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A Bridge For The Furies: 2

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Part 1 is here

Gloria’s life could be measured in rituals. Her first was to get out of bed, throw on sweats and trainers, drink a cup of coffee and then hit the road. She ran to the bridge and back. It was a quiet stretch of road, and that time of the morning, no one was around. She lived out here precisely because there were vast stretches of silence that she could shout into and know that it was absorbed.

Perfect conditions for her writing.

She liked people, but was never sure that she could stand to be around them for any amount of time. She locked up, even though she knew that she didn’t have to.  She had learned about that the hard way. She started to run, to get away from the memory.

 

Gloria had whittled herself down to sinew. She knew how far she could push herself, but always wanted to go further. The writing was the most sane application of that impulse and that would come later. At that time of day, though, she ran.

The mist clung to the road and a bank of cold air met her as she started her run, letting her body remember the pain, then the pleasure. She could not say which she preferred, if anyone asked her.

She went deeper inside herself with each mile, focusing on the deep engine of her breath and letting the quiet majesty of the trees work their magic upon her. It was her hundredth run without him.

He had gone to get groceries, cook them both breakfast because she had forgotten to pick up eggs and he had rolled his eyes, called her a goofball and put on his shoes. She had sidled up to him with one of those side way bump and grinds that she did, pushing her warm hip against the small of his back and said she would keep the bed warm for him.

In the washed out, grey days and nights afterwards, she slept on the couch to keep the warmth of him still in the sheets. She would try and write, but nothing came out of her. So she ran, went back and looked at the blank page, smooth and devoid of anything. She wanted to trade places with it so much that she could not bring herself to mark it.

She started to feel the dull ache beginning in her hips and hamstrings, which meant that she was close to the bridge, she would stop and walk off the lactic acid build up, then run back to the house, shower and eat breakfast.

The bridge had always been there. It had borne endless winters and humid, torrid summers without complaint. She would walk across it, holding her breath until she got to the other side, make a wish and still believe that it would come true. She would talk about the running until her voice gave out, but the truth of it was that she did all so that she could walk across the bridge and make a wish.

She turned the corner and saw the man stood there, waving to her with a cigarette burning between his fingers. She missed cigarettes but she had managed ten years without them, and the constant test of will had smoothed over the jagged peaks of her withdrawal. That was also when she had subsisted on a diet of coffee, cigarettes and diet cola to keep her skinny. The smell of it wandered over to her, and she shook her head, upset that someone had to be out here, an absurd anger at the cosmic coincidences of life that made her feel petulant and small inside.

‘Hello, Gloria.’

She stopped. Her heartbeat fluttered with concern. She had dealt with convention crud, online reviews and all the forms of ugly compulsive interaction that a woman writing dealt with but this jangled her nerves. Her phone was back at the house, but out there there was nothing but the silence. It swallowed her cell phone signal as ably as her screams.

He finished his cigarette, stubbed it out on the heel of his shoe and pocketed it with a practised, smooth gesture. His smile faded, noting her apprehension and already moving to address it.

‘It’s okay, the last thing I’m here to do is cause you any trouble.’

She stood there, feeling the aches gathering together and telling her to run.

‘You don’t just walk up to people like that. I don’t know who the hell you are.’

He put his hands up and raised his eyebrows. He had dark-blond hair, streaked with charcoal and platinum and a crop of stubble that highlighted his angular, sharp features. She went dizzy when she saw the pointed ears peeking through the hair.

‘You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. But I know you, Gloria.’

He had jewellery on his fingers, twisted and burnished into spirals and knots at which sat gleaming precious stones. He wore an olive-green leather coat over a crumpled white shirt and blue jeans, faded at the knee over black polished shoes.

‘That’s not helping you, whoever the fuck you are.’

She could punch, aim for his eyes, the jewellery on his fingers would cut her if he was going to hit her.

‘I know that you’re thinking that if I hit you, these rings would do a lot of damage.’

