Visit Tom's book page on Amazon

Tuesday 23 August 2016

It’s a long road, it’s a good cause (to publication)

When a manuscript is completed, what happens next? Tom Gamble discusses the context, the challenges, and possible solutions

The context

I often get asked the question of how long it takes to write something. Whether in a professional context: How long does it take to write a case study, an article, an educational book, a script? Or regarding my out-of-work writing passion: How long does it take, then, to write a novel, a poem?

And I always hesitate. Because people want a precise answer. Either they want to know in order to measure and justify budgets for commissioning work, or they have their own writing project in mind and are testing their motivation before committing to the task. It’s not that they’re obsessed by time. It’s just that we all are: driven by the hands on the clock or, more often than not nowadays, our digital displays on our mobile phones. And as such, time frames are nowadays more legitimate to demand than ever.

The first real and right answer should be “Well, it takes as long as it takes!” But not only is this reply unfashionable and perhaps dangerous (performance-oriented as we tend to be – “rather an unprofessional answer, n’est-ce pas”), it could also be taken as appearing flippant, even snooty. 

The second real and right answer is: anything from an afternoon to three years. If you have the content more or less in note form, an article takes several hours to puzzle together and polish the stylistic effects. A poem might take two or four hours, but will then go through several versions over several weeks before you’re happy with it (and coming back one or two years later, you’ll re-write it again, no doubt!).

A novel is different. Because it depends on how long you have to devote to it in the first place. Amazir spanned three years from mind-map to plot to writing that first chapter to completing the whole manuscript. Why? Because I had a very demanding full-time job and a family to cater for too. The second, this time commissioned, novel – The Kingdom of Emptiness – took...three months to write. Why? Because I’d left my job, become a freelancer, and decided to take a three-month non-paid sabbatical to write it – ten to thirteen hours a day, seven days a week, and the last several chapters in a non-stop twenty-seven hour stint at the computer. Writing a novel in such a brief span of time doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lower in quality: in fact, personally, The Kingdom for me is miles better in terms of style and flow. If you can take the risk, take the necessary time to dedicate yourself wholly to the task.  

News – Strange Roads

And a new manuscript has just been completed – Strange Roads, set in the post-war France of 1946-47, and digging up the ghosts of the key characters and those he meets around him. Strange Roads was first announced, I believe, in late 2013, an enthusiastic announcement that with gusto, courage and commitment, it would be completed before you could say Jack Robinson. Things turned out differently. Because the story took over, meandered into things I didn’t want it to, began ordering me, the writer, what to do instead of the inverse. This spring, having sent it to an agent for feedback, I decided to re-vamp the whole thing and chop off the last third of the story (the part that had grown of its own will). And now, it’s ready. Ready for what?

The challenge

The answer is the next road which, in terms of time, may also take anything from one month to three years. Yes, the slog to publication! After all, writing is like the mistake we could make when making a decision. We make it – and think it’s attained. But a decision, to paraphrase Paulo Coelho, is only just the beginning of it all. Likewise when you finish a manuscript.

I sometimes wonder how many brilliant stories have been written and that lay in cupboards because the submission process was too tough, too loaded. Well, hey – if you didn’t already know it, life is tough! Let’s look at some of the obstacles to overcome and see if we can come up with any solutions.

First, who’ll be interested? Well, maybe us passionate scribblers should have thought of that at the beginning! But if not, the tendency is to buy a copy of this year’s Artists & Writers’ Yearbook and trawl through the publishing houses. There are hundreds, nay thousands and the initial excitement that surely one will be interested (as well as a slight worry over all the postage costs involved), is soon snuffed out. The initial list of more than a hundred dwindles like a cheap candle bought at the discount store – rapidly. And the odour it leaves is nothing short of cheapy charred too. Why? Because the majority of famous, international publishers – you know, the ones we actually buy books from and thereby keep in business – do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. No – there’s that one-liner that says: Unsollicited manuscripts not accepted. Which means you have to go through an agent. Which means that you frantically turn to the Agents section in the Yearbook only to find out…that most agents do not accept unsolicited manuscripts from unknown authors! Yes, you got it. It’s just like dealing with a tax enquiry with the French administration: a merry-go-round of puzzling paradoxes and catch-22s.

