Change of plan

There I was happily editing my novella of hyphenated words when I began to grind to a halt. Having spent a year developing this curious style and being absorbed in using it to write not one but two novellas I found I had had enough of these creations, at least for a while. So yesterday I began editing a second version of the first novella, this time editing out all the hyphenated words and turning the story into a conventional tale.

I have to admit it was quite therapeutic to carry this out and to end up with several chapters of ‘normal’ script, something which I can promote without having the added weight of convincing people that hyphenated words were the language of the future. I haven’t given up on the new style, I think I just need a rest from its complications and implications. The aim now is to produce two versions of the story.

Here’s an example of the difference between the two versions:

Hyphenated style of opening chapter

New York, mid-December ’58, and my snowshoes were basement-stored but ready for unpacking should the hanging snowflakes hold hands on the ground. The blizzard back in March had dawned slow weather-wise and in folks’ brains; no-one wanted catching second time with their pants down in a snow drift.

Now I was out walking down 48th Street with the words of ‘Sugartime’ lyric-lashing my head. I tried forcing phrases of the Everly’s ‘Dream’ into the early evening air but the McGuire Sisters’ sugar rush kept returning.

After a weekend celebrating twelve months since my PI registration with Dirk and his alcohol-awash sidekicks, I wanted something more carefree cerebral. I stopped outside the Plymouth Theatre and watched people shuffle inside. The Marriage-Go-Round was rave-reviewing and the chance to eyeball Boyer and Colbert was not to be missed, promising light laughs easy-jawed. I took a position second balcony high and played writer eye-watching near eight hundred people creaking worn seats.

 

Conventional style

New York, mid-December ’58, and my snowshoes were stored in the basement but ready for unpacking should the hanging snowflakes hold hands on the ground. The blizzard back in March had dawned slow on the weather horizon and in folks’ brains; no-one wanted catching second time with their pants down in a snow drift.

Now I was out walking down 48th Street with the words of ‘Sugartime’ lashing my head. I tried forcing phrases of the Everly’s ‘Dream’ into the early evening air but the McGuire Sisters’ sugar rush kept returning.

After a weekend celebrating twelve months since my PI registration with Dirk and his alcoholic sidekicks, I wanted something more carefree cerebral. I stopped outside the Plymouth Theatre and watched people shuffle inside. The Marriage-Go-Round was getting rave reviews and the chance to eyeball Boyer and Colbert was not to be missed, promising light laughs in abundance. I took a position second balcony high and played writer watching near eight hundred people creaking worn seats.

I intend to read the latter opening chapter at the next Writers’ Group meeting. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is, I know some like the hyphenated style but others don’t. I’ll probably get the same division of opinion.

Still, two books from one story – can’t be bad!

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The final word

(written in response to a prompt for our Writers’ Group meeting this week)

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.

‘Sor-ry.’

 

Bar Affair

(something I wrote in 2016 when I was experimenting with phrases but not yet the hyphenated words)

 

Lured onto the whiskey rocks was I.

A bar, air carrying voices like oxygen, sucked me in one winterous night. Warmth, seeping from old style radiators slung sculpturally on scraped back brickwork, and escaping from alcohol massaged mouths manipulated by untongue-tied lips, wrapped around my body and dragged me to its bosom. Lighting, lowly bright, snaked sinister around shaped silhouettes, lightening the dark and darkening the light.

I felt eyes flickering sideways, assessing the tenderfoot, a future guessed in seconds, no second chance sanctioned. Bodies walled my approach, daring a siege or assault, my choice of advance another reckoning of personality and persuasion. Walking straight, unnerved by contact, unshamed by silent excuse, marked intruders as distrustful ones. I meandered crooked, avoiding of touch, and sought the bar end, refugee-simulating. Backs turned and drinks lifted, the silent baying hordes returned to role.

The bartender’s welcome came with decades of unknown familiarity, eyes weighed down with a thousand stories, lips creased by a thousand sips. Assimilating into the scene, I bounced coins on counter, watching the watchers, listening the listeners. A drink appeared, in a glass smeared with lost hopes, placed by fingers stained with lives desiccated. I sipped nectar from fallen gods, felt the liquid slide like a saw over a throat parched by the city, and her who walked away one night.

