… 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.
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.”
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!
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.)
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.
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’.
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.
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 booksHERE
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 PentacleHEREin the UKandHEREin the USA
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.
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.
Okay, so the title of this post is probably not the best metaphor ever written. Maybe, I was just fishing for compliments, or reeling you in… okay, okay. Enough.
But relating your books sales, or rather your book marketing, to fishing is not so far off the mark as you may think.
I am sure you would have heard the term ‘hook’ used many times when referring to writing, particularly fiction
Most authors know and recognise the importance of having a ‘narrative hook’ in their book’s opening lines and at the end of each chapter, even in the closing paragraphs of books in a series.
The idea, of course, is to leave your reading wanting more, wanting to know what happens next or indeed, on ‘tenterhooks’.
Which, by the way, is an old English word deriving from the 14th-century wool making industry. A ‘Tenter’ was a frame used to stop cleaned woollen fabric shrinking, (from the Latin ‘tendere’, meaning ‘to stretch’). Hooks are placed around the edge of a frame, to which the fabric was attached, so it stretched it enough to stop it shrinking whilst drying.
By the mid-18th century, the phrase ‘on tenterhooks’ came to mean being in a state of tension, uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense, i.e. figuratively stretched like the cloth on the tenter.
However interesting all that may be, these facts have nothing to do with fishing and by association, sadly nothing to do with my terrible metaphor.
So, let me get to the nitty-gritty of this post, which is about your book’s description.
For this blog post, I am including your back-cover blurb and the description you use on your sales page of online sites, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. as the ‘description’ discussed.
It seems, by the requests for answers I receive and the social comments I read, the writing of your book’s description is an area many authors struggle with, which is, on consideration rather strange as, after completing an entire novel, pages upon pages of creative writing, authors should then struggle to write a dozen or so lines describing the very premise of the book.
Which is, in all honesty, probably one of, if not the most important few paragraphs of the entire work.
What I find is, as the creator of the story, authors tend to want to put every element into their book description. (Much the same is true in amateur cover design.)
The thing is, the description is not supposed to be a summary, or a report, or a review. It is simply an advert. The intent of which is to ‘reel’ in book browsers and have them buy your book.
Allow me to elucidate.
Someone will buy your book if…
Firstly, the little thumbnail image of your front cover catches their eye.
Then, when they enlarge, click, expand or whatever they might need to do to see your book as a larger image if they like what they see at the smaller resolution. (The reason you need a great cover artist. One like PeeJay Designs. PeeJaydesigns@mail.com)
This is the online equivalent of having a potential buyer physically pick up your book from a bookstore shelf and hold it in their hands. If they never pick it up they will never buy it.
The next step is, your potential purchaser will now read the carefully crafted and captivating description of your book. This could be the ‘blurb’ on the back cover or the description given on an online bookstore.
Reaching this point means the cover has done its most important job.
Of course, your book’s description will stop the reader in their tracks, intriguing them enough to want to…
One, buy your book immediately or…
Two, read some of the ‘Look Inside’. (If in a physical bookstore, flick through and read a few random samples.) and then they will, of course, buy your book, won’t they?
Sarah Gribble of The Write Practice, says. “I recently picked up a nonfiction book, which I don’t read many of, and almost put it right back down. But the description intrigued me. It got me to read the first couple pages, standing right there in the store. Then it got me to buy the book.”
However, if you have a lazy, badly worded and therefore an unsuccessful book description, they will simply move on to the next book, regardless of how wonderful your actual story may be, a story they, along with thousands of others, will never get to read.
This means you will have blown your chance, your opportunity to get the sale, all for a few lacklustre lines.
Okay, I hear you saying, “How do I make my book’s descriptions work for me?”
I’m glad you asked because it’s a little like fishing; you must bait your hook with the right lure, the right bait, for the fish you want to catch. (Yep, back to my metaphor.)
Perhaps, one of the best ways is knowing what to do and what not to do when writing your description.
The (basic) do’s:
Always write in Third Person
Use keywords, emotional words, like chilling or passion; they work well for both nonfiction and fiction book descriptions. You can Google power words to find some good ones. But do not overdo it.
