Tales from a Modern Dinosaur. Characters from my Past. – Guest Post Written By Merlin Fraser

Last year, sometime in October, I published a hilarious story, written by Merlin Fraser. I named it “On a different note” and the ones who read it had a good laugh with Merlin’s humor.

With this guest post, Merlin shows us that he’s not ‘only’ a great writer, and has his well known, a bit rough humor; but he is also a talented author of great sensitivity and treasures his memories with a warm heart and a trace of sadness many of us would not have expected.

I wanted to share this side of Merlin with you and I’m sure you will read his guest post and find it as valuable and admirable as I do.


“And now for something completely different,” to coin a phrase, I pinched it from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in case you were wondering where you heard the expression before.

I’m sure you tire of my exploits with trees so a change of tack is required as I explore some of the many characters I have met during my country upbringing.

Journeying back to the 1950’s I think this character reflects a slightly cruel streak in our past due to a complete lack of understanding as to the causes of what is now considered a mental illness.

Bernie was a gentle soul never known to harm anything or anyone but to all he was cruelly known as the village idiot and to my everlasting shame I have to confess that as a kid I was no better than the rest.

To this day I have no idea what the problem was within Bernie’s brain, as I remember he was looked after an old lady at the far end of the village but as to their relationship, I have no idea. To her great credit, Bernie was always clean well fed and fairly well dressed in hand-me-downs’, presumably donated from other villagers.

Bernie would do odd jobs, take letters to the post box, that sort of thing and could always be relied on to hold one end of a long skipping rope for the girls or go in goal for a friendly football kick about. Although I suspect today’s parents would have a different view of a Bernie in the midst of their offspring and would probably demand his removal from the community, however, as I said Bernie was absolutely harmless.

For a while, he did the daily village paper rounds, until one dark stormy winter’s day all the daily papers were found thrown inside the door of the village church. With hindsight, I think that in that thunderstorm Bernie just got scared, panicked and ran home. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that was the end of the only paying job he ever had.

After that, the paper delivering job fell upon us kids, and we took it in turns to bugger it up as best we could but in a crafty way so as not to raise too much suspicion or acquire a thick ear. Whether this was a childish attempt to get Bernie his job back or just a piece of rebellion I cannot say, but in my case probably the latter. However, whichever kid had the duty Bernie was always a constant companion chattering away and pointing at anything and everything that caught his eye. Except on Sundays, his guardian always insisted Bernie went with her to church.

Not very far away from our village there was a large agricultural college and quite a few of the students had their own transport, mainly vintage motorbikes but there was the odd Ex Army Land Rover that could, somehow or another, manage to hold about ten students, more depending up the season or how drunk they were.

Back then, any such college was way beyond the means of the average family and the agricultural college more so and it seemed to be populated by the children of the landed gentry or well to do Farmers. In other words, ‘Privileged OIKS,’ who because of their often-rowdy behaviour would get banned from more and more pubs and have to travel further and further afield to get a drink. They used to invade our village pub on a regular basis. Now our pub landlord was a genial host, far more tolerant than many and more than happy to take their money, and it is the subject of money that brings me back to Bernie.

Most days, thanks to his never-failing routine depending on the time of day you could always find Bernie. If there were cows or horses in the fields close by that’s where he would be feeding them handfuls of grass stroking and talking to them.

As kids it took us ages to win the confidence of big animals, Bernie, on the other hand, was always surrounded by them. Even little birds would take food from his hands. While if it were me the little sods would sit on the ground about twenty feet away with their head cocked at that jaunty angle and that look in their beady eye that said, “you have got to be joking!”

On sunny summer evenings Bernie had a favourite seat on a wall across from the pub, he never went in unless he had found or was given an empty bottle and then he could reclaim the three pence deposit. From his perch, Bernie had a grandstand view of the pub and as he sat there in his own little world, he would sit swinging his legs and waving at all who came and went.

On the occasions when the invading hoards came from the college, some would try to engage Bernie in conversation, which was impossible. If he wanted something he would ask or more often just point, he talked, more often than not any response to your reply was never connected. Therefore, we learnt to simply listen and smile in understanding.

