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CB 200 for 300, bargain.

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I struggled to come to a decision about which car to include next in this series of posts.

I wanted to mention one which played a significant part in my life and that was proving difficult because, as I have said, I spent many years at sea and moving from one shore base to another when at home, so there was little point in owning a vehicle to leave it sitting idle for several months on end.

Which means I skip several years or so, until 1975/78 (ish), to continue these blog posts. Also, I am not writing about a car, but a Motorcycle.

You see, with me being away so often and for so long, I deemed it easier for storage and running costs, to buy an easily maintainable and reliable motorbike. Nothing fast or fancy, simply a small bike I could run errands with, pop down to the beach or for a run into the countryside, do a little shopping, commute and so forth.

£300 bought me a one-year-old Honda CB 200. A bargain.

For those who don’t know this model, it is a four-stroke, twin-cylinder, OHC, 2 valves per cylinder. 196cc, air-cooled, coil ignition, 5 speed, chain-driven, electric start, 124 mph high revving but very reliable roadster.

Now, back in the day, it was legal to ride up to a 250cc motorcycle without passing a motorcycle driving test. All you needed was to have ‘L’ plates displayed and off you went. That is precisely what I did.

After a few ‘test drives’, over the weekend; when I took the bike to the garages situated at the rear of my house, where I self-taught myself starting and stopping, getting used to the throttle, gears and breaks, I took the bike out onto the local roads in the part of the city I was living in. All was well and went without incident.

My next journey was one of around thirty-five miles. This involved driving out of the city, along a major route, skirting two towns and two villages before heading out into the countryside, along some narrow and twisty country lanes to a military installation, which never officially existed, at least not until it was decommissioned and sold off to a housing development company.

Anyway, this became the regular journey I made for several months, most times twice a day – there and back. I only had two incidents, both minor.

I only mention the first of these so you can laugh at me.

It was during a very cold and icy spell in December. I rode the bike that morning very cautiously, with due consideration for the weather conditions. It snowed during the night, a layer of fresh powder laying atop yesterdays melt, which was now a hidden sheet of ice.

As I approached the last couple of miles I needed to decide which of the possible two roads to take. Neither were main routes.

The first choice was to stay on the larger road and hope I could climb the steep hill and negotiate the final part, which was little more than a rough track.

My second choice was to use the smaller, twisting lanes. The advantage was, although longer in distance, this route skirted the hill, which I was concerned about due to the ice and only having two wheels.

I went with my gut instinct and took the back roads. I made the right choice, as I later learnt the hill route was closed due to the ice making it impassable. However, this also meant all the traffic heading west was diverted along the narrow lanes in the direction I was heading.

While I intended, when taking this route, to creep along at my own steady pace, I now had vans, cars and trucks moving far too slowly as they jostled to pass one another. I was managing fine, keeping a measured distance from the vehicle in front, until the whole line of traffic came to a halt.

Now, the bikers among you will know, once you come to a complete stop the rider must also contend with the weight of the bike along with its balance. To do this generally means taking the machine’s weight by bracing it with a leg. On ice, on a cambered road, this means the bikes centre of gravity alters, the tyres no longer have any grip and, on this occasion, neither did my well-placed boot.

The outcome is the bike slid out from under me and I hopped a couple of times before slipping and falling flat on my arse.

Righting a fallen machine on sheet ice is no easy task either.

Thankfully, the driver following me was patient. He smiled and nodded, letting me know he would wait for me to pick the bike up and get moving again and not mow me down. Although he declined to get out from the heated comfort of his car and help.

Personally, I think he found it the whole episode amusing and would, once at work, tell the tale of the biker taking several attempts to pick his bike up and then mount it and ride on. For myself, I felt I was auditioning for the Keystone Cops, stand up, grip the handlebars, pull, fall over. Do the same and with the bike halfway upright, the back wheel decides to slither off in another direction… and so on. All in the middle of a road with halted traffic, the drivers watching in amusement tinged with some annoyance of being delayed further. I admit it was one of the few time I have ever felt embarrassed.

Eventually, I managed to get back on the bike and complete my journey… but only in 1st gear. When the bike toppled the gear lever was bent upwards. meaning I could not select any other gear. Later that day, armed with a house brick and a hammer, I managed to straighten the lever, the intention to replace it once home.

I never did… because it worked better than before. The gear changes were easier, sweeter and more precise. This Luddite type repair proved effective enough to last the entire next few years I owned the motorcycle and, possibly many years after.

That’s the end of this week’s story.

So, I hear you asking, what has all that to do with writing?

Well, quite a lot really. I believe this tale proves at least two points.

The first is, many, probably most of us, are not trained writers. We have not a master’s degree in English literature, nor do we hold any journalistic diplomas. But we are writers and authors, professional ones at that and some of us hold a wealth of knowledge which simply cannot be taught in a classroom.

Just ‘doing it’ is very much how I first learnt to ride my motorcycle and then the following experience I gained from riding in snow and ice. I am now, by the way, an ‘A’ class driver (I have the certificates to prove it!)

So, achieving a high, professional standard of authorship is, I believe, within almost anyone’s grasp so long as they are willing to take the opportunity. Accepting they will fall off now and again but will get back on and complete the journey.

No one said it would be easy, comfortable, or without incident, but by golly, it is an awful lot of fun.

My second point is this; not everything in this world needs to be brand new and shiny. Often imperfect is as good, if not better. As was my Luddite repair to the gear lever.

Too often authors strive for literary perfection. While I’ll not say this is wrong, I do think the telling of a wonderful and captivating tale, one which connects to the reader drawing them deep into the (un)reality of your fantasy world, is far, far more important than having every genitive case or article in a perfect place.

“Jeffery Archer’s agent once told him, (in reference to Kane & Able);  you will never be a great literary writer, but you can tell a damned good tale.”

For those of you who may not know of Jeffery Archer, he was a British Conservative politician, who fell from grace and was sentenced to four years in jail for Perjury. He is a survivor of prostate cancer.

Archer was almost bankrupt when he wrote his first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, in the autumn of 1974. This was followed by Kane and Abel in 1979, his best-selling work to date. Many of Archer’s works were adapted to radio, television and films.

To date, Archer has written 36 books; his international sales are estimated to exceed 330 million and have generated him more than £250 million GBP.

So, I guess writing a damned good tale is where my focus is, maybe yours should be too?


