Writing Sprint ‘Absolute Reality’

I pull the car into empty space at the side of the road. There’s no crunch of tyres, no engine idling, none of the stereotypes of this action that books and films would use to tell me I had stopped driving. All is quiet and empty. Quiet and empty in the world outside as much as it is silent inside my head.

So now, I sit and I wait. Waiting for nothing. Waiting for everything. Wait for myself to catch up, restart maybe. But I’m still blank right now. I’m not here, not really. And I’m not really sure where here is either.

I stare ahead without looking. I don’t see detail or focus on anything in particular. There is simply a general impression of the world around me, greys and blacks, dark and not-quite-so dark. And space. The space gives me some form of peacefulness: there is no artillery barrage of words, no pressure to speak or do or be something other than the nothing that I want to be right now.

Where did things go wrong?

It wasn’t one single point of failure, just a gradual drift away from everything that you had ever wanted and thought might happen. It was the loss of possibility and perhaps, the loss of easy and relaxed… Knowing that life could take me anywhere and there were no limits with you was part of what made us, and then that all went in a single moment, and I could see nothing but limits and compromise and lost choices. That was what killed me, I think. Closing doors on things that could have been, that is the hardest part.

It is time to let go of this. There is no blame and I have not run here to get away – I think I am here to come back. I have been absent for a long time and losing yourself is the worst kind of loss. You grieve but don’t really, because you’re gone but still there, and you cannot really grieve for yourself, can you? No you can’t. But, you can erase yourself, let yourself disappear inside another you, one not quite so complete or whole, but the you that is present enough to convince everyone with eyes that you exist.

I’m coming back, I can feel it: a reboot is happening, full system reset and switching back on. I can breathe now, and something new begins to fill me up, flushing out the voids inside: refresh, refresh, refresh.

The empty spaces outside me begin to fill now and I can see the details, re-energised eyes opening up again and seeing things anew as they focus once more. The trees to the side, dark but highlighted white where snow has blown onto them across the open ribbon of my road; a sky overhead, not dark but not light, grey streaked with ripples of clouds undulating above me for as far as I can see but not see, beyond the end of the road. And moonlight, here: cool and calming washing over my brave new world.

The button clicks as I switch the engine on. It hums to life, a soft rumble vibrating through the pedals and into my feet. It is time to leave, wherever it is that I am. The road looks soft and grey and open, it is wide with possibility and perhaps. The sky ripples overhead, easy and relaxed. Pulling back onto the road, the tyres crunch across the unfinished surface before they find smooth tarmac again.

 

(Author Note: not sure if this is going to fit somewhere into the episodic book I’ve posted other ‘sprints’ on or not, but it feels like it might fit with an earlier part of the story).

these are the days that must happen to you

 

 

 

these are the days that must happen to you

 

 

 

There is a room where I would go to sit

When I don’t want to think about it.

The shelves are high

And they make up my walls

I can pretend they are strong

That they won’t ever fall.

 

The books on my shelves are all my friends

Each one different, with their own little ends.

Some covers are battered

And dog-eared and loved

Huge parts of my room

They push in and shove.

 

The highest shelves need ladders to reach

Rare books – just for me – one read each.

Crisp leather spines

And pretty in their rows

The hardest of stories

But once read, you know.

 

In the middle, just in your eye-line,

Books I can loan, but stay mine.

Some read by many eyes

Others touched by few hands

Because not everyone is good with books

And cause damage that was not planned.

 

I am glad to have this little room,

It is this little space for me.

Where I can sit alone and read my books

And understand what stories can and can’t be.

 

MCJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Write-Up – April 2020

Sunday Write Up HeaderBack with another ‘writing sprint’ this week – feel free to join in, take a week to write your piece (no more than a couple of hours worth of writing effort required 🙂 and then share here in the Comments, or on your own blog and drop us a link here, so that we can come and check it out!)

Posting here on my blog, as well as on Aside from Writing – don’t be bored, give it a go.

This week’s prompts were five words a quote and an image, to use as much or as little as you feel inspired to do:

pretend       friends      different       agent        hands 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t often try poetry, but felt like writing this today, looking at the picture particularly. Title comes directly from the quote and I managed to use all but one word. I’m going to post it as a separate post now, so it doesn’t get too lost on the page…

 

 

Sunday Write-Up – March 2020

Sunday Write Up HeaderBack to help me keep creative during the COVID-19 lockdown, decided to do some little ‘writing sprints’ to pass the time – feel free to join in, take a week to write your piece (no more than a couple of hours worth of writing effort required 🙂 and then share here in the Comments, or on your own blog and drop us a link here, so that we can come and check it out!)

Posting here on my blog, as well as on Aside from Writing – don’t be bored, give it a go.

