My grandchildren have just started working

It’s hard to believe that both the 17 year old and the 14 year old have just both got jobs and started on their path of working for the next 50 to 60 years.

They seem quite amused at the thought, and not without reason, and are not really considering the idea. Not yet, anyway.

The novelty is still quite new, and it has a sense of excitement, but this will no doubt wear off in the coming months. After all, as new workers, they only have to do between 3 and 5 hour shifts.

I guess the fact they have decided to work at such a young age reminded me of my experience, way back when I was 15.

Unhlike them, who will be afforded to opportunity to remain in school to the end, Year 12, and possibly the chance to go to University, in my case we did not have the money to continue education beyond Year 10, and there was no question of ever going to University. Only the rich could afford that, and we were anything but rich.

Instead, I guess hating school helped facilitate my departure, and the notion that I would have to pay my own way, forced me into working.

Of course, it helped living in a small country town, and my father having a job that brought him in contact with everyone who was an anyone, and thus got offers to work in whatever profession I chose.

I ended up in the Post Office, what I considered as the easiest of jobs, originally employed as a telegram delivery boy, and mail collector from the post boxes scatted about the town. As you can imagine, there were not many telegrams to deliver, so other duties included sorting mail, and then mail delivery. Yes I because a postman!

Then, after a few months, I became the night switchboard operator, and with a host of other operators, had some of the most interesting and varied conversations imaginable.

It was a bit of a wrench when we finally moved from the country town back to the city.

When we did, my father bought a small business, and for a year of so, I became a shop assistant.

That lasted for a year or two, until I was 17. Realising that a lack of education was going to make it difficult to ever get a good paying job, I took the opportunity to go back to night school while I had the chance, and it necessitated finding another job to help pay for it.

That was packing books for a wholesale bookseller, part of a small team hidden away in the basement of a very old building. It might not be the best paying job, or the best working conditions, but I suspect it was the universe telling me something.

That job, and being surrounded by books started me off on a journey of reading, and eventually writing.

In a word: Dual

Ever heard of a dual carriageway, it’s a fancy name for a road that has at least two lanes each way.

Even more strange might be the expression, dual personalities. No, we’re not talking about a person who has schizophrenia , but someone who is a Gemini, and might be happy one minute and suddenly horrible the next.

I’m a Gemini and have first hand experience.

I learned to drive in a car with dual controls, and it was sometimes disconcerting to find the car stopping, and you were not doing it.

Dual controls also exist in airplanes, which I have to say is a good thing, especially if either of the pilots have a heart attack.

Some people have a dual nationality. I would have liked to be British as well as Australian, but it’s no longer possible, and like most countries you have to pick one and pledge your allegiance to it.

Or is that duel?

Let’s gets some swords and have a duel. I know who would win, and it would not be me.

OK, let’s switch to pistols and 20 paces, and alas, I don’t think I’d win that one either.

Duels are this actions people have with deadly weapons usually over a matter of honour. I’m not sure why those duels are at dawn when most people are still asleep, including the duellers.

I wonder if this duel thing had something to do with throwing down the gauntlet. It’s an interesting subject and one I’ll look into later.

The refinement of an old idea

I write about spies, washed out, worn out, or thrown out.

It’s always in the back of my mind, sometimes fuelled by a piece in the paper that has a sense of conspiracy about it, and from there, an idea starts turning into words that need to find their way to paper.

Then, if that’s the extent of the first draft, sometimes it goes into the ‘I will come back to this later’ folder and, sometimes, it’s gone and forgotten.

Until I wake up suddenly in the middle of the night, an old story with a new idea fills my head, and I have to get it down.

Then, it will bother me over the next few days, until I give it the attention it’s calling out for.  This will often lead to more writing, but planning leading to a synopsis.

The first sentence of a novel is always the hardest. Like I guess many others, I sit and ponder what I’m going to write, whether it will be relevant, whether it will pull the reader into my world, and cause them to read on.

And that’s the objective, to capture the reader’s imagination and want to see what’s going to happen next.

The problem is, we have to set the scene.

Or do we?

Do we need to cover the who, what, where, and when criteria in that first sentence? Can we just start with the edge of the seat suspense, like,

 

The first bullet hit the concrete wall about six inches above my head with a resounding thwack that scared the living daylights out of me. The second, sent on its way within a fraction of a second of the first found its mark, the edge of my shoulder, slicing through the material, and creasing skin and flesh. There was blood and then panic.

