Here you are, one sunshine-bright and rather (very) early Sunday morning. The cats are crashed on their separate perches, Damien and the Buttkicker are still asleep.

Outside your windows is the lassitude of a warm, quiet summer morning, not too long after sunrise, which arrives at the ungodly hour of about 4:30 AM in this part of the world. The air is perfumed with blooming elderflower, grass, the hint of a hot day to come. A few sleepy wood doves are cooing in the hedge outside.

Which is, at this hour of the morning, about as lyrical as you get without the benefit of a major jolt of caffeine.

I am not yet fully awake. It is, as I said, very early. I make myself some coffee and add milk.

I grab the wrong carton out of the fridge. It’s buttermilk, something I don’t discover until I’ve taken the first sip and swallow before I realize what’s happening. It is so vile there should be laws against it, especially before 6 AM on a Sunday.

It’s going to be that kind of Sunday.

A few minutes later, I come to discover that then again, maybe it’s not going to be that kind of morning.

Because, ladies, gents and fellow sentient beings, I have received the ultimate blogospheric accolade. I have been given credit for inspiring another blogger, another one of my faithful readers, to take his own blog into new and unknown territory.

Fried Dog Leg claimed my paltry words set off a singular epiphany in his own curly neocortex, and prompted him to think sideways, about what his blog was, which directions it had taken and which ones it could take, and that maybe it was time for – a change.

It was all my fault.

That, readers, is an accolade of no small proportions. I am bowing from the bottom of my Balinese desk chair, tickled a not entirely flattering shade of fuchsia.

I have a lot to thank the World Wide Web for, really, I do. That’s how I found the Buttkicker, who helped make Damien. That’s how I found the Buttkicker, who got me writing. That’s how I got started on The Effing Book, and how I conducted a large chunk of my research, since I couldn’t afford the books, not even second-hand, and how I found my proofreaders and badly needed experts on ancient Rome and Pagan Iron Age Ireland.

But best of all, all things being equal, relatively speaking, is that I get a chance to connect with other people on a scale never before experienced in human history. My blog stats tell me I have readers from the US, the UK, Roumania, Brazil. There are accidental encounters from Argentina, Palau, and Australia, Malaysia and South Africa, Russia and New Zealand.

Some of them even take the time to read what I have to say.

For an unpublished writer with ambitions of something more, something other, something called a reputation (so long as it’s tarnished and not entirely squeaky-clean), this is pretty mind-blowing.

It’s pretty mind-blowing, that if you take the time to go digging through the flotsam and jetsam, the odds and ends and general detritus of the internet, you can find more head-exploding dynamite, more epiphanies, more words and images and sounds that enrich you and enlarge you and encourage you – to keep going and keep growing, and. above all else, to keep – writing, because you never know.

Some sunshiney day, some run-of-the-mill Sunday morning, you might discover that your voice in the void, your scream in the abyss, your audience of one has touched another soul out there, got them thinking, given them some microscopic epiphany that expanded their horizon and brightened their day.

That’s what the internet is, folks, that’s what the blogosphere does, that’s the moment that makes it all worthwhile.

That’s why I blog. Because you never know.

In the great Eureka Emporium of the blogosphere, you just might find a friend and a kindred soul.

And some bright summer morning, they might return the favor.

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Lately, when I haven’t been wheezing, playing out the female characters from Pixar’s “Cars”, or playing out all the characters in the Effing Book, where many interesting things have happened lately, I have been catching up on all the fun I ‘ve missed, including devouring several days’ worth of the NY Times, never a bad thing. And there, I came across an article that got me thinking about a phenomenon unique to this day and age – blogging.

Really, the idea is simple. It’s the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London, but you don’t have to get dressed, it doesn’t matter if it rains and anyone at all anywhere in the world can read your immortal – or not – words, argue or agree with you, heckle or harangue you. The word is yours, the floor is yours and if you’re even halfway good, so the myth goes, you might even hit the Cinderella jackpot and go on to book deals and the Oprah Book Club!

Stranger things have been known to happen.

And it can be about anything, anything at all! There are – lifestyle blogs, book blogs, political blogs, animal blogs, blogs about blogs. It is, at least in certain parts of the world, freedom of expression at its finest.

Anything goes, and many things do. There’s just one problem with all that online verbosity. It is, however, a big problem.

Nine times out of ten, nine blogs out of ten – you’re writing for an audience of precisely – one. There you are, blowing the world apart by the seams by your sheer, utter, blinding brilliance – or bs, take your pick – on whatever ails you/grabs you/ills you/thrills you at any given moment, and all you’re really doing when push comes to shove is – showing off? Exposing your narcissism? Polishing your ego? Practicing your writing skills – or the total lack thereof?