Also, consider what people might be Googling that would take them to your book. This is especially true for nonfiction works. Think about employing those in your description.
Be succinct and to the point, no purple prose or verbose writing.
Be clear about the genre, the main genre, do not focus on sub-plots. i.e. if you have a thriller, say so, do not harp on about the romantic story which runs as a sub-plot.
Employ the proper utilization of grammar
Use eye-catching, powerful language. Just like your book needs a hook at the beginning, so does your book description. No one’s going to continue reading the description, let alone the whole book if the first line is as boring as dry toast. Plus, this is often the only thing an online shopper will see before they are prompted to click to see more, and you want them to click, don’t you?
Hint at the climax, never reveal it.
Tell your potential readers how perfect your book is for fans of… genre/style etc.
Mention any awards, high-class reviews, or serious ratings – (see notes below in ‘don’ts’)
Add any audience and age-appropriate.
Give trigger warning when it’s necessary. (These can have a positive effect on sales.)
The (basic) don’ts:
Never use shouty capitals.
Give too short a description.
Cut off words
Make false or misleading claims
Double/triple edit. Do not allow any misspellings or typos to get through. If you cannot write a short description without any errors, there is little hope your book will be error-free.
Do not employ ‘date language’ like ‘just released’ or ‘new novel’, in a week it won’t be and you will need to re-word your description.
Stay away from aggressive calls to action. Such as “You MUST buy this book”. Using such language lends a note of desperation and drives potential buyers away.
Do bear in mind retailers accept differing lengths of descriptions, so you may need to tailor it to each site’s requirements.
Surprisingly, some things you might think influence, do not, according to recent Bookbub research;
It seems it is irrelevant to include details of which type of bestseller you may have, i.e. New York Times Vs USA Today. Simply saying ‘Bestseller’ has far more significance.
Adding a question at the end of your description has no effect on your potential purchaser’s decision making. Which makes doing so a total waste of time.
Neither does saying the book is your debut novel, or your tenth novella, or your seven hundredth and fiftieth for that matter. It has no significant impact on the choice to purchase.
Therefore, use your description to tell people about your story, get them intrigued, wanting to know more.
Avoid telling them about ‘the book’. You may be proud of all those things, but readers don’t give a flying ***, they simply want to know if they will enjoy the story.
Including the series name in the description did not affect readers positively or negatively. Therefore, adding such information (in the description) is pretty much a waste of time and effort. It seems the cover, and the titles on online pages, already show that information; so potential buyers do not want the same information repeated over and again… they know, they get it already.
I now hear you asking how you get to a good description.
The easiest way is to create two versions of similar text, like this:
Both versions have the same information. They both start by listing the accolades which represent the renown of the book.
However, from there, description A focuses more on Nick Dunne’s perspective, while B hones in on Amy.
So, go ahead, create two versions of your book’s description, test them against each other and determine which works best for your book.
Use friends to help you decide. After all, their point of view will be far more accurate than your own; you will not be buying your book, they will and they know what attracts them better than you ever will.
Try using the following suggestions as an outline guide.
Start your description by using a bold opening sentence, possibly a statement to grab the reader’s attention.
Use at least one hook to grab readers’ attention.
Ensure the description does not contain any spelling or grammatical errors.
Make certain to ‘inspire’ your potential reader to ‘buy’.
While I do not suggest using direct comparisons to ‘famous’ or ‘renowned’ authors, (such as “…is the new Stephen King” or “Better than Sophie Kinsella…”) which is considered cheesy, desperate, egotistical and opens all sorts of avenues for negative feedback and bad reviews, it may be worthwhile making a statement your book would be “Perfect for fans of Lee Child” or “Martina Cole fans will love this gritty and convincing thriller“
Note, the words, ‘Gritty & Convincing’ are taken directly from the cover of Martina Cole’s book. Never be afraid of copying the methods and styles used by major publishing houses.
Once you have found a style and method which suits you, why not create your own template and use that for your future books?
After all, great fishermen have their own way of baiting their rod for the type of fish they want to catch. You can do the same, go get the readers you need, lure them in, hook, line and sinker.
See, fishing is not such a bad metaphor after all.
I have compiled a wealth of information to help authors of all capabilities and experience to know more about the publishing world, books and being indie.
