Thoughts, maybe

I remember one day many many years ago seeing a piece of graffiti in a railway tunnel:  “Being undead isn’t being alive”.

At the time I think I was suffering from a mega hangover.  Those were the days where there was no limit to stupidity, particularly when you had to go to work the next day.

But it made we wonder often over the next forty years what the graffiti artist was trying to tell the world.

Being undead?

I think they was alluding to the fact that being alive was more than just drawing breath and eating and sleeping.

I wondered what their predicament was.  Had he or she just broken up with a partner, that painful time when one or other calls it quits.  I suspect that’s not being undead.  I knew what that was like because it had happened to me, and no doubt just about everyone else, over the years, and I can assure you, you know your alive.

It is a pain like no other, that emptiness you feel, the reaching for the phone to talk to the one person you thought understood you, only they are no longer there, turning to the seat where they usually sit, and there is no one there.

Or is it like that feeling of bring betrayed, that awful feeling when you discover your partner is cheating on you, and inevitably you are the last to find out.  No, you feel that pain and it can be overwhelming.

That everyone else knew and thought they’d spare your feelings, hardly spares your feelings and only makes the betrayal worse, because your friends were hardly acting as friends

Being undead?

Might it allude to the fact you have become invisible?  Might it be you have been abandoned by everyone and everything, that feeling of hopelessness?  I suspect it might have been a precursor to depression.

Being Alive?

Is it that sensation of first love, so wonderful and yet so precarious, trying not to do the wrong thing, and inevitably making mistakes.

Is it being with family, the people you love and those who love you, doing simple things, sometimes ending each other’s sentences, or thinking the same thought at the same time?

I guess that’s why, when I write a romance novel, there is always a happy ending.

Sorry, perhaps that’s give the ending away on some of my books!

Short story writing – Actions have consequences

It’s time for the policewoman to arrive.

There is such a thing as pure dumb luck.

If she did not walk through the door when she did then Jack would have walked away.

From the policewoman’s perspective:

 

She crossed the street from the corner instead of remaining on the same side of the street as she did every other night.  When she reached the other sidewalk, she was about 20 yards from the nearest window of the store.

As she crossed, she got a better view of the three people in the store, and noticed the woman, or girl, was acting oddly, as if she had something in her hand, and, from time to time looked down beside her.

A yard or two from the window she stopped, took a deep breath, and then moved slowly, getting a better view of the scene with each step.

Then she saw the gun in the girl’s hand, and the two men, the shopkeeper and a customer, facing her, hands up.

It was a convenience store robbery in progress.

She reached for her radio, but it wasn’t there.  She was off duty.  Instead, she withdrew, and called the station on her mobile phone, and reported the robbery.  The officer on the end of the phone said a car would be there in five minutes.

In five minutes there could be dead bodies.

She had to do something, and reached into her bag and pulled out a gun.  Not her service weapon, but one she carried in case of personal danger.

 

Guns are dangerous weapons in the hands of professional and amateur alike.  You would expect a professional who has trained to use a gun to not have a problem, but consider what might happen in exceptional circumstances.

People freeze under pressure.  Alternately, some shoot first and ask questions later.

We have an edgy and frightened girl with a loaded gun, one bullet or thirteen in a magazine, it doesn’t matter.  It only takes one bullet to kill someone.

Then there’s the trigger pressure, light of heavy, the recoil after the shot and whether it causes the bullet to go into or above the intended target, especially if the person has never used a gun.

The policewoman, with training, will need two hands to take the shot, but in getting into the shop she will need one to open the door, and then be briefly distracted before using that hand to steady the other.

It will take a lifetime, even if it is only a few seconds.

Actions have consequences:

 

The policewoman crouched below the window shelf line so the girl wouldn’t see her, and made it to the door before straightening.  She was in dark clothes so the chances were the girl would not see her against the dark street backdrop.

Her hand was on the door handle about to push it inwards when she could feel in being yanked hard from the other side, and the momentum and surprise of it caused her to lose balance and crash into the man who was trying to get out.

What the hell…

A second or two later both were on the floor in a tangled mess, he gun hand caught underneath her, and a glance in the direction of the girl with the gun told her the situation had gone from bad to worse.

The girl had swung the gun around and aimed it at her and squeezed the trigger twice.

The two bangs in the small room was almost deafening, and definitely disorientating.

Behind her the glass door disintegrated when the bullet hit it.