Milliseconds later my brain registered the near-miss and sent the instruction: get down you idiot.

I hit the ground just as another bullet slammed into the concrete where my head had just been.

 

It can use some more work, less commas, perhaps shorter, sharper sentences to convey the urgency and danger.

Perhaps we could paint a picture of the main character.

He tentatively has the name of Jackson Galworthy. He has always aspired to be a ‘secret agent’ or ‘spy’ and but through luck more than anything else, he was given his opportunity. The problem is he failed his first test and failure means washing out of the program.

What had ‘they’ said? When the shit hits the fan, you need to be calm, cool, and collected. He’d been anything but.

Maybe we’ll flesh the character out as we go along.

OK, I just had another thought for an opening,

 

Light snow was still falling, past the stage where each flake dissolved as it hit the ground, and now starting to gather in white patches.

It was cold, very cold, and even with the three layers I still shivered.

What surprised me was the silence, but, of course, it was a graveyard beside an ancient church, and everyone who had attended the funeral service had left.

It was a short service for the few that came, and a shorter burial. No one seemed keen to hang around, not with the evening darkness and the snow setting in.

I stood, not far from the filled grave looking at it, but not looking at it. Was I expecting it’s occupant to rise again? Was I expecting forgiveness? I certainly didn’t deserve it.

The truth is, I was responsible for this person’s death, making a mistake a more seasoned professional might not, and the reason why I was shown the door. I had been given very simple instructions; protect this man at all costs.

It was going to be a simple extraction, go in, get the target, and get out before anyone noticed.

A pity then I was the only one who got that memo.

 

It’s a start, but with the TV going on in the background, Chester complaining about something, and the weeds in the yard are getting higher, there’s too much else going to consider this even a start.

It’s an idea.  Perhaps I can expand on it later.

 

© Charles Heath 2020

 

NaNoWriMo – Day 30 + 18

I’ve managed to get some writing time for this story, mainly to keep continuity as it’s quite often lost when stretching it over a long period of time.

For a long time I always knew how the story would end, it was probably one of the few that I’ve written that had an ending in mind. Now, that’s all up in the air.

What had brought on the change of heart? It might be one of the hazards of being a pantser, which when I took to the notion I would finish it come this NaNoWriMo, and when I didn’t, realised something was fundamentally wrong.

Not with the story, but just how it would end, which for Marigold, will always be the same, but for the realm. The thing is, the deeper you dig into a story, the more people who are affected, and the different points of view, and variations on the story from kingdom to kingdom, the more the resolution is affected.

What’s good for one might not be the same for another, and once there are new variables, new people, now wishes are taken into account, the more impossible the job is. And especially for a young princess who just came of age, and had no experience of a world beyond her own orbit.

In a way it reflects the world on my eldest granddaughter, for whom it was written, and her life has changed as much momentously as had Marigold’s. Different people, different ages, different times, that transition from wide eyed child to difficult teenager wasn’t as hard as I remembered it, but then things were different when I was young.

And perhaps more telling, not a princess either.

For the word counters, another 4,258 words this session, for a total of 144,369.

Writers need to have many alter egos, don’t they?

I have often wondered just how much or how little of the author’s personality and experiences end up in a fictional character.

Have they climbed mountains,

Have they escaped from what is almost the inescapable,

Have they been shot, tortured, or worse,

Have they been dumped, or divorced,

Have they travelled to dangerous places, or got locked up in a foreign jail?

We research, read, and I guess experience some or all of the above on the way to getting the book written, but it’s perhaps an interesting fundamental question.

Who am I today?  Or, more to the point, who do I want to be today?

Or it can be a question, out of left field, in an interview; “Who are you?”

My initial reaction was to say, “I’m a writer.”  But that wasn’t the answer the interviewer is looking for.

Perhaps if she had asked, “Who are you when you’re writing your latest story?” it would make more sense.

Am I myself today?

Am I some fictional character an amalgam of a lot of other people?

Have I got someone definite in mind when I start writing the story?

The short answer might be, “I usually want to be someone other than what I am now.  It’s fiction.  I can be anyone or anything I want, provided, of course, I know the limitations of the character.”

“So,” she says, “what if you want to be a fireman?”

“I don’t want to be a fireman.”

“But if the story goes in the direction where you need a fireman…”

“What is this thing you have with firemen?”  I’m shaking my head.  How did we get off track?

“Just saying.”

“Then I’d have to research the role, but I’m not considering adding a fireman anytime soon.”