However, one Sunday evening there was much hilarity outside the pub close to Bernie’s wall and Bernie seemed to be in the centre of the action. To Alan, my best pal, and me it looked like the college students were picking on or making fun of him and we went to investigate. What exactly we intended to do was unclear since there was about twenty of them and only two of us and at that time there was a considerable age and size difference. Thankfully, it never came to that because as we got closer, we discovered that there was some sort of game going on and by the happy look on Bernie’s face, he was winning.

To explain the game, I have to take you back to pre-decimal British coinage, I won’t bore you with the confusing facts as to why there was 240 pennies in a pound or 12 pence in a shilling but the size of the coins of the day played a significant part in the game.

Therefore, a sixpenny piece was half the size of a shilling piece. A shilling was half the size of a two-shilling piece and there was another coin, which was called half a crown that was slightly bigger than a two-shilling piece and worth six pence more.

I’m already confused, and I grew up with this crazy system, but fear not it’s not critical because the game here is based upon size and as you can see from the above description size relates to value, all very logical, however, I doubt Bernie had any notion of logic.

The students seemed to be taking it in turns to challenge Bernie by showing him two coins of different sizes and demanding he chose one. Bernie always took the smaller coin and therefore the one of lesser value, this was the cause of the hilarity and so the game went on until the students tired of the game, they sweetly called ‘idiot baiting’ and returned to the pub to throw beer and darts at one another.

Allan and I tried as best we could to explain to Bernie the error of his decisions, even showing him the difference in size from the collection of coins he had won by playing the same game between Allan and me, Bernie just frowned and shook his head.

We gave up, well I did, Allan had one more question, “Bernie why can’t you understand?”

Bernie emptied his pockets and at a rough guess he had at least two pounds in loose change, by kids standards a King’s ransom in those days, he looked at us and said, ”If Bernie take big coin they don’t play with Bernie no more !”

I learnt a valuable lesson that day and I suspect Allan did too.

What happened to Bernie?

Sad to say I have no idea after I joined the Navy in the early ’60s my family moved away from the village. When I eventually went back for a visit a few years later he was gone. The old woman who looked after him had died and I suspect the local authorities moved in and sent him off to an institution somewhere.

Nowadays in the mad rush and tear of modern living, I often think of those far off days, it was a far gentler time, the pace of life was far slower, and I can’t help thinking the world is a sadder place without the Bernie’s and the gentle humanity of a close community.

Picture courtesy of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coins_of_the_pound_sterling

On A Different Note – New Guest Post By Merlin Fraser

“On a different note” is not the title of this guest post, it’s my title. Merlin Fraser is an excellent storyteller and author. He is also a wonderful advisor, knows how to challenge me, push me a little bit, and light up my mood.

Merlin has a unique and sometimes a bit rough sense of humor, but he never failed to make me laugh.

When Merlin sent me this story, his exact words were: “I make no apologies but do warn you not to be drinking anything while you read !”

I was grateful for the warning, and herewith I’m forwarding it to you.

Have a good laugh with a funny story!


Who Farted? I Really Want to Know

 

Whichever way you look at it, this is a great question. No ! Seriously I mean it.

I know, even as I sit here trying desperately to breathe through my ears having just let one go, that there are many readers out there sniggering already at the subject matter but it is a subject that commands a great deal of thoughtful research.

There’s is no great secret or mystery as to what a Fart is, or where it comes from. We all do it, albeit some more loudly and more frequently than others and if you are of the male persuasion it is likely you take a high degree of pride in being able to clear a room before anyone can point a finger in your direction.

There are also times when it is sensible to hold back, for instance you enter the chamber and prepare to squat do not, under any circumstances, fart on your way down because you are going to descend through it and have to sit there, eyes watering, until the rest of the business is concluded. This is a lesson that should be taught at the ‘Potty’ stage of life but, as far as I am aware, seldom is !

Additionally, Farting half way down the inside of a 40 foot steel container you are unloading should be avoided as well, again this is a common sense suggestion based upon Newton’s laws of Motion, IE you will be constantly moving backwards and forwards through it.
(I should charge for lessons like this …!)

