Three Days in the Life of Chapter 24

Friday:  Chapter 24 seems like a good name for a creation that follows on from Chapter 23, so I write that as a heading and then I have a lovely blank page to fill. There are only two characters in this chapter, both bad guys, and I decide to write it from the point of view of one of them. He’s called Donnelly. In the first novel, he didn’t have a first name. I decide to call him Dwight. I write Dwight Donnelly on the page and then urge the man to do something. He fails to respond. Dammit. I get up and walk around, but when I get back to the page, he’s still just sitting there. Correction, standing there. Well, that’s a start, I guess. These guys are holed up in a big old baronial mansion, so I write:

Dwight Donnelly paused in the doorway, dwarfed by its pretentiousness.

It feels like crap, but maybe I can improve it once I’ve written a bit more. Dwight has paused because he’s about to meet with his deranged boss, following recent events which didn’t go as planned. He refuses to move for me, so I decide on a change of writing scene and drive to the local library. After a strong coffee, I write the next bit:

Dwight Donnelly paused in the doorway, dwarfed by its pretentiousness. The last group of men had echoed raucously across the terrazzo floor and vanished into the rear of the building. A comforting thrum told him that the generator was back on. A single light bulb shone from the top of the staircase, intimidated by the dimensions of the huge hall.

After half-an-hour of gazing round at the comings and goings in the library, I add:

He breathed in the reek of gunfire, kicked at an empty shell case. It tinkled musically on the hard floor. He turned to his right and walked to the oak-panelled wall on the north side of the space, to the doorway that led into the rooms beyond. The heavy door was open, though he knew he had earlier locked it himself. On the far side of the doorway, a moth-eaten carpet was stained with blood. He pursed his lips and then turned and crossed to the staircase, its mahogany handrail and balusters bullet-splintered.

That’s it for the library stint. Later in the day, I add some more, but it’s not any better and I give up.

Saturday: Spend the day’s writing time staring at what I’ve written and changing words. “Pretentiousness” becomes “ostentation”, for example. By the end of the day, I decide that I’ll give up writing and take up macramé.

Sunday: Start the day by highlighting everything I’ve written, cutting it and pasting into a separate document called “Parking Page” which holds sections I dislike but don’t want to throw away. Over the next few hours, I write:

Dwight Donnelly was a dark shape in a landscape devoid of light. Then, like a firefly in momentary flight, the glowing end of his cigarette described a truncated arc. For several heartbeats, it lit up a fleshy face. Small eyes glistened damply under folded lids, the nub of a nose dwarfed by bulging cheeks. Smoke trickled from his lips and he exhaled. Smoke and mist. The best thing about his day so far. When the smoke was done, he was going to have to meet with Farrell and it would be mostly downhill from there. Behind him, the old house was deaf and blind to the machinations of people. The last of his men had already clattered raucously across its terrazzo floor, heading for the back of the building, companionship and a stiff drink or two.

Adrenalin, pumped up by anticipation, tension and things gone wrong, was dribbling away. He felt tired and depressed. Farrell, he knew, would be taking a dump: an unfailing habit after any excitement. Between times, the man suffered the agonies of chronic constipation and the martyrdom of piles. Donnelly took a last, decadent drag, flicked the stub into the night, turned and marched back into the building.

I take it from there and finish the chapter. I imagine that my editor will have things to say about it, but the important thing is that I like it. For now.

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Pusillanimous Numpty

Whilst trying to dredge up some original thoughts for the Haddon Blog (no laughing at the back please), I wrote down the first two words that came into my head. I have to tell you that I was as surprised as anyone at the outcome.

For a word that starts of with a syllable which means “Yellow discharge associated with site of infection”, ‘pusillanimous’ has a rather mysterious cuddly feel about it, though with a slightly ‘drip at the end of the nose’ ending. ‘Numpty’, on the other hand, is more your ‘fist struck on an under-ripe melon’ kind of word. For these reasons, the two words go together rather well (sit up at the back there, you need to know all this for the test at the end), don’t you think?