She sighs.  “Your loss.”

Moving on.

And there is that other very interesting question; “Who would you like to be if you could be someone else?”

A writer in that period between the wars, perhaps like an F Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway, in Paris, or if it is a fictional character, Jay Gatsby.

He’s just the sort of person who is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery.

Just another Monday

For spring, the weather at the moment is exceptional.

While yesterday it was boiling hot nearly all day, and we’re supposedly getting more sunshine today, it’s hard to see when Spring is going to arrive.

The sun is out and the temperature is about 33 or 34 degrees centigrade.

For those southern states, the weather isn’t as good, which is why at this time of the year, the southerners head north.

This year its different. The borders are open but in the back of your mind there’s always the threat the border will slam shut overnight. It’s odd to say the borders are closed because in this country the borders have never been closed, at least not before COVID.

Thus we still have a problem, or so everyone says. People are just not taking the risk to travel, and with no tourist income and without income there are no jobs, and, well, you get the drift.

Here’s the thing. We don’t have the Covid 19 bug here, and we don’t want it. It comes from overseas, and a quarantine system that mostly works, so there are the odd scares.

But we have vaccines now, and people can get it in a particular order, the front line people, then the elderly and frail, followed by those with underlying conditions.

We only have 28 million people so it shouldn’t take long to cover everyone, but we will still have a problem. The vaccine slows the spread, but it doesn’t stop it. We have not made the vaccine mandatory, so the anti vaccers will ensure the bug will stay around for a long time to come, so normal? Probably never.

Good thing I got in all my travel before the bug. But it will be a shame for the younger people who may not want to take the risk. Particularly if the bug mutates.

Meanwhile, the plans to build an underground bunker are proceeding. Like in a dystopian thriller, the only way to escape this bug is to hide away for a few years, and let the fools kill themselves off, and emerge into a whole new world.

Or, well if that isn’t an opening for a story…

What makes a location – 1 – The places around me

Having just described some of the early life, and the abject misery of being in a house with people who didn’t seem to care about anyone or anything, it flowed down into us.

But, here’s the thing.

When you are so young, you don’t know much about the world, and the people in it. This is learned from your parents, those first people in your life and who teach you the fundamentals, according to their beliefs.

It is the reason why a lot of children who when they eventually begin interacting with others have some horrendous traits, difficulty with language, or the use of swear words, and the treatment of others. If you’re a boy and your father drinks, smokes, swears incessantly, and beats his wife and children, then that’s what the child will do.

Similarly if you are just there, and no one treats you with the care that a child needs, then they become introverted and quiet. You listen and don’t speak, you observe, and wonder what else there is than this life that you have.

When you leave the house, and begin to interact with others, that sheltered life, and lack of interaction with relatives and others leaves you alone and miserable in a world you know little about and are totally unprepared for.

It’s where you start making a different world, one you can cope with, one that you are more than just nothing in. There is television, but it’s not something you can see all the time, and viewing was limited to what parents watch. There’s radio, but it’s from a world outside your own. There are other people you meet, but they might as well come from another planet so different they are from you.

But there are moments when things are different.

Like going to stay at my grandmothers place in the country.

It became a castle. A house with many rooms. A house that was old, made of bricks, had high ceilings, worn carpets, and holes in the floor. A small kitchen with a wood stove. A separate room to eat in, where the food served was completely different to what we had at home.

A large house on a large block of land, next to a church.

A place where there was a garage, rusting hulks of old cars, a large workshop that had all manner of tools and wood lying around, dusty and cobwebbed from years of no use. A whole day could be spent there just finding new and old things, each of which had a story of their own.

A block that had a huge garden, and overgrown fernery, and a huge overgrown water fountain, with paths going off in all directions. And a front garden that would rival the best of any rose garden.

In short, it was a place a child with an active imagination, could turn into anything.

I stayed there with my brother. I doubt he had the awe and wonder that I had, but he too was an explorer and between us we hacked away at the overgrowth, looking for and restoring parts of the rose garden and the fountain.

I remember it well. We never came in the front door. No one did because the path to the front verandah was blocked by overgrowth. But from inside, the entrance hall was huge with ornate wooden panelling.

One one side was my grandmothers bedroom, on the other, the lounge room, with a worn carpet square that covered nearly the whole wooden floor, and huge lounge chairs with wide arms, on castors.

Further across was a huge dining table, and an access through to the kitchen. We never used the dining table because it was covered in crockery, stuff my grandmother won when she went to lawn bowls.