Anyway, I am again indebted to Stan, a friend of mine who asked this question because it is one area where I feel I can speak with a great deal of authority having been exposed, if that’s the right word, to some of the worlds more renowned Farter’s and until now have had no suitable outlet for the knowledge.

My first hero was Sam, a couple of years my senior in school and a Farter of, at least, Olympic Silver medal standard. Whatever the occasion he could, produce one almost on cue. So why only the Silver medal I hear you ask, well Sam was a noisy farter and was therefore limited to the classroom or other confined spaces. Or put another way he lacked the true skill of a champion by being able to produce an SBD (Silent But Deadly) in places like parents night or end of term prize giving. The Gold medal was never awarded, we had a candidate but he, like his smelly silent butt remained anonymous. (My money was on the little blonde haired kid in first year who had the face of angel but I suspect the arse of the devil).

However, Sam does rate a special mention for being the first pupil in the school’s history to attempt to ignite a human fart with the aid of a Bunsen burner.

The effect, as I recall, was a rather pleasing yellow bluish flame of approximately 6 to 9 inches long, which may have gone unnoticed by the teacher if Sam had allowed for what I can only be describes as the ‘Blow Back’ effect in his calculations.

To be honest I failed science as a subject so you will have to bear with me if I make a complete Dogs Breakfast of describing the theory of blow back.

We were only school boys, doing what school boys do, well at our school we did, therefore I can only assume there was a lot more science involved in what happened than we previously knew.

OK, first of all there is the speed of sound (The Fart) that’s 1,126 feet per second or 768 miles per hour.

Then we have the speed of light (The Bunsen Burner flame) which is 186,282 miles per second.

Plus, we needed to consider (and didn’t) the Calorific value of Methane Gas under an unknown pressure. With hindsight, perhaps we should have given a little more mathematical thought to the reaction elapse time of the following equation:

From fart generation to ignition where the source of ignition is a constant but the actual timing of the fart was a variable as was the duration of said fart. A-n-d… Now here I’m just guessing but I think it was the elusive duration factor that caused the side effect.

You have to remember I’m going back over sixty years here but if memory serves it was one of Sam’s special Knicker Rippers, or it would have been if he hadn’t been mooning at an open flame at that precise moment in time.

The resultant nasty side effect was that by producing a Fart that close to a source of ignition turns it into a naked flame, which one assumes as a source of light actual travels at the speed of light, previously indicated of 186 thousand miles per second, which by Newton’s Laws of acceleration is knocking on a bit!

In addition, I think another thing we failed to consider is that at the time one expels a Fart oxygen is displaced thus creating a mini vacuum, which may only be present for a millisecond, but at the speed of light, that is plenty long enough for the Blow Back effect to scorch your Arse. Or in this case Sam’s arse !

REPORT CONCLUSION:

To this day, I still think if Sam hadn’t screamed we might have got away with it.

However, that and the complete failure to get his pants back up in the 2.3 seconds it took the science teacher to cross the full length of the science room. Of course, by this time there was additional evidence that not all had gone entirely to plan, the room smelled of Barbecue, and there was still a faint whiff of smoke from his singed pubic hair.

Needless to say the Head Master was summoned, Sam, now in tears and shock was led away to the Matron’s office, with his pants still round his knees leaving me to face the full force of the ‘Screaming Scull’ all by myself. (This was the nickname of the School Head Master because of his facial resemblance to the one you see on Pirate flags).

You can just picture the scene, can’t you ? The full gravity of the incident had by now sunk into all assembled some prize Pillock had panicked and hit the Fire Alarm, so now the town Fire Brigade were on their way to the scene as senior members of staff led the whole school out of the building and onto the school playing fields.

The science lab was quite a large airy room, which to me seemed a hell of a lot bigger with me at one end and everybody else looking at me from what seemed then and now as an extraordinary large distance of safety.

Then the penny dropped, they thought it was me ! That I was the Bad Ass at the party and to ensure their total innocence from the shit storm we all knew was coming they had backed into the furthest corner away for me.

The Scull duly arrived took the room in at a glance, the relief on his face, that the science lab and his school were not actually on fire, lasted for about the same length of time as the time lapse of Fart to Ignition to Scream.