The solutions

1) Aim for smaller, newly established publishing houses – they are looking for the gem and will be ready to take a risk…at a smaller price (understandable). 2) Some large, famous, international publishers have actually managed to go digital and do accept initial inquiries and samples via… e-mail. 3) Agents: who dares wins – phone, mail, send off regardless: if you get your pitch right, you might raise an eyebrow of interest! 4) Self-publish and be damned – the idea is to offer the world your story, right? Or please yourself or your family, or impress that nice looking potential soulmate you’ve had your eye on for some time.

Eddie Cochran said there were 3
The usual 4-step process for submitting your work

1   1. Initial enquiry including brief synopsis and a little about yourself (letter, mail, phone call) including past work published, blog, website and how you see your potential career evolving.
2. Over that hurdle? Yes? Then comes the sending of the full synopsis and one to three sample chapters.
3. Past that one? Okay, so then comes the sending of the whole manuscript compliant with the rules of the house you’re sending it to (i.e. TNR, double-spaced, one side of page only, etc.).
4. The wait. One week to four months in my experience. Though I now observe that the rejection slip/message now sometimes stretches into six months (staff cuts and increased workloads? Increased numbers of wannabe’s to process? Greenwashing (a nice corporate message about caring for the ecosystem of hopefuls while maintaining a slush pile of never-to-be-looked-at manuscripts in the basement)?

What to do when faced with the obstacle course
Sometimes the Best aren't taken...

  • No pain, no gain. Try, try and try again. The more pain, the more you love it – just like the Marines (I have several battle scars as proof – and they can always be used to impress people).
  • Network, glitter and smile: talk to people. You’d be surprised how many people are, or have friends, in publishing or related sectors. Go to see a bookseller – it has been known for writers and publishers to actually walk into bookshops and buy books! Go and chat to the local librarian (usually the sort who hides a hidden love of books, I believe).
  • Knock on doors. Yes, face fear and embarrassment and very probably ridicule. But sometimes, at least in the land of Disney, it works.
  • Wait. Step back. Take a break and then get back into the fray.
  • Get rid of any expectations. A bit like when using a dating agency or entering a negotiation: the best ones are always those where you have no expectations to win the big one. Learn from the encounter and tell yourself that life is so strange and wonderful.
  • Plan over time: avoid making the submission process one that sends you spiralling into losing belief. Two nonchalantly programmed but well-written mails a week over two months.
  • Go for serendipity and believe in your lucky star, circumstance and some intangible thing that will get you there in the end. Either programme yourself to get published and then let it go, leaving time and happenstance to play its trick; or use the scientific approach – keep on slogging: you might not end up with what you were searching for, but the road took you onto another discovery just as amazing).
  • Self-publish and be damned! And it does actually bring in revenue and a mild degree of satisfaction.
  • Become a librarian.
  • Join the masses of those who dream of writing and getting published – but who don’t actually get round to doing it. It makes life easier.
  • And one for the (long) road: Believe. While there are indisputably some manuscripts that miss the boat (a bit like Pete Best and the Beatles), the vast majority of manuscripts that are published do actually deserve it. Trust in the teams at the publishers: they do know if a story will sell. They do know if something is special and deserves it. It might just be your story. 

Useful links

Saturday 18 July 2015

July in France: Getting ready for the Big Sleep

Long musings with a whiff of gentle irony

Living and working in France, each July-August sees the country change dramatically – a sort of inversed hibernation period in which no-one does much and nothing much happens at all. Everything slowly switches to “Latin” mode, a great yawn of relief after the “Anglo-Saxon” mad rush from September to June, exacerbated by the fact that the poor French have to cram their work objectives into their shortened 35-hour working week and numerous bank holidays. This together with "RTT" - day in lieu according to “Reduction in Working Time” policy - and the famous “Pont (bridge)”, another day offered between bank holidays to stretch out the weekend into a vast and luxurious 4 days’ rest. Some would call this…paradise.

