Experiences, or asking the right questions

We as writers are inspired by many different means.  Even when we are not looking for it, there it is.

Watching television, reading an obscure paragraph or two on page 21 of the newspaper,  something we see in a shop, or a street, in a building, railway station, bus stop, or airport.

We can be inspired by people.  They can fuel the traits of our characters, can become part of a character, with admirable qualities and respect.

But …

We do not know them.  We do not have any real idea who they might be, and even though we can close, and think over the years we do, sometimes nothing can be further than the truth.

I give you a case in point.

Many years ago I had a friend, we shall call her Anne.  I had known her for a number of years and she was kind, bright, always happy and got along with everyone.

Then she contracted cancer.

She remained that bright happy person, and I  believe, as everyone did, that she was the bravest, most amazing person, who’d come to terms with her condition, and had made her peace.

I was so moved, I wrote a story that had a central character who had contracted cancer and was all but parallel the life of Anne.

I gave it to her to read just before she died.  What she said shocked me.

Her life was anything but that which I had seen, and with one sentence made me realize that as a writer unless I had experienced what she was living through, I really had no idea what it was like.

It was, she said, a great story, but that was all it was.  I did not know the pain, the medication, the sacrifices, and the fears she had managed to hide from everyone including those closest to her.

It was happening to her, so how could I, or anyone else, know what it was like.

It thought, if I ever had another chance, I would do more research on how it affects people, ask the right questions, and, maybe, inject some more realism.

Although a writer does not necessarily need to have experience in any particular subject, having experience goes a long way towards making a story or a character more believable.

As fate would have it, I have a health issue, it’s not cancer, but it uses the same medication as cancer patients.

Whilst I know my condition does not give me a finite time to live, I realize now what she meant.

I have the same fears, suffering the after effects of the medicine, what it will be like as it progresses, how you appear in the eyes of others, and I know I feel only a small part of how it was for her.

That story is now being changed.

She had inspired me to write that story; I have now the experience to make it the story it should have been.

I think I’ve been watching too much TV

It’s never a good idea to look at the news.  I don’t know about you, but it always seems to be bad news, not good news.  I suppose if all they showed was good news, no one would watch it.

However, despite the negative aspects of it, sometimes it’s a source of plotlines, even a new book.  If you read newspapers, it’s usually a paragraph on page 17 that no one is supposed to notice, but tonight it’s something different.

Well, two things really.

I’ve been on roller coasters, and they actually scare the hell out of me.  It was not always that way, but watching the news and seeing how they can come adrift and leave you literally hanging quite a distance up in the air, well, that has had some effect.

It started me thinking, and that’s not a good thing sometimes.

My fear, now, is that the car is going to come off the rails.

A bit like my life really.  Amazing sometimes how the mind works and makes parallels with something else that’s entirely unrelated.

I’m in the abyss and free falling.  The first thousand yards feels exhilarating.

I’m not sure if everyone has done skydiving, but it’s like that time before you pull the ripcord.

Absolute adrenaline rush.

Followed by a single thought.  Will the parachute open.  Again, I’ve seen too many TV shows where ripcords don’t work.

Ok, I get it, if you don’t like the heat in the kitchen …

But, I digress

Now I’m at a point where I’m starting to think about the landing.

You dash headlong into a job, thinking yep, you’ve got it covered, but, what if you haven’t.  What if there are variables you never thought of, what if the people around you, so happy to cheer you on at the start, are now starting to change their tune.

Abyss, job, choice of vocation, lifestyle, following a dream, there’s very little difference.

Writing is an individual thing.

Are we writing for ourselves first, or are we writing simply to make money?  If it’s the latter, it ain’t going to work, at least not until you are established.  If ever.

So, yes, it’s back to the day job.

Sigh!

Still in the abyss, or hanging upside down 300 feet in the air waiting to be rescued

Maybe tomorrow there will be good news!

 

 

A story inspired by Castello di Brolio – Episode 3

Another story inspired from a visit to an old castle in Italy.  It was, of course, written while traveling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come.  Those were long flights…

 

There were eleven stormtroopers and eight on Johansson’s group. One of those would be in the communications center, leaving, at worst, eighteen men out looking for me.

I also assumed that Jackerby would approach the search in much the same manner as I would, the men in pairs, as in one on one situations, he knew that I would have the advantage.

Four pairs would be inside, doing a room to room search, from the top down.

Five would be outside, one group in the center, one group at each of the corners, all working the perimeter, all in constant communication with each other.

In normal circumstances, I would be caught.

These were not normal circumstances.

Jack padded his way just ahead of me, stopping every few yards and both sniffing and listening.  At a junction he would stop, waiting, then make a decision which way to go.

I had to trust his instincts.

Just ahead of me there was a cracking sound followed by falling rocks and a shaft of light.

An opening in the roof where it was too close to the surface.

Jack went quite still.  Voices.

“Be careful. Or you’ll fall down that hole.  They should have told us the ground around here is on top of an old mineshaft.”

“Could be where they buried the bodies hastily before they left.”