Pusillanimous: lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid.

Numpty: (Scots) someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others. 

So. Here’s the challenge I throw out to you – in a wet-herring kind of way, because it’s too damned hot for gloves: hit ‘comment’ and write down the first two words that come into your head, and why. Alternatively, if you wish to send your response to me written on the back of a $100 bill, please feel free.

Oh. And there is a prize for the best response: a  free copy of the Kindle edition of The Butterfly & The Bull. If you’re one of the thousands of people who already have a copy of this fine novel, then worry not; you’ll be first on the list to get a free copy of the sequel, Flight of the Butterfly, when it is published in November.

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The Blog Speaks

It’s a hard life being Haddon’s Blog, I can tell you. I mean, just look at the state of me, will you? The “Welcome” sign is hanging off and flapping in the breeze; last year’s draft versions have piled up in the driveway; the mice have chewed the stock of fonts so that this is the only one with any serifs left on it; and the tumbleweed is now blowing in across the courtyard. How come I managed to end up with such a useless, wordless, lazy, good-for-nothing author? I know, I know, he says he’s been on holiday. “Alright for some” is my response to that. While he and that rather attractive wife of his have been swanning round Italy and the UK, I’ve been simply languishing here, darling, in the most unseemly manner. I mean, I’m a BLOG for goodness sake! What use is such a thing without actual writing? But the worst thing of all, the salt in the wound, the knife in the guts, is that the damned fellow has been back from his “holiday” for THREE WEEKS. And has he paid me any attention? Not in the slightest. Had friends visiting, apparently and then his grandchildren, whoever they might be.

Well, you just wait Mister Haddon. One of these days you’ll waltz in and decide your going to start me up again and I WILL HAVE A BIG SULK. Then you’ll be sorry…

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The Madness of Reaching

Three days tied to a computer; repetitive strain injury; severe ocular stress. Such are the joys of the long-distance book promoter. When the mad boffins at Amazon were discussing strategies for world domination, I wonder how the conversation went?

Chief Boffin: Okay, people. The topic is world domination. Let’s have your ideas on the table.

Boffin1: How about carpet-bombing Barnes & Noble stores? If that went well, we could move on to other outlets.

CB: Err. I can see some practical difficulties with that one. Apart from legal issues, there’s also the problem of getting hold of enough B-52s. Anyone else?

Boffin 2: We could ask people to sign up for a special program which would tie them to publishing their ebooks only on Amazon.

CB: Okay. Sounds promising. What incentive would we offer?

Boffin2: They could offer their books for free on a certain number of days. So, suppose we tie them in for ninety days, then they would have, say,  five days for giveaways.

(Silence)

CB: Let me get this straight. You’re suggesting that, as the biggest book retailer in the world, we GIVE AWAY thousands of books?! That must rate as the most cockamamie idea we’ve come up with yet. That sure as hell beats carpet bombing into a cocked bookshelf!

Boffin 2: Sounds like you’re not completely opposed then. Can I pass it on up to management?

CB: Do what you like. As long as it doesn’t have my name attached to it and you’re aiming to get yourself fired!

Well, we all know how that went down with management, don’t we? And here we all are (where ‘all’ is a large number but doesn’t necessarily include everyone reading this), throwing our ebooks at the reading public like confetti at a wedding (listen, it’s a humid eighty-one degrees here and the A/C is off and I’m famished – YOU come up with a better simile!). Why do we do it? Because it FEELS GOOD to see those sales numbers, which have moved in ones and twos for the past few months, suddenly shoot skywards. Not only that, but our ratings (lurking in the depths of the umpteen hundred thousandths) also leap to the fore. Of course, we got to #43 in FREE Mystery&Thrillers, rather that the more prestigious PAID version. But not to worry. It is great fun, those lovely folk on Twitter pulled out all the stops for us and we made a whole lot of new friends as well as further cementing existing friendships.

