Writing about writing a book – Day 8

I am painfully reminded that I need to have Social Media presence.

Marilyn told me that if I was on ‘Facebook’ I would have been able to follow her ‘adventures’.  If I was on Twitter I could acquire reading followers, and Instagram, to share photos of book covers and my travels.

I drag out the dusty laptop computer, the one that had an email account that goes back to the early days of the internet, and used a VT52 mainframe interface, or at least that was what I think it was called, and fire it up.  The operating system is out of date, error messages on top of error messages.  Thankfully the desktop works, but it too, is out of date, running Windows 97.

Even my mobile phone is more powerful and sophisticated than both my boat anchors.

Time to get into the ‘real’ world!

My writing is now on hold.  Shopping for a new computer, and updating operating system software, is a priority.

 

I am pleasantly surprised at just how inexpensive reasonable good laptop computers cost.  I looked at tablets from Apple, Samsung, and the Surface.  All very nice, but a computer, as big and cumbersome as it is, is still the cheapest option.

My afternoon is taken up with installing windows 10, setting up a Gmail email account, investigating, and signing up for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  I also take out a cheap subscription to Microsoft Office.  I need Word for manuscripts, and Excel to budget, Powerpoint to dazzle.

I take to reading the information about ‘creating an author presence on the internet’ and see that perhaps I need to have a ‘blog’, whatever that is, and a website.

There’s free and there’s not so free.

Damn.  A day wasted in computer and social media land.  They even had something called the ‘cloud’.  I think I have been out of the computer world too long, having transferred into middle management just as the next phase of the computer technology started making an impact.

Tomorrow I tackle blogging.

 

I can’t sleep, not without writing something for the day.  My thoughts have been swirling around Bill and Jennifer, and it’s time to bring them together, and by, guess what, a calamity!

 

I start scribbling:

 

Hospitals were places I rarely visited.  Like others who shared my fear, it would take a rather compelling reason to get me there.  On this occasion, it had been a compelling reason.  If I hadn’t got to the hospital when I did, I would now be dead.

When I woke, it was to disorientation and confusion.  I didn’t remember much of anything that had happened after having lunch with Jennifer, and running into Aitchison.

When I finally came from the depths of unconsciousness and returned to whatever version of reality that was running at the time, I found myself in a position where any movement, including breathing, was painful.

It was dark, the shapes were blurry, and some moved.  As objects slowly came into focus, activity increased, and more people arrived.  My major concern at that time was the sensation of immobility, and of how difficult it was to breathe, or, more to the point, how painful.  Muffled voices spoke in a strange language.  After a short time, consciousness slipped away, as, mercifully, did the pain.

It was another week, though it seemed like a month before I realized where I was.  It had taken a while, but it was definitely a hospital.  One of the shadowy figures also became recognizable.

Jennifer.

She, too, had a number of bandages, and the black and blue look of a person who’d just survived a hit and run.

Then I remembered.

Aitchison.

Outside the restaurant.

When my eyes finally came into focus I looked at her and saw her smile.  Another realization, though it became clearer sometime later, was that my hand was in hers, and as she squeezed it gently, I felt it give me strength.

“Welcome back.”  She was quite close, close enough for her perfume to overpower the clinical disinfectant.

“Where did I go?”  My voice was barely above a whisper, my throat dry.

“We’re not sure.  You died once.  Now you only have eight lives left.”

It was odd that I’d heard it before, somewhere in the distant past, so I believed I had fewer lives to spare.  I looked at her.  “Aitchison?”

“He didn’t make it.”

“You?”

“I got caught in the crossfire.  So did you.  The police said Aitchison was the target.  We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I’d heard that before, too.  I think that was Richardson’s problem, and he’d suffered the same fate, but his end result was terminal.

The conversation had exhausted me, and the pain returned.  It was still difficult to breathe, and I dared not look where most of the tubes were going.  Tears ran down my cheeks as the pain became unbearable.  I heard her call a nurse, and not long after the pain receded.  So did my consciousness.