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. 😊
FLOYD – an 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.
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 FLOYDI have many more books I am certain you will enjoy. Have a browse around my WEBSITEor check out my Electric Eclectic novelettes HERE.
Do you believe your writing has been enriched and influenced by the books you have read?
If so, is it just the good books, the ones you love, the ones which made some connection with your soul?
Or… would you say the bad books have an equal hand in affecting your stories?
By ‘bad books’ I don’t mean the poorly written, but stories that aggravated, annoyed and even rasped on your sensitivities. The ones that you recall for the opposite reasons to those you loved, which means, in their own way, they too made a connection with your inner being.
So, did those bad books achieve the aim of their authors and if so, should we consider them good books for that very reason?
Something to ponder.
Here’s another matter for thought while on this topic.
I don’t write stories which have any direct connection with the books that made a mark on me. Like the historic African based fiction of Wilbur Smith; whose books I devoured as a teenager. My books are not based in history, in Africa or in any set time, as it happens.
Neither do I attempt to write like Criena Rohan, (Deirdre Cash), whose book, Down by the Dockside still resonates with me today.
While I enjoyed such wonderful works as Catch 22, Life according to Garp, and Do not go Gentle, I have never tried to replicate those authors style or attempt to write in their chosen genre.
In fact, I write the only way I can; by scribing the thoughts and feelings flitting through my mind at any given time. Oh, and as quickly as I can, before those very contemplations disappear into the amnesiac blankness of absolute… now, what was it, where was I?
So, I wonder how much and how many of those authors I read, the ones who pen compositions of illusion, write of their imaginary netherworlds and create the fictitious lives of the characters inhabiting them, find their way onto the pages and into my own work, without my being aware of their presence.
Are we, us writers and authors, part of all those who have gone before? Do we inherit, by some magic, some mystery, a trace of another, many others, literary DNA?
Are our own stories part of a continuous evolution of literary nature? Are you, in therefore my brother, my sister, my sibling or, in that context, my child?
If so, are you writing my words, is your hand guided, even in part, by that which I have written before?
Or are my words part of you?
Now, there is something to contemplate.
Thank you for reading this post on Ramblings from a Writers Mind.
I do hope you will read at least one of my books, either an Electric Eclectic novelette or one of my prime works. All can be found on my website right,HERE
I do not use Ramblings from a Writers Mind for direct promotions because it is not the raison d’etre of this blog.
These ramblings are about sharing knowledge and experience. They are about in-depth consideration, informative articles, about highlighting the good and bad regarding writing, publishing and indie authorship.
It is not a place for advertising.
Considering the above, the following may seem directly opposed to this ethos. But read on, you will see I am seriously designing something to help and aid writers and authors like ourselves.
What is more, I am asking for your views and feedback on this project, a project I have called, @Open24.
@Open24 is an online Amazon store, my online Amazon store. (which is Open 24 hours a day, hence the name.) But… it is a store with a difference, a difference which I think will be of use to you.
Allow me to explain…
I have been an indie author for several years. Years during which I learnt far more than I could have imagined when I began to pen my first novel, ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille’.
In the early days, I struggled to find high quality, comprehensive information on writing, authorship, formatting, publishing, and all the sundry things which are part of being indie.
Do not get me wrong; the information was there, in libraries, on websites and, of course, on Amazon. My issue was and, to be honest still is, finding it.
For instance, if I want a book which covers sentence construction, I will have to carry out several searches, scroll down, past many irrelevant publications to find something vaguely, possibly akin to my want. That is for one single book. If I want to compare it with other books or find something similar, I need to repeat the search all over again.
It may seem a strange title for a post, but it is one which reflects much of what our modern society is about.
With the event of digital photography and smartphones, far more of our daily lives are recorded, most often in a haphazard fashion. A jumble of images stored on SD cards, memory sticks and in a long scrolling stream of incoherent, often unconnected messages.
Many vanish when we upgrade our phones or computers, memory cards are lost, external hard drives become corrupt or obsolete. Some files may be stored ‘in the cloud’ or ‘on social media’ at least for now, for the time being, until it all changes once again.
Nothing is secure from loss, deletion, corruption or becoming obsolete. Such is the way of modern technology, such is modern life. A simple power outage can render even the most expensive, cutting edge technological gadget useless, in less than a Nanosecond.
Books, on the other hand, tend to outlast anything else when it comes to keeping their content safe. Libraries, universities, country estate houses and museums, all hold venerable tomes from hundreds of years past. Volumes of information and knowledge that do not need an external, or rechargeable, power source.
This is why you need TOAD Publishing in your life.
TOAD is a specialist publisher, who concentrate their efforts on glossy hardcover books, generally known as ‘Coffee Table’ books.
What is a Coffee Table Book?
In theory, you can put any book you like on your coffee table, but not all books inspire conversation. A Coffee Table book is usually an oversized hardcover book. It is designed to be displayed somewhere prominent, often on a sideboard, a visible bookshelf, or maybe a Coffee Table!
These books help to entertain friends, family and guests. They stimulate conversation, allow people to see what the interests of the owner, such as the arts, photography, fashion, style, travel, and family.
They are statement pieces, works of art, decorative and entertaining.
Now TOAD has taken the coffee table book one step further, one step beyond ubiquitous perception.
Enter the Heirloom Book.
TOAD create personal, unique books chronicling major events in your life, the moments you like to keep as a memento, to share with family and friends, or preserve as an heirloom.
They will turn your photos into a glossy wedding album, or a chronicle your pregnancy, childbirth and beyond, to a child’s first birthday. They will document a life project, a holiday and more.
In the past, TOAD has created a record of theatre production, from foundation to the first-night performance and city art students, as they created a street mural for the council arts project.
These books are not about recording the past, they are about recording your life now, on the present moment, which will soon be the past, a too easily and too often, lost past.
When it comes to documenting your life, do not leave it to the haphazardness of chance, keep your memories safe, keep them in an Heirloom Book from TOAD.
Heirloom Books, work for businesses too. Document special projects, feature successes stories and special events, like the annual conferences, share them with your suppliers, customers, or staff, in this wonderfully unique way.
TOAD Heirloom Books enhance the perception of esteem to reception areas, hotel lobbies, waiting rooms, guest rooms, private libraries and, of course, on your coffee table.
Heirloom Books are full colour, unless otherwise specified, glossy, perfect bound, photographic and/or illustrated hardcover publications. The interior layout and covers are designed by our in-house studio, PeeJay Designs and printed by our partners in the Netherlands, from where the books are distributed worldwide.
Once again it has been too long since I wrote a meaningful post for these Ramblings; but life has that way of knocking you off course when you least expect it.
Although we should really anticipate that to happen, because that is what life is; a series of random, arbitrary events one after another.
Some of those events affect us instantaneously, shock us into immediate reaction. Others slowly reveal themselves through a string of smaller incidents which accumulate, gradually pushing us to a point where we are forced to take notice, to take action.
Yet the most disturbing are those which only reveal themselves after the event. The sly, stealthy little beggars that inexorable invade our lives, like fine plant roots microscopically threading their way through solid concrete, destabilising and destroying it progressively yet unnoticed, until it shatters or crumbles.
This is where many of my thoughts have been over the past few weeks.
You see, even though I have been busy publishing, designing, writing and doing all sorts of whatnots, my mind, or some sections of it, have been chewing over and considering the world, life, the universe and the deeper meaning of SpongeBob SquarePants existential existence.
All of which brings me to this:
So, there I was one morning, standing in the bathroom and looking into the mirror. This was not a vanity thing; (I was considering if I could get away another day without shaving!) when I looked at myself directly.
Now, let me explain what I mean about the term ‘directly’.
Generally, when we look in the mirror we are not looking at ourselves, we are looking at and for parts of ourselves. We are looking for stray hairs, grey hairs, wrinkles, blemishes, spots, pimples, dark patches and crow’s feet and so on. It is not often that we take that step back, at least in the mental perspective, to look at ourselves as a whole.
Once more, we are too distracted by our ever expanding waistline, or drooping…(jowls?), the slight hunching of our shoulders or offset bend of our neck. Our eyes are taken from our whole. We fail to see ourselves in our entirety.
But that is what I did that morning. For the first time in an absolute age I saw myself. I knew the reflection was me, I accepted that.
Yet I had difficulty in recognising the fact.
You see life’s events have caught up with me. Those sly, stealthy little beggars, the ones that inexorable invade our lives, like fine plant roots microscopically threading their way through solid concrete, had worked their threadlike tendrils into every conceivable part of my body, with perhaps, the exclusion of my eyes.
Yes, it is natural. It is what life does. It is called aging and it will/is happening to us all.
But that is NOT where I am going with this Rambling.
I am going here…
Looking in that mirror was a point of reference for my personal diary. A mark placed upon my life’s calendar. It was a recognition point.
My life, and I suspect yours, are full of these reference points; the moments when you realise that one stage, one phase of your life is over and another begun.
I can think back and recall many such stages. Most like this one, unrealised until after the change has occurred.
I can do much the same with my writing. In fact, they have often gone hand in hand with a weird synchronicity. But then again that is, on consideration, not so strange.
You see, I am not the type of writer who focuses solely on one genre; I write more from the foundation of heart, of feeling, of whatever may be blowing my frock up just now. Which is probably why I have so many works in progress at any given time.
As an example I have published works ranging from a fictional novel about abduction and love, to books of emotive and disturbing poetry, through to short stories of crime and non-fictional historic chronicles.
I love writing fiction as much as I do non-fiction, such as this Rambling. But I can still trace the changes in tempo, in cadence and style of each period of time, each phase of my life in which they were written.
My writings and words reflect the beat of my heart, the pulse of my soul and my temperament. They have changed and aged over time as has my body.
Which brings me to a question.
How is my mind?
Is that as clear and agile as it once was, or are the threads of invasive destruction even now winding their unseen fibres within?
I know that, at least until the next time I look at myself in the mirror, I shall continue to write, to leave a trail of my existence behind, a legacy of my being.
I am, for now, ready for any event life may wish to throw my way, just as I am in my continued ponderance behind the theory of SpongeBob’s existence.
Many of you will be aware that I am (almost) at the publishing stage for a book I have been working on for a little over three years. The book is titled ‘Life in the Warzone’ it is about the effects that living in an area of conflict has on people, be they combatants or innocent civilians, even children.
During my research and interviews (from Sarajevo, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria, and the Ukraine) I often come across essays, poems and other forms of accounts which expresses personal trauma.
Here is one such piece I would like to share with you.
This is not my work. I take no credit for these words.
It’s been a long walk home.
It’s been a long walk home, I’m almost there,
I see that flash, I hear that scream,
I’m right back there again,
lost in that same damn firefight,
It’s been forty years,
When will it end?
Every night it’s that same damn firefight,
We lost Sam and Bill,
Tag’em and bag’em,
we were told,
we’d never seen em again.
But every night, it’s their faces that I see,
and I ask myself why wasn’t it me,
my name should be etched in that cold black wall of stone,
It’s been a long walk home,
I’m almost there.
But I hear that chopper so near,
Raining tracers down,
Can’t they see us here?
Marine down, corpsman up,
But silence is all I hear.
Why am I the only one left,
Screaming GOD get me outta here?
It’s been forty years,
I still see that day,
We were almost there.
The edge of the jungle,
I see that flash, I hear that scream,
Tag’em n bag’em the list goes on,
To many to remember,
It was their last firefight.
I’m the only one left,
Lost and running looking for my way out.
It’s been a long walk home.
My family, don’t understand
When I say that this can’t be real
Just let me wake up one time and this not be,
But it’s that same damn firefight every night,
I wake up shaking like a leaf in the wind,
Tell’n my wife that it was just a chill,
Not that rage to kill,
But she sees it in my eyes,
That same damn firefight,
It’s been a long walk home, I’m almost there.
I was telling her good-bye,
When she realized I didn’t fear death anymore,
It was my life I was about to take,
She cried out for me to come out of that jungle, out into the daylight,
Think of the kids and what this would do,
She took me by the hand helping me make that first step,
Coming out of that jungle into the daylight,
It’s been a long walk home.
Forty years and I’m almost there,
I see that flash, I hear that scream,
but this time it’s a younger brother yelling out,
trying to find his way out into the daylight,
Out of that smoky fog of that same damn firefight,