Most importantly (in my case) there are 1023 more people who now MIGHT read my excellent novel. Add that to the 1400 from the last promo, and it begins to look good enough for a toehold. After all, if we don’t reach, we will never be able to grasp.

Now, pass the muscle balm and pour me a glass of wine, please.

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The Collection

While I procrastinate over the “Lucky Number Seven” blog post, here’s a flashie/short story that I like. If you’re looking for a scapegoat for this experience, then blame Gary Henry who rescued it from obscurity on my ‘short stories’ page and declared it to be good on Twitter.

I’ve always felt that a person who suffers from innate nastiness deserves a break. If that’s not possible, then getting their just desserts seems like an acceptable alternative...

WARNING! This story contains images of a sexually explicit nature.

Jason Crote was surprised to find himself in the library.  It seemed like just moments before that he had been staggering towards his truck, well fired up on bourbon and a stiff line of coke.  But here he was, sitting on the floor, his back against a row of bookshelves in the fiction section, on the very spot where he had picked up that Devlin woman. She of the big tits, tight ass and all-encompassing lips. He shivered at the memory.  She hadn’t liked his rush to get into her panties and had clocked him one with a Jack Daniels bottle.  He’d dumped her at the side of the road with a split lip and an eye that would bloom into something truly spectacular by morning.  Bitch.  But that’s the trouble with women.  Gagging for it one minute, fighting you off the next.

He looked round, easing a crick in his neck as he did so.  Something seemed out of place.  To his left,  he could see desks and computers framed at the end of the aisle of shelves.  Beyond that, dark windows. That figured.  It had been late evening when he headed for his truck. But then what the fuck was the library doing open at this time of night?  He glanced down at his left wrist.  The big diver’s watch that was his constant companion,  even when he was buck naked and in full action, was missing. It had left a pale outline of itself, developed on the film of his skin.  His boots were gone, too.  Spurless but authentic with big heels for height.  His feet looked pale and small, set off against the dark denim of his jeans.

“You okay, Cowboy? Y’all look kinda undressed for a visit to the library.”

The woman was leaning against the opposite shelves. Long-legged, short-skirted, big-breasted, almond-eyed.  Jason took her all in. She was hot.  But black, damn it.  He hated them good-looking colored women.

“Ah’m fine.”

Wasn’t how he felt. He was more jittery than spit on a hot stove-top.  But he wasn’t going to tell her that.

“You in the library often?” she said. “Ain’t seen you before, honey.”

“Yeah, Ah come in here all the time.”

She pushed away from the shelves and stepped towards him.

“You don’t look like no big-time reader to me, Mr Cowboy.”

Jason felt suddenly at a disadvantage sitting on the floor. He got to his feet.  And wished he hadn’t. Without his boots, he was a good half a head shorter than her.  Damnation.

She pursed her lips.  No lipstick, he noticed. She looked him up and down.

“You sure look well muscled, hon. ‘Spect you’re well hung, too?

She raised a finely-plucked eyebrow in gentle enquiry.

“Sure am.” He grinned.  Safer ground.

She said, “There’s a mighty good book just right there, behind your left ear.”

He turned his head before realizing his mistake.  Never let the bitch feel in charge.  That rule had worked for him since he had been old enough to talk.

“’Ulysses,’ she said, “ James Joyce.  Know it?”

Irritation flared. The woman was standing in front of him now, hands on hips, swaying slightly as if testing her poise. 

“I only mention it because I have no doubt that Mr Joyce would appreciate the fact that I came to the library this evening wearing no panties. Judging from his writing, he was a man with a broad mind and all-encompassing tastes.”

The anger guttered and was extinguished, replaced by an equally familiar sensation, this time centered in his groin.  Man, this woman was hot.

