Progress

C R Dudley Author - Orchid's Lantern

Exciting things are happening behind the scenes at Orchid’s Lantern!

I have finally decided to independently publish under the name C R Dudley: some of you have already noticed I’ve started changing my social media accounts to reflect this. Orchid’s Lantern will be the name of my publisher and I’m having a logo designed for it, which will appear on the back of my books and my website. 

I am currently editing and compiling a selection of flash fiction for my first official publication. I expect there will be 30 – 35 stories included, many of which have already featured here on my blog but some are brand new. I am working with the title Fragments of Perception which I believe captures the essence of my work, what do you think? I’d also be interested to learn from my regular readers what genre you would describe my stories as? This could play an important part in how I present them.

Once the editing is complete in about a months’ time I will be looking for a couple of beta readers to look over the collection with a critical eye. If you’d be interested in doing this, please drop an email to orchidslantern@gmail.com so we can discuss. I will gladly return the favour if anyone is in need.  

My novel is progressing and about to enter a second draft stage. This will involve a fair amount of re-writing from the first draft as I now have a stronger, clearer idea of what needs to happen to achieve my vision. I’m working under the title The Enlightenment Machine for this. Broadly, it is about a man taking part in experimental therapy living underground with similarly afflicted individuals. The world he is exploring is changing his outlook but something unknown is slipping through the cracks that no one is yet equipped to deal with… 

Some of you may be pleased to know I have also done some more work on The Old Woman, The Stag, And Me (working title only as it’s grammatically incorrect among other things). Looking at the outline, I think this will likely end up at novelette length but could be slow progress as I am desperate to press on with the novel foremost. 

Lastly, I’ve written a couple more flash fiction pieces to submit to anthologies which I hope are fruitful.  

I hate to be creating new work and not sharing it straight away, but hopefully it will all be worth it. Once I have Fragments of Perception nailed, I will be back to putting my flash fiction straight onto the blog as it is ready. A big thank you once again to everyone who follows and interacts with this blog (almost 500 of you now!), your support is my confidence.

Broken Sleep – Bruce Bauman

Book Review Blog


Broken Sleep came up as a recommended read for me, presumably due to Bruce Bauman’s association with one of my favourite authors Steve Erickson. It is described as an experimental, kaleidoscopic epic, encompassing art, madness, philosophy and identity, which sounds like exactly the kind of book I enjoy.

‘There are many dimensions of ‘reality’ we don’t understand. Odd things occur that can’t be explained. That does not make you a candidate for a mental breakdown. I believe in what can be proved and I’m agnostic on what cannot be disproved. I do not subscribe to past life memories, extraterrestrials, time travel, ESP, or any other speculative sci-fi concoctions. That doesn’t rule them out for eternity. It rules them out for now. There’s more in here – he pointed to his head and then to the heavens – than there is out there.”

It is written from three different perspectives; two of which are first person an one is third. Salome Savant is a sex-obsessed artist who has been in and out of psychiatric care for most of her life; Moses Teumer is the son she believes was stillborn, who is now seeking a bone marrow transplant from his biological family; and Ambitious Mindswallow is bassist for rock superstars The Insatiables and a close friend of Salome’s beloved son Alchemy.

Despite the head-jumping, this isn’t at all difficult to follow. The characters are colourful and relatable (with the possible exception of Alchemy the rock star who can do no wrong), so the technique succeeds in giving a multi-faceted view of events. I don’t consider it to do anything ground-breaking in terms of style though, and its tendency towards anecdote over immersing the reader in a scene is a little disappointing. The character back stories are interesting for sure, but I was expecting a gripping plot to be laid over them and unfortunately that never comes.

Strangely, Broken Sleep as a title seems to have very little to do with the content; the Savant family do share a tendency to slip into daydreams and sleep poorly, but this is alluded to only sporadically and I didn’t consider it a key part of the story.