You can find some of my ‘damned good tales’ in my latest book, a collection of short, and not so short, stories, Within the Invisible Pentacle

These stories explore the depths of human character, the quintessence disposition of living and of life itself. Questions we shy from, the ones we are afraid to ask ourselves are unearthed, revealed, brought screaming into the daylight of recognition.

The prevailing factor is, they are written with consideration for our fragile human propensity; the fears, the dreams and wishes, the uncertainties and self-doubts we all carry inside ourselves, the human elements of love, of life and of survival.

This is a collection of poignant, emotive, yet entertaining stories everyone should read, at least once.

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After Caroline came the Hunter…

After Caroline,  (read ‘Meet Caroline’ here)

… it was a long time until I owned another vehicle. You see, I was back at sea, often for long periods and there is not much of a requirement for cars aboard a ship.

However, when I was home from leave I did have the opportunity to drive whichever car my father had at the time. It seemed each time I returned home a different car was in our garage. I cannot remember them all, but I do recall one I enjoyed driving, the Hillman Hunter.

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The photograph shown above is about the closest example I can find to my fathers’ car, a gold-coloured Hillman Hunter with a vinyl (leather look) roof, (all the rage at the time), The car was an automatic, making it a very easy vehicle to drive.

The Hillman Hunter was probably one of the best vehicles being built at the time in the UK, whose motor industry was in total meltdown, from which it never recovered.

Today Morgan is about the only manufacturer still British owned.

Other famous marques, often still perceived as British, are all foreign-owned.

Aston Martin belongs to Ford, Rolls Royce to Volkswagen, Bentley is part of Tata as is Land Rover, Lotus is a division of Proton, MG is a Chinese brand, Mini is BMW, and Vauxhall is part of General Motors (GM).

This, the Hillman Hunter, is one of the cars I recall in which we, the family, travelled to the beach and countryside for ‘days out’ and picnics, something I have blogged about before.

Many of these trips, or instances from those journeys, are part of the various recollections I write about in one of my ‘works in progress’ On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion, which takes the form of a fictitious road trip, allowing me to share my thoughts and perceptions with you, “strung together as a collage of momentary instances, loosely stitched together by wisps of fleeting reflection.”

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In a way, I feel I am cheating a bit by writing this book. You see, I am blending reality and fact, suspect and distorted, even selected memory, along with fiction and fantasy to create a platform in which I can share my personal observations and sideways views on life, society, culture, civilisation and humanity by way of a series of connected monologues.

The result, when completed, will be a book which is neither a factual piece nor a work of fiction but rather one of reflective opinion and personal contemplations. One which is far from accurate or objective, although it is both genuine and honest.

I find On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion difficult to classify or, as is the want with everything nowadays, to give a label. I wonder who may read it once completed? Is this book pure indulgence on my part, a form of catharsis so I can justify my own assessments and evaluations of life?

I am hoping people find the cover and blurb intriguing enough to buy it, so I can take them on a voyage where we can rattle along the twisted neural carriageways of my psyche and see where it leads.

We can but wait and see.

I shall have this book ready at some point during 2020… hopefully.


In the meantime, I have some news, there is a NEW blog, Electric Eclectic’s blog. Please, please, head over there and follow the blog today. You will love it… that’s a promise, not an order!

Catch you next week, Paul.EEBlogBlkSqr

Meet Caroline

Last week I based my post around the car I learnt to drive in, way back in1973.

This is the link if you want to read the post:  https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1nM

This week I continue with the ‘cars I have owned’ themed series of posts.

(Okay, I did not own the Vauxhall Viva in the first post, but that’s just a little technicality we can dismiss for the sake of this blog.)

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This Cresta is very much like ‘Caroline’

So, where was I… oh, yes.

I was back from sea.

My trip from Portsmouth took me over to Lisbon, on to Keel, then up to Copenhagen and onwards to Oslo before heading back to England, via Scapa Flow and Inverness. After which my sailing schedule was halted for a short period and I found myself based in the small village of East Meon, Nr Petersfield in Hampshire.

Now, East Meon is not a well-known place by any stretch of the imagination. It is one of those villages that, should you blink while driving through it, you would miss it completely.

I think the village was served by two busses a week. One on a Tuesday morning and another late on a Thursday afternoon, which meant, apart from the old ‘Shanksy’s Pony’ I would be pretty well isolated from humanity.

Not an attractive prospect for a young man of almost seventeen years of age.

Thus, four of my friends and I rummaged around in our pockets and collected the sum total of £39.86 (GBP) pence. This is, at today’s exchange, worth around $52.45 (USD).

Now, back in late 1974 early 1975, this sum was worth a little more than it is today and, I think, the Pound to Dollar rate was about two US Dollars for each British Pound. Anyway, whichever way you slice the cake, it was not a vast sum of money.

But it was more than enough for the five of us to find ourselves the proud owners of a 1961 Vauxhall Cresta, with two new tyres, which were in the boot, (that’s the trunk in Americanese) awaiting to be fitted.

Our bargain car cost us the princely sum of £25.00, cash, from our pooled funds. That left us with £14.85 pence to buy some petrol, (that’s gas to you Americans), and beer at the local village pub; which is located at the foot of the hill, about three miles away, along a very twisty and dark tree-lined country road.

Now, before you think this tale is about some disaster concerning five young men, a vehicle without any documentation or roadworthiness inspection, two bald tyres, a very dark, twisty, rain-soaked road and the fact that not one of those young men, (except my few lessons which got me passed my test almost eighteen months ago, lessons and procedures now totally forgotten), had ever driven a vehicle of any description on any sort of road before, you are wrong… sort of.

Brian, (I’ll call him Brian because, after forty-six years, I have forgotten his actual name), got to drive Caroline first. Why we decided to call the Cresta ‘Caroline’ escapes me but I should think there was no good reason, at least not one which would make any sense today.

The trip was a simple one. We would leave the base and, once we were off the track and onto the road, we would allow the car to freewheel down the hill for the three-mile trip to the village. Once in the village, we would be able to coast to the filling station, which in fact was just a single pump garage, put a small amount of fuel into the car and then go to the pub for a few beers.

We reached the tarmac road at the top of the hill and began our descent, killed the engine and allowed the car to coast downhill, picking up speed as it went. In those days’ cars did not have power steering and the breaking was a matter of pressing hard, feeling the breaks fade, letting them off and jumping on them again, as sort of camber breaking to help the breaks bite.

