Random Write 3

Over the weekend I added another few hundred words to the latest book about the New York PI and his sidekick set in 1960. It was a glorious sunny day so the coffee shop soon filled up. I don’t like to overstay my time there if it’s getting crowded. Forty minutes writing is probably enough anyway, and forty minutes sitting down is certainly enough.

Yesterday I managed to fit in an hour’s editing of the previous manuscript. I have nearly reached the end of the second edit and will then print off the story to do the final edit from paper. Then it’s just the simple matter of remembering how to upload a manuscript to Amazon and hope they haven’t changed or added too many ‘features’.

Covers always cause a slight problem. I’m not prepared to pay someone to produce one so have relied on Amazon’s own photographs. A couple of books I gave simple patterned covers to as there were no suitable photos. The last book I managed to find a good photo from Canva dot com. One drawback with Amazon is that if you want to put on a new, different cover after you’ve published another, you have to delete the whole book, reupload and then use your new image. I suppose we can’t complain, it’s all free after all.

Tomorrow, hopefully up to the coffee shop. Weather forecast is cold, bright and dry. A brisk seafront walk, a hot tasty coffee and off we go with semi-defrosted fingers on the keyboard.

Hung Words Too

(I seem to have posted a piece under the name ‘Hung Words’ before and yet the writing with it is not what I recall as the ‘Hung Words’ piece. Odd. I must have mis-copied with the mouse somehow. Anyhow, here is the writing I remember as ‘Hung Words’, written back in May 2017, edited today. Oh, Happy New Year for 2020!)

Hung Words

My sword thrust forward, point piercing mid-way the word ‘TRUST’ which hung taunting across the path. The ‘u’ mewed, tears seeped onto dry ground parched by years of the antonym. Each drop reformed, reared and roared a date, a time, a lover. The sounds cleaved the outer coating of my shield, stuck darted on layered wood and leather, each forced a back step in the slow stride of my denial.

Slashed right and left, letters tumbled without meaning across the musty air, voices escaped from nicked sides and surfaces, each whispered accusations and Siren symphonies of desire and deceit. Names cascaded across years, places, times, excuses, all timetabled in linear formation, each stabbing through armour to draw my guilt in blood-coughed confessions.

The path steepened, with fog-banked slopes treacherously entreating mis-steps. Five letters swung back and forth, hide and seeking through the gloom, ‘BLAME’ pendulumed with teasing tautness, red flames of embarrassment licked letters. Shield raised to block the blaze of an accusing sun I pressed on, a single-manned phalanx. Heat seared through, burned black my faults. But remember, remember, she did not talk, she did not give time, she did not make the efforts demanded of shared lives. I pierced the ‘B’, shredded the double curves, left ‘lame’ a mocking commentary on my own excuses.

A soft glancing blow fell, a caressing killer rested on my shoulders heavyweighted with weary worries self-inflicted, ‘TOUCH’ featherlight alighted, wrapped around a body shivering to loosen itself from feared intimacy after the bed-bounced closeness of another forbidden love. I parried open-bladed, countered these tease-touching accusations: for she had stepped back too, withdrew skin from contact, lips miss-kissing half-hearted offered cheeks, back turned on a bed once consummated with the passion of the innocent. Who stands now in the glasshouse with stone in hand? My stab caused ‘TOUCH’ to convulse. No one-sided defeat here.

Forward stepped I deflected and bounced harsh truths into the gutters of regret, found my way blocked by ‘SELFISHNESS’, long strewn as a Cheshire cat with grinning teeth foul fetid, dripping tales of familial dates ignored, commitments uncommitted to, evenings long consumed in matey orgies of alcohol and unbrave bravado, late long working hours stretched to incredulity as slipped masks for backslapping heartiness and raucous chauvinism, chasing skirt-clad victims across glass-lined tables.

Hacked letters fell, ‘fish’ causing a rueful smile under cheekguards which chaffed with swivelled wariness. ‘S’s snaked my legs, hot forked tongues nipped infected bites into veins long since dead to empathy and sympathy. I stamped, hobnailing the vicious barbs into powdered pleas.