His eyes fell upon me, “You Boy…Come Here and Explain Yourself !”

“Me Sir ?”

“Yes You Sir !”

QUICK ASIDE : I’ve just thought of something, I have just realised that it’s probably because of this incident in my life that I look guilty even when I haven’t done anything. You know like going through the ‘Nothing To Declare’ Exit at an air terminal, looking guilty as Hell but you really… really have nothing to declare ! Just a thought.

Anyway, I should digress no further. Needless to say I was frog march out of the room with my right ear in the tight grasp of the Scull’s thumb and fore finger. He only let go because at that moment two gorillas in yellow water proof leggings and funny hats came thundering up the passageway towards us with an axe in one hand and a fire extinguisher in the other.

I won’t bore you with the exact details of what followed, other than to say I explained the entire incident in fantastic schoolboy logical detail, purely from the stance as an innocent witness’s point of view you understand.

No ! It was not my idea.

No ! I didn’t try to talk Sam out of it. It was a purely scientific experiment after all and I was as interested to find out the result as Sam was.

In addition, needless to say the Scull didn’t believe a word of it.

Upon receipt of the Matron’s report the Scull decided that Sam had suffered enough for one day. Having walked half naked through a giggling mob adding to the loss of his dignity, not to mention his pubes, that and a 6 inch long scorch mark which would probably cause him more pain and last longer than the pain I was about to receive.

Just to end upon a happy note you will be pleased to know that dear Sam suffered no lasting long term effects, and like me, probably went on to dine out on the story for many happy years. Yet, many years later I did hear from a mutual friend that in Sam’s version it was me who had the scorched arse.

He continued to impress the school with his farting abilities including a two toned one that resembled the horn on a passing diesel electric train. By the time, we left school to go on to greater things he was working on and had almost perfected the Doppler effect.

In case you were wondering, I know my loyal readers like all the details, Sam did reveal his secret and that was ‘Beecham’s Liver Pills’. I think they were a mild cure for constipation, although I never found out why he, at his age, may have been prescribed such a thing, maybe he hadn’t. Perhaps he had been pinching them off his mum…. which at one point led to wondering if she suffered the same side affect her son did…. What a Happy household that must have been, what’s that saying; “They who Fart together Stay together !” Or something like that.

Nevertheless, one thing I did find out, to my cost, was that over the years he had become immune to their laxative effects leaving him only with the side effect of his farting skills.

Why to my cost I hear you ask? Two things, you know the World War Two movie ‘The Damn Busters ? The one about Barnes Wallace and his Bouncing Bombs ! One rainy Saturday afternoon Sam and I went to the see the film… we had lunch at his house, this was the day he let me in on the secret of the Liver Pills and he gave me two to try.

Yep they worked !

We were having a whale of a time timing our farts to coincide with the aircraft bombing runs…. Remember I said he was immune…

I wasn’t !

There’s another famous British WWII move ‘ A Bridge Too Far,’ I could so easily re write that as a ‘Fart Too Many !!’

So in answer to Stan’s question; Who Farted? I Really Want to Know…

It was Sam !!!


Unaccustomed as I am…. – Guest Post By Merlin Fraser

Recently on social media, I’ve been shouted at, again, for being too serious…  ME ?

After the usual accusations of being the devil or anti-Christ I was told to Lighten Up and get a Life !!! That and to stop picking on the poor Christians who apparently are still traumatised, something to with Romans and Lions apparently.

Of course, I suppose they’re right, I can’t remember when last I did a light hearted Blog so perhaps now is as good a time as any to relate my efforts and experiences as a Public Speaker.

As writers, we all assume that one day we will be famous and rub shoulders with the social elite, to be admired by our peers and invited to all the best parties but like everything else in life you have to start at the bottom and work your way up… Right ?

We can’t all know Beyoncé or Simon Cowell for Heaven’s Sake !

Anyway, any event organisers that know their salt and expect to get the unwashed hordes to beat a path to their function know they need a top Name to Tweet about or plaster all over their Facebook Page.