The Parisians leave Paris for the beaches of the west and south – a great relief to both those who stay on in the city and for the tourists visiting the capital: a two-month slot almost empty of sour-faced impoliteness. Those on the beach (the Parisians mostly – 25% of the whole population) suddenly become themselves – nice people – and once rising from their bronzing positions on the sands, it is dreamily sauntering past the paper shop and on the way to eat four-course evening meals that they learn that the outside world is still functioning: the odd coup d’état here (while the former leader is probably sunning it up on exactly the same beach as the Parisian), the odd earthquake there; an unobserved innovation – like say, the Internet super-highway – that the country misses out on during the big sleep and subsequently has to peddle like mad for the next ten years to catch it up. Paradoxically, it is then the turn of all the inhabitants of the coastal areas to rush about like madmen as they host, feed and coax the holiday-makers from the capital to spend their money.

It was said that Dali had many big sleeps...
All this means that the hangers-on in greater Paris – the small-business owners, lowly paid civil servants, the friendless, the divorced, the childless couples waiting to have the beach only for themselves in September when the screaming kids go back to school, or simply those waiting to squeeze in a long weekend or two of rest somewhere during the two months – suddenly find themselves bathed in an almost surreal calm. There are no train strikes – the railway workers gleefully keeping this in store for the traditional back-to-term strike in October-November. There is hardly any traffic. Road-rage suddenly evaporates and the last, festive nation-wide burning of cars already belongs to the past. Bastille Day, 14th July, “only” led to 600 cars being burnt across the country according to a government official speaking on the radio.

No doubt inspired by their holiday in Paris
It is a well-earned heaven. And the days automatically seem to stretch long and elastically into the night with aperitifs sipped by open windows giving out to empty and silent streets. And it is also the perfect time for the mind to meander and philosophise instead of thinking about objectives and potential delays in the public transport that will hamper you reaching them. One may take one’s time to read, stroll or go for a dip in the deserted municipal swimming pool. And one’s mind may also be allowed to think of silly things like love, the meaning of life, writing a book or poem, true happiness, getting fit, repairing the shower curtain that had collapsed in February, inventions and ideas. Letting my mind really wander far, these silly ideas might just include one or some of the following:

·         An international job search watchdog that would advise job-seekers on which companies and institutions to avoid, simply by trying out their absurdly unfathomable and truthfully unanswerable online job application forms. The sort that are 6 web pages long and contain lots of boxes, none of which suit your profile details, and which prohibit you from moving on to the next question unless you click one of their categories: “Right – okay – so I’ll just click on 'PhD in Duck Watching' even though I’m trying to get the job advertised as 'office clerk'”.  

·         A law that would see a vast educational training programme get underway for drivers in the Paris region. Large, digital displays would be set up along the main routes informing people that they only have to do four things to avoid creating traffic jams: 1) Instead of accelerating and closing ranks to those wishing to join the highway, simply let them in. 2) Keep in lane, keep your distance. 3) Drive at a steady 30-40 km/h without fail along the stretch of congested road until it quite naturally becomes flowing again thanks to your exemplary conduct. 4) Refrain from gesticulating obscenely at the drivers of other cars – anger causes acceleration!

·         A multinational “Bullshit detector club”, where a group of enthusiasts bent on the truth and openness to the citizens of the world would watch their national news every day for one week every month and note down how many times the news speaker lets rip with overtly patriotic or xenophobic remarks destined to hoodwink the scared, desperate or uneducated into being grateful (and, quite handily, at the same time willing to swallow the increase in taxes and energy bills due for November). Things like “Our X, the most beautiful capital in the world”; “the most X (meaning “like us”) of the Spanish football players on the field”; “We have the best national health system in the world” (true, thirty-five years ago and now just as hampered by under-staffing and waiting queues as any other system of the late 1940s); “No-one can rival our world-beating food (while handily forgetting that many national recipes were adopted or stolen from the Italians, Austrians, Morrocans, etc.)”; “We possess the most beautiful avenue in the world - naturally”; “the Chinese / Polish / Ukrainians / Romanians, etc.  are taking our jobs” (when everyone forgets that they actually work very well and very hard and are unhampered by corporate taxes which choke national employment initiatives to death); or “X, our beautiful, historical and great county, will resist this new plague that is globalisation and defend our interests” (Funny… I thought globalisation started 1.5 million years ago when Homo Erectus left Africa to find resources elsewhere…We might not be here if they hadn’t).

