Happy new beginnings

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This is an announcement of my last story for children – “The Buccaneers of the Backwater”. It is a short novella about an almost pirate-adventure with the bitter-sweet mixutre of real life piracy. A link to the story can be found on a page suitable entitled “CHildren’s: The Buccanneers of the Backwater”.

I have written my last story for children. My daughter is … well… getting on… and as she hit double digits, adventures of mythical monsters and fluffy creatures with bad tempers can no longer hit a cord with her. I will let the children’s storywriting rest.

Writing as such stays in my bloodstream and so I will continue writing until my dying days, but it will be intended for an adult reader so I will publish under a pseudonim. A new dedicated website will be created soon (time, energy and the flu bug permitting), where I will post about my research, writing, life and general upheavals and misadventures.

On that note: happy old endings and even happier new beginnings to all who read this!

I, the Conquistador

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Contrary to my carefully planned earlier itinary, I didn’t take the choo-choo train, but instead set on foot to conquer Snowdon! Which I did with very little exertion.
I set off after a hearty breakfast (full English with the exception of a withered sausage). At that point I was considering seeing Steve off only to the first steep ascent and scampering promptly to the train station to keep up with his progress from my carriage window.
However, once my competitve spirit kicked in, there was no stopping me. At halfway point, some 550m up into the trek, I was feeling on top of the world already. And when I got to the top, I must say, I could hardly believe it.
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If the conquest of a big, bad mountain wasn’t enough, I have also rolled up my sleeve and completed The Buccaneers of Backwater, my last story for children. More about it another time once it has been proof-read and edited. It is the last book for children as my only child-reader is getting on and children’s adventures won’t hold her interest for much longer. I won’t stop writing (that would be like cutting out my tongue) but I will move to writing for adults. I will start a new dedicated blog.

Well, there I conquered the mountain and I conquered yet another story. I, the Conquistador, bless my cotton socks!

Medium

Reading In the Web of Time and Be Done on Earth with my daughter, out loud before bed, I discovered that some sentences were long and clunky, too long to sail through in one breath. It’s an interesting discovery. The stories have been typed and edited on the computer. I did not read them as one would out loud. I should’ve so that each sentence would last through one intake of air and each full stops would give the reader a chance to pause for breath.

Another point: in typing one loses the economy of word. Gushing out is the result, whilst what is needed is clarity and brevity. Punchiness comes from writing by hand. I would definitely think twice before forcing my hand to put down on paper a hundred words where ten would do to convey the same meaning. Keyboard doesn’t tire – my hand does. I should change my writing medium from the computer to pen and paper.

Meantime my brain needs rest. It has been working really hard. Now it is in tatters along with my tongue which produces words and phrases my brain has no knowledge of. Both brain and tongue need to go to the back seat as I travel to Snowdonia where I intend to take a train to the top. I will be sitting by the window, sleeping and drooling in my sleep.

Goodbye Miss….

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Hello coach potato!
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Maldives – a place where you forget the rest of the world exists

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Paradise is on Earth and when Adam and Eve were sacked from it they only had to cross the narrow strip of desert to Africa. Then things started going pear-shaped (Africa did) and masses of land separated, isolating the Paradise from the rest. Until we found it again.

The heroine and heroes from “Home and About” came along. They had a whale of good time. Their story there will be told. They had never been to Paradise before and didn’t quite believe it existed so you can imagine their surpise!
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I revised my tree climbing techniques. Woo-HAA!
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Drudgery

What follows is a story about Bryn. But Bryn could well be me. I understand him well. We have similar heroes. Hercule Poirot is one of them. And we have similar obsessions. Though perhaps I am more outgoing than Bryn. Anyway, this isn’t about me. The story is about Bryn.

DRUDGERY

For the past nineteen years Bryn took the 8:21 bus to work and the 15:42 one back home. Even though everyone else drove a car, Bryn had stuck to his guns. Bus was a superior mode of transport – there was an air of reliability about it. Bryn appreciated the peace of mind buses offered. From the heights of his bus seat he would look down on the hapless, mad-eyed car drivers, and smile.

Then the new manager came to the branch and made changes.

The predictability of Bryn’s daily bus commute had been thrown up in the air like a pack of cards. Sometimes he would start after lunch and work till five. That meant catching the 17:12 bus. He had also been made to work every other Saturday. Working on the weekend wasn’t a problem – since his mother died four years ago Bryn had no weekend commitments to speak of. He lived alone. He shopped on Thursdays. He did chores on Friday after work. Working on Saturdays wouldn’t put him off that much if it weren’t for the big, gaping hole it had created in his life: a midweek day off. Bryn was distraught.