They also know that anybody who is anybody is on what is known as the ‘A List.’ These are the celebrities that most people want to sleep with or just to take a ‘Selfie’ inches away from their hero, who has that ‘They don’t Pay me Enough to do This’ look in their eyes… but they manage a toothy grimace anyway.

Therefore, if you have an important event up and coming the greater the celebrity you get to attend then the better the publicity you can attract and the number of punters who will hand over the readies to get up close and personal with the celebrity.  This is of course irrespective of whatever you are promoting or trying to sell.

However, this takes money and bags of it, sure you can dumb down a bit and go for a ‘B Lister’ but you’re taking a huge PR gamble here. Any lower than‘B’and you’re really on shaky ground, I mean by the time you get down to the ‘C’s’ then you are highly likely to get a ‘Has been a Neverwas or a Neverwillbe’. You know the type, they’re the ones who will usually turn up for free to the opening of an envelope or a Kitchen Drawer !

So you can imagine my surprise to receive an invitation to speak.  What list am I on for Pity’s sake… Are there even enough letters in the alphabet I hear you ask?

‘Dear Mr. Fraser’, (Good start, at least they spelt my name right that and I saw no immediate demand for payment). It continued :

‘As a more or less famous local author would you consider coming to St. Catherine’s Day Centre for the Terminally Incontinent and Permanently Bewildered next Wednesday and give us a short talk on the subject of your local history book ?

We apologise for the extremely short notice but the woman who comes to cut their toenails is off sick and cannot make it that day.  Everyone so looks forward to her visits and we desperately need someone to step in and help avoid disappointing the inmates.

If you can come after their lunchtime nap you can entertain them before afternoon tea, Wednesday’s is Walnut cake supplied by the local Women’s Institute although we have asked them not to put walnuts in the cake because so many of our guests wear dentures, so it will probably be jam sponge’.

Of course, I could have said No!  Local celebrities such as myself… Busy Schedules you Know.  Meetings with Agents… Need much more Notice Etc. Etc. Etc…. But there again one never wants to disappoint ones public does one ?

Plus with such a warm invitation how could I turn it down.  That and the promise of cake …I mean how often does one get offered such reward in lieu of actual money ?

Anyway I, digress, as the appointed hour approached I made my way to St. Catherine’s,  having to wait for the ambulance, blue lights flashing to exit the  parking area was not a particularly good omen but we Fraser’s are made of sterner stuff…so in I marched.

I was shown into a room that had the sign DAY ROOM above the door. I must admit that it seemed a superfluous title since the whole place was a Day Centre… but Hey ! What do I know ?  

More confusion was to followed as the nurse who guide my path through the maze of Zimmer frames, wheelchairs and trolleys carrying oxygen bottles, announced that it was also the games room and TV lounge so I might have to speak up a bit to my audience.

“Are they hard of hearing ”?   I asked and immediately thought what a bloody stupid thing to say given the average age of my impending audience.

“No,” she replied, “but you will have to compete with the John Wayne War movie on the TV they don’t want it switched off”.

“They not interested in local history then ”?

“That lot over there ?  They were probably there and helped make it”! She smiled sweetly, like Day Care Nurses do, she wished me luck and disappeared.

So there I was alone, abandoned by the staff who in all probability had buggered off to put their feet up for half an hour while I held the fort.

I looked at them and they looked back…Tough Crowd, I thought. It’s times like this I wish I had a song and dance routine or could do magic tricks like making dumb author’s disappear in a puff of smoke !

Too late to back out now, here I was, I had an audience of ten hearty souls, well eight anyway, two had already nodded off, or at least I hope they were asleep, difficult to tell in places like that especially if you are not packing a mirror.

Anyway with John Wayne saving the world in one corner and me in the other things got off to a slow wobbly start, “Good afternoon… my name is Merlin Fraser and I…..”

“Who is it ”?

“Somebody called Madeline Frey something …”!

“Does she want to see our Feet”?

“She’s not seeing my feet she looks like a man…”

I coughed to trying to bring the focus back to me, “ I AM a man and I don’t want to see anybody’s feet…alright”?

“Is it Thursday..? Don’t we have Bingo on a Thursday ”!

“And Fish on Friday’s …”

“We had fish today…!”

“They told me that was Chicken”.

