Rainy days and Sunday

It’s one of those grey, dark, wet mornings where you can inadvertently sleep in because the bedroom remains dark for an extra two hours.

That could be a problem if you have a day job, like most of us.

But, today is Sunday, and it’s just what I need.

Time to mull over the latest storyline, marshal my thoughts, write the prose in my head.

OK, that not working for me.

The rain is getting heavier, and is splashing outside; the steady waterfall of overflow from the gutters is taking away my concentration.

Rain, rain, go away …

I have two different visions.

A cold, grey day in London (is there any other sort of day?) waiting for a train, and seeing the woman of your dreams go past, standing in the doorway, and in that fraction of a second your eyes meet, a connection is made.

I suspect it has fuelled many a song such as ‘The Look of Love’.

The second is on a desolate section of coast line as for north as you can go in Scotland (yes, I am a glutton for punishment), and she is standing on the cliff top gazing out to sea, hair blowing in the wind.  Silent, strong, resolute.

The rain falls harder, and going outside is not an option.

Notes hastily scribbled in a notebook for later reference.

Time to curl up on the couch and watch an old movie!

Searching for … ?

Everything I’ve read, and understand, about this writing ‘thing’ is that it’s better to get words on paper, even if none of it fits the story.

Go to keep up the word count.

But, to me, it has to make sense.  I’ve written 2,000 words or four pieces of paper, or 20 sheets longhand in a notebook, but it doesn’t feel right.

It doesn’t make any sense, it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t progress the story, they are just words on a piece of paper.

For example:

 

My life was going nowhere.  If I took a step back and took a good, long, hard look at it, what could I say was the one defining moment?

There was no defining moment.

I’d bounced around schools till the day I decided I was not cut out to learn anything more, or perhaps the teachers had given up trying to impart knowledge.  Whatever the reason, I dropped out of college, and drifted.  Seasonal laborer, farm hand, factory worker, night watchman.

At least now I had a uniform and looked like I’d made something of myself.

Until I went home.

My parents were distinctly disappointed I was not married with children.

My overachieving brother always said I was a loser, and would never make anything of myself.

My ultra successful sister, married into a very wealthy family, had the regulation 2.4 children, and lived in the lap of luxury, mostly pretended I didn’t exist, didn’t invite me to the wedding, and I had yet to meet the husband and children.  I guess she was ashamed of me.

This year I was avoiding going home.

This year I volunteered to work the holidays.

 

It’s about as gloomy and depressing as it gets.  We’re supposed to entertain, take people out of their humdrum, mundane lives, put them in the passenger seat of a car, bus, or truck careening out of control.

Yep, time to walk away and do something entirely different, like wrapping Christmas presents, my second favorite job to mowing the lawn.  Maybe if I contrive an accident with the lawn mower …

Back in front of the words, some hours later, an idea pops into my head.  The story continues:

 

It was 3 a.m. and it was like standing on the exact epicenter of the South Pole.  I’d just stepped from the warehouse into the car park.

The car was covered in snow.  The weather was clear now, but more snow was coming.

A white Christmas?  That’s all I needed.  I hoped I remembered to put the anti freeze in my radiator this time.

As I approached my car, the light went on in a SUV parked next to my car.  The door opened and what looked to be a woman was getting out of the car.

“Graham?”

It was a voice I was familiar with, though I hadn’t heard it for a long time.

My ultra successful sister, Penelope.  She was leaning against her car door, and from what I could see, didn’t look too well.

“What do you want?”

“Help.”

My help, I was the last person to help her, or anyone for that matter.  But curiosity got the better of me.  “Why?”

“Because my husband is trying to kill me.”

With that said, she slid down the side of the car, and I could see, in the arc lamps lighting the car park, a trail of blood.

 

OK, so not such a good idea to cut close to the bone here, but rivalries do make for great thrillers.  Even if they are not your own!

Maybe it’s not such a bad day after all.

Who am I today?

I have often wondered just how much or how little of the author’s personality and experiences end up in a fictional character.

Do they climb mountains, escape from what is almost the inescapable, been shot, tortured, get dumped, get divorced, .become world travelers, or get locked up in a foreign jail.

We research, read, and I guess experience some or all of the above on the way to getting the book written, but it’s perhaps an interesting fundamental question.

Who am I today?

Or it can be a question, out of right field, in an interview; “Who are you?”

My initial reaction was to say, “I’m a writer.”  But that wasn’t the answer the interviewer is looking for.

Perhaps if she had asked, “Who are you when you are writing your stories?” it would make more sense.

Am I myself?

Am I some fictional character made up from a lot of other people?

Have I got someone definite in mind when I start writing the story?

