Writing about writing a book – Day 5 continues – The complications of life

I hate it when other characters are drawn in, and without a proper introduction, the reader gets confused.

Well, let me tell you, the writer can get confused too.

The introduction of Jennifer cannot go without the introduction of Ellen Bill’s ex-wife, and we have talked a little about her background before.

She has a role, one that will have a major impact later on, but every now and then she is going to appear, adding to the backstory between her and Bill.  There is no real animosity between them, their parting amicable because both knew it was time to end.

Bill’s problems were brought about his military service, and her father has a part to play in the story, though I’m not sure how to weave this in yet.  But it’s not so much what Bill remembers of his service, but of what he has forgotten, or more to the point buried.

That will eventually rise to the surface.

However, at this time, it’s still at the part where the narrator has to introduce Jennifer.

There are three distinct stages to this relationship between the two most important characters, and as it happens it’s Ellen unknowingly that brings Bill and Jennifer together,

 

Then Ellen, my estranged, and sometimes difficult wife decided she wanted a divorce.  I had no objection, and that was most likely the problem.  Perhaps she had expected me to fight for her, but she had made it clear, many years before, that she was no longer interested in preserving the marriage and was only keeping it up until our two daughters were old enough to fend for themselves.

That time had come.

I found myself in a situation where I needed someone to talk to.  I was not one of those people who made friends easily, nor did I spend much time seeking the company of other women.  I had my work, and it had been enough.

But Ellen’s request for a divorce, for some reason, had shaken me, and the day I got the phone call, Jennifer has bustled into my office as she always did, dumping the pile of log file printouts on my desk, and instead of leaving, perhaps she had seen my look of dismay, or more to the point, utter shock, and stayed.

It caused a slight change in our relationship.

 

I’m still working on it, but there will be more.

Or fewer words perhaps, after all, it’s only meant to be a brief introduction.

See how simple things become complicated, very quickly.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

“The Devil You Don’t”, be careful what you wish for

Now only $0.99 for a short time at  https://amzn.to/2Xyh1ow

 

John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums.  Looking for new opportunities, prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favour for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favour’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follows.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.

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“The Devil You Don’t”, be careful what you wish for

Now only $0.99 for a short time at  https://amzn.to/2Xyh1ow

 

John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums.  Looking for new opportunities, prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favour for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favour’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follows.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.

newdevilcvr3

A chapter from “Echoes From The Past”

Currently available from Amazon :  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

 

Chapter One

I looked down on 5th Avenue and could just see, in the distance, Saks, and opposite, the Rockefeller Center.  Recently I’d gone ice skating there with a woman I had begun to care for more than I should, and who liked spending time with me.

It was a relationship that had evolved slowly, and was now moving into dangerous territory.  From the moment our eyes first met across the ice, I knew that outing had been a mistake.  Whatever I’d been thinking it couldn’t happen, but against better judgement I had let it happen.

It was not her fault, it was mine.  I was not the person she thought I was, the person I wanted to be, and if the circumstances of my past were not as they were, the person she was most likely looking for.

It had happened before, and it would happen again, and the result would be the same.  I would move on, find a new city, a new job, a new life, and continue to hide in plain sight.

Waiting for an eventuality that may never happen, but if it did, it would happen to me alone, not the woman I loved.

I sighed inwardly, thinking how unfair life could be.  And how much, this time, I wanted it to be different.

From my office window, high up in the sky, I could see several Fire Department vehicles going though yet another drill and could just hear the sound of the sirens floating up to the 32nd floor.  Darkness was closing in, and the fast moving red strobing lights stood out against the neon signs, the street lighting, and the Christmas decorations.

It was that time of the year again, a time that brought back very sad memories.  For most people it was when families came together to celebrate.  That was not possible for me.  I’d thought with the passing of time it would no longer hurt so much, but it did.  I felt a tear in my eye, and pulled a tissue out of the box on my desk to wipe it away.

Enough with the sentimentality.

Behind me I heard files being dropped on my desk.  It was Friday, when Maria from Accounting brought me the latest customers who were overdue in paying their investment contributions.  The stack was getting bigger every week.

I turned to face her.  She was only three years younger than me, but looked ten.  Italian parents, conservative dressed, reserved manner, but usually friendly and outgoing, she was well liked by all.  What surprised me, out of all the people she could choose as a friend, and since our ice skating expedition something more than that, she chose me.