“Tasted like Fish…”

“Yeah always does… That was chicken… I think they put vinegar on it makes it taste like fish”.

“Ladies…” I tried to bring the room to order, “Actually it’s only Wednesday…”

“What is ”?

“Today Is…”

“So you  ‘Ave come to see our feet then….?”

Already I’m ready to give up, “Would you prefer to watch the John Wayne film ”?

“Who”?

“John Wayne ”!

“I thought you said ‘is name was Madeline something or other….”

I coughed for silence, deep breath one last supreme effort, “I’m here to talk about local History, I have written a book on the subject”.

“What ”?

“A Book…”

“What about it ”?

“Did he leave it here ”?

“Tuesday is book day…. That big Van comes…”

“Is that the one that smells of Pee ”?

“No…! That’s the Mini bus ”!

“Ladies , Ladies… I- W-R-O-T-E  T-H-E  B-O-O-K ”!

“What about ”?

“Local History …About our town.”

“What’s he sayin’ ”?

“He asking about local history….”

“OH That ! What does he want to know?  I can remember the German’s dropped a bomb what killed a Cow during the war… best stew we’d had in years…”!

My heart sank, if nothing else I know when to quit….“I’ll just pop out and see if the tea is coming!”

“Who was that ”?

“Said his name was John Wayne I think”.

“You sure ? Though John Wayne always wore a big hat… hope his horse isn’t crapping on our lawn”!

Ya know those dangling cords that you are supposed to pull only in an Emergency ?

Well I pulled it….Twice !!

But what the Hell ! I Don’t Care !   I’m still putting Public Speaker on my CV…. !

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Authors are not Gurus – Guest Post By Merlin Fraser

One of the problems of becoming a published writer is that people start to think that you have some sort of sage like wisdom that you can magically impart to all who ask.

If only, the Social Media world of Facebook and LinkedIn is littered with all sorts of would be Gurus and their disciples spouting the word and dispensing all sorts of wise words and advice to the uninitiated. Hey ! Don’t get me wrong there are some great people on LinkedIn that are indeed a great source of ‘Writing’ wisdom but most of the rest deal in encouragement and confidence boosting.

Like a lot of writers I get invites to talk to writers groups, of course they don’t want to hear me talk what they really want is for them to take it in turns to read something to me for an instant critique, which again is not something they really want to hear, especially the truth.

Therefore, what I do instead is set myself up as one of them, someone with perhaps more experience in where I’ve been, how I got where I am, the mistakes and pitfall to avoid and so on. What I prefer is a straight question and answer session, and the most popular questions are variations about story plotlines, or how to create characters and make them believable?

Of course, here I’m talking fictional stories, and depending upon the chosen genre it is essential to start the story with something that will hook the reader immediately and then flow in a believable way from there. This is where the creation of the of the characters who are going to bring your story to life comes in.

I have read many great stories that should have pulled my emotions every which way but failed because the characters were poorly created or unbelievable in the role. Whether you realise it or not reading a book is a flat 2D world and it is up to us as writers to turn our story into 3D in the mind and imagination of the reader.

We need the reader to get involved with the story and we achieve this through the characters we create. So decide early what emotions you want from the reader towards each of the main characters. Of course, here is also the place for creating deception in the story by making the reader dislike a character that may later turn out to be the hero or vice versa.

Our characters must, at all times, remain in character, unless in the story they temporarily step out of charter for a reason, but make that reason clear or you run the risk of the reader being side tracked into thinking “so and so wouldn’t do or say that”.

The emotions we create for our characters, in any situation, only come alive if we can also induce them into the reader, we want them to smile or laugh with the character, feel sorrow and pain and yes, even cry real tears with them.

So, where do we find the inspiration to create our characters ? Please do not be tempted to use real people, like family members, friends or acquaintances, remember they might one day read your work and may be less than flattered at your portrayal.

In my Inner Space, Nick Burton Murder Mystery stories I have been told that my characters feel genuinely real, and of course, in many ways they are and hopefully when you meet them they are people you want to know and take an interest in what happens to them. But No; I am not Nick Burton, although I have been told that he and I do share many annoying similarities and one or two better bits.