The man was referring to the story the Germans had killed about a hundred of the nearby villagers and buried them in a mass grave near the castle.  No one had been able to verify the account, nor had anyone found any skeletal evidence.

Yet.

“Let’s get out of here,” I whispered to Jack.  “The last thing I want to see is a ghost.”

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Setting goals, bad idea

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people who work well to plans, so setting goals is not a good idea.

But…

I did make a new years resolution that I would try and do things differently this year.

Except…

I set a goal to restart editing of my next novel on 1st Feb. I thought, setting it so far into the year it would be easy.

It would give me the time to clear up all the outstanding, get in the way, distractions, and be free to finally finish it.

No such luck.

Going away, spending long, sleepless hours flying from one side of the world to the other had fuelled my imagination more than I expected and I now have three more stories that need either a continuing plot outline or be written as ideas come to me.

If only I could focus on one story at a time.

So…

I’ve re-jigged the plan and set a goal to finish playing with these other stories by the end of the month, so come the first of March, I can resume work on the next book to be published.

Let’s see if I can stick to it.

A story inspired by Castello di Brolio – Episode 2

Another story inspired from a visit to an old castle in Italy.  It was, of course, written while traveling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come.  Those were long flights…

I calculated the odds.  Twenty to one.  I wasn’t going to add Jack to the team, because he could never understand what was going on.

I was finding it hard myself.  Someone I had trusted with my life, for a very long time, was not the person I thought they were.

That was the basis of the message I’d received.  I hadn’t believed it.  Not at first.  But it had one other piece of information as proof, one when I thought about, made sense of everything that had been happening.

The word coincidence had become overused in the last week.

Jack had found the passage when he and I had been doing some reconnaissance of the old castle.  I thought it odd that no one knew of any secret passages when all of these old places usually had at least a few.  The lord of the manor would want to be able to move about secretly, visiting mistresses, escaping from enemies, or just sneaking about checking up on staff and family

We’d found one that ran from the guard tower to the grand hall.  A lot of cobwebs, a musty odor, and signs it hadn’t been used for a long time, it was perfect for my soon to be unannounced arrival.

The passage ended at a large wooden cabinet which had a compartment that opened out into the hall.  From within, it was possible to hear conversations and see a veiled view of any activity.

Johansson and my commander, Wallace.  He was not supposed to be here, he’d been the one who sent me the warning, about another of the command officers, Nicholson.

I could see Wallace was angry.  “I thought I told you I wanted this mess sorted out before I got here.”

Just then Jackerby came in and looked flustered.  “He’s gone.”

“What the hell do you mean, he’s gone.  Gone where, for God’s sake.  There’s nowhere to go.”

Who’s gone, I wondered.

Jack was nudging my leg.  What was he trying to tell me?

“He was in the south tower with that mangy dog of his, where he usually hangs out.”

Me.  They were referring to me.

“Then he can’t be far.  Find him and bring him, to me.  Pity that bomb didn’t kill him and we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

So, there was a traitor.  It just wasn’t who I thought it would be.

I kneeled down, “Well, Jack,” I whispered.  “It looks like we are both in serious trouble.  What’s say we get out of here?”

A lick on the side of my face told me all I needed to know.

© Charles Heath 2019

Conversations with my cat – 12

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This is Chester.  He has broken the agreement we had when we first bought the settee.

No cats allowed to sit on it.

Pleading will not cut it.  He is in serious trouble.

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No.  You cannot plead your case with Rosemary.

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Yes.  Hang your head in shame.

And get off the settee now!

Is it time for a break?

There is always a feeling of relief when you finally finish the book, after all the editing (the latest book had been revised and edited 16 times – I know, I should stop fiddling), and accepting you have done all you can.

It’s like watching another child leave the nest.  There’s that hollow feeling inside.

Of course, the answer to getting over that feeling is to get on with the next book.

This time I finished two books together, so it has been more exhausting, especially with the two sets of characters and storylines.  I realize I should work on one, get that done, and then work on the other.  Sorry, I can’t do that.

Actually, I was working on the next story at the same time.

My editor simply closes her eyes and shakes her head, then tells me one character has crossed over to the other novel, after delivering the well-deserved kick in the pants.

But all’s well that ends well, both “What Sets Us Apart”, the first in what I call my Russian trilogy, is published, and “One Last Look” the first of what may become a series, also published and are now available from Amazon.

What to do next?

Catch up on social media, which includes Twitter, where I do a little advertising, and Facebook, which I still don’t understand how it is going to work for me.

So, I’m currently working on “First Dig Two Graves”, the ‘Zoe the Assassin – Book 2’, which is being written, and like the crazy author I am, it’s in the seventh or eighth re-edit before it’s even finished, and another short romance novel called “The Things We Do For Love”.

But I can’t help myself, and I’m also working on parts of “Strangers We’ve Become”, the second of the Russian Trilogy.  It, too, has all but been written, and only needs a few modifications.

And yes, that is a very loose statement, ‘only a few modifications’.  That can be anything from a new chapter at the start or a whole rewrite.

Ah, the hectic life of a writer.

So little time, so much to do.