Save, you idiot, save …

It’s late at night and there are twenty other story ideas that are currently running around in my head instead of the story I should be working on.

These ideas are impinging on the current story, and somehow are finding their way onto the page.

Writing, cursing, deleting, re-writing, deleting, cursing.

I’m working on the latest book and it is not going well.  I don’t have writer’s block, I think it is more a case of self-doubt, laced with a healthy dose of second-guessing.  It’s why I can’t concentrate.

It’s why I’m thinking about the next story and not staying on track.

This leads me to be over critical of what I have written and much pressing of the delete key.

Then …

only to realize that an action taken in haste can be regrettable, and makes me feel even more depressed when I realize the deletions are irrecoverable.

Damn.

That is not supposed to happen because the great God Microsoft told me that auto save was running.

But, it appears even God’s can’t save deleted data if it is ‘in between’ saves.

I think I’d be happier in a garret somewhere channeling van Gogh’s rage.

Lesson learned – don’t delete in haste or anger or when tired, save it to a text file so it can be retrieved when sanity returns.

I was not happy with the previous start.  Funny about that, because until a few weeks ago I thought the start was perfect.

What a difference a week makes or is that politics?

Perhaps I should consider adding some political satire.

But I digress…

It seems it’s been like that for a few weeks now, not being able to stick to the job in hand, doing anything but what I’m supposed to be doing.  I recognize the restlessness, I’m not happy with the story as it is, so rather than getting on with it, I find myself writing words just for the sake of writing words.

Any words are better than none, right?

So I rewrote the start, added about a hundred pages and now I have to do a mass of rewriting of what was basically the whole book.

But here’s the thing.

This morning I woke up and looked at the new start, and it has inspired me.

Perhaps all I needed was several weeks of teeth gnashing, and self doubt to get myself back on track.

And, perhaps that first cup of coffee in the morning!

“One Last Look”, nothing is what it seems

A single event can have enormous consequences.

A single event driven by fate, after Ben told his wife Charlotte he would be late home one night, he left early, and by chance discovers his wife having dinner in their favourite restaurant with another man.

A single event where it could be said Ben was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Who was this man? Why was she having dinner with him?

A simple truth to explain the single event was all Ben required. Instead, Charlotte told him a lie.

A single event that forces Ben to question everything he thought he knew about his wife, and the people who are around her.

After a near-death experience and forced retirement into a world he is unfamiliar with, Ben finds himself once again drawn back into that life of lies, violence, and intrigue.

From London to a small village in Tuscany, little by little Ben discovers who the woman he married is, and the real reason why fate had brought them together.

http://amzn.to/2CqUBcz

In a word: Flower

It’s what we expect to see when we walk past the front of some houses but instead sometimes see lawn, rocks, or a disaster.

They are what makes the difference between a delightful street and an ugly one, and by that I mean flowers.

By definition though, it means the state or period in which the plant’s flowers have developed and opened/

Just beware the man who turns up with a bunch of flowers that look vaguely familiar to those that grow in your neighbour’s gardens.

They are also in abundance in horticultural gardens, and in florist shops.

My favourites are roses.

And just a word of warning, look out for triffids.  If you read John Wyndham science fiction you’ll know what I mean.

Another mean for the word is to reach the optimum stage of development, though the word bloom could also be used to describe the same thing.

There is another similar-sounding word, flour, but this is the stuff used to make bread, scones, and puddings.

By definition, it is the result of grinding wheat or other grains to a powder.

If something is said to be floury, then it means it is bland.

 

A new start for my next Zoe the Assassin novel, ‘First Dig Two Graves’

Here’s the thing.

I’ve written the story, and editing after leaving the story for about a year, and it’s coming along.

But…

Yes, there’s always a but in there somewhere.

But, I don’t like the start, or for that matter, I can’t get a feel for it.  I have about five different starting points, but none of them feel right.

I’ve been thinking of writing it from John’s perspective, but there are so many peripheral characters that need to be drawn in, people he doesn’t really know much about, or that some have a vested interest in his current girlfriend if she could be called that.