·         A worldwide training initiative for directors and managers to help them find something different to say other than “we don’t have the budget”, and then go on to hire cousins, uncles, aunts and nephews in the week that follows. While this may be accepted by young newbies on eternal short-term contracts and managers and directors who use it as an off-the-shelf standard to avoid conflict, a 40-50 year-old having worked in many fields throughout his/her working life knows it to be complete flatulence. On second thoughts, maybe it’s best to keep the “we don’t have the budget” phrase – if the truth were to be told the whole system might be in danger of collapsing.

·         And finally, a worldwide ban on all telephone answering machines leading you through an absurd labyrinth of options, none of which are suited to the real subject of your call, and which require endless pushing of numbers and hash tags (on my phone, a twelve-year old Nokia, I have to push two buttons to access the hash – meaning that by the time I manage to finally press a third time on the right icon, the answering machine has moved on to the next option and I have to start all over again).  Usually government-body instigated (despite even higher taxes they still can’t afford to hire real people to offer human assistance and contact), or incredibly the telecoms companies themselves, these machines are characterised by mutant digital voices ordering you what to do, and interspersed with overly loud jingles – seemingly composed on a Bontempi organ, the kind offered to 5 year-olds at Christmas during the 1970-80s – of Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5”. At times the machine goes wonky – giving off feedback and suddenly turning into a rendition worthy of Jimi Hendrix’s 1969 Woodstock version of The Star Spangled Banner.

So there one goes. And it's positively time to chill out, after all. A parting word might be that July and August are the most truthful months in which to call France the land of the free. Other ideas may come, or maybe even yours. Welcome are they…

And now, as a July evening in western Paris stretches deliciously and cat-like into oncoming night, a glass of the hard stuff suitably chilled in hand, with the sun hovering and hesitating to part, I bid you soft and silly things wherever you are, if only for a moment stolen.  
Sleep long, sleep tight.

Tom ;-)

Wednesday 1 July 2015

György Faludy: a hell of a good read

“My Happy Days in Hell”

The question begs: am I talking about my current context? Well, we have down days and we have up days, though luckily most of them are the latter. No, what I’m really referring to is the book by Hungarian poet-translator-writer György Faludy. And one of the issues with this is that as usual, whenever I read a book I fall in love with, I tend to end up living it out for real!
First published in 1962 – coincidently about the time Günter Grass published the Tin Drum – My Happy Days in Hell was only allowed for publication in his native Hungary in 1988 after the fall of the communist regime.

I came back from a short stay in incredible Budapest with it (buying it from one of the best bookshops in Europe, BTW, owned by the gentleman-philosopher Tony Läng-Dabbous) and was enchanted from the first sentence onwards by Faludy’s incredible courage of candidness, wicked wit, philosophical ramblings, poetic sorties into love and nature, and finally chilling reality. If you were to put Grass’ The Tin Drum, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Les Confessions and  William Boyd’s Les Nouvelles Confessions all into a  meat grinder and push the start button, two minutes later you’d come out with My Happy Days in Hell but spiced with a unique nip of Faludy paprika.

György Faludy
Over the past three weeks, Faludy’s book has become a companion, a friend. We share the same heady mixture of feelings for Morocco, the same dislike of extremes, the same reactions when faced with the absurd, the same love of nature and, why not, of Womankind. It is a biography that follows his escape from Hungary just before the outset of WW II, his life in Paris and then the necessity to flee the Nazi invasion to end up in Portugal and then Morocco and finally the United States where he eventually volunteered for the US army. In 1947, true to his love of the Hungarian language and believing in a democratic future, he returned to Hungary, only to be arrested by the Communists several years later.