But now her midnight, come-to-bed eyes were  sputtering like the free end of a high-tension cable.  She leaned forwards, holding him in her thrall.

“I hear tell you like girls with no panties,  Jason Crote.”

He jerked back, as if she had struck him in the face.

“How the fuck d’you know ma name, bitch!”

She laughed.  A long, rich, rolling laugh.

“If you’re worried about me knowin’ your name, Cowboy,  then wait till you hear what else I know about you.  How about the names of all the women you’ve screwed with, and screwed, in your miserable life.  Especially the ones that you beat, left pregnant and robbed?”

The sexual high that had taken over his body was scythed down before it could climax.  Anger surged in to fill the gap. The feeling was almost as good, maybe even better. The bitch had stepped over the line. She deserved whatever was coming.  He felt the adrenalin, his muscles thrummed, he was almost dancing on the balls of his feet. Then she put her hand on his chest.  Long fingers, carefully placed in an arch over his breastbone.  He felt, as he always did in this kind of situation,  like a coiled spring.  The familiar surge of unfettered pleasure, the climactic of violence.  Except this time, nothing happened.  He couldn’t move.  He looked down at her hand.

“Take yore hand off of me, bitch.  Else Ah’m gonna kill you.”

“Ain’t gonna happen cowboy.  I guess you ain’t strong on irony. In any case, you an’ me, we got some issues to resolve.”

He felt beads of sweat jostling on his forehead, puddling in his eyebrows, running down either side of his nose.

“Fuck them issues.  Nobody messes with Jason Crote. You take yore hand off, then we’ll see who’s in charge here.”

In response, the woman increased the pressure on his chest. He backed up until he could feel the hard line of a shelf biting into his shoulder blades.

“Now here’s the best bit, Cowboy,” she said. “Take a look to your right and tell me what you see.”

Rule or no rule, he had to turn his head.  He peered down the aisle, sweat stinging eyes and blurring vision. He could see the shelves set along the side wall of the building.  In the center of his line of sight, there was a picture in a frame. Big.  Unfamiliar.

“What do you think that is?” She asked

He squinted.

“Fuckin’ picture.  Photograph. Fuck knows. Looks like…looks like, Star Wars or some fuckin’ thing”

“That ain’t no picture, Jason.  That’s a window.”

As he turned his head back towards her face, the world slid away from him.  The library dissolved, became something else.  Metallic, brightly lit. The woman had changed, too. Her almond eyes were still there, but the hair had gone.  And she was green.

He opened his mouth,  but could make no sound.  He felt her hand move on his chest and looked down.  Long, long fingers, sliding down.  As they went, his clothes fell away, like fog in a wind. Down over his six-pack and then sliding to one side.  He felt overbearing sexual pleasure and found himself looking into the single, unseeing eye of that part of his body which was more important to him than any other.

A faint click and high pitched hum made him look up. The woman had something in her free hand. He didn’t care. This was Nirvana.  The ultimate high.  Then she spoke.

“My comrades and I travel the galaxies, Jason, studying life forms.  My task is to record details of courtship and mating rituals.  Mostly, specimens are released unharmed, but every now and then I come across something which I desire to add to my collection.  Our technologies allow us to remove organs and instantly preserve them in their natural form.”

He watched, eyes half closed in ecstasy as her free hand dropped down and vanished between his legs.  Her face came close.

“Don’t worry,” she whispered,  “you won’t feel a thing.”

Unfortunately for Jason, the Shil people (for she was one of these) are renowned, in galaxies near and far, as terrible liars.

 

 

 

 

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Interview with author Clive Johnson

The Haddon Blog spares no effort when it comes to bringing the very best to your screen. The following interview with master wordsmith Clive Johnson took place in his 18th Century house in Manchester, UK. Clive is author of  Leiyatel’s Embrace which he describes as a ‘Speculative Fiction Mystery’  and which has justifiably drawn excellent reviews. His blog can be found on Goodreads. Clive is working on a sequel novel called Of Weft and Weave.