So I thought I’d throw a few words down and see how they sit.

 

You would not know by looking at MaryAnne that she was probably one of the best assassins in the world.  You would be more inclined to consider she was just another spoilt American brat on the loose on holiday.

She was certainly one of the most beautiful women I’d ever met.

And she was certainly one of the most deadly.  I could personally attest to that having seen her in action.

I could also attest to the fact that somewhere under that hard, conscienceless exterior, there was a heart, and sometimes it was visible.  After all, I was a target, her target, once, and I’m still alive thanks to her.

It was a small detail I omitted when I introduced her to my parents, but that was one little step on a long road that I thought was going somewhere.

Perhaps, after all this time, I’d misinterpreted the signs and I was wrong.

We were sitting on the balcony of our hotel room on the 45th floor of the hotel we were staying at in downtown Surfer’s Paradise, a mecca for holidaymakers from the rest of Australia, and overseas.

It was perfect for tourists.

The champagne was cold, and although it was a hot 35 degrees Celcius out in the sunlight, the mood on the balcony was a decidedly cool as the champagne.

Today was the six month anniversary of the first day we had spent together as, well, I was not sure, now, what we were.

She turned to look at me.  She was nothing like the Zoe of old, and I had finally got used to Mary Anne.  It was an amazing transformation, but with it, I had thought she had finally shrugged off the Zoe persona.

She hadn’t.  That hardened expression that I had hoped would be gone forever, had returned.

“It’s time to go back home, John.”

It was also that tone, the one when she spoke, that sent shivers down my spine, not the good shivers, but the one that told me trouble was ahead.  Deadly trouble.

“I need to do something.  Don’t get me wrong, this had been a delightful rest, and I could not ask for a better companion, but it’s time.  We both knew this was going to happen.”

I noticed her features had softened a little when she mentioned my name, but the message was the same.  We had talked about this moment at the outset.  There was always going to be a use-by date on this adventure, for me at least.

It was also the time when she would, she said, decided where I would fit, if I fitted, in her future.  When we originally spoke about it, she was still unsure of her feelings towards me.  Over time, I had also hoped that they would be the same as mine for her.

Perhaps I had been expecting too much.

“When did you decide?”

“About thirty seconds ago.  That’s when I realized it doesn’t matter where we are in the world, I still want to be with you.  So, how do you like the idea of going into the assassination business?”

 

I’m not sure what John might think of this development, but I think you will agree with me, so long as he is with Zoe, he’s happy.

 

© Copyright, Charles Heath 2018

 

 

 

Searching for locations: Rome, Italy

We visited Rome in August

It was hot.

It was verrrry hot.

We flew into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino airport after a rather bumpy flight from London.  Unlike most other airports the plane parked at a satellite terminal and after we disembarked we had to catch a train to the main terminal.

The most notable memory of this airport was my daughter’s discovery of a salami shop.

We had booked a transfer to take us to the hotel the Roma Corso Trieste Mercure in Via Gradisca from the airport.  It was a white air-conditioned van and so far we had avoided the heat.

One of the rooms had a faulty air conditioning an absolute must as the rooms were very hot without it and necessitated a room change which was done quickly and efficiently.

The hotel was in the suburbs and without a car we were dependent on public transport.  According to the reception staff, there was a bus stop nearby, and a longer walk to the tram or light railway.  The bus seemed to be the best option as it would take us to the central terminal near the railway station, where all tour buses also operated from, and particularly the open top buses that went to all the major tourist attractions.

That first day basically was given over to traveling, arriving by plane and settling into the hotel, thus we didn’t get to feel the force of the heat.  That came the next day.

After a walk around the hotel precinct to get our bearings and see what shops and restaurants were available, on returning to the hotel we were faced with the limited choices of room service or to go out for dinner.

My daughter and l go for a long walk up Via Nomentana to find several shops and a restaurant.  We went into the restaurant and sat down.   We waited for 10 minutes and got no service nor did anyone come and ask us if we wanted to order food so instead we left somewhat disappointed and go next door to what seems to be the Italian version of a delicatessen and order sandwiches and beer.   I bought a half dozen cans of Moretti beer two of which I drank on the way home.