And lastly LOVE dangled, glossy, shredded and abused. It flickered images thought lost in memories stored behind cold-hearted locks. The true love of first meeting, recognition of soulmated possibilities, tingles of eternity surfacing when touch touched more than skin, eye contact finding depths impossible to measure. LOVE hung, shamed my defence, drunk dry a moat of liquid lies, crumbled paper-thin walls of self deception, undermined a castellated keep of rusted excuses.

And I fell, in a final act of reconciliation and recognition, upon my upturned sword.





The last mince pie

(first written a few years ago when I ran a blog under another name, and kinda appropriate for this time of year)

The last mince pie sat in its little box in the cupboard, all alone, with just the crumbs of its former neighbours for company.

On Christmas Day it had sat proudly on the decorated table at coffee time along with a plateful of hopeful companions. Being at the bottom of the carefully arranged pyramid its chances of consummation were perhaps limited but hope sprung eternal. The hour passed. Grasping hands removed brothers and sisters. Disappointment reigned when it and a few others returned despondently to their cardboard home.

Tea-time brought fresh expectations but sadly too much turkey and stuffing had negated the desire for titbits after a round or two of sandwiches. Boxing Day came and went. A journey to the table surrounded by sausage rolls, cheese biscuits and other savoury delights proved equally unsuccessful.

Festivities slowly evaporated and the little mince pie lay pitifully in the darkness of its box. The ‘Best Before’ date came and went. The door opened and closed many times. Foods went and never returned. Still the last mince pie sat in pathetic isolation.

The time of Clear Out arrived. Sighs and regrets accompanied the jettisoning of stale or unwanted edibles. Slipping towards the looming dark interior of the black waste bag, the mince pie accepted its doom and awaited days of decay and breakdown.

Suddenly the careless hand of Fate intervened, and the mince pie fell, spinning, glancing off the outer edge of the plastic chasm. It bounced once, twice, three times across the carpeted floor then came to rest by a large, very large, wicker basket. A shiny wet nose sniffed the air close above the mince pie, sniffed again, lips began to dribble, and in one gulp an eager mouth swallowed it up.

And, dear reader, if you could have looked closely at that very moment, I believe you would have seen an enormous happy smile upon that little pie’s crust.

Raw draft

I’ve mentioned many times that I do most of my first draft writing in a coffee house early in the morning. I add the researched material later at home, often weeks later when I am editing the text. I thought I would post some of the raw, unadulterated first draft here.

So this piece I wrote on Saturday morning around 8.40 through to 9.30. It was quite busy in the coffee house by the time I left but I managed to get something down ‘on paper’. The scene is where the narrator, Bobby Olsen, a PI in New York in 1960, is trying to talk down a client’s son-in-law who is threatening to jump from a bank building. He’s in money trouble. It’s nothing very action-packed or a wonderful piece of writing, just the raw first stuff that comes out of my head.

‘What about Tommy?’
‘He’s in hospital. Busted ribs, teeth missing, fingers mangled. Told he’d get worse when he gets out. Unless we pay up.’
‘But he’s your buddy. You can’t bail out on the guy. Stand together, like troopers on the beach, in the jungle, like a crew on a Flying Fortress, the flak burst all around. Your’ll leave him to face it all alone.’
Seconds went by quiet. I waited. Let Earl realize he had no good answer to my statement. Only a selfish one. To jump. To quit. I had never talked anyone down from a ledge but I had gone face to face with many who saw only a brick wall when they tried to deal with their problems. Often they needed another voice to say things they weren’t strong enough to say themselves. I played Earl’s reflection in the mirror; the mirror he probably stared into an hour ago before walking out his apartment.
‘Let’s go visit Tommy, tell him you stand with the guy, then we meet up with Linda. You forgotten your wife? How’s she gonna go on without you?’
I wondered where she was. Perhaps she couldn’t face the situation. Maybe the cops kept her back in case she screamed her husband off the ledge, either with words of undying love that drove the guy crazy or words of blame that made that one step into empty air seem a blessed relief. Or had the bad guys jumped a step on the list, taken her early to apply extra pressure. Did they know Earl was about to jump ship, going to face up to the big guy outside the pearly gates with the book of reckoning rather than the small guys down here with their debt numbers scrawled rough on old receipts from a take-out restaurant.
‘She’s got insurance, she’ll be…’
‘Don’t think they pay out for jumpers, Earl.’
A horrible thought crossed my mind. Had Earl ever thought of pushing Linda into the Hudson and claiming the insurance to clear his money problems? Maybe the idea had occurred to him and that was why he stood here.
‘I gotta go, Mr Olsen, I’m going…’
But he didn’t move. I began to guess he wouldn’t. 