 

Enough, it’s time for sleep.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

Searching for locations: O’Reilly’s Vineyard, Canungra, Queensland, Australia

O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards located on Lamington National Park Road, Canungra, Queensland, is a 15-acre vineyard with the 163-year-old historic homestead ‘Killowen’ set up with dining rooms and long verandahs, and extensive grounds that are next to the Canungra creek where it is possible to find Platypus and turtles while partaking in a picnic.

There are about 6,000 vines of the (white) Semillon, Verdelho and (red) Chambourcin, Shiraz and Petit Vedot varieties.

We visited there in December when the vines were just starting to produce fruit. 

That fruit is usually harvested in February and then turned into wine.
The setting for picnics is, on a warm Summer’s day is idyllic, where you can wade in the creek, or go looking for a platypus.  We did not see one there the day we visited but did spend some time sitting beside the creek.

The cinema of my dreams – Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 16

As we all know, writing by the seat of your pants is almost the same as flying by the seat of your pants, a hazardous occupation.

As it happens, I like writing this way because like the reader, I don’t know what to expect next.

And equally, at times, you can write your self into a corner, much like painting, and then have to go back, make a few changes and//or repairs and then move forward.

It’s part of the writing process, only in this case, the changes occur before you’ve finished the novel if you finish.  Quite often a lot of writers get only so far, then the manuscript hits the bottom drawer, to be brought out on a distant rainy day.

Or your cat has mocked your writing ability one too many times.

Therefore, we’re winding back to Episode 16, and moving forward once again, from there.

O’Connor seemed to be more affluent than I because he was living in a flat located in an upmarket building.  Getting into the ground floor required a passkey, one I suspect might also be needed to get in the front door of his flat, but I’d worry about that later.

My first problem was that front door, and it was not until a tradesman exited that I took the opportunity to appear to arrive at the same time, pretending to find my card, and brushing past him as he was exiting.  He ignored me, his hands full, being in a hurry.

It took a day and a half of watching the building, waiting for an opportunity.  His flat was on the third floor and although there was an elevator, I took the stairs, hoping that I wouldn’t run into anyone.

Quickly and quietly, and thankfully without seeing another resident, I came out into the passageway, and it was about ten steps to his front door.  Number 37.  Not far away, in one direction, the end of the passage, and numbers 38, 39, and 40.  In the other, four more flats and the end of the corridor.  Windows at either end, perhaps an escape route.  I would not use the elevator if I had to leave in a hurry.

There were two elevators and one staircase.  Both elevators were stationary on the ground floor.

I knocked lightly on the door to number 37.

No answer.

I knocked a little harder on the door.  It was quite solid, and I had to wonder if the knocking sound penetrated the solid wood.

I checked the lock.  Simple to open.  We’d been given instruction by a master locksmith, and I’d brought my tools.

I waited a minute, checked to see if the elevators were still on the ground floor, then picked the lock and was inside within a minute.

Silence.

I felt along the wall for a light switch, usually by the door, and found it, and flicked it on.  The sudden light was almost blinding, but then my eyes adjusted.

Trashed, much the same as my flat.

But, with a difference.

A woman was stretched out on the floor, unmoving.  I could see, from where I was standing, she had been hit on the back of the head and could see the wound, and a trickle of blood through her hair.

Five steps to reach her, I reached down to check for a pulse.

Yes, she was alive.

I shook her gently.  She didn’t react.  I shook her a little more roughly and she stirred, then, as expected, lashed out.

I caught her hands, saying, “I just found you.  I’m not your enemy.”

Of course, considering I was a stranger in what could be her flat without permission, I was not surprised she continued to struggle until I tried being reassuring.  Then she stopped and asked, “Who are you?”

“A friend of O’Connor.  I worked with him.  Something happened to him at work and he said if that happened, I was to come here.  He didn’t say anything about you, though.”

“I live here, in the flat next door.  I heard a noise and came to investigate.  That’s all I remember.”

I helped her up into a sitting position, and, holding her head in her hands, looked around.  “Did you do this?”