The short answer might be, “I usually want to be someone other than what I am now.  It’s fiction.  I can be anyone or anything I want, provided, of course, I know the limitations of the character.”

“So,” she says, “what if you want to be a fireman?”

“I don’t want to be a fireman.”

“But if the story goes in the direction where you need a fireman…”

“What is this thing you have with firemen?”  I’m shaking my head.  How did we get off track?

“Just saying.”

“Then I’d have to research the role, but I’m not considering adding a fireman anytime soon.”

She sighs.  “Your loss.”

Moving on.

And there is that other very interesting question; “Who would you like to be if you could be someone else?”

A writer in that period between the wars, perhaps like an F Scott Fitzgerald or Earnest Hemingway, in Paris, or if it is a fictional character, Jay Gatsby.

He’s just the sort of person who is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery.

Is there an end in sight?

I feel like I’m losing my mind.

Or perhaps I’m turning a molehill into a mountain.

I’m suffering from indecision, one of those moments in a writer’s life where either you get on with it, take a holiday, start a new story, of finish another one.

I want to get on with it, finish it, sent it to the editor, and then move on, but I can’t.

Once again I’m struggling with the end.  Well, not so much the end, but the way in which the story unfolds getting there.  I have the ending written, it just that part that usually falls into the category of ‘then a miracle occurs’.

The first draft was supposed to be finished three months ago and I’m getting frustrated.

Over the last few days I have taken a break away from it.  Every time I load it up, and sit on the page where I want the end to start (a rather curious mix of opposites) it draws a blank.

Will I add a few explosions, a building demolition, or an edge of the seat car chase?

Will I let a few of the secrets out of the bag?

Will I try to set it up for a sequel?

Wow!  So many possibilities.

I know what I’d do if it was me, which begs the question of how much of ourselves is woven into the fabric of our characters.

I want the main character to appear more human against a backdrop of having to be inhuman in order to get the necessary result.  And, there in lies the dilemma.

Perhaps I’ll sleep on it one more night.

Experiences as inspiration

At what point does the journalist come out in a writer?

Quite often journalists become writers because of their vast experience in observing and writing about the news, sometimes in the category of ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.

I did journalism at University, and thought I would never get to use it.  I had to interview people, write articles, and act as an editor.  The hardest part was the headlines.

How much does that resemble the job of coming up with a title for your book?

Well, several opportunities arose over the last few months to dig out the journalist hat, put it on, and go to work.

Where?

Hospital.  I’ve had to go there a few times more in the last few months than I have in recent years.

And I’d forgotten just how hospitals are interesting places, especially the waiting room in Emergency.

After the second or third visit, I started to observe the people who were waiting, and ran through various scenarios as to the reason for their visit.  None may have been true, but it certainly was an exercise in creative writing, and would make an excellent article.

Similarly, once we got inside the inner sanctum, where the real work is done, there is any number of crises and operations going on, and plenty of material for when I might need to include a hospital scene in one of my stories.

Or I could write a volume in praise of the people who work there and what they have to endure.  Tending the sick, injured and badly injured is not a job for the faint hearted.

Research, if it could be called that, turns up in the unlikeliest of places.  Doctors who answer questions, not necessarily about the malady, nurses who tell you about what it’s like in Emergency on nights you really don’t want to be there, and other patients and their families, all of whom have a story to tell, or just wait patiently for a diagnoses and then treatment so they can go home.

We get to go this time about four in the morning.  Everyone is tired.  More people are waiting.  Outside it is cool and the first rays of light are coming over the horizon as dawn is about to break.

I ponder the question without an answer, a question one of the nurses asked a youngish doctor, tossed out in conversation, but was there a more intent to it; what he was doing on Saturday night.

He didn’t answer.  Another crisis, another patient.

I suspect he was on duty in Emergency.

Memories

I am constantly reminded of how curious grandchildren can be, when they are not asking you what it was like to live with dinosaurs!

The eldest, about 12, thought it interesting that I was a writer, and having just met a ‘real’ author who came to visit them at school, asked me a few questions, some of which sounded like she had asked my ‘real’ counterpart.

The first, how old I was when it I first wrote a story, and what was that story about.

OK, that sent me back a long way into the distant past.

There was also a trick question; “What was the first story you read that put you on the path to wanting to become a writer”.

That was easy, Alistair Maclean’s HMS Ulysses.  I showed her a copy of the book.

But, back to the main question.  When did I start writing?

That required a little thought, and there were several triggers that gave me a date, where I lived at the time, the fact I used my mother’s old portable typewriter, and the fact I had not been long out of school.  I was, in fact, about 17.  It was 45 years ago; I’ll let you do the math!