However, most of the key characters are created out of bits and pieces of real people from my past and of course, but I create their physical appearance to suit the part they have to play. In this instance, the most important piece you take from real people is knowing how they would react to any given situation.

We all know people who when faced with any new or difficult situation will stand well back saying, “Someone should do something” with no intention of ever being that someone.

Then again, I’m sure we also know someone who is first in, taking charge, dishing out instructions and so forth. So you get my drift, we all know a lot of people, from the very old, to the very young. From the very timid to the rash and bold, males as well as females, study them and use them all as required.

Of course, it also helps if you are someone like me, someone who in life has been around many blocks, had many opportunities to travel to far off places and mix with people outside your normal world. In addition, of course, you need to become a serious people watcher and something of a nosey bugger to boot.

Frequent busy places, train stations, airports, cafes and supermarkets are great places to people watch, sit there long enough and the whole world will pass before your eyes. Yet, listen as well as watch, some of my best character quotes, or misquotes have come from complete strangers passing though my life.

Next Question please.

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Author Spotlight – Merlin Fraser

Welcome!

Please introduce yourself.

Hi my name is Merlin Fraser, Scottish born but brought up in the Cotswold Hills of Gloucestershire before leaving to join the Royal Navy in 1963.
After the Navy, I joined the new UK oil industry that was starting to blossom in the North Sea and at last I found his true niche in life. Then as now, I enjoyed solving puzzles and challenges and found the oil business supplied both in abundance. Never a great lover of routine, I turned this skill of solving problems into a vocation that was to last for the next 30 years.

Writing is my third career and one where instead of solving puzzles I get to create them for my story characters and hopefully my readers.

When did you start writing?

Probably more years than I care to admit to but in truth I have always been a bit of a scribbler, I tried my hand at creating a Ships Newspaper but with only a manual typewriter and a hand cranked Gestetner printing machine to hand, that and being the sole member of staff to boot it was doomed.
Serious writing only started after 9/11 and the collapse of my oil industry career, not that I knew it was over at the time, but sitting watching children’s TV in the afternoons is a great motivator to get off your butt and try something new.

What motivates you to write?

Waking up in the middle of the night with a story idea that won’t quit, but also the notion that if I don’t act upon the idea immediately the thought will evaporate like the other dreams of the night. Of course, I am also a great people watcher and sometimes the things I see and hear create new characters that get stored away until needed. In addition, I am a undisciplined ‘Google’ wanderer, I may start doing some serious research but after a few key strokes, I am usually off track and visiting new places. However, it has to be said that such random wandering led me to the Pagan and paranormal worlds that fascinate me.

What genre do you write in and what made you chose this particular genre?

Tough question, I have had most success with my Inner Space Police Detective Nick Burton Murder Mystery stories, but this was not my first attempt at genre selection. Earlier I said I had spent, or wasted time watching Children’s TV in the afternoons, this led to the thought ‘what utter tosh this is’ and the thought that I could do better. Yeah right! Writing for the screen is not like writing a story, for a start you need to know what you are doing and I didn’t. However, by this time the story was in my head, so I started to write it down instead. Genre wise it crossed too many boundaries for an agent to promote to potential publishers, it was a sort of romantic, magical, fantasy, a bit like Harriet Potter meets the Walton’s if you can work that out. Anyway, it lays gathering dust on a memory stick somewhere. In addition, of course, there is also my sortie into stories for children with my creation of ‘Dust Bunny’ characters who take a young human girl into their world, something else that totally failed to capture anyone’s imagination. Finally, I have ventured into the ‘Non Fiction’ world of local history, limited interest but important to me.

What is your goal in writing? Do you have dreams where your writing should take you?

All writers have dreams, at least when we start out; we are all going to be the next Mark Twain or Earnest Hemingway, and perhaps in the days before Amazon and the internet who knows ? Trouble these days is that anyone with a keyboard and a link to the internet can flood the marketplace. There is now just so much available online that it is almost impossible for anybody unknown to shine through, no matter how brilliant his or her work might be. Not sure, I had any dreams other than perhaps the usual ones of ‘Fame and Fortune’, although I would prefer fortune to fame, retirement is an expensive business, but a little bit of fame might not hurt.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if yes, how do you deal with it?