He put his hands in front of him, started to chant and stare at a point on the road a few feet ahead of her.

‘SOWAHIMTIPSNU’

The air sparked and seethed with an organic, ambient light like the luminescence of deep undersea creatures. It undulated and he splayed his fingers again.

‘SOWAHIMTIPSNU’

Gloria desperately wished for a pen and a piece of paper, to commit this to memory. The energy began to coalesce into the shape of a small bird.

‘SOWAHIMTIPSNU’

It held the shape well, but sacrificed the details of beak and feathers, for suggestions of the craft and the shifting, rainbow patterns of the matter that formed it. He stood back and swept his hands upwards. He grinned like a child and gazed into her eyes.

‘Tell me where it goes, Gloria.’

She sucked in a breath, watching it circle overhead.

‘It returns to the flaming forest, there is an egg that needs it’s attention and inside that egg lies the child who will grow to rule -‘

He tutted and shook his head.

‘Oi, no spoilers.’ He laughed with a confident chuckle and lowered his hands to his side.

Gloria shuddered. That phrase had been taunting her, afraid to leave the skull prison of her head and mark the page. She had not been able to even speak it, but here it had flowed from her lips like an unguarded criticism.

‘Who the fuck are you?’ she said. She sounded distant, subdued by this florid burst of insanity.

He watched the bird before clicking his fingers and on cue, it shot upwards into the sky, past the limits of her vision.

‘I’ve had a few names through the years. Bragi. Brahma. Manjushri. I like the way that the ‘bra’ sounds, but I’m just going by Manny today.’

Everything felt so far away and incredibly close at the same time. This was not insanity, this was like finding out that your whole life really was that cosmic joke that everyone else was in on but you.

‘What if I said that you writing again is the reason I came here?’

She put her hand over her mouth and started to giggle with hysteria.

‘Oh if Kelly’s put you up to this, you’re really really good.’

Manny shook his head and smiled.

‘Kelly has nothing to do with this. I’m here because some people need you to start writing again.’

Her laughter died in her throat and she stopped breathing.

‘Who are these people?’

Manny’s face looked pinched with concern.

‘Everyone.’

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

 

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Above Us, Only Sky.

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Above the clouds, where the air is as pure as the sunlight, she floats with her arms by her sides, looking out at the sky around her. She can sense that her physical body waits on the earth beneath her, that this is a matter of perception, afforded her by virtue of an education at her mother’s knee.

She looked at the sky around her, endured the bone deep ache of being in the presence of beauty such as the world around her. Her soul trembled at what she had to do, but when she spoke, her voice rang out across the sky.

‘I am Esperanza, daughter of Dona Maria, I am curandera and I come to find something that has not been lost.’

Her voice echoed, but nothing moved or responded. A chill wind blew across her shoulders, wracking her with shivers. Was this the response? Mama had said that they would speak to her. Esperanza took that to mean a conversation, but this was a chil breeze.

She felt it then, a tugging sensation to her left, like a child pulling at the hem of mother’s skirt and she followed it.

Downwards.

She plummeted, too fast to scream and blacked out for a second with it’s terrible velocity.

2.

Beneath her, the soft damp bed of moss laid damp against her cheek. She got up, wrapping her arms around herself as she looked out at a sea of trees, tall enough to pierce the low hanging clouds above her. So thick was the cloud that it made her strain to see the details. She shut her eyes, and listened.

The gentle trickle of running water, and she smiled to herself.

There is the Rio Abjao Rio, the river beneath the river. If you hear it, in the air, the spaces when you hear your true love’s voice, then you must follow it. She got to her feet and began to walk. Her steps were tentative, but she took a deep breath and carried on into the forest.

The noise of the water gained presence and volume as she drew nearer. The air was cool, damp in her nostrils and on her lips. She raked her hair away from her face, and wriggled her bare toes into the moss beneath her feet. She drew courage from herself, and kept moving.