Not-so-hellish for me, after all
He spent 3 years in a labour camp on trumped up charges – and this is where I am currently at, fifty pages from the end. I cannot stop putting down the book to gasp in amazement: caught between laughing out loud and choking down the tears of shock and indignation. If you want something to churn your emotions inside out, then György Faludy’s My Happy Days in Hell is definately for you! It kind of makes you step back a little from your own minor moments of hell at the office and sigh in relief at just how heavenly they are...

Read more about the amazing life of György Faludy on Wikipedia.

Friday 1 May 2015

Thank (the) heaven(s) for rainy days

6 books that changed (at least) my world

It’s a rainy, cold-ish 1st of May in northern France where I live. Not the sort of weather to stay outside too long. But one of those days – and moreover a bank holiday – where the delicious opportunity arises to just…not do anything much in particular but take your time and nonchalantly peruse your bookshelf you haven’t had the time or thought to peruse for ages!
I finish off my breakfast of buttered toast and sweet pear jam, enjoy a hot cup of black coffee I insist on preparing with a Bodum (none of your fancy Clooney machines here) and finish it all off with the day’s first, and best, cigarette (we only live once, and I refuse to feel guilty for this pleasure in an existence). The ritual over, I realise that my gaze is hovering over my bookshelf. I get up, walk over, and begin – as though looking at something anew – to study what’s on it. I surprise myself by realising that as I discover the titles one-by-one, I’m actually producing little hums and aahs: either falling upon a title I’d forgotten I’d once bought or else coming across my good friends, the ones I’ve kept with me ever since adolescence: and the ones that changed my world, changed my life, all those years ago. I extract them, flick through the pages, fall upon scribbled comments, read the odd passage that I should by now know by heart – and decide to write this post.
First, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I don’t have the original with the provocative cover (for the era it must have been a shocker), but I do have several different publications in English and in French. How did it change my world? My father recommended it to me and it made me understand that people are basically good anywhere you go in the world. That despite trials and errors, we can make it up somehow by showing tolerance, friendship and simply giving and that, really, simplicity is one of the best gifts we can ever inherit. This a must for those blue moments that occasionally come: pick it up, open the cover, and from the first page onwards life becomes sunshine again.  
Second, Down and Out in Paris and London, by George Orwell. I first read this on moving to London from a small seaside town when I nineteen. In those days I was a young idealist, a young adventurer convinced that everything would be an obvious success on the road to happiness. Several weeks after reading this book I was living it out for real and learning that adventure could sometimes be desperate, dangerous and at times sordid. Still – I learned some lessons, some of which I must admit, I still haven’t completely mastered!
Third, William Boyd’s An Ice-Cream War. Back then, Boyd was the first British writer for ages who managed to produce something stunning in terms of a damn good read: funny, intelligent, ironic, tragic and exotic. I’ve read all his books ever since – even when he went, for ten years or so, out of the publishing fashion. Luckily, he’s back. And if you want to learn anything about how the British tick, then his books are a must.
Fourth: The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass. Wow. I first read this when I was fifteen. And it was probably the book that really made me want to write. Weird and fantastical, with a tangle of styles and stories, sometimes hilarious, sometimes revolting, other times killing in its stark realism: it made me travel throughout Germany and write those first, copy-cat style stories that if you weren’t called Günter Grass no-one would ever read. Grass recently died, and was for some quite controversial. But it can’t be denied that he captured a certain feeling that was the Europe of the ‘50s-‘80s.
Fifthly, the anthology of poetry Staying Alive edited by Neil Astley (who once wrote me a rejection slip basically informing me my poems were crap. Thanks, Neil – but it didn’t stop me from reading the trilogy over-and-over every year). Staying Alive is so vast, so complete, that you never get bored with it. It has travelled with me everywhere – train journeys, planes, continents, the office and on all those other, emotional, journeys too. It is a compass and has the uncanny ability to point you in the right direction when all seems lost, including you.
And sixth, and last, that incredibly simple, incredibly powerful book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Together with Cannery Row, it’s the book I’ve offered most to others as a present and a message I’ve always carried with me. It picks you up, sends you soaring up into the wide blue sky of hope and belief – both in yourself and in Humankind. Perhaps, one day, The Alchemist will be honoured with a Nobel. Deservedly.
So thank heavens for rainy days! They make you do the cleaning, take extra care with the cooking, explore the jumble-sale of a neglected cupboard, watch an old favourite film and…return, intrigued, to the bookshelf that shaped your world.
Enjoy this rainy day and all those that will come.
Tom ;-)