I think all writers hit that wall at some time in their projects, I know I do. Sometimes, especially in fiction where you are trying to confound or misdirect the reader you can be too clever and write yourself into a corner. Life is another constant distraction and can play havoc with creative juices. When it happens to me I have found that the simple answer is to walk away, trying to force things just makes it worse. Do or start something else, I created the Dust Bunnies during a dark moment of total plot block in the second Nick Burton story, I didn’t go back to that story for four months. I then reread everything from my plot line, character creation notes, and the first six chapters then slept on it. At four thirty the following morning I switched the computer on, cut out two whole chapters and started from there. In the night, my brain had come up with an ending that I eventually reached eighteen chapters later. I guess what I’m saying is never give in to writer’s block, there is usually a logical reason it happens.

What advice would you like to give new, hopeful authors?

Another tough question, but an important one nonetheless. Practice your art, write for fun, start with Blogs and see if you can gain a following, which happens if you are amusing or entertaining your audience. Don’t expect miracles, remember we are all minnows in a vast ocean and if you cannot take disappointment and rejection in your stride find another hobby.

Please, tell us about your work.

When I started writing and trying to break into that world the publishing industry was in turmoil. No one took new writers seriously; especially the mainline Book Publishers, they and literary agents were all looking for sure things. Things like ‘Celebrity Kiss and Tell Cookery Books’. Of course, at the same time Amazon was establishing themselves as the new road to market and the world of the 99¢ ‘Self-Publishing’ exploded onto the online market.
I could not have picked a worse time to start out. I tried the conventional way to market before I too turned to Self-Publishing. I probably made every mistake possible, even falling foul of the Sharks in the ‘Vanity Press’ scam. (Be careful they are still around, no one who asks for money to publish your book is your friend). Yet in spite of all the expensive errors, I finally got myself into print with my Inner Space Murder Mystery series. However once there you cannot rest on your laurels you have to push, push, and push all the time. The minute you stop, you slip down and disappear. Of course, in the wonderful digital world, there are always ways of reinventing yourself and every now and then, you come across someone genuine to help you.

In my case it was a couple of guys who took an interest in my Inner Space stories and suggested that they could turn them into Audio Books. I just about bit their hands off. It has been hard work bringing that to fruition, they had one or two ideas on how to improve the story, something no writer ever wants to hear, but they were right and between us, we revamped and revised without destroying my original story or plotline. The first book is complete and to compliment the Audio version I have renamed and released a new print version with a new cover.

Thank you for being my guest. It was such a pleasure to have you here!!


Connect with Merlin:

www.linkedin.com/in/merlin-fraser-92a0b7b/

www.facebook.com/Merlin-Fraser-1389201244731921/

merlinfraser123@aol.com


Links to the new “Inner Space” books:

www.amazon.com/Inner-Space-Merlin-Fraser/dp/1999719522

Audio

www.amazon.com/Inner-Space/dp/B07FDPG3KD

 

Floater’s Rismus.

Merlin Fraser who I have the pleasure to be friends with and who is an excellent writer, has published a story about Floater, one of his “Dust Bunnies”. I love these stories and I love the dust bunnies as well. I wish Merlin would publish them more often, so we all could spread word about them. They’re simply adorable. But see for yourself and enjoy.

Merlinfraser's Blog

christmas-treeA Christmas Special from the Further Adventures of Maggie and the Dust Bunnies.  ©

Author:  Merlin Fraser

Floater’s Rismus.                 

 DB1‘Tinkle, Tinkle, Tinkle.’ The sound of a little bell went through the house.  Instantly Whatsit the dog was on his paws with tail wagging at the possibility of rejoining his pals upstairs.

Grandmother let out one long sigh; already she was regretting giving Carrie and Andy the little brass bell.  She had given it to them so that they could summons her instead of shouting at the top of their voices as they had been doing up until now.

Only one week until Christmas day and both the children in her care were down with the flu and confined to bed.  Carrie’s was the bigger room with two single beds, so for her own convenience Grandmother had put the pair of them in together, with the bell on a…

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