Through an archway to the rest of the house, a huge hallway, where down one side were the bedrooms, four of them, and a bathroom at the end on the other side, and a door that led to the back porch.

THe first room was a storeroom filled with old stuff.

The second room was where we stayed.

The third was empty, and the fourth bedroom was when my mother’s brother, our uncle lived.

In this hall was a piano. It was a hall large enough to hold a dance in, only that would be difficult given that parts of the floor had rotted, and there was no sneaking about because the floorboards creaked.

It was, to me, a house with loads of character.

It was fitting then that it became the inspiration for a castle, and a life that was so very different to mine.

In a word: Second

It would be very interesting if duelling was still allowed.  There are a few people I’d like to stand toe to toe with, take ten paces, then test my ability to shoot with an old style flint duelling pistol.

What’s this got to do with anything?

It’s where our word of the day comes in.  If I lose my nerve, or I know my opposite number is a better shot, my second would have to stand in my place.

It’s,  if anything, an older use of the word.

Of course, it mainly means, on one hand, coming second in a race or a competition, not exactly the place you really want to be, simply because no one really remembers who came second.

It plays host to a plethora of statements using second as part of the saying, such as,

Second rate, second hand, even if it had more than one owner, second best.

But then there’s a few more that mean something else like a second look, mainly because you didn’t trust your eyes, second nature, it’s been drilled into you (a rather painful idiom if it truly was) and second sight, though this might not necessarily be a verifiable attribute.

And, of lesser note, I’m not necessarily sure I’m second to none.

On the other hand, and pardon the pun using this definition, it also describes a length of time, very short in fact, and it takes 60 of them to make a minute.

Hang on, it’ll only take a second.  Yes, we often use the word in vain.  I doubt there is any one of us who could do anything useful in a second.

Dos and Don’ts, advice that’s often unwanted

A little piece of the story…

Like everything my parents had thrown at me over the years, nothing was worse than to get a piece of paper handed to me as I walked out the door; to a meeting, a date, school, even when I visited my grandmother.

They were the ‘do’s and dont’s’ lists, which over time became the ‘young man’s guide to better English and speaking properly’.

The truth was, my mother never trusted me to get it right.

It was not without reason.  Very early on I got a reputation for being a bit of a maverick, saying what I thought rather than what was diplomatic, or just the right thing to say.

To a certain extent, I learned a great deal from these notes.

But the biggest surprise was my 18th birthday, and the day of the party being held at the manor house, and where I would be mingling with the gentry, and other distinguished guests.  I didn’t get a list.

I suppose I panicked.

Helen, the older sister who was wise beyond her years, an ace at diplomacy, and not one to ever ‘speak her mind’ dropped in to see how I was going.

Not very good.  No list, no prompts, no ‘how to behave at [named] occasion.

“What’s up, little brother?”  she could see I was agitated, though her word would be non-plussed.

“No do’s and don’ts.  What’s mother up to?  Does she want this party to go south by southwest?”

“Maybe she finally has faith in you.  You’re 18 now.  I have faith in you.”

“But you know me, foot in mouth disease.”

“Once, but not anymore.  Now screw your courage to the sticking point and let’s make an entrance.  If all else fails, just remember to stick to two subjects, their health, and the weather.”

No chance of backing out now.  The escape route had been effectively closed off.  I took a deep breath.

What was it I’d overheard not fifteen minutes ago?  Oh, yes.  ‘There’s a first time for everything’.

The end of another month

They say time flies when you’re having fun.

Well, I’m not exactly having fun, but time is going past very quickly, and I suspect this is more to do with getting old, accelerating after turning 65.

This month I’ve been spending time finally trying to complete the YA fantasy story that I started over seven years ago. I had hoped to finish it last NANOWRIMO, but it was a bigger task than I estimated.

Then, I had expected it to be written in under 100,000 words, and last update, I’d crossed the 140,000 mark, and there’s still about 20 chapters to go.

It simply means there’s going to be a monumental editing excercise, in several months time. If I get it finished. I’m hoping that it will be finished by my eldest granddaughters 18th birthday as it is being written for her.

That means, concentrating on this, everything else has been put on the backburner, which is a disappointment because I have another two books not very far away from finally being published.

I have published a few more inspiration maybe stories, and several episodes of the episodic stories, but these had been written earlier, and no I will have to spend some time writing more for publishing next month.

If only there were more hours in a day, more days in a week, and more weeks in a month!