Saturday 28 February 2015

The slippery path of fiction writing

When the plot takes over control

Some strange things happen to those of us who write. One of these is when the plot takes on a life of its own and leads the author where he or she doesn’t want to go.  

Coincidence twenty years on

This is happening to me. And either very aptly, or very bizarrely, I gave the title Strange Roads to the story when I began it a year ago. It all started out with a coincidence. Nearly twenty years ago I visited a part of the French countryside to the west of Paris and came across the tombs of 3 young British soldiers killed in action on August 28th, 1944. At 23 I was older than they were when they had died. This caused quite an inner stir in me and I noted them down in my diary, paid my respects, and left. And the years passed.

Last autumn, I happened to be out on a Sunday hike. Nearing a river in the Epte valley, I came across a small, stone monument. And incredibly, here were the same 3 names I’d seen all those years ago. It was the place where their tank had gone up in flames.

I took it as a sign to write something for them. A novel in their honour. Initial mind-mapping (I use Buzan’s technique to map out ideas and plots), brought me the characters, the story, twelve chapters and an ending. All that had to be done was follow the motorway and write the thing.

The building of the pontoon at Vernon, days before the attack up the Epte valley, August 1944. Courtesy, British Pathé News.

Battling with the mischievous muse

So I began writing. Three months gave me six written chapters and a further five planned as the story matured: Strange Roads, a story set in 1947 with the return of Jack Kemp to France and the homage he had to pay to his fallen comrades (with of course, a lively description of the local folks, their surroundings, and a love story with a local school mistress that all ends happily!).

And then the story began to take control. Story or characters? Some of them started getting nasty. The story  not only traced the beginnings of love between the two key characters, but suddenly began to detour into the sexual inclinations of both the primary and the secondary characters – not only adding spice, but also a heavy dose of intrigue. I tried to steer the story back on course. To no avail. Added to the blushingly torrid sex scenes, came a ghastly putsch with the characters leading the pen (or keyboard in these modern times!) flowing towards a thriller à la Hitchcock! Come back, stay sweet, stay high-brow, my mind shouted. I don’t like thrillers! But the characters – or perhaps what Elizabeth Gilbert (cf TED) would call our mischievously creative muse – had decided to plunge the book into a revolution and take the path of blackmail, murder, hidden treasure, hidden truths and hidden identities.

The last time I wrote was during the Christmas break – when out and about, a couple of historical discoveries concerning the Knights Templar in the region and an apparent French government attempt to hush up a local gardener who knew too many secrets about the treasure in the 1950s, added oil to the flames. The thirty or so pages hammered out between mouthfuls of Christmas pud’ read like a sexed-up mix of The Good German (Jospeh Kanon – the book is light years better than the botched attempt at catching the spirit of the 1940s of the film) and Hitchcock’s Rear Window (originally a short story written by a certain Cornell Woolrich). I didn’t want it to be. But it was. Unable to control things, steering far down a stranger road than I had set out upon, I decided to give it all a break.