I was not exactly the easiest of people to get along with, for obvious reasons.

I soon discovered this was the only time she and I could meet in the office without the prying eyes of our workmates making more of it than it was.  Office romances, not that either of us would acknowledge we were having one, were frowned upon.  Worse, rumors were very easily started, and much harder to quash.

“To be honest, I’m glad I don’t have your job, Will.”

She looked at the stack and then gave me a special look, one I wanted to believe was reserved just for me.  Her smile always tugged at a heart string or maybe two.  This night it did more than that.

I shrugged, and tried to be casual.  “I was told I had a gift.”

“Ah, the statement of faith, just before the sucker punch.”

Everyone knew calling customers in distress was a difficult job at best.  It required tact and diplomacy, a trait I’d acquired over time because of my situation.  It had been a strange match of opportunity and unrealized talent when a disgruntled customer had come into the office and verbally attacked Mr Bartleby, a senior partner.

I’d talked the customer down, and talked myself into the job.  I’d only agreed to do it because it came with the promise of a promotion.  Now I was considering an exit strategy, it probably didn’t matter.

“Doing anything for the weekend?”  She asked the same question every Friday.  The last time, I surprised her by asking if she skated on ice, not expecting she did.  She said yes.

It didn’t take long to realize she would have said yes to climbing Mount Everest.  It was her first time on skates, and we learned a lot about each other over the half hour she managed to stay upright.

For her bravery I took her to dinner, and then took her home.  She asked me to stay for a while, to patch up her wounds, perhaps the modern day equivalent of ‘would you like come up and see my paintings’.

Whatever her intentions or my desires, we just talked over a bottle of wine and then coffee.  I didn’t have to leave, but it was better for both of us that I did.

I closed my eyes to break the connection.  I could feel it.  I was starting to fall in love with this girl, this woman, and I knew I had to be careful.  It would not be long before the questions started; questions I couldn’t answer.

“No.  I wasn’t intending to do much.”

“Then perhaps you might consider joining the rest of us monkeys for beer, wine and a lively discussion about anything but work.   Harry’s found a new bar, up on 6th Avenue.”

Harry was our social director, not a real one but self appointed, and he organised most of the unofficial staff gatherings.  He was a bit too self important for me, an ‘I am’ sort of guy, but he went to Harvard and had probably earned the right.  I wasn’t on his social radar so he rarely invited me to anything.  If he did, I generally declined.  Those gatherings were the hunting grounds of the go-getters, the rookies looking for an edge to climb the corporate ladder.  I was all about keeping a low profile.

“Is he asking, or you?”

A momentary frown settled on her face.  We’d had a similar discussion once before, and I’d realized then she tried only to see the good in people.  Perhaps that was why I was so lucky.

“Does it matter?”

I pretended to think about it for a minute, and then said, “No.”

Her smile returned.  “Do you want me to come fetch you?”

“As appealing as that sounds, I have a couple of matters to tidy up.  You go, and I’ll drop in later.”

The expression on her face told me she didn’t believe me.  It was not without merit, because I had told her the same before and not followed through.  Then, it didn’t matter because I hadn’t known her all that well.  Now, it seemed everything had changed.

“You are not just saying that to get rid of me, are you?”  The tone matched the doubtful expression.

Blunt, but fairly accurate.  I didn’t want to underestimate this girl.  In normal circumstances I might have considered something else, other than drinks.  Instead, I said, “I would have preferred a walk in Central Park, but I don’t think the weather is going to behave.”

Then I had a moment where I thought if I told her something closer to the truth, it might help me climb my way out of the deep hole I was digging for myself.  “To be honest, I’m not very good at these social gatherings.”

Another change in expression, she had many faces for many occasions.  This one was of surprise, or was it agreement?

“Then you and I could go somewhere else if you like.”

Not exactly the result I was looking for.

“We could, but then you would miss out on being with your friends and most likely miss the next scandal to envelop us.”

The last one was about Bartleby junior and a certain socialite.  Everyone knew what he was like except one person, his current fiancée Katrina.

“True.”  She shrugged.  I had just become a lost cause.  “I will look out for you.  But remember, I will be disappointed if you don’t come.”

She gave me a last look, somewhat whimsical I thought, as I watched her walk across the floor to the elevator lobby.  It was like watching the love of my life leaving, without turning back.

