Thoughts while staring into space, figuratively!

I can see how it is that a writer’s life can be a lonely one.  That’s why, I guess, so many writers have an animal as a pet, someone to talk to, or just feel as though you are not alone in this quest.

I’m often sitting in front of the computer screen, or in a large lounge chair with my trusty tablet computer, writing the words, or staring into space!

Sometimes the words don’t make any sense, sometimes the thoughts leading to those words don’t make any sense.

Sometimes the most sensible person in the room is the cat.

I’m sure his thoughts are not vague or scrambled, or wrestling with the ploys of several stories on the go, getting locations right, getting characters to think and do their thing with a fair degree of continuity.

The cat’s world is one of which chair to lie on, where is that elusive mouse be it real or otherwise, and is this fool going to feed me, and please, please, don’t let it be the lasagna.  I am not that cat!

Unlike other professions, there is no 9 to 5, no overtime, no point where you can switch off and move into leisure time.  Not while you are writing that next masterpiece.  It’s a steady sometimes frustrating slog where you can’t just walk away, have a great time, and come back and pick up where you left off.

Stories have to be written from beginning to end, not a bit here and a bit there.

It’s a bit like running a marathon.  You are in a zone, the first few miles are the hardest, the middle is just getting the rhythm and breathing under control, and then you hope you get to the end because it can seem that you’ve been going forever and the end is never in sight.

But, when you reach the end, oh, isn’t the feeling one of pure joy and relief.

And, yes, perhaps you’ve just created another masterpiece!

Writing and re-writing, or so the story goes

The process of writing is rewriting editing and more rewriting.

Some time ago l wrote some words.  I didn’t like them.  But it had laid the groundwork for a second draft.

Here it is:


Growing up I did not believe l had one of those lovable faces.

My brother, known in school as the best looking boy of his graduating class, said it was a face only a mother could love.

He was mean.

Simone, a girl who was a friend, not a girlfriend, said my face had character.

She was charming and polite.

Looking now, in the mirror, l decided I’d aged gracefully.

I could truthfully say my brother had not, but that was as far as the comparison went.

My overachieving brother was the epitome of success in business, a veritable god zillionaire.  Everything he touched turned to gold.

My ultra successful sister, Penelope, had married into the right family perhaps by chance, but she was also a very learned scholar whose life was divided between her chair at the university and her social life with the rich and famous.

Then there was me.

I gave up on my chance at university because l was not the scholarly sort and didn’t last long.  Sadly l was the first of my family to be sent down from Oxford.

Instead, l took on a series of professions such as seasonal laborer, farm hand, factory worker, and lastly, night watchman.  At least now I had a uniform and looked like I’d made something of myself.

It would not be enough for my parents who every year didn’t say it out loud but the disappointment was always there in their expressions.

My brother in his usual blunt manner said l was a loser and would never change.

My sister was not quite so blunt.  She simply said it was disappointing so much potential was going to waste.  I only asked her once what she meant and lost me after the first four syllable word.

Finally, I’d taken their comments to heart and decided l would not be going home to the family Christmas holiday reunion.

I told my boss l was available to work the night shift over the holidays, the shift no one else wanted.

It was he said a time for reflection.  He hated his family as much as I did so we would be able to lament our bad luck through the long cold hours from dusk till dawn.

It was 3 a.m. and it was like standing on the exact epicenter of the North 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.

It was going to be a white Christmas, all I needed.  I hoped I remembered to put the antifreeze in my radiator this time.

As I approached my car, the light went on in an SUV parked next to my car.  The door opened and what looked to be a woman was climbing down from the driver’s seat.

She closed the door and leaned against the side 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.  From what I could see, she didn’t look too well.

“What do you want?”


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.”

The instant the last word left her lips I saw her jerk back into the car, and then start sliding down to the ground.  There was no mistaking the red streak following her as she fell.

She’d been shot from what appeared to be a sniper rifle, which meant …


It still needs work but I’ve got the gist of where I want to go.

The idea is not to make a character so loathsome no one would want to read about him.