Decision time

No, the story wasn’t turning out to be a deeply poignant tribute to loss and love. And maybe, the thought came to me, I wasn’t meant or even capable of writing such stuff (too bad for the inclusion of his nibs in the great annals of Anglo-Saxon literary works). It is now decision time: scrap the whole thing, tear out the thriller-sex, coerce my story back onto its original path, make it nice? Or give in to the crankiness of the characters, accept the popular fiction label, and risk going down the silly track of lost treasures and torrid sex scenes (something that seems to get miles more publicity in the UK/US than a serious message in a story)?

It isn’t writing that isn’t easy: it’s creating a good plot
Tom Gamble waiting for Dickens to open the door
One thing I have learnt (or been reminded of, to be more exact) is that it isn’t writing that isn’t easy. It is creating a plot. And a good plot at that. Time and time again, the writing process is filled with trial and doubt – “would the character actually do that? Does this sound convincing? Won’t people think that’s silly (or worse still, crap)? Aren’t I giving up my values?” are constant recalls to review, re-write, re-think.
Will Strange Roads continue down its strange path to thrillerdom? At this stage, I don’t know. I wanted to pay tribute to three young British soldiers – 17, 19 and 21 years old – who were in a tank, in a French valley under the pouring rain of late August 1944, and who lost their lives for something that for our generations has “softened” with time. Maybe the best way to pay tribute is lay down the poppies on Poppy day and say a little prayer for them of gratitude. And let the story go down the road it wants to.
Tom Gamble is author of the novels Amazir and TheKingdom of Emptiness.


Sunday 8 February 2015

The Dream Machine in one stunning free download!

9 Steps to achieve what you really want

In the run up to Christmas 2014, I posted the "Dream Machine", step by step. Here it is, as a last blast, in its full 9-step format.

What is it? Well, if you:
  • Want to write a book
  • Do a world tour
  • Start up a business
  • Sell your paintings
  • Go to university
  • Move home
  • Be an actor or actress
  • Buy you dream car
  • Change your life
  • Or even change your kitchen sink
  • Plus a million other things - either objectives or dreams...
Then the Dream Machine s for you. A 9-step self-coaching tool to plan, analyse, check and achieve what you desire! It worked for me, and it's worked for others.

Amazir with the other finalists.That's me. Er - on the right!
Click on the link to download it from my professional site. Good luck with your dreams!

Monday 5 January 2015

Wednesday 31 December 2014

A tribute to Maurice Henry Gamble

36 Exposures and Vibrance Care Homes UK

Two bits of news - 36 Exposures isn't exactly selling in its thousands. BUT, promise kept, a donation to Vibrance Care Homes UK has been made, in part, from the proceeds! That's satisfying and a big thank you to all those who bought a copy.

Maurice! With all our love!
Know that there's a story behind the choice of this: thanks to a lovely aunt (no names, Marilyn), I learnt of the story of Maurice Henry Gamble, recently gone on to green, happy and sunny pastures. Maurice was born with a handicap back in the 1930s and due to a life-threatening illness, his mother was obliged to put him into care at the age of 5. In 1986, Marilyn's mother, Patricia, traced him back with the help of the Salvation Army and, once found, was able to offer Maurice much love and presence during his final years under the devoted and cheerful care of the folk who work for Vibrance. Thank you, Vibrance. And a thought for all those you continue to look after. Tom xxx

From Maurice's eulology:

Maurice flourished, being lovingly cared for by compassionate staff at Glengall Road, where they embraced his determination to keep his mobility despite his disability, endured his stubbornness and understood his funny little ways such as the shake of his head when saying ‘NO’, ‘NO’,  which really, meant ‘Yes’. Many will recall his appreciative smile that said it all, when a pint of beer placed in his hand, was drunk in less than a minute, and his food would disappear pretty quickly as well.

From the dark years spent in institutions, Maurice’s life completely turned for the better, he found happiness and contentment by enjoying many outings with his carers and resident friends, going to workshops, listening to music and many holidays by the sea. What was there not to love about Maurice, he was always ready to give you a cuddle with a cheeky smile on his face. ‘Thank you Maurice’, for touching our lives and leaving us with Happy Memories!