Because you’re the only one that reads it! And let’s face it, darlings – after a while, even you can find your own dazzling perspicacity rather – lackluster. You want feedback, you want adulation and accolades, you want that book deal and your bottom on Oprah’s couch, frothing at the gills on camera over the subject du jour.

Oh, yes, you do!

Don’t you?

There’s a certain liberation that goes with online identity, You can be anyone, anything you desire. You can open up your mouth and insert your foot, size 5 or 15, but if no one is listening, who cares?

It used to bug me, that I wasn’t one of those bloggers with umpteen zillion followers. Some of those who have many followers I’ve lurked over, wondering what they were doing right that I wasn’t. I even began subscribing to a “how-to-promote-your-blog” newsletter, and then gave up when I realized that I could write the Effing Book and use this modest little soapbox for a verbal test lab, or I could try to create a total Moltenmetalmama brand – like Coca Cola, Astro-Glide and Metallica – and I could whistle for writing a novel.

It would be a screaming shame to see nearly seven years of sweat, blood and many, many tears go down the drain because I got seduced by the blogosphere. I’m arrogant enough to think I’m better than that. Or if I’m not, then my story is.

That article made me aware of something I didn’t even know. That even as I write this now, I’m still ahead of the game, precisely because I have followers – all five of them, and that I care very much indeed about each and every one of them. Only one of you knows me in the real world. (He also knows what happens when I get too close to a tequila bottle – and may forgive me – some day. )

I’m not here, yelling into the void, to polish my own halo or sell my solipsism. I’m not out to make a zillion bucks in ads or even a book deal, although I wouldn’t protest too much if I had one, and I do think that some day, I will – have one.

I’m here to become a better writer, to get my head out of history, to let rip and let go and see where my words will take me. You, my fantabulous reader/followers, are here because you’ve found something interesting to read – or you’ve found an interesting mind – or – you tell me!

That’s six people right there, who didn’t know each other a year ago, all brought together by a few words knitted together by yours truly.

Not so bad. Now, I just have to stay ahead and take care I don’t bore you all to death, so that I end up as – an audience of one.

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It’s damned hard to concentrate on anything so ephemeral as a book when outside your windows, Nature is exploding, full of flowers and scents and greenery. All I want to do is lie on my back in the grass, bare toes buried in the daisies and the dandelions, and look for animals in the clouds with Damien, except there are no clouds at all. The sky is a limitless blue, the grass is the retina-burning green of the best emeralds, and the cherry trees are blooming. As Damien said yesterday: “It’s raining flowers, Mommy.”

So it is. It’s raining flowers. Hurray, hurray, the First of May, outdoors – never mind.

May, and flowers, and cherry trees are all distractions from my current mental toothache, or headache. For a long time, I have suffered a bad case of writer’s block. Not here, and not on my other blog. Blogs are easy – the avoidance actions, to use a psychological term, of would-be writers who can’t write the Important Stuff, the stuff they – vainly, for the most part – think will make them Rich and Famous, or at least rich. I have two rules when I set out to write either of the two blogs I own – first, that it is extemporal. I have one idea when I start, and I have none at all as to how I finish. It’s just a question of seeing where my words will take me at that particular moment. There’s no rehearsal, I don’t write it in my head beforehand, I just – go, and let the whole unholy mess speak for itself. The other rule is that no blog can take more than two hours to write. The one exception – also found here – was a birthday tribute that ended up reading like a besotted funeral eulogy for someone who’s still alive, only because it was cold, raining, and Damien decided to let me suffer for it by constant interruption whenever I located a train of thought. Spelling mistakes, bad sentences and typos are corrected, but other than that, it’s the Standup School of Writing.

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to improvise, ever since I prepared for my graduation by wallowing in sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, rather than Thucydides, Plato and Aristophanes, and I still managed to get a B in my final oral Greek exam.

Smoke and mirrors and an overlarge vocabulary will get you nearly everywhere. There’s a lot to be said for the Act As If philosophy.

Then, there’s that Other Thing. The Important Stuff. The Potentially Rich and Famous Stuff. The stuff that gives me heart palpitations, and performance anxiety, and has me staring at my beloved Macbook for hours wishing someone would please shoot me, now.

For the past seven years, I have been writing a book with the working title “The Effing Book”. For almost two of those years, I was unable to write because I had a baby in the interim, so instead, with the help of a friendly fellow Romanophile PhD student with a large book collection, I did an enormous amount of research on all the facts I got so wrong the first – two – times around.