Neither she or the man beside her had been hit.

Yet.

She felt a kick in the back and the tickling of glass, then broke free as the man she’s run into rolled out of the way.

Quickly on her feet, she saw the girl had gone, and wasted precious seconds getting up off the floor, then out the door to find she had disappeared.

She could hear a siren in the distance.  They’d find her.

 

If she had not picked that precise moment to enter the shop, maybe the man would have got away.

Maybe.

Is she had been aware of the fact he was allowed to leave.

He was lucky not to be shot.

Yet there were two shots, and we know at least one of them broke the door’s glass panel.

 

Next – the epilog

Thoughts, maybe

I’ve been trawling the endless collection of twitter descriptions provided by their users, noting that there is a restriction of 140 characters.

How do you sum yourself up in 140 characters?

I don’t think I can, so we tend to put down a few catch phrases, something that will draw followers.  I’m thinking the word ‘aspiring’ will be my catch word.

I’m aspiring to be a writer, or is that author?  Is there a difference, like for instance, one publishes ebooks on Amazon, one publishes hard copies in the traditional manner?

Is there a guide to what I can call myself?

Quite simply put, but in more than 140 characters, married happily, two wonderful children, three amazing grandchildren, and a wealth of experience acquired over the years.

Actually that sounds rather boring doesn’t it.

Perhaps it would be better if I was a retired policeman, a retired lawyer, a retired sheriff, a retired private investigator, a retired doctor, someone who had an occupation that was a rich mine of information from which to draw upon.

Retired computer programmers, supermarket shelf stackers, night cleaners, accounts clerks and general dogsbody s don’t quite cut the mustard.

I have also become fascinated with the expression ‘killer biography’.  Does it mean that I have to be a ‘killer’?

Better than the self confession above.  Should we try to embellish our personal history in order to make it more appealing?

It’s much the same as writing about daily life.  No one wants to read about it, people want to be taken out of the hum drum of normalcy and be taken into a world where they can become the character in the book.

And there you have it, in a nutshell, why I write.

I want to escape the mundanity of everyday life, and become something, someone else, and, with a little luck I want to you, the reader, on the ride with me.

 

 

Thoughts, maybe

I’ve been sitting at this desk staring at the screen thinking of what to write that might interest other people.

Seems I’m not too good at it.

So, I moved seats, to sit opposite the writer’s chair and took a good long hard look at the person, the so-called writer, conjuring up in my mind, if I was someone I’d just dragged in off the street, what would I ask?

Would I bother?

I mean most of of walk down the street trying to avoid everyone else, and anything bad that might happen.

But I’m here now, so for a free cup of tea and a Doubletree cookie, I consider myself bribed.

Question 1:  Why on earth would you want to write when there’s a billion other books out there?  Seems a complete waste of time to me.

[Answer] Good point, most days when I get out of bed, or rather stare at the ceiling from under the covers, I wonder why I bother to get up.

OK that’s the borderline manic depressive speaking, and most likely suffering from a hangover, trying to get those last 1,000 words for the day done.

Question 2: You write when you’re drunk?  That must make a lot of sense, not!

This person has found me out in two questions.

[Answer] No, a little Scotch helps oil the wheels on the mind.

Question 3:  What do you do for inspiration?

[Answer] Thinking up new and novel ways of killing off people I drag in off the street to ask me questions about myself.  No, sorry, didn’t mean that.  I haven’t a mean bone in my body.  Inspiration you say?

Look around.

The inquisitor does.  There are seven floor to ceiling bookcases full of my favorite authors, about 4,000 or so books, aside from the reference library that is mostly in e-book format which run to about 10,000.

Question 4:  You read all of these?

[Picks up a copy of ‘Kill Me If You Can’ by James Patterson]  This one.

I nod yes.  I have read most of them.  I tell him writers must read.  Someone told me that a long time ago.  Not only thrillers and crime, but the classics.  I found War and Peace heavy going, but not so much as Madame Bovary, or Vanity Fair.

You can ask one more question.

Question 5:  Can I borrow this book [James Patterson]

As always the answer is yes.  I encourage people to read.  It doesn’t have to be my work.  It would be nice but I;m realistic enough to know there’s a billion other books out there I have to compete with.

Maybe tomorrow.

 

 

 

Short story writing – Adding a catalyst

 

Just when there’s enough complication in the story, we could leave it there with the current three protagonists and see what happens.

