On freedom, a very special parrot named William, and Indie publishing

It appears that Indie publishing has somehow become all things to all men.
There are those who claim it has freed the artist from the shackles of conventional publishing, others who claim it has brought a decline in literary standards, the like of which we have never seen before.
For many, previously established authors, it is the devil. For those who once sat languishing in Rejection Slip Land* it is deliverance. For those who have published and been damned, by the fickle whims of amateur critic and book-buying public, it is a cruel and heartless judge of literacy and creativity.
A pet adult Congo African Grey Parrot in Norway.
But, there is another way to view the Indie revolution, and to do that we first need to meet William.
I met William on a number of occasions, and considered him a very special parrot and a very special character. Sitting in his cage by the bar, of the aptly named Port William Hotel in the picturesque North Cornish hamlet of Trebarwith Strand, William entertained passing clientele with his own special and unarguably ribald, commentary.
English: The Port William, Trebarwith At one t...
Each syllable had been learnt, in true parrot-fashion style, from a succession of smiling faces, many of whom were the worse for drink. They would stand before his cage, and repeat vulgar and inane words and phrases, ad nauseam, until he had dutifully mimicked the sounds. Only when he had modulated his own high-pitched squawk with their inane commentary would they chortle in triumph and leave William to his solitude.
However, few of those who peered through the bars understood that lurking beyond William’s chirpy and cheerful facade was a depressive bird, with a dark and unhappy secret. What each of them failed to realise was that when William was alone he would cling to the bars of his cage, and peer out of the window across the rocky North Cornwall coastline to the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
In those moments of loneliness and solitude William would dream his dreams of fresh air and freedom, and remember a time long ago when he had been as free as the endless expanse of fresh air and space that he now so secretly coveted.
But then, one day, two humble cleaners gave William the opportunity he had dreamed of during all those years of captivity. While cleaning his cage, one cleaner had let him out to wander around the bar area, not realising that the other cleaner had left the door to the outside world open.
A Congo African Grey Parrot flying. Deutsch: G...
William took his chance. Like a shot he was out of the door, into the air, and away.
He flew first over the cove and along the cliffs, and for a while they thought he might return, but then William did the strangest thing. . . he turned to the west and headed out to sea.
It was only a matter of seconds before he began to tire; only a matter of a few hundred yards before untrained wings, left weak through so many years in that cage, began to fail him.
William was swallowed by the Atlantic Ocean that day. Some say he was disorientated and lost his bearings, others that he was just a bird-brained parrot who knew not what he was doing or why.
I disagreed. I believe that William chose freedom over servitude. I believe that, whether he had made it all the way to his homeland and natural habitat or drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, William cared little, because for those few brief moments of fresh air and ozone he was truly free.
I choose to believe that, as he headed out to sea, William resolved that he would never again be confined to amusing the drunk and the moronic from an ugly cage in a smoke-filled bar.

English: Tintagel: near Treknow Looking toward...And that, to a certain extent, is how I and a great many other Indie authors feel.
We have no idea how successful we may or may not become. We may become best-selling novelists, or sink and drown in the deepest oceans of our own inadequacy, but there is one thing that we are certain of. . . We will never again be caged, and abused, and patronised, and ignored, by agents and publishers and those inane guardians of the literary slush piles.

Have a good one.

*For those unfamiliar with the term, Rejection Slip Land did actually exist. It was a dreary and depressing island, with many hundreds of thousands of brutalised subjects. All were furiously writing the next blockbuster novel, and all had applied for literary asylum with less astringent regimes. It boasted a governing Presidium of six, who occasionally accepted proposals but rarely acceded to the enclosed entreatment, and an Olympic team of one, whose entry for the ‘20 yard dash from study to greet the postman’ was declined on the basis of an incorrectly worded application (I blamed his editor).

‘Quality Literature’ – A guide to worth, or elitist twaddle?

Quality is one of those words that can never be defined in terms that completely satisfy everyone. During my years in the armed forces it simply described functional and hardwearing equipment; accurate side-arms that didn’t jam, comfortable boots that lasted, and so on. Then, during my years in commerce, the advertising agencies adopted it and quickly expanded its definition.
At the beginning of the nineteen-eighties it was the stock word for just about every marketing slogan the computer industry ever coined. By the end of that decade it had become a ‘buzz word’ for everything from good working practice to meaningful and fulfilling leisure time.
Quality Seafood
I love the feel and resonance of the word. To me it conjures images of soft-leather chairs, and polished-mahogany tables, sumptuous living, expensive cigars, and twenty-year-old scotch. It can be as pretentious as ‘bling’ and emotive as an exclamation, or as informative as the bluntest adjective.
Most will concede it is entirely subjective, and yet, when it comes to literature, its use seems to stir up all manner of snobbery and polarised opinion.
There are still literary agencies, on both sides of the Atlantic, who insist they will only accept submissions of ‘quality literature’, although, and at the same time, failing to properly explain their precise definition of the term.
Cover of "Complete Works of William Shake...
Some will insist that popular literature cannot be quality literature, and yet I have the complete works of William Shakespeare sitting on my bookshelves, as do millions like me from across the globe. Perhaps, as with certain types of rain in a drought, Shakespeare’s popularity is the wrong kind of popularity.
Maybe it is all to do with fashion. After all, D.H. Lawrence was considered a purveyor of ‘filth and pornography’ not so very long ago, whereas today the purists will excuse Lawrence’s previous denigration, at the hands of the self-appointed  guardians of quality literature, by claiming that. . . ‘The man was obviously born before the world was ready to embrace his genius’.
Maybe the cynical among us are right. Maybe quality literature is a term we use to describe the books we all like to say we’ve read, rather than the books we actually like to read. Perhaps there has to be an element of ‘donning the hair shirt’ about settling into quality literature.
Me. . . ? I change my definition every couple of years.
Cover of "Five on a Treasure Island (Famo...
For example. . . At the age of five, if anyone had claimed that Enid Blyton’s Noddy series was anything but quality literature, I would have hit them with my teddy bear. By the time I had reached the grand old age of ten, Noddy had been supplanted by The Famous Five and dear old Shadow the Sheepdog. When I was thirteen, Charles Dickens had assumed the mantle, but then, at the age of seventeen, Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge was ‘my speed’. At nineteen, a politically radical postman from Derbyshire, named J.T. Edson, and the exploits of cowboy hero and fastest gun ‘Dusty Fog’ had become my literature of choice. Dear old J.T. was in turn supplanted by Louis L’Amour, and he by D.H. Lawrence and a little-known but much-read author named Burton Wohl, whose best-selling novel, A Cold Wind in August,  was roundly castigated as ‘filthy dross’.
Cover of "The Mayor of Casterbridge"
Now who does that remind you of, today?

Some may claim the authors mentioned are a hotchpotch, writing everything from the so-called classics and quality literature to pornography and pulp fiction, but each has, at different times in my life, drawn me, and enthralled me,  and enlightened me, and transported me, and devoured me.
By my definition, any book that has the power to do such a thing constitutes quality literature.
So there you have it. Quality literature. Something to do with age, something to do with time, something to do with fashion, something to do with influence, something to do with environment, something to do with education, something to do with creativity,  something to do with prose style, something to do with culture, something to do with the literary establishment, something to do with peer pressure, something to do with interpretation, something to do with emotivity.

But, and most importantly. . . Everything to do with you, the individual.

Have a good one.