Which was when she heard the roar, not of the river this time. She felt the thump of motion gathering pace as it came towards her, knocking back undergrowth and branches with no more care than you would walk through a column of smoke.

She looked into the bear’s eyes. The warmth of corn liquor, caramelised and liquid. Beautiful, and all the more so, for the grizzled ferocity of it’s expression. It roared and she put her hands up.

‘Stop.’

The bear reared back on it’s legs, blocked out the light with it’s size.

Which was when it began to chuckle.

Esperanza suffered fools all her life, but she had been unprepared for such mockery to arise in a place as pure as thought. Pure as sky.

‘You do not laugh at me without cause, spirit.’

It guffawed as it licked his left paw with his thick, pink tongue, watching her with an expression equal parts hunger and amusement. It thrilled her to be looked at in such a way, but frightened too.

‘No, it appears that I do not. What do you search for?’

She took a deep breath.

‘I come to surrender.’

The bear shook it’s head and lowered it’s eyes as it moved onto all fours.

‘To me, is it that simple?’

Her stomach grew hot and sour, the bear’s voice was gruff but smooth, burnished by endless experience and beneath it, a warmth like a good shot of tequila began to smoothe out her fears. She shook her head.

‘No, it is not. My mother taught me that.’

The bear looked around and grinned before returning it’s gaze to her.

‘And, what is that lesson? Humour a big old bear, would you.’

Esperanza closed her eyes, took a deep breath and spoke, not from memory but from heart.

‘A woman’s surrender is a gift, a demonstration of power and not defeat. We surrender to the cycles of life and death, the release of purest ecstacy and the duties of the flesh. To surrender such power is a gift and it is done not in the spirit of looking backwards.’

The bear padded over to her, sniffed and hummed deep in it’s throat, it’s massive chest reverberating the air around it with it’s vibration.

It licked along the line of her neck, the tongue was soft, but rough like a washcloth and it tickled her sending delighted shivers of sensation down her spine.

‘I accept, Esperanza.’

It lowered it’s shoulders to the ground then looked upwards at her.

‘What are you doing, Bear?’

‘I will take you to the rio abjao rio, Esperanza. I know the way.’

She walked around the bear, reaching forward to take purchase in the thick, brown fur on it’s back. She lifted her leg over, until she was astride. It’s heartbeat thumped like a drum and the hot engine of it’s breath moved her like the tides. It was frightening and exciting all at once.

The bear lifted it’s shoulders and turned it’s head.

‘Are you ready, Esperanza? I know that this frightens you, but the truth of a situation often does. ‘

She gripped the fur and smiled at the bear before her. Beneath her.

‘Then you must show me, Bear.’

It began to move, slow at fast but then faster.

It never quite matched the rapid pace of her heart though. Nothing was faster than that.

 

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I know your wildness

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I know the wildness

Within you

I bring my nose

Close to the nape

Of your neck

Snuffling and taking

Delight in the knowledge

Of my senses

I know you, little one

And how you are

That you are wolf mother

And mate

Yet you are possessed with a want

A force that weaker men seek to subdue

But I would unleash

That you desire

That pain and pleasure

Are two sides 

Of the same coin

Come wrestle

Let me feel your flesh

Between my teeth

Let me leave red hand prints

Bouquets of bruises flowering

Let me rasp my tongue

Within each fold and

Drink until I no longer

Thirst

I revel in the flawed power

Of you and I bring old wisdom

And patience to bear

I kiss your scars and marks

The way a bird takes to the air

Come to me

Wait

For 

You

Without expectation

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Knowing

Feel me

Until your surrender

Arrives

Relax in the direction

Of my attention

I am as aroused

By your dancing anger

As by your giggling joy

I remain willing

To crack the shell

Of closure

Lick my love against

The soft heart flesh

Inside

My breath is full

My body strong

I enjoy your anger, your tears

Your silent hardness

The world ever gives me that

I do not analyse

I encourage

You who must follow

Heart’s white rabbit

I allow you to go mad 

With love

You must be the ocean

Not the ship that

Waits, tied with fraying rope

To proprietary dock

Oh how I know you

As you know me

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Two Pages(13/10/16)