But I like mayhem.

So rather than another customer, it’s time to add a complication; an off duty policeman, or more to the point, policewoman.  A beat cop, if they still exist.

Her back story in a sentence or so:

“It had been another long day at the office for Officer Margaret O’Donnell, or, out in the streets, coping with people who either didn’t know or didn’t care about the law.

People who couldn’t cross the road where there were crossings and lights to protect them, silly girls shoplifting on a dare, and boys who thought they were men and could walk on water.

The one they scraped of the road would never get to grow up, and his mother, well, she was not doing another call on a family to give them bad news.

That was her day.  So far.”

What is she doing near the shop?  She lives around the corner.  Perhaps she knows the reputation of the shopkeeper or perhaps not.  It’s not relevant, then, as it is a place she avoids.

Now, she may not have the option.  She sees the shop is still open, past the usual closing time.

Let’s continue:

She came around the corner into the street where she lived and saw the lights were on in the corner store.

“She looked at her watch and saw it was ten minutes to midnight.  Long past closing time.  She looked through the window but from the other side of the road and could only see three heads and little else.

Damn, she thought, I’m going to have to check it out.  There were rumors, and she hoped they were not true.”

Meanwhile, back in the shop how are the others faring?

The shopkeeper is in an invidious position, he can’t supply the kids with the drugs and get them out, not in front of the customer.

The fact the girl has a gun makes the situation almost impossible.  What would happen if he suggests the customer leave?  Without him the situation would be simpler.

Alphonse had only a few moments to sum up the situation, and the sum of those deliberations was the remove the only problem, the customer.

He could still salvage this:

“The shopkeeper changed his expression to one more placatory, and said quietly to the girl, ‘Look, this is not this chap’s problem.’  He nodded in the direction of the customer.  ‘I’m sure he’d rather not be here, and you would glad of one less distraction.’

He could see she was wavering, she was not holding the gun so steadily, and the longer this dragged on, the more nervous and unpredictable she would become.

And in the longer game, the customer would sing his praises no matter what happened after he left.

The girl looked at Jack.  The shopkeeper was right.  If he wasn’t here this could be over.  But there was another problem.  It didn’t look like Simmo was in any shape to get away.  In fact this was looking more like a suicide mission.

She waved the gun in his direction.  ‘Get out now, before I change my mind.’

As the gun turned to the shopkeeper, Jack wasn’t going to wait to be asked twice and started sidling towards the door.”

What happens next?

 

And the story for this section, with a few minor changes:

 

It had been another long day at the office for Officer Margaret O’Donnell, or, out in the streets, coping with people who either didn’t know or didn’t care about the law.

People who couldn’t cross the road where there were crossings and lights to protect them, silly girls shoplifting on a dare, and boys who thought they were men and could walk on water.

The one they scraped of the road would never get to grow up, and his mother, well, she was not doing another call on a family to give them bad news.

That was her day.  So far.  For now she was glad to be getting home, putting her feet up, and forgetting about everything until the next morning when it would start all over again.

Coming around that last corner, the home stretch she called it, she was directly opposite the corner shop, usually closed at this hour of the night.  It was not.  The lights were still on.

She looked at her watch and saw it was ten minutes to midnight, and long past closing time.  She looked through the window but from the other side of the road and could only see three heads and little else.

Damn, she thought, I’m going to have to check it out.  There were rumors, and she hoped they were not true.

 

The shopkeeper changed his expression to one more placatory, and said quietly to the girl, ‘Look, this is not this chap’s problem.’  He nodded in the direction of the customer.  ‘I’m sure he’d rather not be here, and you would glad of one less distraction.’

He could see she was wavering, she was not holding the gun so steadily, and the longer this dragged on, the more nervous and unpredictable she would become.

And in the longer game, the customer would sing his praises no matter what happened after he left.

The girl looked at Jack.  The shopkeeper was right.  If he wasn’t here this could be over.  But there was another problem.  It didn’t look like Simmo was in any shape to get away.  In fact this was looking more like a suicide mission.

She waved the gun in his direction.  ‘Get out now, before I change my mind.’

As the gun turned to the shopkeeper, Jack wasn’t going to wait to be asked twice and started sidling towards the door.

 

Next:  Actions have consequences

 

© Charles Heath 2016

Short story writing – Revision 2

The story fleshed out for the second section, discussed in Point of View

 

Annalisa looked at the two men facing her, a shopkeeper who, despite his protestations, was a dealer, and the other man, a customer scared shitless.