Two writes can’t be wrong

So, having said in my last post that I had come to the end of my current story, I found myself today sat in the coffee house at 8.40 a.m. with a blank Word document in front of me. At home was the ‘manuscript’ of ‘Home Run’; I can’t edit in the coffee house as I need to research on the internet, and I don’t like to link up to WIFI outside of home. And I can’t stay sat in the coffee house all day. The answer, as some months ago, is to begin the next book straight away. A bit crazy, but then that’s how things are.

To be honest, I had checked out an idea I wrote down a few weeks ago for the next tale involving the two characters I created a couple of years ago. I took the piece of paper with me to the coffee house and read through it to remind me of the possible outline. It may not turn out to be the main story, but it should give me a kind of outline to get started with. I kept hinting in the previous two books about these characters, Bobby Olsen and Carol Rios that a) they were getting married sometime, and b) Bobby was going to meet Carol’s parents. Remember he’s a New Yorker, the stories are based there, and Carol’s from down Mexico way so her parents could have an interesting background. I suppose I ought to at least get to grips with that latter plot line. I’m not sure whether to make the parents straightforward or maybe to have the father to be like Bobby’s, a shady character the wrong side of the law.
Today then I managed to write about 880 words in about forty-five minutes to get the story started. A typical action scene to introduce Bobby again and New York in 1960 and his connection with Carol. I was surprized how easy it was to slip back into Bobby’s character again. Like putting on old slippers, they might say. One thing I need to do is think up names for a few characters, particularly the main ones. It’s quite hard to do that in the coffee house without looking online to be sure certain names were common around 1960. And it rather wastes writing time sitting there trying to come up with a name.
Tomorrow I hope to get to the coffee house again early, it’ll be interesting to see if the story comes as easy the second time. And meanwhile I have a story to edit at home, set in 1969. It gets confusing at times. I started editing the opening scene the other day, looked up three car makes and models then realized I had put 1969 cars in a scene set in 1959. Aah!
Postscript: posting a day later; another 800 words or so done in the coffee house. We’re on a roll!

Book 3

Strange how you can create a character for a single piece of writing, say for a writers’ group meeting, then you end up spending most of the next two years creating stories for him/her. That’s how ‘Bobby Olsen’ has come about. As mentioned in a blog post somewhere earlier here or over on my other blog dedicated to him and his books, he started as an unnamed character in a 1500 word piece written during the Xmas break from my writers’ group meetings. Three months later this nameless guy made his audience debut and I have written mainly about him since.

And now it looks like a third book/novella is in the making (or writing). Some months ago I had finished a novella (not about Bobby Olsen!) and yet wanted to go on writing whenever I found myself in a coffee house. Usually about three to four times a week! Gulp! Yes, literally, gulp!

I started by writing something along the lines of the story I had just completed, a story set in the present day, but after two or three paragraphs I found myself sliding back into the comfort zone of late 1950s New York…and Bobby. Over the past three or so weeks I have used my coffee house visits to edit what I had written to see if there is a coherent story to be continued. And there just about is. I love beginning new scenes with new characters for Bobby and his business/lifetime partner Carol to interact with. Joining them all up into a plot can be tricky. Some can be red herrings in that they are Bobby’s everyday clients early on in the book before the main storyline takes over, but this time I am trying to tie more of them into the long term plot.

Then I reached the stage where I had to get the paper and pencil out. And the eraser. All the characters and their connections or lack of them were written out on several pieces of paper taped together and I tried to link as many as possible with lines and arrows. And something like a plot has been created, if maybe a little stretched in places.