 Clive stood up when I squelched in through the door. A tall man, slim and fit-looking, dressed in a teal fleece-top and blue jeans.

“Good swim?” he said. “It’s a long haul from Maryland.”

“I guess that’s a problem with being an Indie author,” I said. “No expenses.”

We sat down. Through the window in front of us, the afternoon sun shone proudly on bursting buds and the green haze of emerging leaves. The creeping shadow of the church across the road felt its way towards the end of the day.

“Are those trainers GOLD?” I said.

He looked down.

“’Fraid so. It’s a weakness.”

“I hate to think about the underwear.”

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

My laptop had survived the crossing, wrapped only in a ziploc bag. I fired it up.

“Pretty impressive CV, Mr Johnson. All that IT stuff you work at is only the tip of the iceberg (no Titanic jokes please). It says here that you have an HGV licence. For readers in the US, this means you can drive big trucks. You’re also a biker – Honda Blackbird rather than Raleigh five-speed – and you have a green belt in Judo. The list goes on. Fell running? That’s one of those activities that would kill most of us ordinary mortals. Bonsai growing? Is that not a contradiction in terms? I see you are also very good with your hands, but I shall resist the temptation to sink into double entendre at this point. Instead, why don’t you give me an idea of your favourite activities?”

A ginger cat jumped onto his lap. He stroked it, looked distracted for a moment.

“Other than sex, d’you mean?”

“We’ll take that as read.”

“Actually, I prefer…oh, never mind. Well, let’s see – favourite? I won’t cite writing as I think you mean ‘physical activity’, so I’ll say horse-riding. Particularly collected work on a highly strung Thoroughbred or Arab. As near an ecstatic experience as I can imagine. It’s the kind of empathic and hence sensual feeling (in the strictly non-sexual sense) that comes from giving yourself over so completely to something else, something genuinely potentially highly dangerous. A near second must be cutting-up the bends on a powerful motorbike during a long and engaging ride.”

“Excellent. Almost as good as sex. And what about authors who have most influenced your writing?”

“Umm. Mervyn Peake by a long mile, although last read more than thirty years ago. Tolkien, of course. After that, I’d have to mention Robert Heinlein, Olaf Stapledon, Lewis Carroll, E. R. Eddison, Frank Herbert, Dickens, Laurie Lee, Charlotte Bronte, Tolstoy, Stanislaw Lem, Vladimir Nabokov, Stephen King, William Hope Hodgson, and many, many more.”

“An impressive list, Clive. Olaf’s a new one on me, I must admit. Now, I won’t ask you anything as daft as naming your favourite books, but give me three that pop into your head immediately.”

“Oh – Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Lord of the Rings. How about those?”

I squeezed water from the arm of my fleece into a convenient plant pot.

“Having read ‘Leiyatel’s Embrace’,” I said, “those seem like good choices. Speaking of which, tell me how that wonderful story evolved.”

He lifted the cat from his lap and stood up.

“Would you like a beer?”

“I thought you’d never ask. Maybe a towel might be handy, too.”

Things were looking up. Clive returned with a fluffy bath towel and dried up the worst of the water on the floor. We toasted our mutual health in amber nectar. He settled back into his seat. The cat returned.