“No.  Just got here.  But it’s the same at my place.  The people who did this are looking for something.  By the look of it, they didn’t find it here either.”

“I’ll get a damp cloth for your head.  It doesn’t look serious but there might be a slight concussion that might need attention.”

She felt the back of her head, and, when she touched the wound, gasped, “It hurts though.”

I stood and went over to the kitchenette.  O’Connor was not much of a cook, the benches looked new, and there was nothing out.  I looked in a draw near the sink and found a cloth, still with the price tag on it.  So were several utensils in the drawer.  I ran it under the water, then went back to her, now off the floor and sitting on one of the two chairs.  I handed her the wet cloth and she put it against the injured part of her head.

I made a mental note, it didn’t look like O’Connor had been here long, if at all.  Something was not right here, and if that was the case, I should take care when saying anything to this woman.

“Who are you again?” she asked.

“I worked with him.  My name is irrelevant.  It’s unlikely that he mentioned me to you, or anyone.  It’s the nature of our work.”

“Why should I believe you?  You could be my attacker.”

“If that were the case, why would I still be here trying to be helpful.”

A good question that elicited a curious expression.

“What do you do, what did Oliver do?”

Alarm bells were going off.  Oliver was not O’Connor’s first name.

“Nothing very interesting, I can assure you, and definitely nothing that would warrant this happening.  If it had only been me, I would have not thought any more of it, but since we worked together, and this has also happened to him, it seems we are mixed up in something bad.”

“Where is he, by the way?”

“I was hoping you could tell me.  If you live next door and know him well enough to be here, he might have told you.”

“No.  He never spoke about work.”

She was trying to stand so I helped her up and held on when it looked like she was about to collapse.  Last time I had a knock to the head, I had dizziness for a minute of two.  Her knock had been a lot harder.”

“Are you alright?”  She didn’t look it.

“I will be, I’m sure.”

I let her go, and she took several steps, then gave me a rather hard look.  “Why are you here again?”

“Trying to find my friend.”

“How did you get in here?”

Rather than make her disorientated, the knock must have sharpened her senses.  Time to test a theory. 

“I think we should call the police now, and report the break-in.”

I pulled out my phone.

“Look, I don’t want to get mixed up in this.  You go, and I report this when I get back home.  And, if you find him, tell him Josephine is looking for him.”

As I thought.  She was not able to explain to the authorities why she was in this flat, as I’m sure she believed I couldn’t either.

She started walking towards the door.  My staying any longer would raise her suspicions about me, and any search I was going to do would have to wait.  I opened the door, she walked out, and I followed shutting the door after me.

I left her standing outside the door and headed for the stairs.  A last glance back showed her still where I left her.  I went down to the first landing, then stopped.  It was part of the training, to treat everyone as suspicious.

Then I heard her voice, as she passed the top of the staircase, on her way back to her flat.  “He was here, looking for the files.  No, he’s gone.”  A minute’s silence, then “On my way.”

Another minute, I heard the elevator car arrive on the third floor.

I quickly ran down the stairs to the ground floor and waited at the door until she came out of the elevator, heading for the door.

Then as she passed through the front door, I came out into the foyer just in time to see a car stop out the front, and a familiar face out through the rear window.

Nobbin.

© Charles Heath 2019-2022

Writing about writing a book – Day 5 continues – Those annoying people called characters

Whilst it is always an idea to sit down and write and keep going, not worrying too much about the narrative, there’s always the problem of ideas about characters, and relationships that come back and need to be addressed.

I have issues with Jennifer in that we will need to know something about her, and need a little backstory.

Jennifer is the second most important character in this novel and one that has more talents than what my main character, or anyone else for that matter, thinks she has.  Of course, that is deliberate on her part for a number of reasons that will be introduced at the appropriate time.

But, at the start, all we will have to work with, is the introduction provided by the narrator.

It may go something like this:

 

Jennifer Pennington Smythe was, as you might expect, very English, very reserved, and very private.  She was the definitive ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, and I was guilty, at first, of suspecting she had once been a schoolmistress due to the severity of dress, demeanor, and expression.