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The two pages this morning were solid, the back and forth of the relationship between the protagonist and her mother has been a quiet source of pride for me in capturing both the narcissism and it’s impact. I know a few narcissists, and I hope that I have done them proud. It also allowed me to go and revisit the earlier part of the book for reference, which is something that always makes me feel especially competent. I love it when I read it, a reference to something that you experienced as a different person but now seen in an entirely different light. What was text becomes subtext, and what was subtext becomes text again.

I used the quote above, because so often, strong emotion is seen as impediment as much as inspiration. Either in using your art to resist it, or explore it, in the same way that you would handle fissionable material with proper protective materials. All emotion is energy trapped by a thought, and our emotions are layered, they form traps and barriers as well as they do weapons. If I have said hurtful, dismissive things then it has been because I have felt hurt and dismissed and in it’s own way, it’s to continue a severed connection, usually to something that felt real but turned out to be illusory. James Baldwin once said –

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However, and this is where I lose the literary cachet and respect that the last paragraph might have garnered from you, I like to use emotion in much the same way as the subway scene in Ghost shows. All your love, your hate and focus it to the tip of your finger and then push. Sometimes it’s exhausting, like pushing a penny uphill with your nose and I am well aware that I am touching on ‘woo’ here but stay with me. If you can get it out of your body, then that energy goes into a page.

A sentence.

Three words.

I love you. Sometimes from the same person, that can lift you up like taking flight, then in a different context, you no longer believe them and it feels like a date stamp, a meaningless gesture and you feel betrayed that they would use that. Now you can say that word in any number of ways, and have it mean any number of things. Words have a utility beyond imagining, it’s why I love them so much. It’s why I built a blanket fort out of them to hide inside when the world is too much to bear.  It’s not the same as throwing yourself into your work, because no spreadsheet can ever comfort you. It’s a distraction but art/writing etc is where you can take what is useful and discard the unnecessary parts.

People do that to one another all the time, and artists are above all else, people.

In other news, I am now free to finish editing the rest of Until She Sings. After a tangential introduction from a former acquaintance, I am going to bite the bullet and invest in Pro Writing Aid, as a nifty bit of software on annual subscription which illuminates my flaws and sends me into spasms of fearful anguish at my appalling grammar. It’s an investment I will make in myself, part of an ongoing reinvention in order to keep pursuing my goals. There are no more notes coming from the agent now, as they said that it would be repetition of points already sent and fortunately, I have already done a solid run through so it’s more pruning and weeding than digging for the last part of the book. If this is to be my first published book, and I cannot say, because as much work as I’ve put it into it, it doesn’t guarantee me of anything at all. The work is what will last long after I have gone. I am not afraid of rejection,  just don’t enjoy it and having experienced it, professionally and personally, I would rather focus on the professional rejection because I can do something about that. Art harder, as Chuck Wendig said.

I also pitched Lawful Evil and the new untitled book, which will be a personal work expressed through metaphor, names changed to protect the guilty and all that but outlined and informed enough that I can talk to the agent about it’s veracity. Things are moving faster, my cultivated self image and ambition is reaching escape velocity and good things are happening.

Ten thousand joys, ten thousand sorrows.

Thank you for reading.

 

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Two Pages (12/10/16)

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Between scenes in Lawful Evil, I enjoy taking breaths on the page, respites from the tension that I have built and I look to avoid taking away from that entirely. It also allows me to show the changes in the characters as the story has continued. If your characters have not fundamentally changed by the end of whatever you are writing, then you have problems that require fixing before it goes out. In truth, it’s unlikely to go out because any editor or publisher will struggle to see how such a work can find an audience.

