Most authors get invited here to talk about their books. The blood that has poured from their fingers as they hammer frantically on their abused computer keyboards, the rivers of tears and sweat (yuk!) that have dripped from their faces as they reveal their tortured souls on screen: the agony and ecstasy of rejections, acceptances, and seeing their work in print… You are probably all bored to tears with that, so I’m here today to talk about cheese.
You see, I’m a dark fantasy author. Not a fantastic author, but a dark fantasy author. Stop panting there at the back, I didn’t mean *that* sort of fantasy either: this site doesn’t have that sort of thing on here. Or so I’ve been led to believe. You regular readers might know better. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of the posts on here, so maybe I should know better. Sorry, back to the subject.* I know it’s a bit of a confession, but there we are: my teenage daughter (in a fit of misplaced enthusiasm) set me up on one of those internet dating sites a few years ago. I turned it on: ‘What do you do?’ it asked me. ‘Fantasy writer’ I typed in, making sure that I had spelt it properly since the site was run by Americans, and you can never be too careful with their spellcheckers. Down the page was a list of things not to talk about with the ladies you might meet: Fantasy was on top of the list, so I turned the thing off and have never been back. Honestly, what use was it to me? “What do you do?” someone would ask me. “The site says I’m not supposed to tell you.” I’d sound like a notorious serial killer out on license with a new identity; or maybe a hired assassin, rather than an author no one has ever heard of.
Anyway, where was I supposed to be? Oh yes, cheese. I like cheese, and I’ve tried many of the varieties on offer. I’ve even tried the ‘Stinking Bishop’ variety that achieved notoriety when used in one of the brilliant Wallace and Gromit films. It didn’t float my boat, to be honest (although in fairness cheese is rarely used as a flotation device, even in these times of stringent economy). I keep several different varieties of cheese in the fridge. Blue Stilton, White Stilton with Lemon, Oakwood and, yes, Wensleydale. Probably the only good thing to come out of Yorkshire.***
Why? Well I’ve found, like many authors, that three in the morning is a time when I am visited by strange ideas - many of which become fiction. A bad dream about cats ended up in an anthology called ‘Felinity’ for Grimbold Books. A very strange dream about zombies dancing to ‘Johnny B Goode’ became a short story that won the inaugural Northampton Literary Group National Flash Fiction Award, sponsored by the University of Northampton. Three others have formed the basis of novels that have now been released (or in one case has had to be re released after the publisher absconded with all the monies). In fact I will confess that most of my most terrifying ideas have arrived while I was fast asleep, thereby absolving me of all responsibility for their creation. Or perhaps the liability, should anyone feel the need to blame me for not being able to sleep after reading some of my stuff.
Most of the authors reading this will be nodding, and thinking about the discomfort they cause their partners by sitting up in bed at three in the morning, or four in the morning, if it was a long dream, and frantically scribbling notes on the pad they keep besides the bed. My partner woke up one night as I climbed back into bed at about 3.30 am. Probably something to do with my cold feet, I expect. Anyway, she asked me to tell her what I’d just written (she has adjusted very quickly to living with a writer), and in a fit of misplaced enthusiasm: I did. “I was sleeping next to you when you came up with that???” she exclaimed in horror. Job well done, I thought and had the presence of mind not to say so aloud.
So the principle I want to share with you today is this: you have a dream, make notes, the dream serves as the basic inspiration for the book, or helps break the writer’s block, or provides the plot twist to free the hero from the frankly impossible situation the poor benighted author has just created for his/her Main Character before going to sleep in the knowledge that they aren’t the one about to get maimed/injured/killed in the next chapter: this is where the cheese comes in. With a judicious choice of the flavour/variety to be eaten late at night, the author can avail themselves of a choice of solutions. I find that a blue cheese, possibly because it is technically already rotting -that’s true by the way, Google it - helps provide dark and moody scenarios or stories. Zombies and the Undead are heavily featured here. Should you be after a scene in which the hero/heroine needs to smoulder to attract a partner or the Love Interest, then a smoked cheese works wonders, if eaten with herb flavoured crackers. I normally go for the stilton cheese with lemon rind if I need an action scene, as I find the lemon adds a sharpness to the dream sequence. Wensleydale (a crumbly white cheese) is for those times I want to stand a character on a crumbling cliff top, or trap them down a mine, or on an exposed hillside, and need help to help them escape.
I could go on, but there’s a risk this blog post could turn into a commercial for cheese when really it’s supposed to be about the inspiration for writing dark fantasy so I’d better stop there. But you get the idea, I’m sure. Ladies and Gentlemen, I offer you the essential literary aid that is cheese. A very present friend and helpmeet to the author in a hurry or a quandary, or suffering from the allegedly illusory writers’ block. Just eat the cheese though: don’t write it…
*Sorry, I do digress sometimes, it’s a bad habit I’m trying to break.**
**Like using footnotes. My editor is trying to cure me of the habit with his cattle prod.
*** I’m from Lancashire in England you see, and have an inherited prejudice against Yorkshire, the next county. Who lost in the fifteenth century Wars of The Roses, not that they are bitter or anything.
Will Macmillan Jones is the author of The Mister Jones Mysteries, a collection of dark and unsettling paranormal stories; and the underground hit collection of fabulously funny fantasy, The Banned Underground. Information about all his work, even the poetry, can be found on his website at: www.willmacmillanjones.com
He is also a popular local performance poet and traditional oral storyteller.
For those who are interested in the dream mentioned earlier, here it is.
Artistry of the surgeon
- I’m sorry, did the felt tip of the pen tickle? Please try to stay still for me. There, I’ve not got that line down your breast straight, I’ll have to swab it off and redo it.
-That’s better. Absolutely vertical for you. Now, the semi circle; it’s a bit like a smiley face isn’t it? Underneath this nipple. Good. If it isn’t presumptious may I compliment you on the even, matching areolas? I had a lady in here last month, her areolas didn’t match at all, naturally. I had the devil of a job to make her look her best.
-Now excuse me whilst I lift this breast to draw the incision line underneath. Yes, I’m wearing my latex gloves as I promised you. Skin to skin contact in this situation is inappropriate, and I’m being careful, as I said.
-Right, finally it’s this last surgical line. From the breastbone down to the groin, I’m afraid. Nice of you to have had that Brazilian waxing, it helps me to orientate the line properly.
-Ah, here’s the scalpel I’ll use for the procedure in an hour or two.
-Yes, it has been properly sterilised, despite the budget climate! Although its last use was on your last surgery, can’t be too careful, can we?
-Remember your last surgery? That was when I took your tongue out, so that tonight you cannot scream and disturb my neighbours while they are watching the evening soap operas on television.
-Wouldn’t be fair on them, would it?