HR had sent her to me when I’d requested an IT Specialist, though of what particular discipline it was never divulged, neither by HR nor by her.  She arrived one morning, told me she was to ‘help resolve our technical difficulties’, moved into an office that had been used as a storeroom, and worked hard to prove her worthiness in the role.

My first attempt at conversation was rebuffed, the second met with a very cold stare.  Everyone, including me, learned very quickly that any other topic of conversation than work would be ignored.  At the time it suited me, there was trouble in paradise and I didn’t want anything more on my plate to deal with.

 

So, what is this trouble?

There are three distinct stages of this relationship between the two most important characters, and it is the actions of one of the protagonists that brings them together.  This particular protagonist, of course, is the main character’s wife, a woman that is on the periphery for the period the novel covers, but a little background will be needed at some point before we reach this part of the narrative.

This now means that I will have to put together a back story for Bill and his ex-wife Ellen, not too much yet but enough to explain the next part of the evolving relationship between Bill and Jennifer.

 

I’m sure this topic is going to raise it’s head again and again…

Searching for locations: Kensington Palace, gardens, and high tea at the Orangery

We have been to this palace several times, the last being with our granddaughters.

Anyone can take a photo of the front door, I think I have done one better, and taken a picture of the back door, hidden behind an ice cream vendor.

Excellent security measures in place!

2013-06-29 13.35.32

But after visiting the palace for as long as the children could retain interest, which was beginning to wane after an hour or so, we came out to go to the Orangery and see if we could treat them to afternoon tea.

2013-06-29 14.51.04

The Orangery is at the end of this walkway.  More on this experience below.

Moving on…

2013-06-29 14.51.16

It was a few minutes looking at round trees and squirrels which seemed to be in abundance.  Maybe the squirrels were being spoiled by eating leftovers from the Orangery.

But the gardens beckoned.

2013-06-29 14.51.55

Lots of green and color.  This was in winter so the sun was a bonus.

We were expecting snow, but no such luck!

2013-06-29 14.52.38

Not even the pond was frozen over.

2013-06-29 14.54.05

Such was the good weather in the middle of winter, a great many people turned out to bask in what little sun there was.

Don’t worry, the next day it started raining again, and didn’t end till we left.

But, there’s only so much sun one can handle in London, and we were getting hungry.  Whilst not expecting it would be available, or the girls would actually like cucumber sandwiches, we were hoping for them to, at the very least, have a new culinary experience.

As for us, we have a quest of sorts, depending on which country we’re in, and in London, it is a quest to find new places to have high tea as we had exhausted the favorites like Selfridges, Harrods, and Fortnum and Mason.

We had our fingers crossed.

There are a number of stops on the tour bus, you know the one, or two, with the word Highlights in its name.  It’s easier to get on one of these than try to navigate your own way around, and it took us to Kensington Palace.

The weather had improved, we were hoping it would be one of those days with a surprise or two left in it.

We saw this white building tucked away near Kensington Palace and after doing the regulation tour we were up for a cup of tea and a cake.

Instead, we found they had High Tea and that was it.

orangery3

The English seem to have a knack for pulling off some of the best sandwiches, particularly those of the cucumber variety, and definitely my absolute favorite.

Here we had the Queen’s tea.

orangery2

In fact, at each of the establishments mentioned above, we had their signature tea, served in fine bone china cups.

Ah, what it must have been like in the olden days of the British Empire!

Searchings for locations: Oreti Village – No two sunrises are the same – 1

Oreti village, Pukawa Bay, North Island, New Zealand

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Our first morning there, a Saturday.  Winter.  Cold.  And a beautiful sunrise.

20180812_073230

This was taken from the balcony, overlooking the lake.

The sun is just creeping up over the horizon

20180812_073241

It gradually gets lighter, and then the sun breaks free of the low cloud

It lights up the balcony

20180811_074651

And the trees just beyond, a cascade of colorful ferns.