Saturday 20 December 2014

A Christmas dream come true...

The Dream Machine – STEP 9: LIFT OFF!


So this is it – and just in time for Christmas: the last step before setting out towards the New Year and a glimmer of springtime and the lengthening of days not too far off. Resolute, confident, motivated, the beholder of options should the path become tricky, hopeful, strong and – why not – with just that little pinch of cockiness in your attitude.

This springtime will be yours. And to make it thus, there’s only the last step to cover. Step 9: THE STEP. So as things draw to a close and my mind is filled with images of you all daring to reach your dream, I’m reminded of more than twenty years ago.
I was a hopeful twenty-two year old. At sixteen I’d decided that my life would be an adventure and, having had a fair taste already of what adventure was all about – both very high and very low, I thought I’d just check with someone in the know. Freshly settled in Paris, I’d heard of a bookshop called Shakespeare & Co near the Notre Dame. Running the store was no other than Walt Whitman’s grandson. I decided to go and see him, hopefully impress him, and at least get him to introduce me to someone to get a story I’d just written published.
The question of clothes took some time. I went over and over my speech. I practised smiles and postures in the mirror and readied myself with a sample chapter typed out, spelling mistakes ‘n’ all, on a typewriter that clattered louder than a printing press and which also combined the indirect benefit of muscling those biceps and triceps such was the effort required to bash away on the keys.
When I saw him – magnificently dressed up in waistcoat, paisley cravat and maroon-coloured corduroys and with his white hair and beard flowing very literarily – I was scared. I hadn’t reckoned to come up against such a charismatic figure. Thirty long minutes of following him about the shop at a distance, pretending to peruse the books, posing foppishly by the poetry section, and fighting a terrible inner battle between “make a run for it” and “get in there and ask”, I finally approached him.
“Are you Walt Whitman’s grandson?” I asked.
“Yes. I am,” he replied in a baritone Yankee drawl that made my southern English accent sound like the bleat of a nervous lamb in comparison.
“I’d like to be published,” I continued, calling up my inner reserves. “Can you help me? Give me some tips? Perhaps,” I added, timidly, “someone’s name. Someone who can help?” 
I’m not sure it was a trace of a smile that appeared on his lips. And if it was, it quickly disappeared to be replaced by a frown that in all appearances read, in giant letters in the air above his head, who the hell is this joker?  
“Son,” he said, booming much too loudly across the whole store. “What the hell are you asking me all that for? Goddamit, all you have to do is get out there and write the damn thing!”
That was it. My fifteen seconds of mentoring from the grandson of a literary giant.
“Er – thanks,” I blurted, and headed straight for the exit door wondering whether it was time to plunge into the river Seine and end it all there and then.
“Y’welcome. Have a great day!” he called after me.
It took a few days to get over this truly humiliating experience. Two days of blaming the Yanks for speaking too loud, being too bolshie, reverting to the over-simplistic, being unfeeling and ungrateful. After all, we’d financed the colonies in the first place. And George Washington had been a captain in the British Army trouncing the Native Americans down south before everyone got upset about some spilt tea and decided to boot the British out (read the history books, by the way)!
But gradually, I came to realise he was right. Was there genius in such a short and sharp answer? And why indeed did I actually want to be published? Also, why had I decided to write and not become a City banker, government accountant, brain surgeon, star footballer or take up some other incredibly useful and simpler vocation? I realised. It was so stunningly simple, it was genius. Because in the end, it just boils down (tea again!) to one thing: just do it.  
So…my parting words to you on this eve of Christmas and armed with the 9 steps are just that: DO IT!
Still proudly (best)selling!
A truly Happy Christmas to you all, regardless of skin, religion, capacity, language and nationality. Have fun, embrace your neighbour (literally, if you feel like it), and see you soon.
Tom Gamble xxx
PS: to finish off and coming soon: The 9 Steps in a nutshell and a real and practical example of using them. And remember - buy the books featured on this blog and find a purpose for you, me, and the charities the books support. How? Simple - click on the links! ;-)