The poor bastard was not the only one scared. 

It was meant to be simple, arrive at the shop just before closing, force the shopkeeper to hand over the shit, and leave.

What had happened?

The shopkeeper laughed at them and  told them to get out.  Simmo started ranting and waving the gun around, then all of a sudden collapsed. 

There was a race for the gun which spilled out of Simmo’s hand, and she won.  No more arguments, the shopkeeper was getting the stuff when the customer burst into the shop.

This was worse than any bad hair day, or getting out of the wrong side of bed day, this was, she was convinced, the last day of her life.

Her mother said she would never amount to anything, and here she was with a drug addict coming apart because she had been cut off from her money and could no longer pay for his supply, which had led them to this inevitable ending.

She heard a strange sound come from beside her and looked down.  Simmo was getting worse, like he had a fever, and was moaning.

 

If Alphonse had thought his day was going to get any better after the delivery disaster earlier that day, he was wrong.

If he thought he could maintain his real business and his under the counter business with no one finding out, in that he was wrong too.  He’s know, inevitably, some useless punk would come and do exactly what Simmo was doing.

It might have been salvageable before the customer came in the door, but now it was not.  The customer had heard the words, and given him ‘the look’.  A drug addict telling the cops he was a dealer, it was his word against an  unreliable addict, but this local chap, he had that air of respectability the cops would listen too.

Damn.

But he had to try and salvage the situation, there was a lot of money involved, and other people depending on him.  He looked at the boy, on the floor, then  the girl.

“Listen to me, young lady, I have no idea what you are talking about.  Please, put the gun down before someone gets hurt.  Your friend needs medical help and I can call an ambulance.”

The girl switched her attention back to him.  “Shut up, let me think.  Shit.”

The storekeeper glanced over at the customer.  He’s been in once or twice, probably lived in the neighborhood, but looked the sort who’d  prefer to be anywhere but in his shop.  More so now.  If only he hadn’t burst in when he did.  He would have the gun, called the police, and brazened his way out of trouble.  Now, that remedy was off the table.

Now he had to deal with the fallout, especially if the girl started talking.

 

Next, adding a catalyst to heighten the tension

 

© Charles Heath 2016

Short story writing – Revision

Like all stories as they progress they go through a number of rewrites, and sometimes because of what follows.

This is the rewrite of the first section of the short story I’m undertaking, adding some new details:

 

Jack was staring down the barrel of a gun.

He had gone down to the corner shop to get a pack of cigarettes.

He had to hustle because he knew the shopkeeper, Alphonse, liked to close at 11:00 pm sharp.  His momentum propelled him through the door, causing the customer warning bell to ring loudly as the door bashed into it, and before the sound had died away, he knew he was in trouble.

It took a second, perhaps three, to sum up the situation. 

Young girl, about 16 or 17, scared, looking sideways at a man on the ground, then Alphonse, and then Jack.  He recognized the gun, a Luger, German, relic of WW2, perhaps her father’s souvenir, now pointing at him then Alphonse, then back to him.

Jack to another second or two to consider if he could disarm her.  No, the distance was too great.  He put his hands out where she could see them.  No sudden movements, try to remain calm, his heart rate up to the point of cardiac arrest.

Pointing with the gun, she said, “Come in, close the door, and move towards the counter.”

Everything but her hand steady as a rock.  Only tell tale sign of stress, the bead of perspiration on her brow.  It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the shop.

Jack shivered, and then did as he was told.  She was in the unpredictable category.

“What’s wrong with your friend?”  Jack tried the friendly approach, as he took several slow steps sideways towards the counter.

The shopkeeper, Alphonse, seemed calmer than usual, or the exact opposite spoke instead, “I suspect he’s an addict, looking for a score.  At the end of his tether, my guess, and came to the wrong place.”

Wrong time, wrong place, in more ways than one Jack thought, now realizing he had walked into a very dangerous situation.  She didn’t look like a user.  The boy on the ground, he did, and he looked like he was going through the beginnings of withdrawal.

 “Simmo said you sell shit.  You wanna live, ante up.”  She was glaring at Alphonse. 

The language, Jack thought, was not her own, she had been to a better class of school, a good girl going through a bad boy phase. Caught in a situation she was not equipped to deal with.

 

© Charles Heath 2016