However, as none of us were experienced drivers; we knew nothing of this technique and, as the car began to accelerate to breakneck speed, the four of us pressed ourselves further and further back into the leather seats with wide grimaces plastered across our fear frozen faces as we watch, unable to move as Brian, now a paler shade of white than an albino turd, stood upright planting his entire 7 and a half stone, that’s around 105 pounds, weight on the brake pedal and wrenched the steering wheel right and left as the sharp, blind bends rushed at us at warp speed.

Rounding the final bend, the road levelled out as it approached and entered the village of East Meon. By the time we were nearing the garage, the car had slowed to around thirty miles an hour and Brian realised he had been standing on the accelerator (gas pedal) and not the break. He now pressed the correct pedal and the car jerked to a halt, throwing the four of us forward.

I hit my head on the dash. Dave slid off the bench seat and disappeared under the consul. Jack became wedged in the passenger footwell and Mark landed on top of him, breaking Jack’s nose in the process.

Dave said, “What the fuck” as he extricated himself from wherever he had disappeared, climbed over me to get out of the car, ran around to the driver’s door and pulled Brian from the vehicle, throwing him unceremoniously into the middle of the road. He then jumped in, started the car and drove the remaining ten yards to the pump.

We fuelled the car with enough fuel to get us back up the hill and, we hoped, back down again but in a much more controlled manner. Then Dave drove to the pub, but not allowing Brian back in the car, so he had to walk. (It was a quarter of a mile at most.)

After a beer or three each. It is amazing to recall how far a few pounds would go back in those days. It was time to leave and make our way up the hill and back to base. I am unsure of how it happened, but I was the one nominated to drive back. I was both terrified and excited at the same time.

Now, as I said before, this car did not come with any warranties with regards to its roadworthiness or any guarantees as to what parts worked and what was defunct. We soon found out only one headlight worked, as did one windscreen (windshield) wiper and, guess what, it was not the one on the driver’s side.

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Inside Caroline

The heaters power however compensated for both of these malfunctions. Whenever the headlights or the windscreen wipers were switched on the heater blasted out a stream of red-hot air akin to the afterburner of an F15 fighter aircraft. The heater was also automatically activated when the left turn indicator was used, as it was when reverse gear was selected.

If on occasion, the glove box was opened while the car was moving at over thirty miles an hour, the radio would come on at speaker shaking, window-rattling volume; tuned into some random station, never once the same as the time before. Other than that, the radio would not work at all.

So, I got to drive the three miles back up the hill in the pouring rain with illegal tyres, no clear vision, jets of hot air bonding my polyester trousers to my legs, all the windows wide open, to compensate for the lack of oxygen available to our lungs because of the same furnace, the persisting rain blowing painfully into my face by the gale-force winds and the radio ear-splittingly blasting the drumming jazz hit, Skin Deep‘. 

I must say though, this journey back was surprisingly uneventful if you disregard my searching for and getting the wrong gear on the column change as I struggled to understand the mechanics of controlling a motor vehicle whose controls were alien to anything… that one vehicle I took lessons in… oh, and the swerving, harsh breaking and full 180 degrees spin, on tyres so worn they were all but slick, I managed as I swerved to avoid the deer, which ran out from the almost pitch black shadows of the trees in the pouring rain.

How I did not hit the deer, the embankments or end up shitting my pants, I am unsure but I got us all back alive if a little shaken.

Over the next few weeks, we did get the headlight fixed and replaced all four tyres. No one knew what to do with the heater, so we simply put up with its furnace temperatures by driving most of the time with the windows wide open. As for the radio, we decided it was haunted and the soul of the car, so we left that well alone, just in case ‘Caroline’ was a relative of ‘Christine’.

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Still haunted?

A few months later it was time to move on, so we sold ‘Caroline’ to a group of ‘newbies’ for the heavenly sum of £50.00. That was a one hundred per-cent profit on our original investment.

I often wonder what became of Caroline. Maybe she continued to service the base’s personnel until they closed it down in 1993.

Who knows?

***

What, you may ask, has this post got to do with writing or being indie?

I like to think it shows one can create a story from even the most basic of events from our everyday lives.

The next time you feel stuck for something to write about, scribble a short article about what happened to you today, yesterday or twenty years ago. I am certain you will find you have an audience eager to read about those events in your life.

Try it. You have nothing to lose.

Keep Happy, Paul


 

If you liked this short story why not download one of my Electric Eclectic Novelettes, they are longer short stories I am sure you will enjoy.

Find my books, paperbacks and ebooks, including my Electric Eclectic books HERE

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Want a bit more? Then check out ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’ a collection of short stories all with feminine titles.

You can find Within the Invisible Pentacle  HERE in the UK and HERE in the USA

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1973, a Vauxhall Viva and no excuses.

Viva

I thought I would start this year’s posts based on a theme of the various motor vehicles I have driven over the years.

Doing such links with other projects I am working on, such as my new artwork collection ‘8mm’ and one of my current works-in-progress ‘On the Highway of Irrelevant Rumination and Delusion’.

8mm is where I take a still from an amateur home movie and combine it with a short excerpt from one of my books. You can view the 8mm collection on this link. https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/artworks/8mm

On the Highway of Irrelevant Rumination and Delusion is my musings on life and living, taken from my old blog series of the same name and explored during a fictitious road trip, itself an amalgam of many, to create a captivating, informative and entertaining monologue. https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white/works-in-progress

I am beginning this series of posts with a car from 1973 in which I first learned to drive, the ubiquitous Vauxhall Viva.

In its time, the Vauxhall Viva was the most popular car to come from Vauxhall’s Luton works. Once seen on every street corner The Viva was the first Vauxhall to achieve a six-figure production run and, by the early 1970s, was Vauxhall’s best-selling model.

None of that mattered to me as I struggled to master the necessary synchronicity between clutch, steering, mirrors, gearshift and acceleration while simultaneously looking ahead and in my mirrors. No mean feat for someone who never road a bicycle until they were eight years old!

However, the point of this series of post is far from riding bicycles or driving cars, its about life, the world, being an indie author and, at least for the first few posts, a little bit of nostalgia. A mix I hope you will find informative as well as entertaining.


So, without further ado, let me get started ‘proper’.