It was still very hot even at eight at night and the sandwiches are delicious.  It just might be by that time we were starving and anything would have tasted great.

The next morning we are up and ready to chance the weather and some history.  Breakfast at the hotel is limited but very good.

We were going to use public transport and I’d studied up on the Internet.

Traveling on the bus required pre-purchase of tickets which could be bought in certain shops and locally when exploring the area near the hotel, l found a tobacconist.

Next, we needed to understand how to use the tickets. There was no one on the bus who could help so when l tried to scan the tickets and it failed, l gave up.  We had the same issue each day and in the end, the tickets never got used.

The trip to central Rome by bus took about 15 minutes.  In the morning it was reasonably cool and showed us a little of suburban Rome.  We also saw the trams but we would not be able to use them because our hotel not on a direct route.

That first full day we decided to go and see the Vatican.

Not understanding buses and which one we needed to get to the Vatican, we took a taxi.

Wow.  It was the metaphorical equivalent of driving over the edge of a cliff with a daredevil.  It was quite literally terrifying.

Or maybe we just didn’t know that this was probably the way people drove in Rome.

Shaken but delivered in one piece we found ourselves in the square opposite St Peters Basilica.

The square is impressive, with the statues atop a circular colonnaded walkway.  The church is incredible, and took a few hours to take in and to top off the day we did a tour of the Vatican museum which took the rest of the afternoon.

Then it was back to the delicatessen for more sandwiches and beer, and an interesting discussion with several elderly Italian ladies, of which I did not understand one word.

The second full day we decided to use one of the open top bus tours and eventually decided on the hop on hop off tour simply because the bus was at the central transport terminal for trains and buses and it was getting hotter.

Our first stop was the Colosseum.  There were other monuments nearby, such as the Arch of Constantine, but as the heat factor increased we joined the queue to go into the Colosseum and gladly welcomed the shade once we got inside.

The queue was long and the wait equally so, but it was worth the wait.  It would be more interesting if they could restore part of it to its former glory so we could get a sense of the place as it once was.  But alas that may never happen, but even so, it is still magnificent as a ruin.

Outside in the heat, it was off to the ruins which were a longish walk from the Colosseum, taking Via Sacra, not far from the Arch of Constantine.  This day in the walkway there were a number of illegal vendors, selling knockoff goods such as handbags and watches, and who, at the first sight of the police, packed up their wares in a blanket and ran.

Included in these ruins were The Roman Forum, or just a few columns remaining, the Palatine Hill, Imperial Fori, including the Forum of Augustus, the Forum of Caesar, and more specifically the Forum of Trajan.  It was, unfortunately very hot and dusty in the ruins the day we visited.

We walked all the way to the Foro Romano and the Septimus Severo Arch at the other end of the ruins, past the Temple of Caesar.  I found it very difficult to picture what it was like when the buildings were intact, so I bought a guide to the ruins which showed the buildings as ruins and an overlay of how they would have looked.  The buildings, then, would be as amazing as the Colosseum, and it would have been interesting to have lived back then, though perhaps not as a Christian.

I lost count of the number of bottles of water we bought, but the word ‘frizzante’ was ringing in my ears by the end of the day.  Fortunately, water did not cost a lot to buy.

At the end of the day, we caught the hop on hop off bus at the Colosseum and decided not to get off and see any more monuments but observe them from the bus.  The only one I remember seeing was Circo Massimo.  Perhaps if we’d know it was going to be twice as hot on the bus, yes, there was no air-conditioning; we may have chosen another form of transport to get back to the hotel.

The third and last day in Rome we decided to go to the Trevi Fountain, see the pantheon and walk up the Spanish Steps.  We spent most of the morning in the cool of a café watching the tourists at the fountain.  By the time we reached the top of the Spanish Steps, we were finished.

 

Searching for locations: Florence, Italy

For a writer, a place takes on a whole new meaning as we subconsciously look for locations in which parts of our stories will play out.  Of course, at the time, we have no idea what those parts of stories will be, but notes, mentally and physically, are taken for future reference.