This will evolve and you can if you like to come along for the ride!


© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Driving in suburbia

It was one of those beautiful Autumn mornings, blue sky with a smattering of clouds but a sunny day all the same.  It’s Sunday so there is not as much traffic on the road.

Anyone with any sense would be going to their favorite coffee place and settling down to your choice of coffee and perhaps a toaster or muffin to accompany the conversation.

This is what’s happening at the cafe we go for coffee.  9:00 in the morning it is packed.  But great coffee is hard to find, and this is apparently great coffee.

It’s that in-between time before it gets windy, cold and wet, with the sort of chill you can feel in your bones, rather it’s the time when you have a barbeque in the mid-afternoon and get home before the cold sets in, or take the kids to the park for some healthy exercise.

Today I have to take a drive from one side of suburbia to the other, taking a network of main roads with rather anonymous names such as North and South

We travel through the older suburbs, those with a collection of red or white bricks and timber dating back to the fifties and sixties.  They are not, for the most part, in a good state of repair, and rather than looking ramshackle, it’s more like they are slowly decaying.

Fences are rotting or falling over, extensions like they have been glued on rather than added by an architect, and paint either fading or missing.  For the most part, people are struggling to keep up with the cost of living, and too busy to worry about maintenance.

Some have been bulldozed and replaced, blocks are cleared awaiting new development, others are being renovated.  Any way you look at them they are still worth a great deal of money being relatively close to the city.  Nut it’s a double-edged sword, worth a lot, but costing more to keep.

It’s a location we could never afford.  Because we were not affluent we were pushed out to the less expensive outer suburbs.  This was of course 50 years ago, and now those outer suburbs are now the new inner suburbs and people are buying up to 50 km further out in the new estates.  When I was young these suburbs were farms and open land.

It also surprises me that people would want to live on the main road because with traffic as it is heading into the city, it would be difficult to leave or return by car.  At least for these people, public transport is better than in the outer suburbs.

Because it’s Sunday my trip takes a lot less time, except for those unpredictable traffic lights, some of which I missed and took a while to cycle through the other traffic before it was our time to move.  It’s the only disappointment of the modern era, the fact roads were never made to handle the traffic, and the fact they now have to bulldoze homes to make way for roads.

Pity they didn’t lay down the foundations of a proper transport system, much like they have in major European cities.

Being Inspired, maybe

A picture paints … well, as many words as you like.  For instance:


“It’s up there.”

Giles was pointing at a random spot at the top of the range, this after gesturing in that general direction.

I knew I should have asked for better directions.  Giles was not the sort of person who dealt in hard facts or listened to closely to briefings.

“Exactly where up there,” I asked, in a rather more harsh tone that I meant.

“You were at the same briefing.  No matter where it is, it’s going to be a hard climb.”

“Surely there’s a road.  We can go so far, then do the climbing.”

“We wouldn’t cover a kilometer before they saw us coming.  You know as well as I do they have the whole road, and half the mountain covered.”

“Then climb it is.”

I noticed he had pulled out his binoculars and was sweeping the mountain slowly, then suddenly he stopped.

“There it is.”

He handed me the binoculars and I followed his pointing finger til I found the spot, the eerie almost hanging off the side of the mountain, and then a glance below at the terrain.

Just another day at the office.



Looking for inspiration in all the wrong places

I’m wandering through a shopping mall.  Not exactly what you’d expect from a writer looking for ideas.

Not that I came to the mall with that in mind, we have to do some shopping and a visit to the bank.

It’s one of those odd things we writers do, subconsciously looking for characters, character traits, or plots.

One came to me when I saw someone running.  Had they stolen an item and were they running from the store manager?  Were they escaping from a situation?  Perhaps they were just trying to catch up to the rest of their party.

Then, in another corner, not so private from everyone else, a couple are having an argument.  They are young.  There could be any number of subplots going on, were they breaking up?  Had one found out the other was cheating?  Were they married and discovered they were about to have a child they couldn’t afford?

