. No, I really was writing and I really can't talk about it.
I did start working on a new treatment for Hangman in my spare hours though. I don't know whether it will be a short story, novella or whether I'll re-shape it for a graphic novel. Demolition teamsters will be glad to know it features the sisters Fate, Hype and Charabanc for the first time since the Darkling, I Listen collection. ::: RT :::
This dream sees me paying a visit to writer and all-round good guy Neil Gaiman. I appeared on a few Convention panels with him some years back and I yield to no-one in my admiration for his work, but I could never describe us as matey. The fact he has been blessed with such luxuriant curls while I am, let us say, follically challenged, saw to that. Apparently he has always been jealous of us balder guys! Nevertheless he was his usual courteous self when Dream-Raith made a call at his house. I told him I was interested in exploring the surrounding area of where he lived and, get this, he replied he had no idea what it was like beyond the gate because he was always so busy writing. Maybe, he said, it was just featureless, white, cloudy. Go figure.
So anyway, I did one of those web-site tests, 'Which Superhero are you?'. I hoped my score would make me Wolverine. Turns out I'm Margarine. ::: RT :::
It's 1:27 am and I'm just back from driving my wife and the boys to the airport. The house is not as quiet as I would have expected. Odd creaks and rustles as the things that are awake when we're normally asleep come to life. This is the first time I've spent a night alone here since we moved in, can you believe that? ::: RT :::
Last night I was woken in the small hours by a moth.
Let me explain. The alarm in the VW which is parked out the front of the house went off. Now as we live some way off the beaten track I didn't exactly expect some car-jacker to be trying to break in. After all, they would have to drive here to steal the vehicle in the first place which kinda defeats the object of the exercise. But anyway I grabbed my key-fob and a poker from the fireplace and went downstairs, still woozy from being dredged up from deepsleep. As I expected there was nobody outside, just the VW singing to itself and flashing its lights merrily like it was running some monotonous disco. (Do they have discos these days? The VW is disco era.) So I reset the alarm and went back to bed.
I'm just drifting down into sleep when the alarm shrieks out again, making me wish that the house had come complete with double glazed windows, or shutters that worked. This time I just let the alarm run its course, and to hell with the strain on the battery.
40 minutes later, the alarm is off again, so I decide to disarm it which would technically invalidate the insurance. I stumble downstairs armed as before and round to the driver's side, where inside the car I see a tiny moth fluttering up against the windshield. Your uncle Raith could not believe what he was seeing. I mean, this thing was about the size of my pinky fingernail, and it was still enough to set off the alarm sensors. Yet I've had people physically scrape the vehicle when they're parking, without setting the darn klaxons off.
I opened the door and let the moth out then re-armed the alarm. The rest of the night was peaceful. Odd-looking critter, though. It had a white mark on each wing, not unlike a cleaved skull. Or maybe that was simply my imagination... ::: RT :::
Q. I heard rumors that you have a new project under way, 1599. Can you tell us anything about that?
Uh, I think you'll probably find that's the price on the back. ::: RT :::
Today I was disturbed from my writing by cascades of large hailstones driving down from a leaden sky. Afterwards when it was safe to go out I checked around the grounds. They ripped through the leaves on our young apple tree and punctured the clematis petals. My better half is not going to be happy about the damage when she gets back.
::: RT :::
Q. What made you become a writer?
The fame, the fortune and the babes. Ah, the babes... Sorry readers, just missing my wife. Actually the answer was the lack of fame, the lack of fortune and a baby on the way that encouraged me to do something, anything, to supplement the meager income I got from the bookseller.
The first thing I read that made me want to be a writer, now, that's something different. It think it would have to be A Glass Of Spirits, a short story written in 1902 or 03 by Jakob Moule, about the unfortunate events that occur following a botched seance. I was just a kid and it was in a book of my grandfather's. Come to think of it, I have no idea what happened to that book or even the title of the collection. I do know the effect it had on me, though. ::: RT :::
Nothing at all.
In the last month I just kept my head down and went through my fifth revision of the script for the Coast Stories movie. The Studio like some parts and not others, so even at this stage it's still something of a cockatrice's egg. My friend Stephen Jumpsuit (okay, his real surname is Jameson, but the story of why we gave him the other moniker is not fit for this space or time) told me once that in your first draft you're writing for yourself, the second draft you're writing for other people, the third draft you're writing for what other people think other people want - and if you get beyond that, you have to be writing for the money. I'm not convinced I agree totally.
What else... my beloved and the boys returned safe and sound. Of course, I wouldn't expect anything else from a visit to her sister. (I thought I'd better type that. You never know who might be reading.) We dined on fresh chicken followed by the rich harvest of gooseberries from these honest acres. It's a good thing they are such a versatile fruit, because there are still masses of them out there!
"It isn't much to show for a whole month, Raith, darling," my wife said.
Even after all these years together, she still can't quite see it. The amount of time that a writer has to put into generating words can't bear any relation to a standard nine-to-five job - I think my longest example of this was a sentence I worked over for five days solid. And even then my agent suggested it should be cut.
"Sure, honey, while you were away nothing happened," I said.
"Nothing at all."
::: RT :::
At this point the entries stop pretty abruptly without explanation, although as Raith said himself in what was to be his final journal entry he deleted some previous material for reasons that was not willing or able to divulge. These are his last enigmatic words.
21 02 04
when They were gone the noise in my head was much quieter.
Since I have been here alone things are better on the whole. But I'm still troubled by hearing the child's laughter in the pumpkin patch. Such huge pumpkins! I could not eat them all myself and so they lie a-rotting where they grew.
One morning last week I came downstairs in my empty house and found that something, some force, had been at the magnetic poetry we - I - keep on the refrigerator door.
I don't know how to explain that.
It is catching up. I erased my previous journal entries, I don't want it to read my thoughts.
Is it taunting me? Luring me?
According to Raith's agent he simply went to ground after all the legal problems surrounding his attempted release of his novel The Rat's Kin Diet. I managed to speak to a former editor at his publishing house, though, and they told me that in their view Rat's Kin would not have been publishable in its current state, so maybe the official explanation was just to cover that.
It's generally accepted that Raith did do a pretty major disappearing act, much to the annoyance of the publishing company which wanted its advance back. The people who set up the secret project he was always dropping hints about were said to be less than happy as well.
I still hope he'll appear back on the writing scene one day soon. The fantastic genre could do with him leading from the front once again. Until then, I'll keep hunting down his more obscure writings and treasure the letter he sent to me in happier times.
It's great that you want to become a writer. Hold on to your enthusiasm and don't let go.
But a word of warning. It's no coincidence that the words publishing and punishing look very similar in a darkened room. It's a hard craft and a hard graft.
Your keenness reminds me of a younger model of Raith Tenement, and stirs up a recollection from when I was seventeen. I went to visit a fortune-teller at a fair that was visiting our town and when she asked me about my hopes for my destiny, I told her that I wanted to be a writer. I have never forgotten what she told me. "Young'un, what these cards says about writers is that the lucky ones will be able choose their dreams. But this card, he says that your dreams will choose you." I still recall the look on her face - I think she even spat onto the grass by her chair after drawing the final card from the deck. "And she, she should not be here. She says one day your dreams will claim you for their own. Please to get a nice safe job in a bank. Do not let this come to pass." Can you imagine, me working in a bank! I suspected at the time that my parents might have slipped her a bit of money to say that, as they were always keen for me to have a reliable career instead of the hand-to-mouth existence of the author's lifestyle.
This must be worth a pint if we manage to meet up next time I'm visiting Old London Town!
© Tom Boon 2003-4