“I was about twenty, at university and drunk on excessive spare time and other intoxicants students in those days partook of – I was also naïve! It wasn’t so much an urge to write, nor a story to be told but more the need to commit a ‘feeling’ to paper. That’s the best way I can describe it; a ‘feeling’, for it was more akin to a half-remembered dream or clinging phantom image of somewhere only recently visited. I am an artist at heart, you see, and a good practitioner at that (something I was born with and so didn’t have to work at) and so I think in images, in atmosphere and presence. With hindsight I realise it was the need to record that revelatory place that brought scrawling pen to paper. In a way, I was letting some inner muse take care of the narrative and concentrating almost wholly on creating the feel of Dica. The story hiding in my head went only so far, though, and eventually left me scratching a progressively more rambling and unconvincing tale, as though the muse had recoiled at my poor wordsmith’s skills. The manuscript eventually found its way to the loft of the house we’ve lived in for the last thirty years, before being unearthed in preparation for improving the insulation up there. Somehow, I became gripped by it once more, keen to rediscover the tale it held. Through the naïve, clumsy and shockingly inept prose I re-saw the story but saw it far more fully, as though the muse had lived on in it and had then smiled in recognition of the mature me. It didn’t then take long for transcription to become rewrite and before I knew it, I’d inadvertently become a budding author. The story started out as ‘The Winds of Change’ but an internet check threw up countless volumes with the same name, so I had to rethink. The name Leiyatel, as with just about all the work’s names, came from the story’s initial inspiration, from the muse within, and proved almost unique. Without wanting to give too much away – it is after all a work of ‘mystery’ – the device of Leiyatel’s remit or embrace is key to the tale and so the title wasn’t long in coming.”

“Wonderful. Do you want to explain to readers what ‘Dica’ means?”

Clive took a long pull at his beer, then shook his head.

“I’m happy to let them guess. Or Google it.”

“Okay. No problem. Now tell me what happened next.”

“It took about two years to get the initial manuscript into a Word file. Then I decided that all I needed to do was to make it into one hand-crafted, bound volume. Once that was done, all 425 pages of it, I reasoned that it was time to move on. However, at that point a friend showed an interest and wanted to read it. Her enthusiasm bowled me over. She suggested self-publishing, on the basis that no publisher would touch such a long and novel work from an unknown author. She was sufficiently encouraging, and me belligerent enough, that I then seriously embarked on learning how to write proper! Here, my lifelong, beloved companion Kit became instrumental for she’s proven a fierce but constructive editor and natural and highly able teacher, and it’s largely down to her that the published work is at all readable. Once I’d spent another six months or so knocking it into shape, the ePublishing process through Amazon was pretty straightforward. Mind you, I was a chartered IT professional until relatively recently…”

“So. You sleep with your editor, eh? Me, too. Your description of Kit and her role in your life and writing would also describe the situation with Juli and me almost perfectly. Interesting. Okay, now we’re down to the last few questions. What about marketing?”

“Oh dear! Marketing! What a dirty word, but unfortunately an essential task if you don’t want your hard graft to vanish into obscurity amongst the millions of Amazon titles. We’re actually immensely lucky these days in that there are so many social media products out there, things like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, this last one the medium I most twigged with. I tried various dedicated forums, but the only one I’ve stayed with is Goodreads. I really only use their blogging facility at present, but I intend to take a much more active part when my sequel’s finally released sometime in April. Although Twitter and Facebook let you spam to your heart’s content, almost, it’s not an advisable strategy. I’ve found it’s best to use Twitter for getting to know people and organisations, leaving book promotion as a minor, almost background activity. Suddenly, marketing became socialising and so far more enjoyable, although still hard work and very time consuming. Since I’ve made loads of good friends, acquaintances and connections without having to be in-their-faces with my book, interest in it has really grown of its own accord. If you’re the kind of person people like connecting with, then the chances are they’ll like what you write, and that’s very much the direction my marketing’s taken. It was only when I reckoned that I genuinely knew sufficient people well enough, that I considered using the Amazon KDP Free Book Promotion facility. Making a book free for a period isn’t good enough in itself to lift your exposure, not if nobody actually notices it, so I was lucky in having so many good Twitter followers who quickly and effectively re-tweeted my promo, so helping make it a superb success – 1,004 copies downloaded in three days was pretty impressive, a genuine surprise as well, I can tell you. Right back in the early days, someone said something to me that was most pertinent here, that quality will out. Well, it is true but, however good your book, it still takes effort to get it into hands that see it as such, ones that then start making complementary noises about it on their own accord.”