They do, though, especially literary fiction. Genre fiction is seen as the dishevelled relative, the kind who shows up at Christmas without a present and eats all the stuffing, but in truth, there’s a robustness, a pragmatism to genre fiction that shows up some of the literary fiction, that is seen as superior. I say that, as someone who enjoys both, and has developed a passion for nuance and ambiguity in the reading that I enjoy.

Genre fiction has it’s flaws too, but to dismay it as merely entertainment in comparison to literature denies it’s power. Entertainment is tough work, I’ve read a lot of literature and a lot of genre fiction, and the genre fiction moves because it has to. Some genre fiction has little more to distinguish it than a strong conceit, or a steroidal macguffin but it can pass a train journey. Literary fiction, can be beautiful but empty and afterwards, you’re left dismayed. It’s also prone to plotholes and characterisation that have led me to want to throw the book across the room. I love ambiguity in endings, but god when it’s done poorly, it’s really irritating. Susan Choi’s My Education was a perfect example of that. It also has a tendency to communicate elitism and disdain without offering a more substantial alternative.

Genre fiction has a bit of a self-esteem problem, self conscious at times because it may feature orcs, elves, vampires, werehamsters and robots made of cheese. Yet, remember that it is as entirely fictional as middle aged professor facing a midlife crisis and his waning libido. Real life, there is the latter but on the page, all bets are off. If you come to the page, do not do so lightly. The best work I’ve read combines literary and genre elements – Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin combine elements of both, Gun Machine and Normal by Warren Ellis all combine fantastical and political/socio-economic elements into dizzying displays of fury.

You could class Gabriel Garcia Marquez as genre fiction, festooned as it is with beautiful language. There is good and bad, and that depends on your preference and point of view. So long as you are reading, and mindful about it, like what you like.

As Shaky Kane, the cartoonist said, don’t be cool, like everything.

I can read Austen then pick up Stephen King and feel the same rush of pleasure. I can move from King to Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen. I don’t bring my politics to the page, in that I am ruthlessly egalitarian. A good book is a good book and sometimes a bad book can be entertaining in the way a bad movie can be, but the time invested in a bad movie can be collaborative joy whereas we seldom read together, unless it’s to our children. Or a book club but that’s in retrospect.

So, at the moment I have finished My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates which was stunning and biting in it’s pain and satire, a fictionalised account of the JonBenet Ramsay case, which has come to attention after the recent documentary. It combines different textures, ramps the unreliable narrator volume up to full and ends on a note of hopeful redemption that unmanned me a little bit but you read at 0400, you deal with what hits you. I’ve now started Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong, who’s been a genre author that has a snappy, smart style that amuses and entertains me.

In other news, editing on Until She Sings is going well, it’s humbling to see where you were and where you are on the page. Much like going through a photo album and seeing that the light in your eyes hasn’t changed all that much.

Thank you for reading.

 

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Closed For The Season.

 

This agony

Tests my dimensions

Inspires a grand violence of spirit

Anger is an anaesthetic

That allows me to go through

The day

Numb and shivering

And how the world goes on

Ignoring my resentment

At the callow circumstances, fate swept

The house of cards from the table

How could a love so grand and operatic

Feel so prevalent on circumstance

That the blank, warm milk

Of domesticity

Tastes sweeter than the wine

I offered.

I have lost as much as I loved.

I insinuated you, opened every door

To my heart’s mansion

Opened up as you asked me to

But the cold wind blows

Even the fire has died

And there is no one here

To keep me warm

Let me shiver to death

Cursing the world.

