I don’t write to be fanciable, more because the stories are in me and insist on coming out. But, thinking of qualities shown by a potential mate, her being a writer would be desirable to me. At least I’d know something of why she was behaving in that strange way from my own experience!
Reading through Derreck Frost’s list, I realised that I’ve done several things that he claims make a writer attractive. I’ve dedicated books to female friends, based two recurring characters on close friends (with their permission) and talked about my writing in emails. This has resulted in useful feedback, so I knew I wasn’t waffling and boring them.
Margaret Atwood was dismissive of readers seeking out writers:
“Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.”
Nevertheless, publishers choose the best-looking photograph of their author clients to adorn the book jacket…sometimes, these shots are twenty-years-old. Attractive people sell commercial products better than uglies.
We decided Writers Are Sexy! in an old thread, but are we more attractive than ‘normal’ people?
While researching marketing and self-promotion, I saw a novel idea about how to deal with newsletters and comments to and from adoring fans (who dey?), which is to give your protagonist their own email account.
Sounds weird, but I’ve already got a Gmail account in my discarded pen name of Augustus Devilheart, to take messages, newsletters and subscription updates from anyone to do with writing and publishing. Google being Google, this led to the strange situation where I received a message from them, asking “Paul Whybrow do you know Augustus Devilheart?”
Not content with haunting myself in this way, I’m waiting to hear from my main character Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle—perhaps asking me why I haven’t begun writing his latest investigation—I left him in a coma at the end of Book 5 The Dead Need Nobody, completed at the end of 2018.
While writing my books, I’ve had my eye on creating a tourist trail based on the locations of my Cornish stories, though it’s hard to think of merchandising opportunities…mugs, calendars, tea towels? Having an email address might make people think my literary hero is a living person.
It’s weird to think that readers might one-day email Neil Kettle, but who knows?
Have any of you made your protagonist real in some way?
As a safety valve to blow off pressure caused by designing a blog and website, using WordPress, I’ve been writing a couple of short stories.
Only visiting them once every few weeks has made the characters militant, and they’ve hijacked the plot, taking it in directions I hadn’t anticipated. One story is about a hedge witch intrigued by a newcomer to her village who appears to have arcane knowledge. I intended it to be an unusual love story with spells, curses, blessings and bindings mild enough to be printed by a women’s magazine, but it’s strayed into malevolent voodoo territory.
The other story is intended as a giveaway for subscribers to my Cornish Detective website. Featuring an early investigation by my protagonist, I planned for it to be an introduction to his characteristics and how crimes committed on the spur of the moment have consequences through the ages. Instead, a ghost of one of the victims hijacked the narrative adding spookiness.
At least these tales only wandered into a similar sub-genre, but it set me to thinking about how I could introduce bizarre elements into Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle’s investigations. He’s already tapped into lessons his farming ancestors taught him, so I could take things further. Crime writers James Oswald, James Lee Burke and John Connolly use supernatural forces to assist their main character.
I like the idea of writing a stand-alone novel based on a mashup of eras and genres:
It’s a good idea to use your family’s medical history as a guide to what problems may await you; there’s no escaping genetics.
At the age of 54, I realised that I’d outlived the age my father reached by one year, and that it might pay to check for signs of what killed him—bowel cancer. He knew he had problems for twenty years, but being of a generation embarrassed about anything to do with his bum, he did nothing about it. Had he gone to the doctor, he might well have lived for another twenty years. Bowel cancer is highly treatable, if caught in the early stages.
I had experience of what might be involved in a colonoscopy, as I’d had an endoscopy two years before. This was a precautionary procedure, recommended by my doctor after I visited her on returning from America. I’d shown symptoms of stomach ulcers, while still living stateside, like a hot iron had been pressed to my tummy. It was probably caused by stress from a toxic marriage.
Back in my beloved Cornwall, the attacks diminished, but for some reason, I felt compelled to eat porridge oats and muesli of an evening, lifting pinchfuls into my mouth. I mentioned this to a hedge witch friend, who said it was a folk medicine remedy for ulcers, so perhaps my gut knew something I didn’t.
The endoscopy procedure was simple, though I’d been anxious about having a gag reflex when the cable carrying the camera was inserted down my gullet. I’d obeyed instructions not to eat anything for twelve hours beforehand, and the surgeon numbed my throat with a spray anaesthetic (that tasted of pears!) which made threading the device into my throat easy. I was laying down, unable to see the monitor screen, listening to him say “You’ve had two large ulcers, but they healed themselves really well…I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Cable removed from my throat, I told him about eating oats, which made him look at me like I was a medieval yokel who’d gone to see the medicine woman, before muttering “I’ve heard of that, but didn’t think it would work.”