At the end of 1973, I was a young sailor in the Royal Navy. I had around six weeks left before I was to join my first ship and sail away to some far-flung shores. I was, to all intents and purpose a ‘whippersnapper‘. I suppose it was the start of me becoming me, becoming who I am now.

Did you know the word Whippersnapper was originally a “diminutive, insignificant, or presumptuous person?”

It was a term of reproach, here is the word used in a lengthy harangue by Edgar Allan Poe, from his story “Loss of Breath”:

“Thou wretch! – thou vixen! – thou shrew!” said I to my wife on the morning after our wedding, “thou witch! – thou hag! – thou whipper-snapper! – thou sink of iniquity! – thou fiery-faced quintessence of all that is abominable! – thou – thou –”

(The speaker in the story is then, gratifyingly, bereft of breath and stops speaking.)

 

Some may have preferred to call me a ‘Whiffet’ which has similar connotations and also means “a small, young, or unimportant person.”

But the cuteness of the word kept it becoming a term of reproach. Whiffet was used in the 19th century in relaxed and informal writing, such as this breezy passage from an early magazine movie review:

Particularly is this true in the case of William Haines. This cinema actor invariably plays the obnoxious, precocious whiffet who upsets plans, causes heartaches by his wilfulness.

—“The New Pictures,” Time Magazine, 10 October 1928

Now, back to my tale…

With little to do with my ‘off-duty’ time, I decided to learn to drive. (Not that I was going to get much chance to practise the skill once at sea!) Anyway, I engaged the services of a driving instructor and jumped into the driving seat of a shiny red car. The picture on this blog is exactly as I recall the vehicle.

Three lessons a week taught me the skills necessary for basic car control, well, enough to pass my test and gain a licence just in time to board my ship and sail away on the high seas.

My first ‘foreign’ port of call was Lisbon, Portugal; which is just across the English Channel and a little south. The fine city that it is, it was not the exotic tropical port of my boyhood dreams. (Thankfully I did get to visit those too.)

But tales of sailing the high seas and exploring foreign lands is not my premise of this post. It is about me taking those driving lessons although I knew it would be many months before I could use to use my newly acquired skills. Besides which, I still needed to purchase a vehicle.

You see, far too often we stop ourselves from undertaking certain tasks because of… well, whatever excuse we can find to convince ourselves. I could have so easily not taken those driving lessons because I was going to sea, because I did not have a car, because I… whatever. The point is it would have simply been an excuse with no real foundation of any matter.

It is making these excuses to ourselves so many of us authors and writers do far too frequently when what we should be doing is finding reasons to do something, making time to do something.  

We must say to ourselves, “Yes, I can write another chapter today despite having to work late.” Or “I can watch the TV later, or tomorrow, but I must write this down now.” No matter your book may not be ready until next year; no matter your laptop is broken, you have paper and pen.

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I got to drive later that year when I returned from my first sea draft. Since then I gained an advanced drivers’ licence. I have driven racing cars on various tracks around the world, from Brands Hatch in the UK to Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. I have personally owned some amazingly powerful machines like a Nissan Skyline GTR, a Toyota GT4 and an Aston Martin BD9.

I don’t think I would have done so had made an excuse to myself not to take those driving lessons. I am a firm believer that each decision we make forges our life path ahead for a length of time until our next pivotal decision must be made. Once each choice is selected there is no going back, no return, just differing routes to choose.

I think this is why I have several books and various art projects on the go at any one time, I don’t like saying no to myself; I don’t like making excuses to myself about why I can’t, or shouldn’t do something, anything.

I like to encourage myself to forge ahead, to do it, to say yes.

I encourage you to support and believe in yourself. I bet you will find you are a far more capable person than you give yourself credit for.

Keep Happy, Paul 😊

Finding the Holy Grail of writing

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Many, if not all authors know writing is never straight forward; I am not talking about the technical aspects or grammar, but about finding the time to write when your mind is focused, when it is in the ‘zone’ for ‘that part’ of your story.

The Holy Grail of writing is when your thought processes are at a peak and you have the time, the undisturbed, uninterrupted time, to transcribe your contemplations cohesively into your manuscript.

Finding this Holy Grail has been an elusive search for me over the last year or so, regarding the novel I am currently working on.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking of writer’s block, that is something I do not suffer. It is also nothing to do with finding the time; I have written and published three books in the past year and I am working on three more as I write this.

I am speaking purely of the mental alignment of skills, mindset and time when in search of perfection. (Although we shall never attain such it is always good to have it as a goal.)

I should have published my story, FLOYD several months ago but I am still working on it in short dribs and drabs. I never seem to have the right mental disposition and the amount of time I need together; hence the book is half drafted and half a jumble of odd notes, part paragraphs/chapters and such.

By the way, I am not downhearted and this is not me moaning, although it may sound that way! It is just me clearing my head by sharing my frustration with you.

It is, however, a frustration I bought upon myself by having several projects on the go at once… and then tasking myself with more. Which makes it even more frustrating.

I doubt if I shall find much time to continue writing FLOYD before December… oh wait, then there is Christmas and family, followed by New Year and Friends… so, maybe I can continue in earnest come mid-January, or maybe February or…

In the meantime, I would love to know your views on this (first draft) excerpt from FLOYD. It is (at the moment) the start of the opening chapter, or at least somewhere very early in the story, as it sets the scene, a sort of preamble to introduce Floyd himself and the background of his, let’s say, delusions and future actions.

Oh, FLOYD is a revenge story, in the blood-bath slasher genre. It is not for the queasy… although this section does not contain any of the gore… that comes a little later, but it comes in big bucketfuls. 😊

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FLOYDan excerpt.

Floyd jumped out of bed with a start, uncontrollably staggering two steps backwards. In that half-awaking instant, Floyd saw his wife, Molly, lying with her hands above her head, wrists bound and fastened. Pools of blood soaking into pristine white bedsheets. The fear in her eyes sent shivers running down his spine and a cold sweat to form over his skin.

This dream happened every night for the past four weeks. But tonight, was the first time he saw anything in full colour. The other times it was blurry monochrome, or just a voice, a sweet, lilting voice whispering to him. Tonight, was different, it did not simply wake him but startled him into jumping from the bed. He could feel his heart pounding.