Politics, art, medicine, corruption, the press, the music industry, insanity, and family life are all incorporated into Broken Sleep. The multiple points of view enable us to see each of these from hugely varying perspectives, which is a big task to take on as a writer. For example we are shown the formation of a left-wing political party beside the musings of a former Nazi officer with no regrets. Elsewhere, we observe someone who does not believe in time living every moment to the full, beside someone who is running out of time but never using what he has to make it count.

The problem perhaps is that the themes are too broad to be meaningful in any one area. It almost has something to say about nature vs nurture, and it almost has something to say about the impact of personal relationships vs the impact of politics on our lives and our sense of control: but not quite.

“Inside every human, without exception, resides the essence of what moralists call evil. Herbert Spencer, in classic English linguistic perfidy, declared this drive to be ‘survival of the fittest’. I witnessed this exhibition of spirit by the delighted participation of women and children in acts of murder and debauchery. This empowering drive to vanquish and control is encoded in our blood and far outweighs courage or human generosity, or, for Christ’s sake, loving the enemy.”

What it does manage to demonstrate, I think, is how subjective life is. Everyone thinks their own logic is perfectly defensible, and everyone thinks they are the ones who need to wake others up to truth. Everyone tries to protect their loved ones in the best way they can, and everyone is torn apart by being lied to and having their worldview turned upside down.

Reason is powerless to repair the ruptured heart.’

I did enjoy Broken Sleep on the whole. Although it is hard to justify the length (620 pages), it is a straightforward read with short chapters, and I kept turning the pages once I’d picked it up. It’s just unfortunate there is very little in the way of suspense, or even open questions to make the reader desperate to go back for more.

Homage to Steve Erickson

Books written by our favourite authors are like old friends, who have accompanied us through years of our lives and seen us at various stages of togetherness. They have occupied that intimate space between the inner workings of our minds that only we know, and the external world. They have fed into our moods, perceptions and understandings. They have comforted and inspired us.

The first book I read by Steve Erickson was The Sea Came in at Midnight, back in 1999. He had published 5 novels before this, but my particular introduction to his work was a short paragraph written about this one in The Times newspaper. I no longer remember the description, but it sounded like nothing I’d read before and I knew I had to get a copy. I wasn’t disappointed. I was thrilled in fact, and having felt much the same about all of his other novels since, he has become my favourite contemporary author.

Continue reading “Homage to Steve Erickson”

Fluence – Stephen Oram

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This has been on my ‘to read’ list ever since I finished Stephen Oram’s first book Quantum Confessions, which has stuck with me ever since like a vivid dream. I’m glad I got round to it because this is another illuminating and imaginative glimpse into a potential future for humanity.

This time we are introduced to a world in which social media influence is treated as currency (called fluence) and directly decides which class (strata) you belong to and therefore which privileges you have access to. The stratum are give the names of rainbow colours; red being highest, violet lowest, and white reserved for the disabled. The reds are the ruling strata, seemingly taking the place of government. There is also a group of people who have dropped out of the system altogether known as outliers. We get a taste of the way each strata lives, and the various struggles they face.

The central plot follows main characters Amber, Martin and Max in an intertwined way. All three are struggling with the system that contains them, and seeking the gold at the end of the rainbow. Every character is realistic and believable, which means they are not always likeable, but definitely relatable. Continue reading “Fluence – Stephen Oram”

My NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an annual challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. I decided to attempt it this year, because I thought having a more structured approach might help me to make a good start on one of the long form fiction ideas I have been carrying around.

I spent the last week of October planning out my approach. I made a timeline of events, scrutinised my ideas for plot holes, wrote character bios, and considered what I would write when. This all made me very excited about my novel at first, but quickly became more like work than pleasure. Getting technical was already taking the soul out of what I wanted to write. I found myself excluding aspects of the story on account of them seeming unrealistic once I had analysed them, or strangely enough the opposite; they were too realistic and therefore boring. I suddenly felt daunted. Continue reading “My NaNoWriMo”

Toxic Nursery – Carlie Martece

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Toxic Nursery is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story from the point of view of a girl with Dissociative Identity Disorder, more commonly known under its previous appellation Multiple Personality Disorder.