He’d started watching daytime TV but soon found he couldn’t cope with the unpredictable human factor of reality shows. He promptly switched to ITV3 where the looping repeats of Agatha Christie’s Poirot had at last put his mind at ease. This was his world. Hercule Poirot was his kind of man: organised, punctual, particular. It was like looking in the mirror, and nodding with approval. Bryn understood Hercule’s idiosyncrasies. Not only did he understand them – he lived them: the starching of his collars, the aligning of his shoes on the rack, the squeezing of his toothpaste starting from the bottom end, the sleeping on his back with the duvet drawn up to his chin and his fingers pinned neatly on top. It was such a relief knowing that there was someone out there just like him, for even though Poirot was a fictional character, Christie must have come across his prototype in real life. How else would she know him in such minute detail?

Bryn belonged at last! He acted and thought like Poirot. He even looked like him: rather small, corpulent and balding. He was also so self-effacingly polite that he was widely ignored, or at least, underestimated.
Bryn was remarkably inconspicuous. People never remembered him, or his name, or who he was. He could be anyone. A middle aged, ordinary, square man, he blended with the background like a blur – he was a non-entity. And that was what was eating him alive. He could do better than that. He could demonstrate his genius. Not to the world, but to himself. If only he could get into the mind of a criminal…

This morning Bryn was on the 8:21 bus. A yellow Mini, with a woman dropping her mobile and searching for it frantically with her head between her knees, zoomed by to its certain tragic end. Bryn bound his hands and kept them neatly in his lap. He was smiling rather beatifically. The 8:21 was like a home to him. His second home. He had taken it yesterday, too. It had been his day off, but he took the 8:21 to town and the 15:42 back home nevertheless. He did that often. The routine gave him a sense of purpose. And yesterday had been Wednesday – the market day. It was as good a reason as any to be in town, but not the only one.

As soon as he walked into the bank he could feel the electricity in the air. He resented it. He had twenty minutes for tea, which he would normally have with a biscuit, before pinning his name tag to the lapel of his suit and taking his place at the counter by the front window. There was no chance of that today.

Angela’s face was burning with excitement. She accosted Bryn by the door, “Did you hear?”
“Did I?”

“Armed robbery!” she shrieked. “We had a robbery! Yesterday! The guy had a gun, held Sandra at gunpoint. Surely you’d have heard?”
“Can’t say I did, sorry,” he looked at her, contrite.

“God! Where were you!” she gasped. “Sandra’s off. Too traumatic… She’ll be off sick, I imagine, for weeks.”

“I guess we’ll have to cover her shifts,” Bryn offered hopefully. Angela gawked at him with disbelief, and then exchanged a meaningful glance with Tracey.

Tracey was a part-timer and worked only afternoons, but she was in today, evidently standing in for the traumatised Sandra. She had a long, scrawny neck, like a turkey, and it shook when she spoke, “He got away with five grand.”

“Neat sum,” Bryn raised an eyebrow and cocked his head, trying to appear bemused.

“He put the gun straight into Sandra’s face. It was that or the money.”

“Did they arrest him?” Bryn was wondering if there was still time for his tea. Would it be rude if he stole a glance at his watch?

“They’re still looking… He vanished into the thin air. Sandra gave the cops his description – well, what she could remember, under the circumstances… Black coat, black balaclava… He was carrying a bag – black, with a zip and a white logo. He was tall. Big man! Didn’t say anything, just pointed the gun in her face. I was in the toilet, missed the whole thing. It took seconds,” Angela seemed disappointed.

“Let’s hope they find him,” Bryn concluded, aiming to sound definitive. He smiled apologetically and looked at his watch. It was ten to nine. “Well, I’ll… What a day! I think I’ll have a cuppa on that note,” he said and retreated awkwardly to the kitchen.

“He didn’t take it in,” Angela whispered, shaking her head with pity. “As if he doesn’t care. I’m not sure if he’s heard me…”

“He just looks… through you. I say he’s got that syndrome-” Tracey wobbled her neck with agitation. “What do you call it? I forget. But he has it and don’t tell me otherwise.”

The 15:42 was two minutes late. That disturbed Bryn. He didn’t like surprises. Then it got even worse – there was a diversion. The police had cordoned off part of The Street between the bank and Market Square.