Yet if you peered around the door

I would let you in

Dear god, how I would

Let

You

In

But for now, this house needs boards nailed to the windows

And I shall become a ghost,

Lost to some other place

Than here

 

 

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Two Pages (09/10/16)

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This morning’s pages were good, took on the challenge of showing a little more description of the protagonist’s love interest/ally  and their house. It is something that I may lift entirely and place earlier in the book but sometimes insights arrive when they’re ready to be written down, and so long as you know where you are and what you are doing, then that is half the battle. I also looked at my list of obligatory scenes and made some notes as to which I have done, and where they are, as well as started to sketch out some of the major ones later. Yes, you can skip back and forth, but I like those scenes to come to me with the force of momentum and a sense of being due, rather than overdue.

I did not work on Until She Sings last night but will do so today, spent some time giving feedback on a friend’s short story that took some detail. Feedback is a potentially dangerous thing, which is why so many people are reticent to give it. Too honest and it appears cruel, too soft-spoken and it appears patronising. I aim to strike a balance between the two. You cast bread out on the water, you get back cake and who doesn’t like cake?

This next part is the rest of the Ten Perfections as applied to a writing practice.

6. Wisdom – Your life is source material. If not the objective experiences, then the emotions that you have experienced or the things that you have learned from them. The life you have lived and live has all the colours you need to paint a masterpiece, sometimes you will need blend colours and nuances to get the shade that you need. You have lived, and learned, the difficult part is in the translation sometimes. Imagination is that path, but it is the wisdom of experience that will give you the strength to walk along it.

7. Effort. There is the effort required to write, or develop a sustainable practice of writing and maintain it. There is the effort required to research and improve your craft, the effort to read rather than watch television or play videogames. There is the determination to market your work as well. Effort is important to the development of an approach to writing.

8. Patience. Writing for a reply to an email that may offer success or feedback. Replies to enquiries or about submissions that seem to take their sweet time in arriving. Seeing people get deals, retweeting fan art and glowing reviews whilst you’re still waiting to find out if what you’ve written is actually any good. Patience is important but do not be passive about it. Work on your material, seek to improve in some small way to ensure that the time spent in patient anticipation was not wasted.

9. Truthfulness. Honesty on the page is everything. Yes, writing is a series of entertaining lies interspersed with truth. Tell the truth through the observations and actions of your characters. It is free therapy, and earnest, unvarnished truth resonates with readers in a way that the most elegant, glorious language never could. If it is uncomfortable, keep a straight face and say that it is just fiction. Stick a hobbit or a ninja in there to distract them. Yes, you’re making things up and having a fine time doing it but hold some measure up to the light of the truth within and about yourself.

10. Determination. Better work than yours will be ignored, lesser works than yours will be feted and celebrated. Some people will do less to get further and faster than you. Your work will sometimes feel like a trudge through a muddy path. Your family will demand more of your attention, at exactly the point that your second act falls to shit and phone calls will interrupt your most sublime reveries. This is where determination comes in. It applies regardless of whether writing is a hobby or a career for you. A strange fact is that the more effort you put into something, the better you will get and then your enjoyment of the hobby will gain depth and find new meaning. There’s something almost perverse in developing a level of aptitude for no other reason than your own pleasure. We’re encouraged to get better for the salary increase, the title but when we do it for the soul’s reward, there is something truly sublime in that.

When your heart is breaking, writing makes sense. It takes determination to write through your pain but it makes it easier to bear it all.

 

Writing is so rewarding for me that the more I have aligned my life around it, the happier I have become. It has made me rich in terms of spirit and mind. If you can find a groove to set into and you are present with it, it’s a thing of genuine wonder to me, and I feel successful already. My ambition is to build a life that allows me to do more of that. I am investigating the process to get into teaching, with an aim to develop as a teacher of creative writing. I’ve spent decades doing things for other people all the time, and although it was not time wasted, I can see that a future where I am sourced in my wonder and craft would be a thing of joy for me. If that groove becomes a rut, then the solution is to keep digging until you find that the air is fresher underground.

Inspiration is like a moth, killed by the smallest casual nudge so learn to work without it. Then, when it does arrive, you can appreciate and enjoy it’s time with you.

