We can be heroes... by Cally Phillips

Just for one day.  

Since I am fundamentally non Christian and non capitalist, I don’t celebrate Christmas. So in a couple of months when you are settling down to your turkey or beef or chocolate, carols, repeats on TV and family arguments, I will be having, let’s see, this year it will be a normal Tuesday. I have only celebrated one Christmas in the past 30 years and it was my mother’s dying wish to spend her last Christmas with me. I’m not heartless!

Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not miserable. I’m just a person who tends to commemorate rather than celebrate. For me, celebrations are personal affairs. I celebrate my birthday, wedding Anniversary and Valentine’s Day (which happily all fall on the same day – three for the price of one!) but as someone who sits comfortably ‘outside’ the mainstream of society, I don’t find there’s anything of society that I want to ‘celebrate.’ I certainly don’t want to indulge in an orgy of eating, drinking, making merry and retail ‘therapy’ while there are starving people and cruelty to animals worldwide!   Instead I commemorate. Important events. And anniversaries.  And it just so happens that a flood of these are coming up which I’d like to share with you.

The first and most significant one to me personally is on October 9th.  Which marks the anniversary of the death (murder) of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.  For me Oct 8th  is like your Christmas Eve and Oct 9th like your Christmas Day – but more serious and with less of a party atmosphere.  It’s a time for respect and reflection for me. Che Guevara has been a part of my life since the 1970’s and I was lucky enough to make my first visit to Cuba in 1999. Luckier in that it was work not tourism. So I got to see ‘the real’ or at least ‘a’ real Cuba.  While there I achieved the accolade of being called ‘a serious writer’ which to me was better than winning a Nobel Prize. Later I was also given the attribution of being a ‘skilly writer’ which I am skilly enough to translate as meaning that I ‘write with skill’ – skill being more of a ‘serious’ concept than ‘talent’ and thus meaning more to me than winning the Booker Prize. Each to his own huh? 

I owe a long and personal double debt to Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and to Cuba and her people and it’s a lifetime in the repaying, but I do my best.  I am motivated by what Che called ‘moral incentives’ rather than material incentives and I try to hold true to his famous quote
‘Words that do not match deeds are unimportant’ I think this is a very apposite statement for a writer to bear in mind.  Writing is fine but what are you doing about it?

Well because it’s my non Xmas, I’m giving away a gift. A free ebook of the screenplay which was one of the results of my first trip to Cuba.  For more free stuff go to my own blog on theday.

Fighting for Breath is the biopic of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara told from a very different perspective than you will have seen or heard of him before. It’s more about the man than the myth and suggests that his asthmatic condition (and the requirement for adrenaline it necessitated) was of supreme importance and influence in his life choices. Coupled with his complex personal relationships my screenplay suggests these two factors are key to an understanding of the man who became a myth.

And if straight fiction is more your bag, I’m also republishing Another World is Possible in a special 35th Anniversaryedition. Both of these will be ‘published’ on 9th October, but of course AE blog readers can get a sneak download/purchase preview or buying opportunity from today.  

The other important ‘event’ of this month for me is World Mental Health Day on the 10th October. With my IEBR ‘hat’ on we are running a Mental Health Special Feature which will extend over the best part of a fortnight with commentary and reviews.

To understand another person we are often advised to ‘Walk a mile in their shoes.’  I think that a lot of the writing featured in the IEBR Mental Health Special allows you to ‘spend a while in another mind’ and that is the power of the writing.  Opening with an introduction on 6th October there will be daily features from AE (or former AE) authors until October 14th and the reviews on the following week also feature indie writers for whom mental health issues are important in their writing.  Please do let people know about World Mental Health Day and the IEBR ‘special’ and more importantly talk, blog and write about mental health issues. Do something to raise awareness –remember ‘words that do not match deeds are unimportant.’  And mental health is an issue for all of us.

Back to the more personal/domestic now.  I know that we are supposed to be ‘developing platforms’ but for me I find I’m tending more towards the concept of  ‘carving out a niche’. I’m really not a ‘mainstream’ kind of person.  I’m not suggesting that there aren’t lots of people out there who might like my work (though there may not be) but I have spent a lifetime fighting ‘gatekeepers’ and then giving them the bodyswerve and simply ‘doing it myself.’  I’ve done that in the fields of screenwriting, playwriting and now fiction writing and publishing.  I do believe that we ordinary people can be ‘heroes’ if only for one day – that’s the epublishing question of visibility rearing its ugly head again isn’t it? For me heroism is seen more vitally in the individual sticking to their principles rather than the mad rush for fame and fortune and ‘mass market penetration.’  