People with an already unstable sense of identity could possibly do without the name of their affliction being changed, but the previous name had been somewhat misleading, as none of the patients actually had more than one personality. They merely had a single personality that had been dismantled into component parts, with each fraction thinking that it was a separate person on account of a dissociative barrier between itself and the other aspects’

This is an illness I knew relatively little about at the beginning, though my recent reading of The Divided Self by R D Laing meant that I did have a good grounding in the ways our sense of identity can warp and split. This perhaps made me more sympathetic to hearing about such an experience from the inside as opposed to from the perspective of a psychiatrist, or maybe that was because I empathised with the particular concerns expressed. The sub-cultures and locations featured in this book are familiar to me, as are the benefits of art as therapy, and the feelings of being misunderstood by peers and professionals alike due to the stigma that is sadly still attached to mental illness. Continue reading “Toxic Nursery – Carlie Martece”

Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre

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This is the third of the great existential novels I have read so far this year, and is easily my favourite. It is beautifully written, with real characters the reader can identify with, and contains in a simple story the outline and mood of the existentialist attitude.

The story follows writer Antoine Roquentin through a period of his life in which he questions the validity and authenticity of all he comes across. It is a comment on love, art, ageing, friendship and society as distinct from the individual. It highlights the absurdities of social custom that face us in our everyday lives, and it lets us right into the perspective of a man alone but for his thoughts and his work.

I found the scene in which the protagonist debates (in his mind at least) over dinner with a devout humanist particularly compelling. The conversation highlights the key differences between the two stances, and forces the reader to consider his own thoughts on some specific aspects of the argument. Is a misanthrope actually a form of humanist? Must you know the particular instance of a thing, not just the general qualities of its being, in order to love it? Why would a writer write if not for other people to read? Continue reading “Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre”

The Bricks that Built the Houses – Kate Tempest

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I am a fan of Kate Tempest. Her poetry – and particularly her delivery of it – is passionate and powerful. She understands what makes people tick and has some refreshing insights into the mechanisms of modern society. She describes the things we don’t want to see or admit, which are often the very things that define us.

Having had critically acclaimed success with her poetry and music, this is her first novel. Familiar characters and ideas from her poems are given a more thorough examination now, as we see them in a broader setting.

The novel opens with main characters Becky and Harry in a car driven by their friend Leon, escaping the world they know in forced but unexplained circumstances. Becky is disillusioned by the entertainment industry she wanted to be part of, surviving only by working as a waitress and a masseuse, but fuelled by an admirable inner will and purpose to be something more. Harry is a drug dealer, desperate to get away from the city that raised relentless bullies and inequality and a family who will never accept her sexuality. Continue reading “The Bricks that Built the Houses – Kate Tempest”

Quantum Confessions – Stephen Oram

 

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Imagine that just 10 years from now, a new era of politics is upon us in which a coalition dedicated to total liberalisation comes to power. Education and healthcare are put back into the hands of the people, prohibition of all drugs is abolished and campaigns are run to persuade the populace that there is no absolute truth: meaning is subjective and individuality is freedom. This has the effect of dividing people like never before. As we know them today, religion and science are most often seen as opposing and incompatible views. Yet in a world where belief in an objective reality of any sort is outlawed, these two ‘camps’ become united.

Quantum Confessions is a clever exploration of this idea, demonstrating the theoretical problems that could come of a society of individuals with little or no shared purpose. The reader is led to question: Is our innate desire to form connections with others vital to our survival? Is the joy arising from shared experiences what makes us human? How would we cope without a structure to make us feel secure, and how long would it take us to adapt if it were to be removed from right under our feet? Continue reading “Quantum Confessions – Stephen Oram”

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