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Posts Tagged ‘lone tree falls’

A Lone Tree Falls, my fourteenth novel, is now up on Smashwords. My relief at finally nailing this one suggests it may be my last piece of long form fiction for a while. It may also be that my stories were, in part, merely an escape from the workaday life, and now, safely retired, I simply don’t need them any more. Time will tell.

The merit or otherwise of my stories, is for others to judge and for me to accept, but they were at the very least, each of them, written with a mood for something to say. Anyway, it’s available for download here, and from the margin of the page, price free, as usual. It works best if you’re reading on a phone or a pad. Clicking the link will take you to Smashwords, where you’ll see the download options, and the book should open up in your reader.

Like my previous story “Winter on the Hill”, it’s not a hopeful book, at least not in so far as the direction of travel suggested by contemporary world events is concerned. But, also in common with its predecessor, it builds on the idea of getting at a shift of perspective, one that’s always been available down the ages, yet which remains hidden or even secret, but it’s a secret that seems to come looking for you, once you’re open to it. Otherwise, it won’t make sense. It enables the individual at least to step back from the madness we see when we doomscroll on our phones, to dis-identify with it and re-orientate ourselves to a more meaningful purpose. To do otherwise is simply to participate in, and perpetuate, the suffering, not just of ourselves, but others too.

The first week always sees the most downloads, I presume because the book appears on the new releases page, and gets its brief moment in the sun. So, there’s an early peak and then a rapid tail off as we’re covered over by the sedimentary layers built up of the daily slew of new arrivals. If you keep the price free, you can expect some downloads. How many? Well, it varies, and for no reason that’s obvious to me:

My story Push Hands has been up since 2013 and has managed 720 downloads. Saving Grace is my best “seller”, having been up since 2019 and managed 2600. If you set an actual price, even as low as you’re permitted ($0.99) you can expect next to no downloads at all. My story “The Inn at the Edge of Light” is the only story I briefly set a price for, as an experiment. It made $4, so hardly a living. Even after setting it back to free, its performance has been rather poor, racking up only 130 downloads in three years. So, even at peak, downloads are a bit sleepy. Reviews and feedback are also rare, but all told I’m happy with Smashwords. It seems a solid platform, and manages to keep going.

At the moment, I don’t have another story lined up, nothing burning inside of me that wants out. The blog is proving far more meaningful in fitting in with the rhythm of my retired life – the walking, the reading, the observation. And that it enables a more regular contact with other like-minded human beings, via the comments, is far more satisfying than plugging away in isolation at a piece of long-form fiction. That may change in the coming weeks and months, as something takes shape in the subconscious, but I’m not pushing it. Each novel I write is a puzzle that demands a solution. It’s like your crossword, or your Soduko. Once you start, you can’t rest until it’s done, even though there’s no actual point to the exercise beyond your own satisfaction, and perhaps a little dopamine kick when it all comes together.

The best advice I can give to budding writers is, if you like to write, then write, because I think it’s good for the soul, and therefore perhaps benefits you more than anyone else. If it starts doing your head in, or making you miserable, then it’s not working, and you should do something else.

Thanks for listening.

Graeme out.

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Spies are interested in secrets, and will go to extraordinary lengths to obtain them. But for all their efforts, do spies keep us safe? They protect the interests of their home countries, or at least a certain demographic within them, but, taken worldwide, is the number of innocents lost to violence, any less than if the spies, as a profession, had not bothered to glean their secrets, or is it perhaps even the worse for it?

It’s a question suggested by a line from a le CarrĂ© spy novel, and it got me thinking. Around the same time, a beech tree came down in winter storms. I’d known it since childhood and thought it would stand forever. Its loss was a shock, and seemed an ill omen, considering all that was going on in the world, and in particular my own country – politically, socially, economically. And then there’s the old Zen thing – which isn’t actually a Zen thing – about how the tree that falls alone makes no sound.

Corruption in high places, staggering levels of inequality, unaffordable rents and energy, children eating erasers at school to stave off hunger pains. Britain, in 2022. Is that enough of a dystopia, or shall we project it forward a little? 2025, say? Or 2030? It should be easy enough to plot where we’ll be, given current trends, but do we really want to go there?

This is the background music as I sit down to write, in early 2022, and what takes shape over the course of the year is a story called A Lone Tree Falls. It proposes the quest for a secret, and the searcher is a former spy turned mystic. But this is no ordinary secret. This is the Secret above all secrets.

The Secret above all secrets tells us the world isn’t what we think it is, that our obsession with the materiality of it is a misunderstanding of the way things are. It is an illusion, and all we do by our obsession with it is perpetuate it. This is not to say we have any choice. It is our fate that our mortal lives at least are spent abiding in this state, but we do have a choice in how we react to it. We can either persist in ignorance of the deeper picture, in which case we gain nothing, and we finish our lives pretty much where we started. Or we can wake up.

Waking up begins with the lone tree that falls, and the realisation it made no sound, and it goes on to the conclusion that there is no difference between you and whatever you are looking at, that all there is to anything is mental phenomena, though the strict rules, spun out of an evolving Universe, leave us no option but to deal with the world as it appears – as solidly real and (mostly) impermeable to the will. But if that revelation is not to implode into the absurdity of philosophical solipsism, one must also wake up to the notion that the essence of one’s self, like everything else, is dreamed into being by the Universe, and not the other way round.

This is the mystical path. It’s a well trodden one, but what’s the point of it? My guess – since I’m only writing about it, rather than making a career of it – is, once you arrive at that destination, it affects your dealings with other people, who, like you, are dreamed into being. So, we are all the same in this respect, both the dreamers and the dreamed. The feeling you have of your own awareness of self, is the same as everyone else’s. All that’s different is our back-story. The other man’s pain, whether you like that guy or not, is your own pain. Hurt him, and you hurt yourself.

But it’s one thing to be told a secret, quite another to believe it. But such is the quest of our protagonist, this former spy of sorts who is also mostly the Fool from the Tarot, or sometimes the Magician, when he needs to be.

I didn’t want to write this story. I wanted to write a simple boy meets girl romance, but the story had other ideas and wanted out. We’re pretty much there with it now, and I’ll have it up on Smashwords in the coming weeks. As for the conclusion, does my protagonist believe in the Secret? Do I? Can we even get there by a pathway of words and thoughts? Or is that just part of illusion as well? I don’t know. We’ll see.

Next time though, next time, it will be a simple boy meets girl romance.

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