Bryn got home outside his usual schedule. There was no point watching Poirot sixteen minutes into the episode. Instead, he took his replica pistol out of the table kitchen drawer. He had chiselled it with great attention to detail and painted it metallic black. Angela was excused for taking it for the real thing. It amused Bryn that she had conjured him as a big man. Women always exaggerate.

He wondered who had found the money. Someone had. They had not handed it in. That hadn’t gone to plan. Bryn had abandoned the bag by the cheese stall. If he’d found it, he would’ve taken it to the police. People were dishonest – more than he had given them credit for. Still, he knew how the criminal mind worked. But it was only a petty criminal. He was yet to find out what made a murderer tick.

Stock-taking: how to look reality in the eye and still live to tell the tale.

Overnight, somewhere between 12th and 13th of January in the Year of Our Lord 2013, I experienced a new awakening. It was tough. It was cruel. Nothing like the sweet music and white feathers gliding from angels’ wings onto to my whiter than white pillow. Oh no! It was the middle of the night. It was cold. My fluffy toys were fast asleep, snoring softly by my side. And it was then that I realised my writing was good for nothing.

I have written 3 books for adults – no, not THAT WAY adults – just ordinary adults with an average appetite for sex and no known deviations of character. Out of those three books, one had returned a semblance of interest from an agent who thought however that the opening was so strong and explicit that it simply could not be sustained:

“The opening scenes are moving and it is clear that you have shared your personal experience of loss with your reader. Whilst this can heighten the sense of authenticity, I felt in your case that your personal exorcism of the past, as you put it, has precipitated such a dramatic opening portrayal of death that I fear it would be hard to sustain for the length of a novel.”

Another agent had commented about my third book that it had moments of brilliant writing interspersed with moments of equally astonishing crap writing. So that was the story of my output for adults.

I went on to write 4 books for young readers, all of which have dedicated pages on this website. One of those books, “Be Gone” from the “In the Web of Time” series attracted interest from an agent who requested the full manuscript. I am yet to hear from the agent and I fear, in all honesty I can muster, that if there is going to be any news it isn’t going to be good. Too much water has gone under the bridge since the first expression of interest. I tried another agent with the same book. She responded positively by stating that the book stands out from all other material she gets, but still – regretably she could not take it on.

As for the other books, I have sent them to agents and a couple of them were entered into competitions. Nothing came of it. The sinking feeling you get when a rejection note comes or when the deadline expires for a competition is indescribible so I won’t try. But it is soul destroying.

I analysed the possible reasons for this tragic state of affairs. Many came to mind – many that would somehow explain it away without me losing face and faith, for example: oversaturation of the book market – everyone can write these days and everyone does. Books are everywhere, good and bad, piled up together on the great pyre of self-publication and e-market. People read less or rather, there is less diversity in what people read, ie we have a global readers market where every now and again one book becomes a bestseller read by millions and nobody cares or has the time to look for niche authors. Mass market is the death of individual taste in books. I could think of million other reasons – or excuses, as I should put it if I could bring myself to do so – but all in one it all boils down to me and my writing. Is it really that mediocre?

I am compelled to write. It’s a need I feel obliged to satisfy in order keep my mind and soul healthy, but that doesn’t mean my writing is any good. Does it have any potential readers? Is what I write about of any interest to anybody out there? Is my style captivating to anybody? Is there any magic in my work? The answers to all of these soul searching questions is overwhelmingly NO.

So what do I do? Giving up is an option. Getting more serious about my day job? Maybe I should be more professionally ambitious. I have the background. I have the ability. The skill. It’s just that I never have the time to pursue it seriously – all due to my obsessive writing. If only I gave it up, I could get somewhere in my career. Except that my life is a story of wasted talents and opportunities. Because I am a damned stubborn writer and little else matters.

Still, at least now I am beginning to question my reasons for existence. I put aside my latest book – two books, in fact: one for children and another one a crime story. I sort of gave up. Did I give up on writing or on those two books? I feel I am only giving up on following the old path of getting nowhere with my traditional output. I need to undergo a mutation. I have to find a voice that will attract readers. I must stop writing about what I want to say and start writing about what others want to read. Cheap skate? Maybe, but I am sick and tired of making a cake that I am then forced to eat all by myself. There is simply no fun in it. And no sense of achievement. Plus, it makes you fat.  I mean, bloated inside like an unexploded bomb.

Ticking away.