At first, Floyd thought the voice echoing in his head was nothing more than a remanence of a dream as he woke. He let it go. Tried to forget it. But the whispering came back night after night. First a giggle, then a sigh, which faintly smelt of spearmint, before turning into those softly spoken words. A voice so close he could feel lips brushing his ears as she spoke.

“Kill the bitch.”

“That’s the way.”

“Did you see the surprise on her face?”

Tonight, Floyd did not hear her voice; but he knew she was there, watching him. Smiling.

He blinked twice, shaking his head to clear the image from his mind.

Molly pushed the quilt away from her face exposing a tousled mess of blond hair. She half-opened one eye and, disgruntled, wearily mumbled, “What are you doing? It’s the middle of the night.”

Floyd slid back under the cover and snuggled close to Molly. It was a dream. It was just a dream he told himself as he shut his eyes. Her body was warm and comforting, but it could not dispel the dark foreboding lingering within his mind.

She groaned, slurred something unintelligible, turned, moving away from him. Floyd lay quietly on his back, willing sleep. Each time he began to drift off he was jerked awake by the vision of blood and the scent of spearmint. Sleep was fugitive.

At three-fifteen he carefully slid from under the covers, trying not to disturb Molly and crept downstairs. By six-thirty Floyd had drunk two pots of tea and re-read yesterday’s newspaper, twice.

When Molly eventually arose, he was grilling bacon for breakfast.

“I couldn’t sleep, so…” Floyd gesticulated towards the grill with the tongs in his hand.

Molly tore off some kitchen roll. “Put mine in here. I must dash, busy, busy day ahead. I’m not sure when I’ll be home.”

Floyd gave her a quick peck on the cheek as she headed for the door. With a half-hearted wave, she left, hooking the door closed with her foot. He watched from the window as she drove her Range Rover off the drive and along the street until she was out of sight. He felt a certain disappointment wash over him. He was hoping to talk to Molly at breakfast this morning about his recent feelings, his nagging doubts which were growing daily.

Floyd looked at the clock, six fifty-five. The house seemed exceedingly quiet; which, on consideration, was rather strange, because from three-fifteen this morning he sat alone, the only sound the rustling pages of the newspaper. The house was no quieter now than then but somehow the silence was louder.

Being alone in the house was something Floyd was becoming accustomed to. Since Molly moved companies she had become…become…now, what was the word…fixated? obsessed? with her job. When he commented on the amount of time she was spending working, Molly said it was a thing called ‘commitment’.

Whatever it was Floyd felt it was pushing them apart, an inexorable drifting kind of parting. One which was almost imperceptible day by day. But when he looked back over the months, the changes were there, noticeable, obvious, definite.

Molly generally ignored him now; she was always on the phone or laptop when she was not working late, or early, or both, or at the gym or the hair salon, or having her nails painted or legs waxed.

The main thing which irked Floyd most was none of this, not one little iota was for his benefit. It was all for her work. All those new suits, the blouses, the stockings and shoes.

Once, not so long ago, when Molly slid into a pair of stockings it was to tease him, to excite him. It was a signal sex was unquestionably on the agenda. Not any longer. It seems stockings were de rigueur in Molly’s new corporate world.

Several weeks back Floyd began wondering if she was having an affair. Maybe a seedy sexual liaison with someone from her company. He followed her one morning; sat the whole day outside her office building.

Nothing.

When she left the office in the evening, he followed her. She did not do anything other than visit the hair salon.

Which was a problem for Floyd.

Not that he wished for his wife to be having an affair, but because it left him with a dilemma. What changed between them? Why was Molly so distant? What, if anything had he done…or not done? These were unanswered questions; questions he wanted to broach this morning over those freshly grilled bacon sandwiches.

Floyd glanced at the clock again. Five minutes past seven. His first appointment was at nine-thirty, so he needed to leave the house around eight o’clock. As he threw his bathrobe onto the bed Floyd flashbacked to his dream: Molly spread-eagled, bound on the bed. Eyes staring in terror. He looked down at her.

He shivered. It was all too real, unlike any dream he experienced before.


While you wait for me to finish writing FLOYD I have many more books I am certain you will enjoy. Have a browse around my WEBSITE  or check out my Electric Eclectic novelettes HERE.

Pub2

Why reviews don’t count for much… unless…

I am not above posting articles which could be classed as controversial, such as this one, because I think it is a writer’s duty to bring into the open topics which can be discussed and debated among one’s peers.

Therefore, your comments and viewpoints are most welcome, even if they are incorrect!

shit-hitting-the-fan


Many indie authors tend to ‘chase’ reviews for their books.

Many more coerce family, friends, co-workers, fellow authors and the like to write a ‘good’ review, even a ‘five-star’ review for their newly released novel(la).

After which, the race is on, posting to social networks, giving away volumes of volumes, (pun intended), to gain several more one or two lines like:

I loved this book, you will too.”

Or

I spent all day reading this book as I was sick in bed. It is good as I spent all day reading it and have only just finished reading it after all day. I liked it alot.”

(YES, these are genuine ‘review’ quotes I stole from the internet.)

There are those which babble on about very little, and end up with lines such as:

“Five stars from me.”

While others focus on the ‘writers’ style and what they ‘got wrong’ and what they, [the reviewer] personally agreed with, so ‘sorry’…

I can only give this book three and a half stars.”

It all makes me chuckle, especially as many of the self-righteous sounding comments, I hate to term them as reviews, are written either by self-proclaimed literary reviewers or by a paid-for review service.

Neither of the above being literary or journalistically trained, none can be classed as successful authors in the ‘household’ name sense, and none have any doctorate or master’s degree in the art of book reviewing.

All which is self-explanatory, when considered in the cold light of day.slepatdesk

 

Now, personally, I believe the time and investment an author puts into creating a book, the concept, planning, writing, re-writing, editing, cover design, re-writing, formatting, proofreading and so on, is enough money spent.

Once the book is published, the idea is it starts to return the investment made. (see The Frugal Author for details.) It is NOT the time to be paying someone, often with little talent, to scribble a few badly drafted, ill-advised comments and call such a review.

It is NOT.

Neither will their comments give any true credence to your book’s status, even if they say a ‘seven-star’ review… or a ‘ten thousand star’ review… they mean absolutely next to nothing, if not less.

One reason is, ‘stars’ or even the concept of ‘stars’ hold no value. There is no academically, or commercial accepted value to these ‘stars’.