20180811_074622

It looks like its going to be a fine day, our first for this trip, and we will be heading to the mountains to see snow, for the first time for two of our granddaughters.

In a word: Hear

Which reminds me, I am told I have selective hearing, that I only hear what I want to hear

But what if you overhear someone?  Would it be by accident or on purpose?  Of course, some people talk so loudly you can’t help but hear them

In reality, to hear is to perceive with the ear something or someone

If you pay attention in class, you might hear what is being said

The judge, far from being dismissive, said he would hear the case

And I’m sure we sometimes wonder if God can hear our prayers

Did you hear the news?  If it’s anything other than COVID I probably did.

Hear hear, now what does that really mean when someone cries it out after someone else makes a statement?

This is not to be confused with the word here

Like when someone asks where you are, you say I’m here, but forget to add that you are invisible

This is going to end here and now!

Here is a book I think you should read

Here, let me take that bag of groceries

How many times did you consider not saying ‘here’ when the teacher called your name at roll-call?  I know I did, a few times

“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way:  Adding some back story for clarity

I have reworked the first part of the story with a few new elements about the characters and changed a few of the details of how the characters finish up in the shop before the policewoman makes her entrance.

This is part of the new first section is the one that involves the shopkeeper`:

  

This wasn’t the shopkeeper’s first hold up.  In fact, over the years there had been a dozen.  But only one got reported to the police, and that was only because the robber was shot and killed.

He’d taken a bullet that night, too, which, from the police point of view, made him a concerned citizen simply defending himself.

The rest had been scared off by the double-barrel shotgun he kept under the counter for just such emergencies.

The young punk who came into the shop with his girlfriend had pulled out the pistol and told him if he reached for the shotgun he’d shoot him.  The kid looked unstable and he’d backed away.

When the kid collapsed, he should have gone for the shotgun, but instead, he thought he could get to the gun before the girl realized what was happened.  She wasn’t an addict and clearly looked like she was only along for the ride.  Her expression, when the kid pulled out the gun told him she’d known nothing about her partner’s true intentions.

But, he wasn’t fast enough, and she had the gun pointing at him before he’d got past the counter.

From one pair of unpredictable hands to another.

Like the girl, he was just as surprised when the customer burst in the door, just before closing time.

The situation might have been salvageable before the customer came in the door, getting the girl to go along with the robbery being about money, but there was no denying what the kid on the floor’s problem was.

Damn.

He had to try and salvage the situation simply because there was a lot of money involved, and other people depending on him.  He looked at the boy, on the floor, then the girl.

“Listen to me, young lady, you would be well advised to let this man go as he suggests.  And, please put the gun down before someone gets hurt.  Your friend needs medical help and I can call an ambulance.”

The girl switched her attention back to him.  “No one’s going anywhere, so just shut the hell up and let me think.”

The storekeeper glanced over at the customer. 

He’d seen him come into the shop once or twice, probably lived in the neighborhood, the sort who’d make a reliable witness, either a lawyer or an accountant.  Not like most of the residents just beyond the fringe of respectability.

If only he hadn’t burst into the shop when he did.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Character refinement

I have reworked the first part of the story with a few new elements about the characters and changed a few of the details of how the characters finish up in the shop before the policewoman makes her entrance.

This is part of the new first section is the one that involves Annalisa, and her boyfriend, Simmo:

 

Annalisa looked at the two men facing her.

Simmo, the boy on the floor, had told her that the shopkeeper would be a pushover, he was an old man who’d just hand over the drugs, rather than cause trouble for himself.

Where Simmo had discovered what the shopkeeper’s true vocation, dispensing drugs to the neighborhood addicts, she didn’t know, but it was not the first place like this they had visited.

She had always known Simmo had a problem, but he had assured her he had it under control.  Until a month ago, when he had tried something new.

It had changed him.

The breaking point came earlier that day when, seeing how sick he was, she threatened to leave.  It brought out the monster within him, and he threatened to kill her.  Not long after he had changed into a whimpering child pleading with her to stay, that he hadn’t meant anything he’d said before.