However, in the last month I’ve published two new ebooks (plays) both of which have some element of the heroic in them.  First we have the legendary James Bond. in Bond is Back... The movie franchise celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and I found the play I wrote which nearly made it to production at the 40th anniversary.  Now you can read it – it’s Abigail’s Party meets The Man with the Golden Gun. Kiss kiss, bang bang! Who could resist that?

And post Olympic we have a look at sporting ‘heroes’ with Powerplay. Not of our ‘culture’ but the ‘religion’ of Canada – ice hockey.  If you know about hockey you’ll love it, but even if you don’t the point of the play needn’t elude you. Basically, love relationships are played out according to the ‘rules’ of ice hockey. With predictably hard hitting results.  This is a story as much about love as about the love of hockey.  Both plays are looking for ‘reading audiences’ and believe me, reading a play on an ebook isn’t as scary or odd as it may seem.  It’s just dialogue and descriptive prose laid out differently after all.

Ten years ago I embarked up on a 3 year Scottish Arts Council residency as Dramatist in Residence for Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association, during which time I founded and ran Bamboo Grove Theatre Company and was, shall we say, creatively hyperactive,  so there are many performance anniversaries coming up on an ebook near you.  I hope you’ll take the opportunity to delve into some words which are generally supported by deeds and which may give you the opportunity to encounter the heroic in a number of forms and to linger for a while in other minds and lives than your own.

A codicil to the words/deeds thought – people constantly click ‘like’ on FB. What do they ‘do’ about their likes? Do they ‘share’ or ‘buy’ or ‘read’ or ‘recommend’? Just a thought. Maybe we can resolve to go beyond the word ‘like’ and progress towards action.  Or is that me being too serious again?

And finally this month (the first anniversary of my first ebook publication) I got my act together to put all my eggs into a basket and now you can browse ALL my ebook publications available to date simply by clicking on the Guerrilla Midgie/HoAmPresst Publishing Catalogue.  (I know it’s hardly a snappy title and I’m open to offers on a better ‘name’ for it. At present it does what it says on the tin at least though.)  It turns out that in the single year I’ve been epublishing I’ve brought out some thirteen titles (seventeen if you count the daily episodes of No Labels) and have another 2 at least to put out before the year ends.  Words matching deeds anyone? 


JO said…
Interesting post, Cally - and haven't you done well this year! You can be hugely proud of all you have achieved.

And here's the link to my October/Christmas thoughts! http://gapyearsthebook.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/its-autumn-not-christmas.html
CallyPhillips said…
Free copy of AWIP in chosen format for first person to spot the deliberate? mistake! Let's just say I can't count and we're all a fair bit younger than we thought!
Lynne Garner said…
Interesting post and I'm off to download your screenplay.
Dan Holloway said…
"For me heroism is seen more vitally in the individual sticking to their principles rather than the mad rush for fame and fortune and ‘mass market penetration.’"

And a great choice of things to celebrate. Very much looking forward to World Mental Health Day. And Che is, thankfully, one of those figures form the twentieth century who never fades
Kathleen Jones said…
having been to Cuba and having a cuban grandchild, I will read your play with interest. I'm with you on Christmas - Neil and I have gone for a walk on the mountains and picnicked on port and mince pies almost every christmas for the last 18 years and we don't buy each other presents. Not every Christmas though, because we have grandchildren and they love the bling - sadly all capitalists!
CallyPhillips said…
A Cuban grandchild. Now that would have been worth having grandchildren (or even children) for. Ah well...

The Cuban connection is the FREE screenplay FIGHTING FOR BREATH and the PAY FOR novel (part of trilogy) I'm deep in Cuba 1989 for the second one. Nice to know there may be something of a 'readership' for books with a Cuban flavour (coffee that is) in the spring! Another World is Possible may whet the appetite. Who knows?
And the WORST place I went to try and avoid Xmas was Beijing. Xmas was everywhere -because of course they EXPORT all the cheap Xmas crap people consume so they LOVE Xmas. Hotels full of jangling songs... I learned my lesson. To avoid Xmas, stay home. Took 20 years to train my family on it, and still struggling after 7 with my 2nd set of in laws. Saying you are non Xtian and non capitalist just doesn't seem to get through to some people even when you BUY them contributions to charity instead of presents. But I live in hope. As always.
Rosalie Warren said…
Thanks, Cally, for the free downloads and the inspiring thoughts.

I'm opting out of Christmas this year - a first for me - and I can't wait!
julia jones said…
Opt out of Christmas? Perish the thought. We need to opt IN. Bring people together, the old ones and the lonely ones and the uncertain ones and have a few days of warmth and togetherness and festivity in the middle of the long cold year.
Cally - you are a very generous person. What a good thing you are also so productive. The only reason for opting out might be to go hide somewhere with only a kindle for company and savour all the reading treats that are piling up...

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