They hold NO value, because any Tom, Dick or Harry… or Sharon, Karen or Portia for that matter, can ‘award’ these ‘stars’ to anyone for any reason whatsoever.

Recently, there has been many a disgruntled an author complaining to Amazon because they removed several ‘reviews’, or disallowed others from appearing on the Amazon book pages.

imagesThis is a good thing.

 

I SHALL EXPLAIN WHY.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the coerced reviews, those from friends and family etc.

Now, consider the facts.

Anything any of these people write, as so-called reviews for your book is, by the very nature of its inception, biased.

Therefore untrustworthy.

Given these untrue reviews, any person buying the book ‘off-spec’ and finding the reviews posted were false, will most often leave a scathing review of their own, which will often impact with a far greater force than a dozen fake reviews could ever deliver.

The author will then run the risk of being classed as fraudulent.

Which is one of the reasons why Amazon have, and are, clamping down on the reviews they allow to be presented to their potential customers.

This is something I fully support.

One more thing to seriously consider regarding friends, family and colleagues.

IF… and I mean IF your friends and family really want to help you succeed, if they genuinely want to help with the sales of your book, the best and MOST effective way is the simplest… to buy a copy of your book. Not a free copy, not an ARC, not a discounted edition, but actually buy, at the full retail price, a copy of your work.

This will increase your book’s exposure and move it higher up the rankings with almost immediate effect. This alone is worth more than a mass of fake reviews.

IF they don’t or won’t buy your book, you will know who your true friends are and which members of your family truly support your efforts.

(Or… you will find your book is so bad even your nearest and dearest do not want to read it.)

Either way, it will save you a ton of long-term heartache.

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The second point is, ‘paid reviews’.

To pay a person to review your book is worse than asking your Mum to write something nice about it.

As with the family and friends’ gig, paid reviews are fake.

They are false because the reviewer has a vested interest to keep you happy. After all, you are paying them and they want your money again in the future when you ask them to read your next book.

Also, they [the reviewer], will not want you posting remarks about their ability or aptitude regarding reviews. So, they will keep you, the author sweet by writing nice, or at least a less critical review of the book in question.

BUT… here are a few things to consider.

Amazon is cracking down on paid-for reviews and will be doing so again, soon.

They know ‘who is who’. They do this by monitoring who, where from, when and how reviews are written and posted.

So, you could be risking your hard-earned cash on a review no one will see because Amazon will either refuse to publish it or they will remove it soon after it shows on your books page.

Secondly, many so-called ‘professional’ reviewers boast about the number of books they review in a year.

Many of these numbers would mean the books have to be speed-read to manage those figures. So, the reviewer will never read your book in the same manner as a ‘normal/regular’ bookworm.

There are some who have a pool of readers, each of whom gives their comments to the principal reviewer, who then uses standardised templates, altering a few words here and there to ‘personalise’ the ‘review’ of your book.

Not that it matters to the reviewer, they don’t care about you or your book, they just want their fee.

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Gimme your cash

Genuine reviews are given by people who read your book without any other reason than something attracted them to it.

It could be the cover, the back-cover blurb, the ‘look inside’, a book trailer you have on YouTube or a post you made on social… it matters not.

What matters is their review will be honest and unbiased.

This is the ONLY form of review which has any genuine validity whatsoever, be it the one-liner which says,

“I liked this author & want to read more.”

Or the long form of essay, sometimes greater in length than the book reviewed which ends in,

“I give this book five stars.”

See, I told you anybody could give you five stars.

That is why reviews don’t count for much… unless.


Do you, as an author, want to know and understand more about the ‘Stuff’ of being indie, about books, the publishing and printing processes?

Then you need to download ‘Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know’ right now.

AuthiorStuff

Seeing beyond…

 

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You will know, or most of you will know, I am an author.

It is not a secret.

What many of you may not know is how I get the ideas, not only for storylines but situations, characters, actions, sub-plots and such.

The answer is the stimulus comes from the everyday.

There is no magic.

A short while ago I posted a heartfelt outpouring written by someone going through a low patch in their life. You can read it here.

That post, or rather the content, the spirit in which the content was written will, no doubt, lend itself to a character, or reveal the personality of a character going through a situation, in one of my stories.

Along with the above I often hear or read a certain line which is so special it deserves, nay, demands to be included verbatim. Referring to the same post, one such line is…

“My worth was stolen by minuscule measures, so slender the slices, I failed to feel the knife…”

Okay, it may not be the most beautiful line ever written, but pretty is not what good writing is all about. What it is about is touching another’s mind, sharing feelings, understanding and stimulating thought, which these words do perfectly.

It is the normal, the every-day, the simple events, basic routines, the regular, the nondescript which gives rise to great storytelling. (Not the artificial sensationalism favoured by the modern media).

Yet, it is only those with certain minds, with a sight which sees far more than what is visible, who understand the depths of these moments. Often these are people like me, writers, authors, artists, creatives, but sometimes they are greater minds, scientists, engineers, inventors and geniuses.

Yesterday, I read of such a man, a chap called Abraham Wald. (No, I had not heard of him either.)

Abraham was a person who had the type of mind I refer to.

Allow me to elucidate…

During WWII, the Navy looked at where they needed to armour their aircraft to ensure more returned home.

The Naval intelligence collected data and ran analysis of where their planes sustained the most damage.

The resultant conclusion was the planes needed to be armoured on the wingtips, the central body, and the elevators flaps because this was where they were being hit by enemy fire.

See diagram 1.

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Diagram 1

However, the chap I mentioned earlier, Abraham Wald, (Who, by the way, was a statistician), disagreed with the top brass.

Abraham Wald suggested the planes would be better with armoured noses, engines and mid-body sections.

Wald was called crazy by those undertaking and running the study because, as they told Wald, those areas were not where the planes were getting shot.

Which brings me back to the point I made above, about it taking a special mind to see beyond that which is right in front of you.

What Abraham realised, which the others did not, was the aircraft were getting shot in the locations he suggested to armour.

Wald
Abraham Wald

But those planes were not making it home.

Without realising it, the Navy had analysed where the aircraft could be hit the most without the planes suffering catastrophic failure.

The planes the Navy studied had not been hit in the areas which caused their loss, the ones which had been hit where Wald highlighted were the ones which had crashed and burned.