Thank you for listening.

 

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Two Pages

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I wrote three pages this morning. I do specific meditations around my writing, to get me into the right headspace where I can work in a place of focus and excellence. They work for me, which is the main thing. I can and do write without them but I look at life as an athletic performance and push myself with it. Meditation, focused writing practices all help me remain productive and keep aiming to write as well as I possibly can.  I have also edited the last notes on USS which worked out really well, punching up the work to a better standard than previously.

I do the work. I listen to advice from the people who have a vested interest in my success and growth and I don’t get critics as such yet, even so I would welcome them as an opportunity to suck less. I do not necessarily go in for the magical thinking aspect of writing in my practice. There are definite moments of satisfaction, it lends itself really well to making me more interested in people and to listen more than I speak. I’ve experienced the sweep of literature many times which is why I take such pleasure in reading regularly and part of that is what drives me to write. I’m not original, simply working to get to a point that my work gives someone else a good experience.

If my book helps someone pass time on a commute, make the wait for an appointment less turgid or occupy an evening then I will have already been a success.

We write because we read.

We read because we write.

I know myself through my writing. What my relative strengths are, and where I can improve. I know that working daily keeps me motivated and consistent, I know that I can write through pain or illness, that writing at the start of the day is more effective than at it’s end, and is easier to protect that time. I know that there is always more to learn and that simply delving into writing advice is trying to quench your thirst by opening a fire hydrant. You have to find what works for you, and you alone. If you outline or dive right in, then it is whatever gets you through to having finished work that you can edit or send out.

I know this because I spent more time choking on the fear of my writing not being perfect than writing. I have always written but it was not until the last six years that I have finished anything. It’s interesting that I’ve learned more about writing and myself in that time, a period of evolution ratcheted up to breakneck speed and still learning all the time.

It’s broadened my taste in reading. There are genres and literature that are open and of interest to me now that were not before. I am relentless in learning as well as being entertained. I’ve got past my reticence of older books, finding awe and an almost drunken delight in Dickens. I’ve got Doestoevsky to work through. I’ve always enjoyed Hemingway but now I can articulate how marvellous a trick it is to work with such spare language. I can go back and see how bloody marvellous Stephen King is. It’s had me at the feet of the work by Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Sarah Waters, Alice Hoffman and Gillian Flynn. I return to A Song of Ice and Fire with newfound appreciation for the scale of the work, it’s earnestness and grandeur.

It’s made me less tolerant of my own affectations and dissembling. Making writing my purpose has enriched my life and I work towards it, through the weeks of inertia, the rejections for the short fiction that lit me up like a firework but get knocked back with a polite email. I have made sure that my love for the work is sourced in the process rather than the outcome in order to inure myself against disappointment.

I considered myself a success when I wrote a book through to the end, everything since then has been a blessed bonus but I still have my ego and my ambition, my awareness of myself is far kinder and more encouraging than it used to be.

So maybe there is magic in that.

There is always the work though. That’s enough for me to be going on with.

Thank you for reading. Please leave comments and questions below. I really appreciate them and reply to each one.

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The Devil Went Down To Pensacola

What offended Lou most about the protest was it’s lack of taste.

The signs were written in black, bold fonts on neon and hot pink pieces of card glued to lengths of wood. Some earnest art project gone horribly wrong.  He stood and watched them with his forehead furrowed in amusement, smoking and smirking to himself.

He seldom took time off. Today though, he had outsourced the day to day affairs to a few ‘trusted’ subordinates and had found himself in Pensacola. The weather was something that he found entirely comfortable, even with the dark pinstripe and the cravat, his hair remained a perfect sculptured wave of white blonde hair and his face was a perfect study of milk poured atop ivory.

He tutted to himself, cast the cigarette to the ground and crushed it beneath the heel of his boots before walking to join the other mourners. He walked alongside a young couple, their eyes red with tears who kept looking to the small, vicious knot of people across the street. The elder of the two went to approach but his partner put a steadying hand out and shook his head.