“Well said, Mr J! I’ve found that strategy works well for me, too. Now, we’re running out of time. If I don’t get going soon, I’ll be late for dinner. Remember, I won’t have the Gulf Stream helping me on the way back. So. What do you most like and least like about writing?”

“Most like? The music! It’s actually the cadence, lilt, rhythm and metre of the sentences, that each word’s notes bring together, that I most enjoy. I think it’s probably the artist in me at play here, for I see the shapes of sentences, paragraphs, story arc and characters almost as musical stanzas, verse and chorus, like refrain, movement and opus. If the text reads back like a piece of music then I just know it’s right, that it’s concise, implicit and absorbing, that it doesn’t jar or sound off-key.  Okay, get the straightjacket if you must, but that’s the way it is.

“Least like? Editing! I love the end result, don’t get me wrong, but the process is just so methodical, time-consuming and deadening. I’d love to be able to write perfectly first time but know it just ain’t like that, so accept the necessary evil. It doesn’t make it any the more enjoyable, though.”

“Terrific answers, Clive. Especially that one about the music. Thanks so much for your time. Thoroughly enjoyed it.”

We stood up, me still dripping, and shook hands.

“Green,” he said, “and three.”

“I know, there just wasn’t enough time for everything.”

And I squelched off into the sunset.

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Distance – a Flashie for Friday

Next up on the Haddon blog is an in interview with amazing author Clive Johnston. In the meantime, here is a flashie from me to keep your appetite whetted.

In the long run, it wasn’t a matter of how far, but how close. The space between them was a canvas they could fill with the watercolor of their feelings.  But it always remained a space.  Not physically, of course.  Further closeness of that kind was not possible without danger of damage to their fabric.

Apart, they craved togetherness:  the circadian rhythms of their lovemaking; the unpredictable bursts of hilarity; the joy of shared familiarity;  the sense of mutual discovery.

But still the space remained: indefinable and yet defining.  They chewed on it, mauled at it, left it alone. It was unmoved.

One day:

— Jim, I’ve been offered a promotion.

— That’s great.  Congratulations. Well deserved.

— I’ll have to move.

— Okay. Far away?

— California.

— What?  Jesus.  California.  Shit.  That’s far.  From Kirkintilloch.

— Want to come?

—  I’d love to, Emm.  But what would I do for a job? California?  In the US of A?  You sure it’s not the one near Falkirk?

But it wasn’t.  And she went,  because the job sounded great and the money was beyond avarice.

Separated by more than six thousand miles,  they e-mailed and Facebooked  and Skyped and phoned.  They made love in any number of imaginative ways without touching.  They shared thoughts, beliefs and passions every day. They talked about getting together.  Emma would fly home for a break; Jim would fly out for a holiday.  But work for both of them was a constant stinger, throwing itself in front of them and threatening to burst their tires.

Months passed.  Longing flowed and never ebbed. E-mails flowered into blooms of extraordinary magnificence,  surpassing imaginings.

Then, one cool, clear Sunday in early Spring,  Jim’s doorbell rang and Emma was standing there,  trailing a single suitcase,  her perfection only marred slightly by the crumpling effects of 6000 miles of air travel.

He tried to speak, but no noise came.

— Aren’t you going to invite me in?

They didn’t notice in that first moment of hugging and kissing and hugging again.  It was only in the days that followed that they realized what the distance had done for them.

The space was gone.

 

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Interview with Joe The Dog

We caught up with Joe The Dog sleeping in the sunshine on the deck of his house in Southern Maryland.

Sleeping? Not at all. Coiled spring, me. Instantly ready to bark at passers-by, grab an unsuspecting insect as it flies past, or leap up at the offer of FOOD. Is that a doggie treat you’ve got there? Sorry? A microphone? Dearie me. That’s not much good. I can feel myself losing the will to live already.