Hold on, was that the ping of a broken line I just heard? Help!

And then I have started transferring this from the tablet I use in the coffee houses to the Scrivener programme I use on my laptop at home. And where I try to break it down into chapters. So, it’s the tablet for creating the new writing, Scrivener on the laptop for ordering it all and editing it. In the coffee shops I don’t like logging on to the public Wi-Fi so I have to do all the research (I am an Englishman living in the UK writing about 1950s New York/USA…) at home on the laptop. And at some point I need to read it all through to see if it makes sense and is actually interesting!

I have reached around 30,000 words so far and Bobby and Carol have only just left New York (there seems to be a road trip in each book with these two characters) so it might develop into a 60,000 word book. Or crash and burn around 32,000! I guess the danger is to fall between the trap of being too long for a sharp-written novella and a full-blown novel. It’s a journey and it’s fun. And I don’t even try to market the books when finished, so the emphasis is on FUN! The fun of creating something out of nothing.

So, onward goes Book Three. A title? Absolutely no idea..!




Hung Words

(another oldie, from early last year)

There is something I need to remember.

There is something I need to remember, something that keeps slipping away from the cliff edge of my mind, toppling away into the depths below, crashing down among all the other lost forgotten words.

It is nudging me again, a letter here, a syllable there, never quite shape-shifting into a complete word. My mouth starts to form the sound, gags on the unemitted gasp, swallows the crumbling letters, and the word tumbles away again over the yawning fall.

Down there with all the broken neglected words are the broken neglected people, the ones who made mistakes, never learned their lessons, never considered they had done wrong, and a few who tried to find the word before it trailed away, the same one I am losing all the time.

Once, very long ago, so long ago there is no known segment of Time to describe it, I knew the word. That, I can recall. I did used to know it, could utter it, could give myself a second chance.

Never taken, of course.

Of course.

That would have changed everything, would it not? Maybe for the better, maybe not, strange as that may seem. Would He have survived so long, if I had remembered the word, or would He have gone the way of all the others, cast aside once His diatribes grated once too often in minds fast becoming equals to His.

It is in here somewhere, flitting around, hiding behind the longer words, the ones which have many meanings, unclear, confusing, misread and miscued, and easy, so easy, to deceive with. Many of those I have used throughout the ages of my time. To mystify, to trick, to ensnare. This elusive word is smaller, difficult to catch among the multitude of letters strung together into the many syllable definitions of deceptive ideas and motives.

For a moment there I thought I glimpsed it, trying to inch forward, to let its first sound sneak onto my tongue. Once there I am sure I could catch it, speak its name, before it slips away. Or is it being pulled back? Is that the problem? Is something tug of warring with me, pulling the word away, jerking on its long tail, flinging it over that precipice, down again into the pit of churning bones and burning vocabulary, from whence it starts the long struggle back up, fingernails scratching holds on blood-rinsed rocks, weak muscles hauling upwards over shredded tissue and deleted sounds, its eyes ever locked up high at the prospect of rebirth.

Time is short now. He will not wait much longer. This is the final time.

I know.

He knows.

He has won.

But he is waiting to see if the word can be remembered. If my blackened lips can form the two syllables they have never pronounced together. At least not since the Beginning, when I broke one way, and He broke the other. Will my mind still be able to format the two sounds into the one word? Or will it fry my being like sunlight on a mythical vampire?

Wait. Wait. I see it. Crouched behind a concept hidden in the very darkest of the dark quarters of my dark mind.

I have it! It is trapped there, a mistake made, left itself no way out but toward me.

That concept, lying never used, irrelevant to me, a false god to worship if ever there was one. Until now. Yes, I have the word. It cannot back away. It sits, naked, exposed, fearful now of rebirth, scared of its implications. But I have it. My tongue snakes around the concept named Truth, pincers the shivering syllables, swallows first that notion to ease the speaking of the word.

I gorge on the feeling, warmth streaming throughout me. The word follows it, up into my mouth, rolling around between my red-dripped teeth, and is spat forth with the conviction of one realising rebirth can be.