 

I’d promised myself a long time ago that I would not get involved with a woman, but I soon learned how difficult a promise like that was to keep, especially when the woman’s name was Katrina.

I’d not known real love before, and it was not difficult to fall under her spell.  She was as beautiful as she was beguiling.

A long time ago, in what felt like another lifetime, Katrina Winslow and I worked together.  She taught me my first job at Bentley, Bowman and Bartleby, Accountants.  And, as with anyone with whom you work so closely, we became friends, and then something more than that.

By the time I realised what had happened, it was too late.  She was the daughter of parents who cared about their daughter, and the people with whom she associated.  They had me investigated.

I remember that Monday morning as if it was yesterday, when she came into my office.  We had spent a perfect weekend together, and when I left her Sunday night, I was full of those starry eyed dreams people in love had.

An hour later, all of those dreams had been shattered, not only for me, but for her too.  I had no answers for her questions, answers the investigators could not find.  I knew from the first day I met her she was out of my league, but I honestly believed love could conquer all.

Her father didn’t.  It ended, and in time I realized it was for the best.  I had nothing to offer her, and I could never give answers to any of the questions she might ask.

Not long after, Maria told me about her engagement to Marcus Bartleby, son of the remaining live partner whose name graced the building, and signs throughout the city.  I told myself he would be the sort of man her father believed she deserved, but in my heart I knew what sort of person Marcus was, and equally there was nothing I could do about it.

I had a secret, one that I could never tell anyone.  And until I could find a way of reconciling my past I could never contemplate having a future, make any friends, or find any sort of peace or happiness.

With Katrina, with Maria, or anyone else.

 

The truth is my life was the equivalent of a metaphorical train wreck.  You wouldn’t know it, looking at me, but how I looked now, how I acted and reacted was a product of many years practice.  From the moment I had seen my parents murdered at the age of fourteen, I’d been on the run.  Being that young, it was tough on the road, and I had to get street smart, and defensive, very quickly.  I’d learned the hard way, through the school of hard knocks.  By comparison, the Bartleby’s of this world had got it easy.

But, don’t get me wrong.  It was not something I was bitter about.  It was what it was.  I did what I had to do, and what I have to.  I accepted they had and always would have everything handed to them on a platter.  It was the way of the world.

On the up side, I had only myself to please.  I did not have to rely on anyone else, nor was I responsible for anyone but myself.  I had no family to speak of, or that I would acknowledge.

My father had been an orphan, and had spent a relatively lonely life up to the point where he married my mother.

The family I had on my mother’s side were the reason I ran away, and kept running, and fortunately I had not seen any of them since the day I finally escaped.

On the down side, I’d never stayed in one place too long, and never had the time to get a good education, a pre requisite for a good job.  Instead, I had a lot of experience in jobs that didn’t have much of a career path.

I’d thought of night school, even tried it once, but it didn’t work out.  That was the catalyst for joining the army, the one place where people like me finished up.  It was a place to call home wherever they dumped you, and you made friends that didn’t care who or what you were, or cared too much about your past.

I was sent to Iraq, first time around, with a great bunch of guys, until most of the platoon was killed in a suicide bombing, and the few that survived, including me, were physically repaired and discharged.

In the years since, I’d stopped in ten cities.  New York was the most recent, and I’d been here the longest.  I’d carved a path across America from the Mid West, a place called Columbus, Nebraska, through to New York, with a lot of places in between.  It was an interesting way to see the country, when in normal circumstances I would have little reason to leave my home town.

Now, after all the running, all the looking over my shoulder, there was a desire to stop.  The problem was I couldn’t.  I couldn’t afford to feel safe, because the moment I did, the moment I let down my guard, it would be when I’d make a mistake, a mistake that could have horrific consequences.  Not only for me, but others around me.

I’d learned that lesson well, soon after I had run away from home, but before I left my home town.  Escape was a relief, and when they had not caught up with me after a week, I started to feel safe.

I let down my guard.  I allowed my trust of the one person in that family I thought was my friend to influence my actions.  She had unwittingly led the family to me after being used as a decoy.  I hadn’t thought of that possibility.

They handed me to the man who murdered my parents.  He told me he’d been willing to track me to the ends of the earth, as long as it took.  He held me captive for a few hours until I escaped, and I had no intention of being caught again.

From that day, I never trusted anyone again.

I remembered the demonic look in his eyes when he told me he would never stop looking.  He was out there, somewhere, and I had to remain vigilant.  The passing of time, for this murderer, was irrelevant.