‘They’re not worth it.’

The young man turned and looked into the perfect, violet eyes of the stranger.

‘Sorry, he hates those guys.’

He looked past them and narrowed his eyes.

‘On grounds of taste alone, I’d agree.’

He knew that the couple were Iain and Benjamin, that they had met in college and were at one point, experimenting with the deceased in a polyamorous relationship before primal notions of dominance asserted themselves and they did not speak for a while. He knew the worst in people, and that was why he loved them so much.

Looking at the church, he knew what would be said and what would be meant. Funerals were clumsy affairs and seldom captured a life, good or bad. They were for the living, and the dead oftentimes spoke of the self serving omissions and errors that irritated them. The event that marks your passing has all the depth and veracity of a celebrity autobiography.

So, seeking amusement, he walked across the street. He heard calls and ignored him, lit up another cigarette because it would irritate them and he smoked like a fiend. He was not afraid of cancer, cancer was afraid of him.

‘YOU’RE GOING TO BURN IN HELL, FAGGOT.’

They spoke in upper case, angry comments on the internet without the excuse of anonymity. He pitied how empty they looked, even he knew the fullness of existence. Even though it hated him.

‘I was actually coming to thank you, actually.’

His fringe had fallen into his eyes but he kept it in order to avoid having to look at them directly. He inhaled the cigarette smoke, enjoyed the tickle in his throat and how they had lapsed into silence.

One of them, with his dad bod, undulating chin waddle sparsely covered by a beard that resembled glued on pubic hair stared at him. Every instinct screaming to run, but self righteousness and hitherto undiagnosed fetal alcohol syndrome made him stand his ground.

‘For saving your immortal soul? I should think so.’

Lou chuckled, a dry, ugly sound like dessicated branches sweeping against a window pane. It was a laugh that once sounded chimes in the heart of creation, but time and circumstance had rendered it’s beauty into something practical and terrifying.

‘Oh you sorry little sac, you really have no idea how it works, do you?’

Lou managed something that had eluded the great and the good who encountered the group’s feverish infant protests.

Silence.

‘He doesn’t concern himself with hatred, neither does the boy. He pities your lack of understanding, if anything.’

He lit up another cigarette. It carried an unearthly scent, due to the fields it was grown in, fertilised with the eternal corpses of the damned. It made marijuana look like child vitamins and the crowd’s noses wrinkled collectively in response.

‘But why let the facts get in the way of the resolutely good time you all appear to be having, eh?’

Dadbod gripped the sign in his doughy hands and began to advice. Lou laughed and waved his finger in a mocking gesture.

‘Seriously, don’t.’

Dadbod, looked around, lost in a storm of primal panic and aggression, before committing to the worst possible decision and charging him. Huffing to accommodate his lack of experience with actual aggression and a cardiovascular system that would lose in a race with a sleepy dormouse, he charged and for a moment, imagined shoving this petulant asshole to the floor. In an instant, he saw the approval of his peers as a parade of hateful good feeling and was heartened by it.

Which was when Lou stepped neatly to the left and watched him tumble, using his face as a brake. Pink and scarlet shreds of skin laid in streaks against the asphalt, like abandoned gum, devoid of flavour but not colour. Dadbod screamed, clutching his face and Lou walked over to him.

‘This, Gary, is a perfect metaphor for your approach.’

His smile uncoiled, a bright and terrible beauty that made it’s mark on this world and he continued.

‘I have no time for lectures, but I encourage you to really pray. Listen to that small voice, the one that you actually struggle with but you pretend is dyspepsia, and follow that.’

He stood up, bowed formally from the waist and went about his day with a wink that made the nascent libidos of many of the protestors and crowd flutter like a newborn butterfly. There was a woman at the tent hire place he wanted to look at, and a plate of chicken parmesan to enjoy.