I called it “The Effing Book”, as in “When ARE you going to finish that (insert expletive) book?” It’s a historical novel set in the early third century in Roman Britain and in pre-Christian Ireland, so there are certain limitations and rules to observe. My facts – such as they are – have to be true to the time, and even more important, the mindset of 1800 years ago. It’s harder than you think, to leave the 21st century behind. Which is partly the reason why I do it to begin with. Imagine a world – with no pollution, no cars, no electricity, no Internet, no TV. You might think that things were simpler then, and in some respects, they were. In all that matters, however, people are people regardless of what time they live in, and so, they screw up their lives and the lives of others every bit as badly as anyone does today.
Nevertheless, I plowed through. I recreated the story to fit the proper historical context, changed things around, introduced a whole new cast of characters and a better class of villain. I started over, if not entirely from scratch, two years ago, and in that time, I also worked at several demanding full-time jobs with strange hours, raised a little boy from toddler terror to preschooler poet – “it’s raining flowers!” – and kept him from drowning one cat in the toilet or microwaving the other one. I also listened to an awful lot of Norse metal, an unhealthy amount of Brooklyn ditto, and a smattering of Irish sean nos folk music as I wrote. I maintained the Buttkicker’s internet addiction and our marriage. And – I wrote. Four chapters.

Four chapters in two years. Admit it – you’re underwhelmed with admiration. They are, if I say so myself, long chapters, a total of some 300+ pages in manuscript. Their facts are 150% accurate – when it comes to historical detail, I have absolute OCD. They are, for the most part, ready for publication, and I put the first three chapters to the test. I became a member of an online writing critique website, and put up different scenes, out of order, for critique.

I braced myself for the worst, and was surprised by what I got. My reviews ran the gamut from “Harry Potter ripoff” (one smartaleck 13-year-old) to “one of the best things I’ve read here so far”. Some of those people I critiqued myself, and in the process, we became friends with a particular kind of disease – The Writing Itch. Friends, that is, with the right to tear into each other’s prose, but luckily, we’re all so fantabulously talented – if unpublished – we rarely have to.

When I got hit by the “wtf happens next” blues, the Buttkicker sprang into action. We would camp out on our respective dilapidated sofas and hash out the storyline. From the very beginning, he’s been as big a part of this as I have – rooting from the sidelines, graciously accepting “I’m writing tonight”, and telling me, in exceedingly plain English, when I suck, and why, and how it might be improved. He has vetoed some ideas and introduced other ones, but he has emphatically not been the one who sits there in front of the screen sweating bullets to achieve perfect prose. It’s all my party, and I can cry if I want to. When a chapter is done, he lies down, eyes closed, and I read it through aloud, sometimes to raves, sometimes not.

Then, wouldn’t you know, I realized something – that I wasn’t writing – enough. Or else that I was writing too – disciplined, too hamstrung by history. I needed an outlet for all my 21st century fits of pique, or else just my fits.

I created this blog, and I let rip.

Meanwhile, every other day or so, I would open up The Effing Book, and stare blankly at the screen and the flashing cursor. Nope, it ain’t happening, not today. Didn’t happen yesterday, either. Not bloody likely tomorrow. I want to browse Net A Porter, instead, badly, and drool over Matthew Williamson, not wrangle with siblings who detest each other to a fratricidal extent or Irish kings being browbeaten by their druids, or deal with total teenaged sexual humiliation. And meanwhile, your protagonist is literally languishing in a fishing boat on the Irish sea, and will be nearly dead in about eighteen hours.

Think about it – how in Hades DO you manage to pull a story – any story – out of the ether and onto paper, and into books?
You do it by sacrificing – family time, spouse time, friend time. You get used to having hairy legs and bushy eyebrows. Your clean clothes can fester in the dryer for – oh, the horror – 12 hours! Women your age meet for coffee and discuss the delights of living without their kids, whereas I left that rather late, deal with a four-year-old, and nitpick my characters, but not nearly so much as I nitpick my prose. I think I’d gladly kill for a grandparent nearby, but alas, the ones that live are 6000 miles away and I am an orphan now.

Tant pis, as the French say.

Mainly, I suspect it boils down to a bad case of performance anxiety. I’m conjuring up ghosts, the ghosts of an age long since past, and in some cases, those ghosts are real enough. I’m conjuring ghosts from cobwebs and book dust through a long, dark tunnel called “history”.

There’s the rub. Now, if I could forget about the “his” part and just settle for the story, I might go somewhere, instead of getting stuck in the flypaper of my own time.

Aha! An idea! So, OK. Tie the kid to a beanbag. Gag the buttkicker. Feed the cats. Here goes.

“Remind me to kill you at my earliest opportunity.”
“Certainly. If you don’t get distracted and I kill you first.”
“You wish, brother.”
“Ah, Antoninus. You have no idea how much!”

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