No. I’m not a character in the book. It’s a bone of contention. Hahaha! Did you get that? ‘Bone of contention!’ Anyway. All I get is a mention in the acknowledgements. I ask you. I mean, I take him along the beach every day, twice a day and that’s when he writes the stuff in his head. You’d think it wasn’t too much to ask to include me. But no. It’s not as if he’s even much good on the beach. I’ve never seen him cocking his leg, or pooping in the long grass, or crunching crab’s legs or any of that good stuff. And as for chasing a ball! Useless.

What do I think of the book? Tell you the truth, I haven’t read it myself. I like something with a bit more meat in the story. The odd chicken helps, too. And it has guns in it, as I understand. Dogs don’t do guns. It’s partly our lack of an opposable claw which makes the whole hold-it-up-to-your-shoulder-and-pull-the-trigger-at-the-same-time thing a bit tricky. But mainly it’s the noise. Scares the living crap out of us. We’d be no good on the front. Or the back, come to that. It’s hard to confront the enemy while lying on the ground with your paws over your ears and pooping uncontrollably all the while.

The author? What about him? Oh, he’s not a bad old geezer, I guess. Thinks he’s the alpha male in the house, though. Hahaha! That’s a joke. I go along with it a bit, of course. You know, submissive-tummy-rub stuff and occasionally following orders. But see when he’s fifty yards away and I’ve found a fine, chewy carcass on the beach and he calls me. Do I come? Do I Hell!

Okay. No problem. My pleasure. Now, stop kidding me around and give me a treat or I’ll take that microphone thingy and treat it like one of my chew-bones…

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The Versatile Blogger Award

I got up Sunday morning and was just slurping my first coffee of the day, when I spotted a new comment on my blog page. It was the wonderfully supportive and delightful Vanessa Grassi at http://vanessagrassi.com/ nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you so much Vanessa, both for the nomination and for the kind words.

The award, I discover, has a number of rules:

  • Thank the award giver and link back to them in your post. (Done)
  • Share 7 things about yourself. (See below)
  • Pass this award along to 15 other bloggers. (I’m on it!)
  • Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award. (I’m on that, too!)

Seven things about me:

  • Although I spend most of my year living in Southern Maryland, I am Scottish to the core and proud of it.
  • My favorite lunch spot here in Southern Maryland is Panera, where I can enjoy coffee, delicious sandwiches and free wi-fi!
  • I’ve been a closet writer all my life, but only ‘came out’ when I retired.
  • I can confidently turn my hand to almost any household repairs, including plumbing, electrics and carpentry.
  • I am passionate about sailing and the sea. My novel, The Butterfly & The Bull, includes an Atlantic crossing in a sailboat.
  • I sleep with my Editor. She is my wife!
  • My favorite TV show of all time is The West Wing.

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New High Price, Same High Quality

Stuart’s Alter Ego talks to him about book-pricing.

So, Mr Smarty-Pants Author person, you’ve been messing around with the price of your book again? Setting aside the small matter of your ignorance and incompetence in this field, what in the blue blazes of hell’s own cremation fires makes you think it’s a good idea to charge more for the damn thing? I mean, are you or are you not an unknown author and is this, or is it not, your first novel? Well, there you are then, I rest my case. In any case, it’s been priced at 99 cents for the past two months and sales have been modest, apart from those three days when you charged nothing for it and managed to ‘sell’ more that fourteen hundred downloads. Doesn’t that tell you something? Like, that even a sub-dollar price is too high? What’s that? Dean Koontz? It costs what? Who, in the name of all that’s gloriously and ineluctably stupid in this world is going to be duped into paying that for a book that doesn’t even boast a drop of binding glue in its manufacture? Really? Well, you do surprise me. In that context, $2.99 doesn’t seem that bad. I guess, if the worse comes to the worst, and sales fall of a cliff, you can always cut the price again. Which is something you couldn’t have done when it was at 99 cents. Look on the bright side, dear boy. You need to!

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