Relieved at the all-clear, I decided some probing in a northerly direction was in order. My GP was delighted at my sensible decision. I duly received instructions of how to prepare for a colonoscopy. For the surgeon to see the colon, it has to be cleared of what’s lingering there…This meant not eating for a couple of days beforehand and taking purgative salts in water to act as an enema. These worked alarmingly well—inducing shit through the eye of a needle wateriness—I was afraid to cough, taking time off work to stay near the toilet.
I understand that things are easier these days, but in 2008 I felt like I’d been scraped hollow.
Not eating for a couple of days made me giddy, eager to get the procedure completed, so I could have a meal. I turned up at the hospital, where I had to sign waiver forms in case something went wrong. I changed into a hospital gown, exposing my buttocks for access, and padded through to the operating theatre. Where a dozen medical students stood waiting for the show!
Introduced to the surgeon, a shy Indian doctor who asked my permission to be a teaching aid, I went horizontal laying on my side on the operating table. This time, I could see what was happening to my innards, as a large LED monitor screen was in front of me, which I shared with the trainee doctors. Topical anaesthetic cream numbed my anus, so I didn’t feel much as I was probed.
Seeing what I looked like inside was surprisingly beautiful, for the image showing was tinted emerald green as the light shone on the folds of my inner tubes. It reminded me of footage shot by spelunkers who swim through flooded caverns. Occasionally, the surgeon paused to examine a section of colon, but the whole procedure was over in ten minutes. He removed the endoscope, thanking me for my cooperation, whereupon the students gave me a round of applause!
Had he found irregularities, he’d have removed tissue to biopsy, but I was given the all-clear. The worst part of the whole thing was the purging. The procedure itself was a doddle.
On returning to work the next day, I told colleagues what happened, including two middle-aged men who decided to have an endoscopy. They’d been nervous about doing so, but had similar experiences to mine.
If you’re over fifty, it makes sense to have a colonoscopy.
I’ve never been more of what the reaction will be, as I start this thread. Many readers will be disgusted—urrgghh!—but bear with me, as there’s food for thought to come.
I’ll break you in gently, with a story:
Back in 1999, I acquired a Jaguar XJS for a bargain price, considering it was a low mileage car with only two previous owners. The couple I bought it off had doted on the car, only driving a few hundred miles a year, and storing it in a heated garage with fitted carpet. Unfortunately, the lack of use and warmth harmed the braking and cooling system by perishing the rubber hoses. Not being able to rely on stopping a heavy V12-engined car, which had become incontinent, meant rebuilding the hydraulic braking system with new lines and replacing all the water hoses.
I’m a competent mechanic, so did the work myself. Access in the engine bay was tight, with some hoses impossible to see, so some unfastening of clamps was done by feel with bare hands. I then replaced the hydraulic hoses, bleeding the system of air. I’d normally wear disposable vinyl gloves for this work, but protected my skin with a barrier cream called Rozalex, cleaning them afterwards with Swarfega.
Antifreeze fluid and hydraulic fluid are dangerous if swallowed, potentially lethal, and they can cause skin irritation. I’d never been troubled before, but this time, a really aggravating postage stamp-sized rash developed on the back of my left hand above the wrist. It was difficult to resist scratching it during the day, as it felt like a dozen ants were biting me. I tried various medicated skin creams and tea tree oil, which provided temporary relief, but the itching soon came back. One morning, I woke with the back of my hand stuck to the sheet with blood from where I’d been digging my nails into the rash.
I’d just acquired my first home computer, so went online to look for remedies, checking the active ingredients of skin creams. Most of them contain urea:
Urea is the main nitrogen-containing substance in mammal urine. Colourless, odourless, highly soluble in water, it’s practically non-toxic. Urea in skin creams is mostly synthetically made, but I had a ready source of fresh and natural urea—me!
I dabbed the rash a few times daily with pee on cotton wool, and in three days it was completely healed! I was flabbergasted.
Think about it: would you rather use your own pee or processed cow urine (used in some formulations) or artificial urea containing who knows what? Urine is sterile, containing fewer bacteria than tap water.
Urine therapy has a long and rather secretive history, as mention of it produces hilarity and revulsion. It’s one of the facts commonly trotted out about Gandhi and actress Sarah Miles, but rock musicians Keith Richards, John Lennon and Jim Morrison all said they used it.
As for drinking it, which some swear by, I tried twice, mixing it with orange juice for palatability, but it was still rather rich! At the time, I was in the throes of giving up booze, after 27 years of alcoholism, so my body may well have been releasing all sorts of toxins that affected the taste. I decided I could be doing more harm than good by drinking it.
After 23 years clean and sober, If I had serious health issues, I’d try it again, for, after all, the Bible says‘Physician, heal thyself.’
I was reminded of this episode of self-healing by several recent newspaper articles on the benefits of using urine to wash hair: