Unconnected connections of habit.

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I recall reading Roald Dahl’s ‘Georges Marvellous Medicine’ to my son when he was a child. One phrase I found particularly hilarious was when George’s grandmother said, ‘Growing was a nasty childish habit’.

I’ll give you a short extract for context.

‘You know what’s the matter with you?’ the old woman said, staring at George over the rim of the teacup with those bright wicked little eyes. ‘You’re growing too fast. Boys who grow too fast become stupid and lazy.’

‘But I can’t help it if I am growing fast, Grandma,’ George said.

‘Of course, you can,’ she snapped. ‘Growing’s a nasty childish habit.’

As it happens, in the ensuing years I found my son adopted other ‘nasty childish habits’ growing boys seem to enjoy. I mentioned most of them to him in much the same way as George’s grandmother, not that it had any effect!

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However, it is not childhood or growth or adolescence peccadillos I speak of today, but one of habits.

You see, like many other authors, my mind is constantly working overtime. Even when I am ignoring it, doing regular stuff like cleaning, gardening or shopping, it is whirring away noticing things, listening to other people’s conversations, reading notes, lists and phone screens over people’s shoulders and so forth.

It really is a bit of a rouge in many ways.

Rotational_symmetries_in_designs_produced_by_a_kaleidoscopeDSCN2440The thing is, those subconscious bits of my mind remember it all, record it and mull it over, twisting totally unrelated events, jiggling individual occurrences, shaking them together until a kaleidoscope pattern of instances which hold the possibility of illusory whimsy form.

This is when it digs a sharp elbow of attention into the soft kidneys of my platitude, painfully jerking my ‘normal’ daily thoughts away from the mundane and into the imaginative world of fantastical conception.

Last night, as I was going to bed, I felt the aforesaid sharp elbow ram painfully into the soft parts of my consciousness.

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A voice in my head spoke excitedly to me.

 

 

“You know,” it started, “you write a fair bit about remembering the past, about nostalgia and stuff?”

“Um, yes,” I said, not sure where this was leading.

“Well, what about if people get all nostalgic because they survived it?”

“Survived it?” I questioned.

“Yeah.” The voice was shouting in my brain. “Think about it.”

“I’m going to bed,” I said. Trying to placate my thoughts.

“Yeah, but you’ll not sleep, not until you understand this.” The voice said sounding a little annoyed and a more than a little bit smug.

Of course, it was right. I needed to do this now, as tired I was. So, I grabbed a notebook and pen. I have several dotted around the house exactly for moments like this.

“Okay,” I said, “fire away.”

“How about if… people love the past, the recent past, like the times in and around their childhood because they lived through it, or most of it. They survived relatively unharmed. Well, they must have done or they wouldn’t be here now, would they?”

“Um, no,” I replied, “I suppose not.”

“So, just like in a good book, or a movie, where the hero rides off into the sunset at the end, that’s what you have done, along with everybody else who reminisces. You rode off into your sunset and arrived in the here and now.”

“Well, maybe, sort of.”

“I’m right. The past is where your parents were. They helped keep you safe, mended your cuts and bruises, kissed your grazed knees. It was home, comforting, warm. Your bedroom your inner sanctuary, guarded by your parents.”

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“I guess so.” I was chewing my inner lip. Something I rarely do. “But not all memories are good ones, bad things happened too.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” my mind said, “I’m not talking about those bits. No one gets all sentimental over the bad stuff. We remember it when we must, but not in a nostalgic way. Nostalgia is reserved for nice memories.”

“I’ll go with that,” I said, nodding to myself.

“Well, that’s the key,” my mind continued.

“The key to what?” I asked.

“The key to writing something captivating in your books, especially when you’re basing them in the past, or have characters talking about ‘back when’ & ‘do you remember’ and stuff. It’s great for flashbacks, prequels and shit like that. Think about it.”

I was thinking about it.

“Even a futuristic story must have its past.”

I scribbled a few rough notes, odd aide memoir single word notes I could refer to later. (That later being now).

The thing is, after a good night’s sleep, a day carrying out family chores and a visit to the dentist for a clean & polish, I have mulled over my conversation with the excitable voice from last night and my conclusion is… I agree.

It makes a ton of sense for us to hold fond memories of good times. They could well be recollections of childhood events, maybe a loving mother tucking you into bed, possibly escaping an annoyed farmer when scrumping for apples, or like some of the memories I have written about previously, such as days out for a family a picnic or a train journey to the seaside; all exciting experiences for a child.

My teenage years hold more life events which have helped forge who I am today. Don’t get me wrong, I have instances of near-death, but… I survived to tell the tale. I did ride off into my sunset… although some moments may be more akin to crawling along a drainage ditch in inch thick cloying mud… but those tales are for another time.8ZXBf5MBEC-10

It’s called living life.

As an author, I feed on such memories, use them to build my fictional worlds, create my characters, lay plots and write scenes. It is a habit I’ve adopted.

Until now, until the conversation with myself, I did not consider why nostalgia, which is according to the dictionary, ‘A sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past; even one never experienced,’ is such a powerful apparatus to use to elicit emotion.

Now I have spent time complementing the reasons, it makes perfect sense and one I shall be far more aware of when employing it in my writings in the future.

So, while scrumping for apples and reading George’s Marvellous Medicine may be unconnected events, both in time and geographical distance, the voice in my head found a way to join them together into a cohesive entity.

You could say they were unconnected connections of habit.

Keep Happy, Paul


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I would love you to check out my books, you can see them all on my website, even those not available on Amazon, including exclusive hardcovers.

Don’t forget to look at my Electric Eclectic books, eBooks and Pocketbook paperbacks You can find them on my website or on @open24, the Amazon store for readers & writers

I am open to comments and communication, so feel free to contact me at pwauthor@mail.com or via Facebook.

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The Wind & the Sun

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  This is a story my father used to tell me as a young child.

  Way back then I had no idea that this story was his version of an Aesop’s fable.

  I loved listening to him regale it over and again; although I had heard this story many times, it was not until I was about seven that I began to understand how the moral of the tale, or at least the basic message it carried, related to life.

   My father has now been dead for over thirty five years, yet I still recall his voice when I think of the Wind & the Sun.

   Moreover I am still learning the true extent of how the simple and basic message this story carries can affect every part of our lives, in work, play, socially, and in our domestic and love life relationships.

   I will try my best to recount this tale as closely to my father’s recitation as I can recall, because I still prefer his version to that of Aesop!

   Maybe you would too, if you could hear his voice as clearly I still do.


One day the Wind and the Sun were looking down upon the earth when they saw a man walking along a footpath.

‘Look at that man’ said the Wind, ‘I bet I can get his jacket off him quicker than you ’.

‘You think you can?’ answered the Sun.

‘Of course’ the Wind replied ‘because I am strong and powerful’.

‘Go on then’ said the Sun ‘let me see what you can do’.

So the Wind began to blow. As the Wind blew the man’s jacket flapped in the breeze. The Wind blew harder, whipping up clouds of dust and blowing the leaves from the trees.

The man buttoned his jacket, turned up his collar, lowered his head and continued walking.

Displeased with his efforts so far the Wind let a howling gale bellow over the ground. It was so forceful that the man had to fold his arms across his chest to stop his jacket from being blown off.

The Wind saw what the man was doing took a huge puff and let loose a tempest.

The man clutched his jacket tighter to himself, holding it firm with both hands.

Again and again the Wind blew and blew. The harder the Wind blew the tighter the man clung to his Jacket.

Eventually the Wind had puffed so hard for so long that he blew himself out.

The sun laughed and said to the Wind ‘Now it is my turn to try and get this man’s jacket off’.

So the Sun smiled and shone his gentle rays of warm sunlight upon the earth and upon the man.

The man took his hands from his jacket.

The Sun continued to smile and spread his warmth.

The man unbuttoned his jacket and loosened his tie.

After a while the man, bathed in the glorious heat from the sun, removed his jacket, slung it over his shoulder and began to whistle as he walked.

‘You see, Wind’ said the Sun, ‘you can accomplish far more by being gentle and giving than you can with brute force alone’.

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I hope you enjoyed my father’s version of this story.


