Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Difficult Third Album

The Difficult Third Album is a phrase that was heavily used, overused some might say, in the music magazines that I used to read back in the 1980's, such as NME, Sounds and Record Mirror. I am not sure how many of these still exist, if indeed any, they are the sorts of publications that one grows out of.

Anyway, this oft cited cliché was levelled at album reviews on the generally accepted wisdom that a band would burst onto the scene with their first somewhat raw but exciting new first album, follow it up with a more polished second album which would probably be a big success and establish them. Then it would be a case of - what next? More of the same, or try and re-invent themselves? This was normally the point where a band would either hit it big and be around for decades to come or crash and burn.

The best example I can think of for a brilliant third album would be Parklife by Blur where they went from just another indie band of the early 1990's to being absolutely huge! Whereas I found the third album of their great rivals Oasis a huge disappointment - not that it particularly stopped them in their tracks, though I never bought another Oasis album after that.

The iconic cover from Parklife, for me, the defining album of the 90s

I think this third album principle can probably be applied in other areas too. When it comes to writing, here I am with two moderately successful books under my belt and wondering what direction to take next.

This applies to my blog just as well as my books. As you will know, much of the material that is expanded on in my books so far was influenced by material I initially wrote here. Hence the theme of my first book being on parenting as that is what I was writing about predominantly at the time. So what comes next? I have written two what I consider to be "humour" books with the loose theme of parenting as I felt they needed to be categorized somewhere. Though obviously if you have read them you will know that I deviate off to talk about all manner of other things. Perhaps this is something I should try and get across to my target audience (i.e. everyone) as I did wonder if putting it under the banner of Parenting would instantly alienate anyone who doesn't have or like kids.

The second one was less about kids and more about life in general, with a budgetary theme, though much of that was tongue-in-cheek. I am not seriously suggesting for a moment that anyone hacks their feet to pieces with a cheese grater to save money on pedicures - as far as I know no-one has tried it yet and attempted to sue me, so I'll put a disclaimer in now I think - "Don't try this at home!"

For some time I have had in my mind an idea for a rollercoaster science fiction time travel novel, I have the whole synopsis written out and could write it at any time. The only thing is, I don't really feel motivated to do it. It's not that I cannot do it, the whole thing is practically written in my head already, it's just that I don't really enjoy writing fiction. I much prefer to write about the real world, my experiences with it, and observations upon it, as I am doing right now, and for two 300+ page books, no matter how ridiculous some of the strange things I come up with at times are, it all goes down in print, and if it entertains and makes some (if not all of you) laugh, then I am doing what I feel I've been born to do.

Of course if a publisher came in tomorrow and said "We are really excited about your sci-fi novel, here's 15k advance & we'll pay you x% of every sale", then I might miraculously and suddenly recover my mojo for such things!

So the difficult third book probably won't be the sci-fi book. And in fact, I don't think it is going to be difficult in the end at all anyway, as long as I go with the flow. By that I mean I shall allow my writing to be guided by the direction it wants to go. Two books on parenting have been good - a third will be going to the well once too often, I feel, but I shall continue to write in the same style. And there's a quite obvious direction for this blog and my next book to take already forming, and that of course is the whole sausage thing and food in general, come to that.

If you look back through my earlier books you will see they are full of amusing anecdotes about crisps, bacon, ham and all manner of other food - buffets at weddings, all you can eat restaurants, I have covered it all in great detail. It seems judging on the much feedback I have had from this blog over the years, on facebook and in book reviews and all the rest of it that my food related musings capture the imagination more than most. And of course my new found sausage fame has come directly from a piece of my writing - had I not entered the competition, none of this would have happened.

So it seems destiny is calling to me in the shape of a large sausage and I would be foolish to ignore this golden opportunity so I am of course seizing it with both hands and seeing where it leads. Things are happening thick and fast - I already have two dates in the diary for next month - one for the Sausage Awards launch in London and another for a sausage bake off competition in Birmingham. All of these will be covered by me in detail. I've also secured a feature in a major national magazine and I will let you all know when that comes out, probably in a couple of weeks.

I do wonder where all of this will lead. My ultimate goal as you all know is to establish myself as a "proper" writer, whatever one of those is - but all of this can only help. I do wonder though if I will be forever known as "The Sausage Man" (which may well end up being the title of my next book). I can imagine the conversation in years ahead being interviewed on a chat show.

HOST: "So you're the sausage man".
ME: "Yes, but I do other stuff too. I have written two books about..."
HOST: "Never mind that, we want to know about the sausages".
ME: "Can I just mention my parenting books?"
HOST: "What do you think, audience?"


OK, that is all a bit ridiculous, but I did say further up I tend to write down any strange imagined conversations that come into my mind, so there is another one.

Of course the other thing I have been writing about a lot is writing itself and my experiences with publishing and sales, which I shall continue to do so as I think it is helpful to others who may be starting to write or thinking of publishing. It is quite a daunting prospect to the uninitiated and I am always willing to help, advise, and review other authors. At this moment in time I am in fact helping to proof read a book for another writer friend of mine. Some might say perhaps I should have proof read my own first book a little better - in fact someone did just that in a less than glowing review on Amazon, but then we must all learn from our mistakes.

I really think authors should support each other more online. Many do in fact and I have made some good friends among other writers but there is still a lot of backbiting going on out there. Many of the bad reviews you see on Amazon are by other writers in the same genre deliberately trashing other books with 1* reviews in order to lower the ratings. I think this is very sad. Books should be complimentary not competitive. It's not like you buy just one, as if you were buying a car. Say you write books in the vampire category. Surely it is better to read some other vampire books and if you like them, give them positive reviews. Maybe more people will buy their book, but then if it brings more people into the vampire category, then maybe they will buy yours too! Well that is the way I look at it anyway.

Don't worry if you enjoy all my parenting blogs, they are not going to disappear, but I think the overall focus is definitely going to shift towards the food writing as I sense that's where the future lies, but there will as ever be plenty to talk about on whatever life throws at me! It looks like favourite for Book 3 though is going to be "The Sausage Man".

Fame at last!

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