Therefore, Wald saw the Navy was not looking at the whole sample, but only those planes which survived battle.

Now, I don’t claim to be an Abraham Wald or that any of my insights may change the world or save countless lives, but I do claim to see deeper into the simple things than many.

However, I would like to share some of my insights into life with you. On that basis, may I suggest reading ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’, it’s a good place to begin. You can find it on Amazon UK here or on Amazon anywhere else in the world here

 

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Before I finish I would like to give you the ‘Heads-up’ about a new literary magazine due out this May, called the Electric Press – literary insights. Click on this link and head over to the Electric Press website for more information. It will be well worth your while.

Thanks for reading Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Until next time, Keep Happy, Paul.

Inspiration does not have to be Pretty.

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A good writer has no need to look for inspiration and ideas, they will come flooding unto them.

The fact is, each moment of every day we are surrounded by a million and one stimuli which only need us to recognise their being. We must feel, hear, sense what is around us, what is happening in front of our eyes.

We must allow our perception to absorb, to let our mind create fiction and fantasy from implied interpretation. We must permit our creative seed to run wild.

nathanblog4-700x375I have written on this subject before, albeit from another perspective, in a post called The Curse of the Muse

 

This post is a little different.

A short while ago, possibly a good few months past, I read a post on a social media site from one of my connections. I think ‘friends’ is the general term used.

I was touched by the raw honesty of the post; so much I saved their words so I might use them as a basis for my own writing, either in situation or character creation.

I feel a little guilty for ‘stealing’ these heartfelt outpourings, yet, I am acceptive to the reasoning of creativity and the understanding of where, how and by what means we writers find our inspiration.

You see, most of my works, regardless of genre or setting, focus on our humanity, on social and personal interactions and on life itself.

The following is an edited version of the social media post mentioned. I am sure you will understand the reason it resounded with me, especially if you are a reader of my books and other works.

***

This is it… 

“This isn’t poetry.

It’s not placed on a pretty post.

There are no pictures to pull you in.

This is just me needing to vent and I suppose those who want to know will read it through; there are a few thousand of you, maybe more and I’m just this sickly, tiny, thing who is easy to overlook.

My life isn’t an open a book, but should the play ever be released it will read like a tragedy of comedic design, one that tears the heart and rips the mind.

Irony, you’ll find, is the underlying theme.

I was everything I was told I would be; yet with time viewed through a rear-view mirror, I am nothing which holds value beyond the front door and those therein are on their way out.

I’d leave too, but domestic skills, they don’t count and writing words has yet to pay the bills; besides, without a degree to back up the lines, there are those who say I’ve spent the last three years wasting my time.

It’s pride, I know, but I’m pushing four decades old and I’m not sure I’m equipped to go back to the shit I did before I became a mom and wife.

I mean no offence, but I’m better than a burger to flip, or the next bag of groceries to sack, my mind knows too much to do that any longer.

I could go back to school, try and educate, but what do I do with the stack of debt that’s all late?

I have no resume. That’s the cost, the loss, of being nothing more than a stay at home mom.

What now?

Who am I without the domestic, the wife, the parental role to play, day to day?

So much needs to change and I’m scared to death I’ve waited too late.

Surely this cannot be my fate?

Even this, the sound of my self-pity makes me sick; but this decline of mine, it didn’t happen overnight.

It wasn’t quick.

My worth was stolen by minuscule measures, so slender the slices, I failed to feel the knife and yet looking at my life there’s nothing left but a bloodied mess.

I should find my way out of this.

I’m not as weak as I seem, but at this moment, I am on my knees.

This is not who I am, but damn, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be.

I’m a little lost and there’s no one looking for me.”

***

I titled this blog post, ‘Inspiration does not have to be Pretty’.

It does not.

Neither do the resultant writings. But I genuinely believe our words should be honest, open and emotional. After all, these are the driving factors of life, our lives. It is what we all have in common, it is what we all respond to… even in fictional stories.

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings.


Please subscribe/follow this blog if you have not already done so. The button is on the top right of this page. I appreciate your support, Thank You.

Visit my website (HERE) to see my books, works in progress and other projects currently underway.

https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/artworks/boggleeyes
Selfie!

Stewart who?

A short while ago I wrote a post as a guest blogger for Noreen Lace on her ‘writing 365’ blog.

The post is about the love one must have for writing to succeed as an author.

These are some of the words I posted on Noreen’s blog.

But it’s just a dream, I guess.

I write to leave a trace of my being, however faint that may be.

I hope, or dream, at some point in the future, someone somewhere will dust off the cover of one of my books and open it. Turning the yellowing, fragile pages for the first time in a millennium.

As they read my words, they shall hear my voice echo through the centuries, be touched by my narrative. I wish them to become one with my story, lost in the world of fantasy and fiction which inhabited my mind generations before… Then, I would not have lived for nothing.

But it’s is just a dream, I guess.

What brought this to mind, was reading one the newsletters I subscribe too, one I often use as a ‘go to’ area for inspiration.

Now, obituary’s may not be everyone’s first choice or idea of inspirational reading material but believe me, there are many strange and unknown quantities revealed in an in-depth obituary, which is why I subscribe to the ‘Notable Obituary Newsletter’as I do with a blog called ‘Defrosting Cold Cases’.

Capture

Yes, I do write crime and murder and psychological drama, not exclusively, but they have become a major part of my overall works, so there is no need to call the police… just yet.

As usual, I digress from the main thread of this post.

Taking my statement above, call it a legacy statement, I connected the thoughts I carried when I wrote it, to one of the obituary notices in today’s, (Feb-4th), newsletter.

The notice is about the death of a man called Stewart Adams.

His name probably means very little, if anything, to you; yet this man has affected many people’s lives, possibly… make that probably, most humans on earth, and yet as I have said, most of us have not heard of him before now.

If I said Stewart Adams was a British chemist, would that help?

No? I thought not.

However, if I ask you, asked anybody, what ibuprofen is, I am sure you could tell me it is an anti-inflammatory pain killer.

In fact, it is one of the most commonly used drugs of its kind and Stewart Adams was the British chemist who led the team that developed ibuprofen.

THUMBNAIL_ibuprofen

Stewart insisted he was his own guinea pig, he always tried out the drugs he developed on himself.

“I always felt it was important to take the first dose before asking others to do so,” he said in a 2012 interview with Trends in Pharmacological Sciences.