Words crept inside my ears, half spoken, half cried, from mouths spilling lies faster than truths, snatches of histories conjured up to please their audience, old and new. Wives fled, husbands fooled, mistresses abandoned, dreams cracked. No jury could pass judgement on so many words of illusory untruths. Bodies jostled, closing space, opening offers, silent spoken. Eyes conversed while lies filled the air, an air heavy with deceiving deception.

My vision half blocked, you entered my island of insanity. Perfumery in advance of body warmth, a vanguard of passion, unstoppable. You seated alongside, a foot carelessly on purpose grazing my tired shoe. A minute smile explaining as you adjusted and preened, blue dress frame hugging a manikin from Venus, brown-ginger curls circled and back circled, coiffured unto faultlessness, floating on shoulders created to cry on. A long finger unbent, the bartender commanded, a cocktail of colours mixed glided next my golden syrup, a partnership foretold.

You turned, half appearing, long leg escaping dress split, opening gambit played and won, my heart-beat beaten. I voiced introduction, you deemed to reply, a voice silkily dirty, misleading me on. Your accent defeated me, somewhere downstate in a far off state, lilts hiding rasps, clipped letters concealing lisps, yet seducing with half sentences.

Dialogue danced, distanced and discrete, waltzing in slow motion as backstories were told and edited, your spiel seducing as you congaed me into your existence. I held firm, fearing mis-steps and pre-empted elimination, entranced by eyes iced with life and lips like worn books, retelling eon-old untruths. Drinks consummated, we drifted our ways, the neon whispering streets leading me home, alone in body, entwined in mind.

Tenfold times we met, the bar end our restaurant, our bookshop, our promenade, our bedroom. Each night verbal became physical, the touch of words translating tantalisingly with the touch of skin. Our feet spelt sentences of desire under cold-hearted steel of stools, massaging ids to teasing heights, subterranean erotica never designed to surface. I watched sleek fingers slither and stroke wet flute and polished teak, dragging me ecstatic into depthless Charybdis, drowning deliriously.

Each night you dressed anew, sparkles spitting light in night black bar corners. I watched your body, encased sleek and seductive, leading eyes, jealous jaded or lecherous lewd, from entrance to stool, each sway choreographed with careless precision, each step stilettoing my heart. A back flick of hair, an ear revealed with dangling diamonds dancing, like a stripper stripped to skin, an opening gambit invincible, you sung me hypnotic, a Siren seductress, and I never saw the wrecking rocks below.

Long nights opened my wallowing wallet, sugardaddied silly, funding a career careering uncontrolled, stage lights studding an illusory skyline, a body half-talented un-self judged, and flaunting thespian screen tests before couch-tired directors. As money flow ebbed, conversation congealed with mascara-curtained eyes wandering and smiles stimulating seduction moving on, until only your glass, half empty, spilt, sat derelict. Across hazy no man’s land, glimpsed between lips and rye, at a bar counter distant, a silhouette stilled as you sat, sirening another, duping the dupe.

And I drank deep from the bottle of experience, exiting extinguished.

 

Memories

Kodak-Eastman-Brownie-127-(1953-1959)

It’s strange how objects or songs or odd little things can fire off your memories. This morning I was walking down the high street of our small town and noticed something in a shop which brought back recollections in an instant. Our town is full of charity shops and coffee shops and I rarely glance into either. However, having not been down in the town this week I was window gazing more than usual and in a charity shop I noticed a Brownie 127 camera. It was only offered at £5 but the memories it triggered in my head were priceless.

Even without holding the camera I could feel in my head the curved, bulging shape of the body and the cord hanging down the sides. It was the first camera I had and was probably passed onto me by my mum and dad. I was around eight or nine and we were on holiday in Cornwall. I have a photo of me standing on a hill or cliff side using the camera. I can still remember the canvas-type holdall it came with too, a sort of light brown material.