Shopping malls are not exactly places that can be woven into a story unless it’s about teen angst, and there’s a lot of that in the after school hours and k as the night shopping.  I have never understood the need for teens to gather together and wander the halls of a shopping center.  Perhaps it’s just to hang out, whatever that means.

My teens used to gather and go to the cinema.  Years later we discovered they used to get drunk first then go to the cinema and misbehave.  It seemed like one of the ‘passage of rites’ thing for young people.  Not in my day, but times were different for them.  Nowadays it’s all about drugs and rage parties

Is this the sort of angst that finds it’s way into YA novels even though they might have a paranormal and/or fantasy theme.  People are still people no matter what the setting, so are we trying to sort out the problems of youth living in the current perilous times using a mythical background?

So much for finding subplots, now I’m looking at solving the world’s problems. I guess it’s time to go to the bank and solve my own problems and leave the rest to more competent people than myself.

Still, food for thought.  Perhaps a short chat with my 14-year-old granddaughter might make some sense of it.

Thoughts, maybe


In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we are attending such a game.

The stadium is the mcg, one of the best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quick as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of those hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and whom turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

Figures of speech

I found this explanation on the internet: ‘a word or phrase used in a non-literal sense for rhetorical or vivid effect.’

We as writers should not use these in our writing because most people might not understand their use.  I think it sometimes adds a degree of whimsy to the story.

I remember some years ago when I working with a Russian chap who’d not been in the country very long, and though he had a reasonable use of English, was not quite up with our figures of speech.

And made me realize when he kept asking me what they meant, just how many I used in everyday use.

Most of these figures of speech use descriptions that do not necessarily match the word being described, such as ‘I dance like I have two left feet’.

And that pretty much sums up how good I can dance.  But …

‘Like a bat out of hell’, not sure how this got into the vernacular

‘Like a bull in a china shop’, describes a toddler let loose

‘More front than Myers’, as my mother used to say, but in context, Myers is the Australian version of the English Selfridges or Harrods or Paris Galleries Lafayette.  It refers to the width of street frontage of the stores

‘As mad as a hatter’, though not necessarily of the millinery kind, but, well, you can guess

‘As nutty as a fruitcake’, provided your fruitcake has nuts in it

You can see, if you get the references, they are somewhat apt, and, yes, they sometimes creep into my stories.


Being inspired, maybe

A picture paints … well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

2013-06-29 14.51.16

“I saw him go this way,” Joe said, his face flushed from the effort chasing his quarry.

It was like playing a game of hide and seek, but the stakes were a lot higher.  When we found whom we were seeking, matters could end very badly.

“Towards the Orangery, or behind the trees,” I asked, having come from the opposite direction, but not seeing him.

“He went behind the trees, and then towards the building.”

“Right.  You go to the Orangery down the path and I’ll take the trees.”


“Go.  We’re wasting time, and he’s getting away.”

Fortunately, there were few people around at this time, but it could have been worse if this was happening an hour later.

I tentatively headed towards the first tree and edged around it, trying not to look like someone edging around a tree expecting to be attacked…

…by a squirrel.

Two or three of them.  No sign of the man we were chasing.  Perhaps he was in disguise.


They can destroy relationships

They can tear apart friendships

They can start wars

We are sometimes at a loss for words

Sometimes we can’t find the words

And then there those horrible things called crosswords.

There are antonyms and synonyms

Sometimes we use words we don’t know the meaning of because of their similarity with others we do

Then there one or more words that make other words as in anagrams

There are substitute words, words we use around children like fudge instead of, well you get what I mean

There’s no doubt we would be lost without words

Words are to be chosen carefully and thoughtfully

They need to be delivered in an appropriate manner, not in haste, and not in anger

We need to believe in what we’re saying before others will believe it

We need to learn how to express our feelings

We should take advantage of learning English (or any other native language) when at school

We need to start reading as soon as we can and keep up reading as we get older.  One should never underestimate the power reading and writing gives us no matter who we are.

Always have a dictionary by your side.  It is the most valuable book you can own.

And always remember the power of speech can at times move mountains