In a word: Steal

You know how it goes, somebody breaks into your house and they steal the family jewels, which means, they’ve taken something that’s not theirs.

Baseballers will be well familiar with the term steal a base because that sneaky second base runner is trying to get to third, before the pitcher fires in a curveball.

But then there’s that same thief trying to rob you is stealing his way downstairs.

You come across a bargain, that is the seller doesn’t quite know what they’ve got and assumed it’s junk, that’s a steal.

On stage, one actor can steal the limelight from another.  if a film, an actor with a lesser part, can, if their good enough, steal the scene.

And if you’re lucky enough, you might steal a kiss, or just get slapped.

Then there’s the government, using a certain event to change the laws, and it might just steal your liberty.

This is not to be confused with the word steel, which means something else entirely, like a very malleable metal that’s low in carbon.

Or like most of our heroes, they have nerves of steel, or if they are like us, they need to steel themselves with a suitable fortification, rum is my choice.

But for me, I like the phrase, he had a steely look on his face and it was hard to tell if that was good or bad.

“Sunday in New York”, it’s a bumpy road to love

“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!

Purchase:

http://tinyurl.com/Amazon-SundayInNewYork

Sunday In New York

Searching for locations: Florence, Italy

Florence is littered with endless statues, and we managed to see quite a few,

If those statues came to life I wonder what they might tell us?

Like castles on the shores of the Rhine, there are only so many statues you can take photos of.  Below are some of those I thought significant

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Michelangelo’s David directs his warning gaze at someone else.

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The impressive muscles of Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules from 1533. The worked-out demi-god is pulling the hair of Cacus, who will be clubbed and strangled.

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Achilles with Polyxena in arm, stepping over her brother’s body

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Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus, in the Loggia dei Lan

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Statue of Hercules killing the Centaur by Giambologna in Loggia dei Lanzi. Piazza della Signoria.

On the back of the Loggia there are six marble female statues, probably coming from the Trajan’s Foro in Rome, discovered in 1541 and brought to Florence in 1789

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, it 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, no, you had the securely in their pram but somehow they got loose while you weren’t looking

‘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, which in fact stretched for a whole block

‘As mad as a hatter’, though not necessarily of the millinery kind, but, well, you can guess, it’s from Alice in Wonderland

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

And, ‘I haven’t heard from him in donkey’s years’ which means you haven’t heard from someone for a long time, or perhaps as long as it takes donkey’s ears to fully grow.

Yes, someone made a minor adjustment and added a y to ears, because it used to be ‘donkey’s ears’, believe it or not.

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

 

Writing about writing a book – Day 21 continues

I’m still working on Bill’s backstory, and how he got mixed up in the war, and as a general background to his situation, and life before Davenport.

This is still in his own words:

 

But whether we were stupid or naive, or completely mad, we were all eager to get into battle, filled with the sort of hate only Army propaganda films could fill you with.  They were our enemy, and they deserved to concede or die.

A fresh face in a hardened platoon, I was eager to get on with it.  They looked knowingly, having seen it all before.  No idea of the reality, and no time to tell us.  Have a few beers to celebrate, and then, the next morning, go out on patrol.  No problem.

There was camaraderie, but it was subdued.  We walked single file, the seasoned campaigners in front and at the rear, treading carefully, demanding quiet, and a general cautiousness.  In the middle of nowhere, where only the sound of rain, or the animals and birds for company, we were naive enough to think this was going to be a doddle.

Then it happened, six hours out, and just before we reached a small clearing.  I thought to myself it was odd there should be such a clear space with jungle all around it.  There must be a reason.

There was.

We had walked into an ambush, and everyone hit the ground.  I was bringing up the rear with another soldier, a veteran not much older than myself whose name was Scotty, a little farther back from the main group.  Bullets sprayed the undergrowth, pinging off trees and leaves.  I buried my face in the dirt, praying I would not die on my first patrol.

We became separated from the others, lying in a hollow, with no idea how far away help was.  He was muttering to himself.  “God, I hate this.  You can never see the bastards.  They’re out there, but you can never bloody well see them.”  Then he crawled up the embankment, gun first.

He let off a few rounds, causing a return of machine-gun fire, spattering the dirt at the top.  Next thing I knew he was sliding down the hill with half his face shot away.  Dead.  I threw up there and then.  What an initiation.

Then one of the enemy soldiers came over the hill to check on his ‘kill’.  I saw him at the same time he saw me and aimed my gun and shot.  It was instinct more than anything else, and I hadn’t stopped to think of the consequences.  He fell down, finishing up next to me, staring at me from black, lifeless eyes. 

Dead. 

I’ll never forget those lifeless eyes.  I just got up and ran, making it back to the rest of the group without getting hit.  No one could explain how I made it safely through the hail of gunfire, from our side and theirs.

Back in the camp later, the veterans remarked on how unlucky Scotty was and how lucky I was to shoot one of the enemies, and not be killed myself.  They all thought it was worth a celebration.

Before we went out the next day to do it all again.

I spent the night vomiting, unable to sleep, haunted look on his face, one I finally realized that reflected complete astonishment.

 

There will be more, as the story develops.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

Short story writing, don’t try this at home (5)

This is not meant to be a treatise on short story writing.  Far be it for me to advise anyone on the subject.  I prefer to say how it is that I do it so you can learn all of the pitfalls in one go.

Now, there’s this thing called continuity, but it covers a whole range of writing sins, most of which I eventually get caught out.  Films sometimes miss a few items, like back in the roman days, there are plane trails in the sky, in a 1920’s period piece, there’s a mobile phone sitting on a desk.

Like one minute the hero has a gun, and the next he’s fighting for his life with a knife, and, hey presto, there’s that gun again.  The error might not be that big but you can’t pull out a weapon you don’t have or wasn’t there in the first place.

Similarly, the hero pulls out a mobile phone, but there’s only one problem, it’s 1980, and there are no mobile phones.  Our problem might be that we are so used to doing and using certain things that we might forget, for a minute or two, that were not available in the past.

The same goes for the fashion of the day.

And my all-time favourite, getting the right make and model of car.

Oh, and just for good measure, back in the old days they used acoustic couplers to attach to phones via a serial port to dial-up not a server, but a BBS, Bulletin Board Service, at a rate of 300 baud, or a little while later, 1,200 baud.

There was no internet in general use.  If you wanted to call the office when out, use a telephone box.  Or carrier pigeon.

And the use of language, there’s a lot of stuff relevant today that was not used back then, and there was a lot of stuff back then that isn’t tolerated now.  Some of it might be hard to get your head around.  It isn’t for me, because I can remember the 1970s and 1980s, but I’m not too sure about allowing some of what happened then to creep into my work.

So, you get the picture.  Try to use the past as the past, or leave it in the past.

Unless it’s a book about time travel, then all bets are off.