My beautiful picture

I still have some of the black and white photographs I took with the 127 and they aren’t bad considering the age of the camera, I’m assuming my parents must have had it some years, and my youthful fingers on the camera and button. I can still hear the click of the button, a very definite sound and quite a forceful push required if I recall correctly.

Like many people, the holidays we took with our families in our early years, say between seven and thirteen are very precious, especially as now our parents have passed away and only our memories and photographs remain of those happy, innocent times when we had so few responsibilities. I found out later in life my father wasn’t the keenest of drivers so taking us all the way from Kent to Cornwall and on another occasion to North Wales means a great deal to me. I guess the photos I have of all the castles in Wales must have been taken with the 127 too.

A few years later I went on a trip to Paris with my secondary school and I have photos of some of the places we visited. I’m guessing I used the 127 for those too, including one quite impressive photo taken from the top of the Eiffel Tower. The camera was stoutly made and must have survived several days being bashed around in a twelve-year old’s bag.

All these memories, and this blog post, all have come about because my eyes caught a glimpse of that Kodak camera in a charity shop. I guess if you wanted the starting point for a story of memory and intrigue you could take a flight of fancy and imagine that camera was the one I owned and somehow it has ended up in that shop and could be reunited with me after all these years…

 

Train of Thought

(A story I wrote sometime last year, using the hyphenated style)

The first carriage; heart-stopping, alcohol-hazed, dry lips mouth-mouthing words of double-dutched ineptitude, he opened the gambit with her. Her. The blonde lobbed hair, wild-hanging calculated cut, wrapping a face denuded of make-up, diffidently demanding adoration.

The second carriage; the dinner diary-dated in heavy pencil, circled and gouged in disbelief, with time counted down in seconds over hours. Clothes mirror-stared in multi-coloured disarrangements, mismatched for a perfect match. The awkward answerings across a table plastic flower posed and house-wined, wished-for lives exchanged in nervous narrations, deciphering the content for half-truths disguised within, eyes mind-reading the true intentions inner concealed. Goodbye smiles slipped between glad glances at a door marked Exit and Freedom, a tentative talk of texts and calls okayed with half-convicted conviction.

The third carriage; inhibitions uninhibited, clothes unclothed, all bared except the soul secret-suspicious, bodies tango-tangled around duvets shredded in unpaced passion with minds conjuring the unshared images of lovers wished for and out of reach. A hand-held touch, relief equal mixed in indecision with window-stared thoughts glass-rebounded, until palms sweat-swipe apart and fumble-find clothes to disguise the cold unpassioned skins before glances can photo-pick flaws smooth-shopped by earlier desperate desires.

The third carriage; families familiarised, glimpses of her in future years, fuller, wrinkle-creased, heavy-thighed. The parents’ ordered house of ordered years, generations frame-ranked and invisible future frames floating for filling by you and her. The father’s strong-handed handshake challenging control, the old order’s last stand to protect their eternal child; the cool light weak touch of the mother resisting a touch tendering ownership of the family’s human shares.

The fourth carriage; aisle-ambled, stained glass streaming, he waits for her, heart tight-folded. ‘I do’s echo-sound, murmured by ghosts of long dust-ground lovers; ‘I don’t’s whisper up cracked stone slabs from heart-broken ethereal voices. Glasses later raised like spirits, clink saluting speeches rewritten till fiction becomes almost truth and drunken cheers drown behind hand-hid gossiped slights.

The fifth carriage; he caught a floating wisp-waft of aftershave unknown, a fleeting flicker lying air-cushioned on her blouse collar and neck skin. The eyes leaving contact scarce seconds early but half-noted in a black-doored corner conscience, the lost distance stare mid conversation self-corrected too late and logged alongside late homecomings flushed and febrile, and the semi-smile lip-lingering with kisses shallow and slight.

The sixth carriage; he waits dark enshrouded, hoodied-hidden, watching and watchful, hands deep pocketed next to sharp-edged retribution. She passes alone, thoughts deep-woven of another, heart beat-beating in recaught teenage angst, sees not him, shadow stood, nor when he enters full light lit at home as she follows a routine daydream dreamt.

The seventh carriage; as he slides a knife blade, sleek and vengeful, skin splitting open like a guilt-weighted soul, and she slides spit-splutter down the door, her eyes unsurprised in understanding.