His creation of ibuprofen came about during a search for a better drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Possibly one of Stewarts most notable quotes is from ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper interview with him in 2007.

“It’s funny now, but over the years so many people have told me that ibuprofen really works for them and did I know it was so good for hangovers? Of course, I had to admit I did.”

So, we have here the legacy of an intelligent man, a man well respected in both his professional and social communities and a man whose legacy most of us have ingested and benefited from at some point in our life.

Yet, very few of us have ever heard his name mentioned. In that respect, he is almost as unknown as say, you or me.

Which, in my regular rambling way and via my twisted neural pathways, leads me to say this;

No matter how many or how few books you write, how many or how few you sell, by publishing just one, one small short story, you are leaving your own legacy, a mark of your being here, here in this world.

Do not have concerns about becoming famous or well-known. Do not try and chase false celebrity, for no matter what you do, how you affect others’ lives few if any, will recall your name.

Be happy with what is and what you write. If you are honest and true to yourself, your soul will live on forever in your words.

My own words, those written above, then become as much yours as they are mine.

I’ll repeat them again, leaving out the ‘just a dream’ part.

I write to leave a trace of my being, however faint that may be.

I hope, or dream, at some point in the future, someone somewhere will dust off the cover of one of my books and open it. Turning the yellowing, fragile pages for the first time in a millennium.

As they read my words, they shall hear my voice echo through the centuries, be touched by my narrative. I wish them to become one with my story, lost in the world of fantasy and fiction which inhabited my mind generations before… Then, I would not have lived for nothing.

Write on 😊

Paul


P.S. take a look at my Crime & Violence collection, three books of short stories I know you will love.

oie_transparent

 

Kindle

Volume 1             mybook.to/CandVKindleV1 

Volume 2             mybook.to/CandVPaperV2

Volume 3             mybook.to/CandVKindleV3

Paperback

Volume 1             mybook.to/CandVPaperV1

Volume 2             mybook.to/CandVKindleV2

Volume 3             mybook.to/CandVPaperV3


 

Why author’s should listen to the radio more often.

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Okay, so this is another long (and boring) title for a post.

But you know what? I have found oblique or inferred titles do not get the views, irrespective of how well thought out those titles may be, and regardless of the quality of the post’s content.

Possibly, this is because many readers just ‘don’t get’ them? Or it maybe it is because people think the writer is being ‘a bit too clever’?

So, here I am with a plain statement for a blog post title. At least this way you get the gist of what the article is about… or do you?

Read on to find out…

I am a regular listener of the radio. I don’t just mean music radio, the odd quiz show or sport. I am referring to ‘talk’ radio, interviews, articles and in-depth discussions.

Serious radio, if you like to call it that.

I got hooked on listening to this sort or broadcast some years back when I did a lot of driving. Sometimes music becomes monotonous; there are times when even your favourite and most loved tracks won’t cut the mustard.

Then you have the ‘Radio Presenters’, we used to call them DJ’s back in the day.

But that was when DJ’s were star celebrities, when everyone and, I mean everyone, knew their names because they were bloody good at entertaining and engaging all who were tuned in.

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Unlike the inane, immature, crass drivel which spouts from the mouths of the current drove of unprofessional, clearly uneducated people who host many a radio shows, both on national and local stations.

Okay, rant over. Back to the article…

When you have many miles to drive, listening to intelligent and informative conversation, presentation and debated opinions is often welcome company.

I have found many a premise for a new story, or a character base, or a situation to set my tales within, by listening to such programmes. Some of those inspirations are still with me, unused. Some are notes, other simply bullet points, an aide memoir waiting to be built upon at some future date.

Others have found homes, they are now part of my story worlds awaiting the next reader to uncover their being.

Yes, one’s muse may be triggered by many things. All writers, I am sure, gain inspiration from a million stimuli each and every day; films, TV, magazines, social media, overheard conversation, observed actions… the list is limitless.

BUT…

For me listening to the radio has become a prime source for stimulating my creative juices.

I think this is because when one listens exclusively, that is without accompanying visual input, the mind can focus more accurately, its subconscious, or semi-conscious, concentration allowed to fix, to centre on the words alone without distraction.

Yes, when driving the main emphasis and attention is clearly applied to controlling the car and reacting to all which is around you. However, your cognitive ability allows another part of your mind to absorb and assimilate the information you hear, clearly and precisely, without conflicting with the prime task in hand, that is your driving.

When I hear something of interest, I take a mental note of the time, channel and programme name, so when I am home, I can go to the broadcaster’s website and re-run the article I heard earlier. It is then I make my written notes and detailed memos.

Allow me to give a couple of examples by way of explanation.

 

The following is from an earlier post, (January 2015), called ‘Subject Matter’. https://wp.me/p5nj7r-2H

A few days ago, while driving home I tuned into a programme which was delving into the issue of female autism. This report was enlightening enough regarding the subject itself. I found it full of stimulating information which I could, and still can, use in my future writings.

However, one statement touched my heart to such a degree I knew I had found a wonderful gem of inspiration.

One of the experts discussing this condition told of his interview with a young sufferer who, upon being diagnosed, said to her doctor, with much relief;

“For all my life it felt as if I had a black spot inside of me. I thought it would never go away”.

That one simple sentence was, for me, like finding a pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow. Those of you who are artistically minded will, for certain, understand the enormity of such a stimulus.

Another example, which I have already taken advantage of, by writing a poem called ‘My heart’, was during a play where one of the lines was about skeletons ‘kissing with their skulls’.

I wrote the following poem shortly after arriving home that evening.

Here is that poem.

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My Heart

My heart is a grave for lovers

Where skeletons embrace ever crumbling lust,

And skulls kiss in breathless anguish.

 

Scarlet blood long soaked into the ashes,

Forgotten passions abandon, the cast-off flesh,

Sensuous agonies of the soul

Haunt faded moments embezzled by time.

 

Rise up from the earth,

Stand upon your tombstone,

Seek your absent self, your withered spirit

Wandering aimlessly in immortal eternity.

 

But look not within my heart,

For it is but a grave for lovers.


This poem and many others can be found in my book Shadows of Emotion.

Shadows of Emotion (kindle)

         Shadows of Emotion  (Paperback)         

OR simply paste, ISBN-13: 978-1500510312 into your Amazon search bar.