Sunday, 29 January 2012

Each To Their Own

The bane of every new author struggling for recognition, apart from typing/printing errors, has got to be the celebrity author; the person who has made their name in some other field and now thinks they can write a novel or tell the world their life story, even when they are not old enough to have had an interesting life.  We all know the sort of thing I mean.  I don’t know who started it but Dick Francis certainly made the most of it when he finished racing.  Now it seems everyone from jockey to gardener, think they can write a novel and because of their celebrity status the publishers give them a chance when possibly hundreds, with better story telling abilities, are knocking at the door to be turned away with nothing more than a note saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ to show for all their hard work.

Authors take heart.  You are not the only people to suffer from this syndrome of celebrity kudos.
I am a fan of classical music.  Why, is another blog I might write one day. Suffice is to say every morning while I am waking up to the world (and that could take anything up to two hours – not all spent asleep I hasten to add) I listen to Classicfm on the radio.  Once the dog has had her first walk of my shift the house tends to stay silent. 

On my return from holiday this year I find that an honoured and respected actor has turned his hand to composing. It is reported that he has always had ambitions to be a composer; has always written music.  Now he has recorded an album of his own work with a well-known symphony orchestra.

Fine.  I have no problem with that.  What bugs me is that this album has been advertised almost every hour, every day since I returned to the UK on the 9th January (it’s now the 29th).  First as a ‘coming soon’ and then as ‘now available.’  No doubt it is flying high in the classical charts regardless of the quality of the music because it has been given so much publicity.  My heart goes out to all those young, talented musicians who are struggling to be noticed or even find a place in an orchestra, let alone get new and exciting compositions heard by the public.

A few years ago a similar thing happened when a girl band broke up and one of the members released an album of piano music.  She had been to music school and could play, a bit, but she was no Lang Lang or Stephen Hough (I would quote a Russian pianist here, as well, but can’t spell his name  well enough to even look it up!).

As a struggling author I promise, if I ever make it to the big time as a writer, I will not make my public suffer the trauma of listening to me playing the piano.  Yes, I can play – especially if it is a slow piece!  Bit I consider myself a writer not a pianist.  If I tire of one I won’t take up the other as a career.

It is not just the fact that these people, musicians and authors alike, get the chance to showcase their work but the fact that so much effort is put into promotion by the publishers or record companies.  While indie authors are busy Facebooking, Twitting and making trailers for YouTube in the hope that people will notice and buy their work, these celebrities have the full PR machine behind them, presumably at no cost to themselves.

Is there any way to thwart this ‘cashing in’ on celebrity?  I doubt it.  For my part I will not buy anything from someone trying to start a second career, especially if their first has been lucrative!  I’ve never been into biographies, so that part is easy; and now I only buy books by new authors. Maybe I’m being unfair.  But until some of my fellow independent authors are featured side by side with celebrity authors on their second career, I will remain committed to the belief - Each To Their Own. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

What Have We Done To Christmas

I’ve been a bit slow getting this out as it is now the third week on January, but I wanted to wait until the retailers started announcing their Christmas sales figures.  At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

I am so relieved Christmas is now over and life can get back to normal.  Okay, that might sound a bit bah humbugish but I do feel it all drags on for a too long these days.

I have no objection to people celebrating Christmas but can recall the time when it lasted two days and that was it.  If people want to make the ‘Christmas week’ part of their annual holiday, so be it, it’s what I do.  But why do we have to have the TV schedules messed up for the whole period between Christmas and New Year.  It raises the question that if we only need fifteen minutes of news during this period, why do we get twenty-five minutes the rest of the year?  It’s not as if everyone has the week off.  While factory and office workers might get a long break, most people are still working – all those shop assistants dealing with the sales, transport workers, hospital workers, in fact the list is almost endless so why do the controllers of TV schedules think we need different programmes all week?

I am also disturbed by the commercial emphasis the media places on Christmas.  Every day for the month of December we were getting daily reports of how much people were spending, with comments about how people were not spending as much as before.  It was enough to make people feel guilty about not going out to shop.  And next will be the reports of how people have put themselves into debt to fulfil Christmas expectations.  There were a couple of interviews where people were shaking their heads and saying ‘I’m only buying what I really need.’  Well done!  Too much food is wasted over this period.  We should all follow that example and cut back on buying for the sake of it.

Then come the reports from the retailers.  Spending was up/down on last year.  Cheap stuff sold well, expensive stuff didn’t.  What a surprise!  It bit like the surprise that last year people couldn’t get to the shops because of the snow.

Now I may be the wrong person to be writing this blog.  For one thing I’m not a Christian, for another I do not make a big thing of Christmas.  The two parts of that sentence are not related.  We made a family decision about 30 years ago that we would buy presents only for the children of the family.  Because Christmas happens in the winter and family are scattered all around the country, we don’t risk travelling to see each other.  I visit my sister in the Spring or Summer, we enjoy a meal out somewhere and catch up on family gossip; we don’t spend weeks anticipating a journey that might or might not be disrupted by snow, hail or sleet.  I visit my daughter and grandkids in time for the birthday season at the end of October and the rest of the year we phone, email and keep in touch via Facebook.  None of us are emotional when it comes to family ties. I blame my father who never spoke to his family, it just seems normal for me not to see mine very often.  But we are straying here!

Have we lost the point of Christmas?  Christmas should be a celebration of the birth of Christ, not the highlight of the year for shop-keepers.  If you don’t spend at least a few minutes singing carols or thinking about the first Christmas then you are not celebrating Christmas but something else.  There was outrage a few years ago when somewhere tried to rename Christmas ‘Winter Festival’.  Despite what the media would like us to think, this only happened once, but to be honest I think December should be renamed ‘Shopping Fest’ as that is the only thing we hear about.

I have no objection to the streets being decorated with lights or even people putting them up around their own homes (electricity prices can’t be that high!) but where are the angels and the cribs amongst all the santas and snowmen?  I have spent several Christmases in Spain or Tenerife and there nativity scenes abound in shops and shopping centres.  I have only ever seen one in my local area.  I know Spain is a Catholic country, but the story of the birth of Jesus is still the whole point of Christmas.

So if you want to have a big family get together, why not have it in the summer.  If you really have the urge to buy things for other people do it when they need the thing and not make them wait for the end of the year.  Spread the commerce throughout the year.  And let’s put CHRIST back into Christmas.