The eighth carriage; as he turns the blade, wet washed with her blood, and slices himself, their bloods mingling as the train station-stops in sympathy.

 

 

To contract or not to

teaching_contractions_qld_page_01

By ‘contract’ I mean shortening a word, not a contract you sign. I hadn’t thought of the identical spelling until I wrote the blog title just now.

So I have finished editing my novella for the first time. As I went through it I decided to have no contractions in the narration but to keep them, of course, in the dialogue, unless there was a particularly well spoken character. Now I’m not so sure. The narrator is the main character. He’s American, in the late ’50s, mixing most of the time with lowlifes and the cops. Surely then he would think in contractions? Would he really be thinking in full sentences with perfectly formed words?

I think the reason I edited the contractions out of the narration was that I was worried the story might come across as being too too informal, too aping of the ‘hard boiled’ PI form which is so copied and in some areas so derided. I didn’t want the story to become too much like one man’s long moan about life and its trials and tribulations. But will it sound too formal now, and at odds with the dialogue?

I had a glance through a compilation of Raymond Candler stories and was quite surprised to see he used a mix in his narration, some words like ‘had not’ contracted to ‘hadn’t’ and others not. It doesn’t seemed to have harmed his sales. I think I will have to read through my novella again and make up my mind one way or the other.

 

 

Home thoughts from a dark walk

 

I knew it was a bad idea walking home at night. It takes too long. Ten minutes on the bus, thirty by foot. Thirty minutes is too long, it gives my mind time to flicker between the most stupid of things, rather than concentrate on the one most important item that should be running through my brain right now.

First to burst centre stage as I walk past the new house development is Marc Almond. That record of his has been going through my head every five minutes, it seems to be on the radio every five minutes. Great song, ‘A Different Kind Of Love’, a last amazing long note held by the former Soft Cell singer which seems longer than many complete songs. I found the video on YouTube, wonderfully quirky as always with Almond. And here I am stepping off the kerb and the chorus wells up yet again inside my head. Please, Radio 2, have a new record of the week tomorrow. Please. Of course, Carol can’t stand Marc…

Must pay the council tax tomorrow. Really should have set up the direct debit last year, but we were planning to move house so I thought it easier to pay for a few months by debit card each month. I didn’t expect to still be in the same house twelve months later. And having to remember to pay online each month. Just wish Carol would stop nagging me about it.

Ah, it’s Line Of Duty tonight, wonder if I’ll get time to watch it. Looks promising, but not yet in the same league as the story line with Keeley Dawes a few years ago. And must remember to record Homeland. Suppose Carol will be watching that Eastenders crap.

Front lawn needs doing, meant to do it Wednesday, then it bloody rained on Thursday, didn’t it? Typical. Stupid forecasters saying it would be dry all week. And where was the heat wave promised last week?

Writers’ Group Monday, might have to give that a miss, obviously. Maybe not though, could play it cool, couldn’t I? Haven’t got anything written, I’ll have to rehash something from last year, they’ll never notice, most of them are only there for the coffee anyway. And if I hear one more poem. Carol likes to write poetry, doesn’t she? Typical.

Look at that prat parked there. Two wheels up on the kerb. How’s a mother with a buggy meant to get by? Or an elderly person on a mobility scooter? Plenty of room if he parked properly on the road. I should go around photographing these idiots then email them to the local press. Or start up a Twitter feed to expose these parking idiots.

Should’ve worn my other jacket tonight, but didn’t know I was walking home, did I? This one’s fine for showers but the wind cuts straight through. So hard to find any with two decent-sized pockets. Where do people carry their keys and wallet these days? One pocket just isn’t enough. And the mobile. Can’t stand jamming my trousers with so many bits and pieces. Carol bought me this one last Christmas, didn’t she?

Home at last. Really should have decided this on the way back, shouldn’t I?. Knife or pillow? Now, let’s think…Carol’s surprisingly strong, isn’t she? Don’t fancy a wrestling match on that rickety old bed.

Damn knife drawer, I never did get round to oiling it…