The market, Salonica

The market, Salonica
The market, Salonica

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Rime of the Senior Ally

Tories here, and Tories there,
And Tories all around:
They cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
‘God help us save the pound!’

At length uprist an Activist,
Thorough the fog he came;
As if he’d been the Tory Queen,
We hailed him in God’s name.

And a good Right wind sprung up behind,
The Activist did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the Party’s hollo!

But some in dreams assur’ed were
How the Activist plagued them so;
Nine fathom deep how he would creep
From the land of the mist and snow.

The PM’s Senior Ally,
‘The Party,’ he insists,
‘Has hired eftsoons mad, swivel-eyed loons
To be its activists.’

And the good Right wind still blew behind,
But no Activist did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the Party’s hollo.

Voters, voters, everywhere,
But the Activist did stink,
Voters, voters, everywhere,
And the Tory vote did shrink;

For the Ally did a hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe:
For all averred, the ones he slurred
Had made the vote to grow.

‘God save thee, Senior Ally!
From what fiends and plagues exist! –
Why lookst thou so?’ – ‘With my memo
I slurred the Activist.

‘Ah! Well a-day! what evil looks
Have I from old and young!
In the wind I pissed, now the Activist
About my neck is hung.

‘Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
“Abandon ship and join UKIP,”
A gull cried out to me.

‘I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And my balls like pulses beat;
For UKIP in the sea, and UKIP in the sky
Lay like a load on my Tory eye,
And the loonies won my seat.’

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Dear Graham Spaid, or What the publisher really meant

Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to consider your novel, which we have looked at (but not read) with interest. However, I regret that we (don’t just blame me!) have reluctantly come to the conclusion (I regret the reluctance, not the conclusion) that we could not publish it with commercial success (could not exploit you enough financially, or laugh much more than we have already).

At the risk of telling you (or wetting my pants if I tell you) what you know already, may I respectfully suggest the following:

Double check in a large bookshop, or on Amazon or in the twice-yearly Buyer’s Guide’ of the Bookseller magazine (or in your own navel), precisely who are the publishers now of your fiction category/genre.

Call the publishers to obtain the name of the relevant editor; it is rarely productive to speak to (or to try to speak to, or to have predatory sex with) her/him in person.

Then send to each editor an alluring 200-word blurb (as on book jackets; don’t give away the ending!) (Why would editors need the ending?), the first chapter, plus perhaps two others, and an SAE (Sorry, All Excrement). The covering letter should state as precisely as you can the category/genre of the fiction you are submitting – cite successful authors in your genre, especially those published by the particular imprint you are contacting (because publishers won’t understand which genre it is, don’t know which authors are successful in it, and forget who their own authors are).  Again, a helpful bookshop (one with the time to help because people are buying e-books instead) may be able to advise you.

Remember that acquiring a literary agent is even harder than finding a publisher (you have to find a publisher first, and finding a publisher is impossible). Owing to pressure of submissions, I regret we cannot reply individually or provide constructive criticism (or destructive criticism). (A writers’ group/writing course may help with the latter.) May I wish you every success in placing your work elsewhere (not disturbing us again and not stealing our profits by self-publishing an e-book). 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Not enough loonies

What happens when there are enough loonies?  You have to be polite to them.  Witness the UK Independence Party.  You can’t say they’re loonies anymore.

The Prime Minister, D.C., once said UKIP were loonies.  Now that they’ve won a lot of votes in local council elections, and they’ve become respectable, he can’t say it anymore.  He has to “eat his words.”  Eating your words normally means that you admit you were wrong.  Of course, D.C.’s mistake was to say what he really thought.  This does not mean that what he said was wrong, or that he thinks it was.  He just regrets saying it.  UKIP and its growing band of supporters could very well all be loonies, monster, raving loonies.

Happily or not, when you become respectable and lose the loony tag, you don’t always remain merely respectable.  If there are enough of you, you become right.  The powers-that-were tried to sweep Galileo under the carpet, but now enough people believe that he was right.  The earth is not the centre of the universe.  He is not a loony.  He only appeared to be a loony at the time.  He wasn’t riding a broomstick.  His accusers were.  Of course, how close we should be to Europe is probably not something which astronomers, or theologians, are ever likely to ascertain.

It’s hard never to say something loony, but if you’re a public figure, saying the first thing which comes into your head can be especially embarrassing.  Witness the Harvard history professor who has just said that the economist John Maynard Keynes did not care about society's future because he had no children, and he had no children because he was gay.  

When you’re not so well-known, life is easier.  You can say Margaret Thatcher is a witch, and, if enough people buy it, your song will go straight up the charts.  You don’t even need to write the song yourself.  Songs, like broomsticks, are easily passed down.  UKIP might one day be the centre of our political universe.  It pays not to insult them, or any of your foes, political or otherwise.  Ding dong the loonies are dead.  Long live the loonies.