You can read more by visiting https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

Guest Blog – Shawn Jones

Shawn Jones

Today I hand my Rambling’s blog over to Shawn Jones, He may like his dog better than he likes you or I but I can forgive him for that, so long as he continues to write superb sci-fi like The Warrior Chronicles, a science fiction series available exclusively from Amazon .(http://www.amazon.com/Shawn-Jones/e/B00I3JJFYW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1)

I read a poem by Jessika O’Sullivan recently.

The day you no longer remember your childhood dreams.

How the world blurs when you are on a swing.

The smell of your classroom.

Your best friend’s eyes.

Your teenage confusion.

How your first love made you feel.

The hours in the dark, listening to music.

The taste of beer and snow in someone’s breath.

When you no longer remember.

You might blame adulthood.

But the truth is you lost something.

Jessika’s word are the difference between everyone else and a fiction writer. Those memories… the smells… the tastes… fiction writers never forget them. The rest of world grows up and moves on, but not us. We never forget the bump on our bicycle handlebar grip that was the trigger stud for a laser that protected the girl we had a crush on, hoping to be rewarded with a kiss. We remember climbing into our treehouse and ‘targeting’ the top of the round apartment building down by the river, because in our minds, it’s not a building. It’s a rocket. A starship filled with aliens about to overtake the Earth. We were, no I was, on a simple wooden platform in an old fruitless mulberry tree, the only thing standing between those aliens and the end of humanity.

The vinegar I smelled when I walked into the house when Mom was canning pickles… No, it wasn’t vinegar. It was toxic gas, and I had just seconds to make it to my bedroom before I would be overcome by them and breathe my last breath, never knowing the feel of Debbie Koffman’s kiss on my cheek.

We had an old wood pile in our back yard behind the garage. When we were having a cookout, Dad would build the fire and leave me to monitor it while he did whatever dads do while the fire died down to a nice bed of coals. I would see ants start to pour out of an old log, which was my cue to get to work. I’d run behind the garage and grab some branches from that old mulberry tree and hurry back to the fire, where I’d carefully place the fresh limbs to give the ants a way to escape. Then I’d use another branch to gently guide some of the ants to the escape route. Once they were moving across the sticks and away from certain doom, I would rest on my laurels knowing I’d saved lives. Because that’s what heroes did.

People who don’t write do have memories like mine. But I remember the texture of the handlebar grip. The curl in Debbie’s coarse, black hair. The shape of that apartment building’s roof. The smell of the fire coming from our old, square fire pit. Dad made it with concrete and flint rock, so the first few years it would get really hot once in a while and a rock would shatter, sending shards of flint at one of us unsuspecting boys. There was a cool aspect to it as well. If you hit one of those flint rocks with a hammer just right, you didn’t need a match to light the fire.

Writers never grow up. Even when we write about adult things like crime and physics and politics, we are still kids. In every other aspect of our lives, we are told that we are immature and have overactive imaginations. But when you put a real (or digital) piece of paper in front of us, we become gods. It’s not because we are smarter, or even more imaginative. It’s because we never stopped being kids.

My wife rolls her eyes at me when I come up with some new idea for an alien. One of my brothers thinks I have something loose in my head. My sister is amazed at my memories of our childhood. They aren’t always a blessing, though.

I remember the eyes of Lady, my first dog, just before she died. I remember a bitter, evil woman’s hatred of me because I was adopted. I remember the sting of getting swats in elementary school. I remember the smell of Mom’s cigarette-laced breath as she gave me mouth-to-mouth because of my asthma. I also remember the smell of her hospital room as she slipped away from this realm.

And Debbie Koffman? I remember getting her a necklace at the state fair. She loved it. For a week anyway. Then it broke, and she thought it was a sign that we weren’t supposed to be sweethearts anymore. I never got that kiss.

Think about this moment. This one right now, as you read these words. Look around you. As surely as you can see the things in front of your face, a writer can see the past. We can see the future. We can see into the mind of a killer, or the soul of a dog.

You live your life in this moment. Writers live theirs in every moment. Every single one. Past, present, and future, they are as vivid to us as the screen you are reading this on. Speaking of the future, I have a universe to build. I’ll see you there.

Footnote. Why not check out Shawn’s Sci fi blog at http://shawnjonesscifi.blogspot.co.uk/