And, standing there, looking out the window and down 5th Avenue, I could feel the itch, the one I couldn’t scratch.  The one that told me my pursuer, a man who went by the name of Edward Jamieson, wasn’t very far away.

 

© Charles Heath 2015

“The Things We Do For Love” – Coming soon

Is love the metaphorical equivalent to ‘walking the plank’; a dive into uncharted waters?

For Henry the only romance he was interested in was a life at sea, and when away from it, he strived to find sanctuary from his family and perhaps life itself.  It takes him to a small village by the sea, s place he never expected to find another just like him, Michelle, whom he soon discovers is as mysterious as she is beautiful.

Henry had long since given up the notion of finding romance, and Michelle couldn’t get involved for reasons she could never explain, but in the end both acknowledge that something happened the moment they first met.  

Plans were made, plans were revised, and hopes were shattered.

A chance encounter causes Michelle’s past to catch up with her, and whatever hope she had of having a normal life with Henry, or anyone else, is gone.  To keep him alive she has to destroy her blossoming relationship, an act that breaks her heart and shatters his.

But can love conquer all?

It takes a few words of encouragement from an unlikely source to send Henry and his friend Radly on an odyssey into the darkest corners of the red light district in a race against time to find and rescue the woman he finally realizes is the love of his life.

The cover, at the moment, looks like this:

lovecoverfinal1

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Writing about writing a book – Day 2

Hang about.  Didn’t I read somewhere you need to plan your novel, create an outline setting the plot points, and flesh out the characters?

I’m sure it didn’t say, sit down and start writing!

Time to find a writing pad, and put my thinking cap on.

I make a list, what’s the story going to be about? Who’s going to be in it, at least at the start?

Like a newspaper story, I need a who, what, when, where, and how.

Right now.

 

I pick up the pen.

 

Character number one:

Computer nerd, ok, that’s a little close to the bone, a computer manager who is trying to be everything at once, and failing.  Still me, but with a twist.  Now, add a little mystery to him, and give him a secret, one that will only be revealed after a specific set of circumstance.  Yes, I like that.

We’ll call him Bill, ex-regular army, a badly injured and repatriated soldier who was sent to fight a war in Vietnam, the result of which had made him, at times, unfit to live with.

He had a wife, which brings us to,

Character number two:

Ellen, Bill’s ex-wife, an army brat and a General’s daughter, and the result of one of those romances that met disapproval for so many reasons.  It worked until Bill came back from the war, and from there it slowly disintegrated.  There are two daughters, both by the time the novel begins, old enough to understand the ramifications of a divorce.

Character number three:

The man who is Bill’s immediate superior, the Services Department manager, a rather officious man who blindly follows orders, a man who takes pleasure in making others feel small and insignificant, and worst of all, takes the credit where none is due.

Oops, too much, that is my old boss.  He’ll know immediately I’m parodying him.  Tone it down, just a little, but more or less that’s him.  Last name Benton.  He will play a small role in the story.

Character number four:

Jennifer, the IT Department’s assistant manager, a woman who arrives in a shroud of mystery, and then, in time, to provide Bill with a shoulder to cry on when he and Ellen finally split, and perhaps something else later on.

More on her later as the story unfolds.

So far so good.

What’s the plot?

Huge corporation plotting to take over the world using computers?  No, that’s been done to death.

Huge corporation, OK, let’s stop blaming the corporate world for everything wrong in the world.  Corporations are not bad people, people are the bad people.  That’s a rip off cliché, from guns don’t kill people, people kill people!  There will be guns, and there will be dead people.

There will be people hiding behind a huge corporation, using a part of their computer network to move billions of illegally gained money around.  That’s better.

Now, having got that, our ‘hero’ has to ‘discover’ this network, and the people behind it.

All we need now is to set the ball rolling, a single event that ‘throws a cat among the pigeons’.

Yes, Bill is on holidays, a welcome relief from the problems of work.  He dreams of what he’s going to do for the next two weeks.  The phone rings.  Benton calling, the world is coming to an end, the network is down.  He’s needed.  A few terse words, but he relents.

Pen in hand I begin to write.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

“The Devil You Don’t”, be careful what you wish for

Now only $0.99 for a short time at  https://amzn.to/2Xyh1ow

 

John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums.  Looking for new opportunities, prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favour for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favour’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follows.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.

newdevilcvr3