And, unlike the usual tourist, we always see it differently.  I know I do.

Apologies now if I have misspelled any street, piazza or any other names.

The first time we arrived in Florence was by train, from Innsbruck in Austria.  We had been booked into the Hotel Brunelleschi, based on the fact it was built over part of a 12th-century monastery, it was conveniently located, and was a luxury hotel.

We took a taxi, not knowing how far it was, and found it tucked away in a street, via Sant’elisabetta, not far from Florence’s cathedral, the Duomo.  The taxi barely fitted through the streets.  First impressions, it was very old, second impression, the room we were given was amazing, with a view over the main street, and wafting up from a food shop below, the aroma of newly baked waffles.  We had to have one.

Words cannot describe how amazing it was to wake up that first morning and look out at the bright sunshine and blue sky.  We were in for a hot day, but that wasn’t going to deter the tourist in us.  Of course, after we had a great breakfast.  I particularly liked the crispy bacon.

The first place on the list to visit was the Piazza del Duomo, where the cathedral is located, and the Porta del Paradiso.  We went into the church, and also did a side trip down into the crypt.  We did not climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s cupola.  We tried the pizza, and hearing that the gelato was very expensive in the main part of the city, ventured further afield and found a gelato vendor that was inexpensive.  As the day was very hot it was a welcome relief.

The Ponte Vecchio, the bridge that crosses the Arno.  We walked to the bridge, taking in the views up and down the river before crossing to the other side, then back towards the Piazza Santa Croce.  On our most recent visit there was a football competition, Calcio Fiorentino, in progress that had taken over the whole Piazza, and during the day there was a parade where all the teams and others dressed in the historic clothing dating back to the 15th century.

The Galleria dell’Accademia was also high on the list of places to visit, and we left the hotel early as we had heard the queues are long to get in.  They were right.  We were at the end of a very, very long queue stretching back to Via delgi Alfani.  We were in the queue for about an hour and a half and it didn’t seem to move very quickly.

Then some people passing by said that we could go to the Museo Di San Marco, and purchase tickets to enter the gallery at a particular time.  We had also read or heard something similar, and, taking a risk we left the queue and went in search.  We found it at the Piazza San Marco, purchased tickets for 13:30 and had time to have lunch before turning up at the entrance for our timeslot, and sure enough, with others who had also purchased tickets, we went in.

Just out of curiosity I went back to the queue to see when the people in front of us were, and they still had an hour before gaining admission.

We saw everything that was recommended, including the famous statue of David, though I had a lot of trouble taking a photo when people kept walking in front.

The Piazza Della Signoria has a large number of statues, including another of David, the Marzocco, the symbol of Florence, Il Perseo, the fountain of Neptune, Poseidon, Perseus with the head of Medusa, and a hall of statues adjacent to the Palazzo Vecchio.

Florence is old, the roads are cobbled and narrow, and there are many trails one can follow and discover something new at the end of every twist and turn.

I have to go back, other than the fact I need a new wallet and belt made from Italian leather.  My wife loves the purses and handbags, also leather, though the scarves have only recently been added to her list of most wanted items.  I want to simply soak up the atmosphere, relax, eat the pasta and drink the endless supply of Moretti’s.

 

In a word: Story

All of us writers know what this is, the sort of combination of words that all come together as a story.  A tale about anything whether it is true or just plain fiction.

A story can be long, or it can be short.  It could be a magazine or newspaper article, it could be what a child tells his or her mother or father when they get into trouble.

Come to think of it, I think that’s where I got an interest in writing stories because as a child I was always in trouble.

Of course, if you are telling certain types of stories,, then it’s bound to be a lie.  And made even worse if it is gossip!

That story might even be my interpretation of events, and as it happens, it’s possible no two stories are the same, especially if I and others had witnessed the same event.

This is not to be confused with the other version, storey, which is a single level in a building, one that might have thirty or more stories.

And, just to add to the confusion, living in Brisbane in Australia we have the Storey Bridge.