All he needed was one more ‘score’ to get his ‘shit’ together, and he would do as she asked, and find help.

She believed him.

He said he knew a place not far from the apartment, a small shop where what he needed was available, and said he had the money.

That should have been the first sign he was not telling the truth because she had been funding his habit until her parents cut off the money supply.  She suspected her father had put a private detective on to find her, had, and reported back, and rather than make a scene, just cut her off so she would have to come home or starve.  Her father was no better than Simmo.

And, as soon as they stepped into the shop, Simmo pulled out the gun,

Instead of the shopkeeper cowered like Simmo said he would, he had laughed at them and told them to get out.  Simmo started ranting and waving the gun around, then all of a sudden collapsed. 

There was a race for the gun which spilled out of Simmo’s hand, and she won. 

That was just before the customer burst into the shop.

It had been shortly before closing time.  Simmo had said there would be no one else around.

Wrong again.

Now she had another problem to deal with, a man who was clearly as scared shitless as she was.

This was worse than any bad hair day, or getting out of the wrong side of bed day, this was, she was convinced, the last day of her life.

She heard a strange sound come from beside her and looked down.  There was a trickle of blood coming out of his mouth and Simmo was making strange sounds like he was choking.

Any other time she might have been concerned, but the hard reality of it was, Simmo was never going to change.  She was only surprised at the fact it took so long for her to realize it.

As for the man standing in front of her, she was safe from the shopkeeper with him around, so he would have to stay.

“No.  Stay.”

Another glance at the shopkeeper told her she had made the right decision, his expression said it all.  Gun or no gun, the moment she was alone with him, he would kill her.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Adding more to the second part

The story fleshed out for the second section, discussed in Point of View

 

Annalisa looked at the two men facing her, a shopkeeper who, despite his protestations, was a dealer, and the other man, a customer scared shitless.

The poor bastard was not the only one scared. 

It was meant to be simple, arrive at the shop just before closing, force the shopkeeper to hand over the shit, and leave.

What had happened?

The shopkeeper laughed at them and  told them to get out.  Simmo started ranting and waving the gun around, then all of a sudden collapsed. 

There was a race for the gun which spilled out of Simmo’s hand, and she won.  No more arguments, the shopkeeper was getting the stuff when the customer burst into the shop.

This was worse than any bad hair day, or getting out of the wrong side of bed day, this was, she was convinced, the last day of her life.

Her mother said she would never amount to anything, and here she was with a drug addict coming apart because she had been cut off from her money and could no longer pay for his supply, which had led them to this inevitable ending.

She heard a strange sound come from beside her and looked down.  Simmo was getting worse, like he had a fever, and was moaning.

 

If Alphonse had thought his day was going to get any better after the delivery disaster earlier that day, he was wrong.

If he thought he could maintain his real business and his under the counter business with no one finding out, in that he was wrong too.  He’s know, inevitably, some useless punk would come and do exactly what Simmo was doing.

It might have been salvageable before the customer came in the door, but now it was not.  The customer had heard the words, and given him ‘the look’.  A drug addict telling the cops he was a dealer, it was his word against an  unreliable addict, but this local chap, he had that air of respectability the cops would listen too.

Damn.

But he had to try and salvage the situation, there was a lot of money involved, and other people depending on him.  He looked at the boy, on the floor, then  the girl.

“Listen to me, young lady, I have no idea what you are talking about.  Please, put the gun down before someone gets hurt.  Your friend needs medical help and I can call an ambulance.”

The girl switched her attention back to him.  “Shut up, let me think.  Shit.”

The storekeeper glanced over at the customer.  He’s been in once or twice, probably lived in the neighborhood, but looked the sort who’d  prefer to be anywhere but in his shop.  More so now.  If only he hadn’t burst in when he did.  He would have the gun, called the police, and brazened his way out of trouble.  Now, that remedy was off the table.

Now he had to deal with the fallout, especially if the girl started talking.

 

 

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020