What was it about; that I couldn’t tell her, but I said I had rescued a lot of old scribbling of mine and put them in a box to look at later when I had the time.

I guess that time had arrived.

And, yes, there was the book, the individually typed pages, some with corrections, unfinished.

The pages were brown with age.

The story, well, I read the first few pages, and it seems I’d started down the thriller path then, the story so far, an agent comes ashore from a trawler to a bleak and isolated village, perhaps on the Scottish coast,

The next question, understandably; “What was the first book you ever finished?”  That was The Starburst Conspiracy, soon to be published on Amazon.

It also led to a few more discoveries, including a book I had forgotten I’d written. And all of the short stories I’d written when at University.

There were more questions, but like all children her attention was soon distracted.

But, for me, the memories it brought back about my earliest forays into the world of writing were priceless.

A day like no other ??

There are good days and there are bad days

Today is a bad day.

You know how it works, the night before you set out everything you’re going to do.

What could go wrong?

All those irritating little things have been taken care of, especially so you could spend this one day so you can ‘stick to the schedule’.

Those re-writes you were working on last night are just not coming together.

The three phone calls, the urgent request for a small job, the family member with a crisis (and how often is that crisis a storm in a teacup) and to top it off, the cat got shut out is now howling at the back door.

Concentration?  Gone!

Picture next morning.

No distractions.

Computer on, pages sitting in front of you, phone off the hook, no annoying calls, ideas are flowing.

You start…

The monitor dies.

Maybe tomorrow…

The writer’s delimma

If I get a headache I can take paracetemol

If I have a sore back I can take ipBrufen.

If I can’t put words on paper … what is there I can take?

Therein lies the writer’s dilemma.

I have been staring at the blank sheet on the computer screen for about an hour now.  I am in the middle of a re-write.  I know what direction I want the story to go.  Yet, for the life of me, I cannot find the words.

Is it writer’s block?

Here’s the thing.

Not four hours ago I had all the words in the world.  The new scene was all but writing itself, the words flowing, the characters were alive and almost bubbling over with enthusiasm.  I could almost feel the mental sparring.

That scene is done.

Now I have to move on from there to the next.

I guess I’m going on a long walk around the neighbourhood, looking but not seeing, thinking but trying not to think, stopping at the café and have a long hot coffee and a cake, perhaps this time a custard tart with whipped cream (OK, I know that can’t be good for me, but it is delicious) and by the time I get back …

Hopefully the words will return.

Sunday in New York

“Sunday in New York” is ultimately a story about trust, and what happens when a marriage is stretched to its limits.

When Harry Steele attends a lunch with his manager, Barclay, to discuss a promotion that any junior executive would accept in a heartbeat, it is the fact his wife, Alison, who previously professed her reservations about Barclay, also agreed to attend, that casts a small element of doubt in his mind.

From that moment his life in the company, in deciding what to do, his marriage, his very life, spirals out of control.

There is no one big factor that can prove Harry’s worst fears, that his marriage is over, just a number of small, interconnecting events, when piled on top of each other, points to a cataclysmic end to everything he had believed in.

Trust is lost firstly in his best friend and mentor, Andy, who only hints of impending disaster, Sasha, a woman whom he saved, and who appears to have motives of her own, and then in his wife, Alison, as he discovered piece by piece damning evidence she is about to leave him for another man.

Can we trust what we see with our eyes or trust what we hear?

Haven’t we all jumped to conclusions at least once in our lives?

Can Alison, a woman whose self-belief and confidence is about to be put to the ultimate test, find a way of proving their relationship is as strong as it has ever been?

As they say in the classics, read on!

Sunday In New York

 

 

 

KIndle Edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Sunday-New-York-Charles-Heath-ebook/dp/B012H5AQX6

Thoughts, maybe

I hate editing.

 

Which is surprising I guess for a writer.  I should be happy that the first, second, third, or whatever draft of the novel is complete in some form or other, and it’s now just a matter of cleaning up the loose ends.

Or is it?

Everything was fine till I got to page 201.

Did I really write that?

What can be a problem as the novel progresses, the plot can change as a new idea occurs to you in the shower, in the rain, in a dream, or just sitting in traffic.

It gets written in, and later, when you do that first read through to make sure there is cohesion, and the right number of timely hints that lead to that plot line, you discover it comes out of left field.

Page 201!

OK, backtracking, hints added, story seems right, move on.

Page 345.  Not happy, something is missing, it doesn’t feel right.

Go for a walk in the park, torment the grandchildren, go visit a theme park, jog around the block.  Cook something, anything but think about what’s missing at page 345.

Got it.  We need to add a new section, a few chapters.

And, no doubt, I’ll have to rewrite the end.

Like I said, I hate editing!