This week’s five words are:

rosy       wild      other     hindsight      beat

This piece works as a snippet to a book I’ve been playing around with for a few years – not sure if it will go anywhere, but a bit of a different style for me…

 

Saturday 24th March 2007 

Age: Still Twenty-Seven and Nine Months

Life Lesson: Booze and friendship are great, but they do not mend a broken heart

The taxi pulled away as I stumbled, high heels in hand, towards the wobbling outline of the front door. The girls were hanging out the windows shouting goodnight and don’t puke on the gnome, but I didn’t turn around, just waved my arm vaguely in the air. I did not want to be distracted from the epic challenge of finding the door keys inside my small clutch bag. 

I dropped the bag on the floor and was left holding a lip gloss. “Shit.” I glared at Rosy Glow and tried again.

Bending down, I picked up the bag and put the lip gloss back inside. Fumbling through the silky material again, I came up with something round and metal. Victory!

“Shit.” It was a rogue coin, just dumped into the bag loose after I’d bought that round of apple sour shots, because they were a wild green colour. 

Then I dropped the bag again. Sigh. “Shit,” I mumbled, one last time as I bent down and resigned myself to searching at ground level for safety. This was a picture of class if any of the neighbours poked their head out of the window at this time in the morning. A few moments later I came up with the keys. 

Tonight it helped that the door was white, and stood out from the rest of the house: it made finding the key hole easier. On my second attempt, I managed to get the key in the lock and opened the door. 

Even through the fog of booze, I felt the quiet, emptiness of the house wash over me as I stood on the doorstep. I didn’t need to be quiet as I came in, there was no one to wake up. I didn’t need to pretend to walk straight, to prove I wasn’t drunk. No one would tell me off for leaving my shoes in the middle of hallway, when they tripped over them – there was no one to trip over them, except me. 

Stepping inside, I dumped my shoes and bag, and locked the door behind me. A slight wobble from a few too many drinks: I leaned back against the closed door, shutting my eyes and realised in hindsight that mixing cocktails based on them being pretty rainbow colours had not been the best idea I’d ever had. Everything was quiet and I was alone. 

Not quite alone. I heard a squeaky, snuffling noise coming from the kitchen and headed in that direction. 

Opening the door, Millie greeted me, teddy in her mouth and tail wagging. “Hey Mills,” I bent down and fussed her, rubbing her soft black ears until she made her funny, happy-grunty noise. Snarf, she replied before trundling off back to bed with teddy. 

“Yeah, it’s nice to see you too.” I headed towards the sink, pushed stuff around in the cupboard until I found a glass, then filled it with water. I drank the first one in big, full gulps, suddenly realising  how thirsty I was. The rainbow of vodka shots I’d drunk tonight had obviously not been thirst quenching, they’d just filled a gap for a few hours.  

I filled the glass a second time and then meandered tipsily towards Millie’s bed, at the other end of the kitchen. She sat up as I approached and so I slid down the wall, landing in the warm and newly vacated space beside her. Worrying about dog hairs on my dress was the least of my problems right now – I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it.

Millie nudged my arm and dropped teddy into my lap. 

“It’s not fetch time,” I told her, placing the teddy back into her mouth. 

Snarf she said again, before she sighed and plopped her head down on my legs instead. 

I sighed myself and began stroking Millie’s ears absent-mindedly, drifting off into a little drunken haze. 

It had been good to be out of the house, away from the quiet and emptiness. The only problem now was that it felt twice as empty and quiet, as it had before. The house felt hollow, just as I did, and there was no one – and no amount of booze – that could help me with that.

I sighed again and then the tears began to fall, making cold, wet tracks on my face. It didn’t matter now, no one was here to see me and I didn’t have to be brave for anyone, so that they felt better. I cried silently, a slow and steady stream of tears trailing down my cheeks and dripping onto my dress. I didn’t wipe them away or try to stop. 

Who cares? 

“It’s just you and me now puppy,” I told Millie. 

   

Ederline

A little post from me for #WorldPoetryDay as I’m not normally one for writing poetry, but this is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago when I stayed in a little cottage in the middle of the Ederline Estate in Scotland. I finished Faris and the Monoceros whilst I was there, and the distinct lack of phone signal and lots of open green and blue spaces definitely cleared out the cobwebs. 

 

Ederline 

At first it is silence that you think you hear:

Leaving behind the noise of the city,

Driving away from your busy, working world.

But you are wrong.

 

There is an absence of the usual clamour,

And definitely more sheep than people,

But though you may find peace in these open spaces

It will not be quiet. This beautiful world cannot be silent.

 

Gentle breeze through tree branches makes them rush

With the white noise of a distant motorway,

But, there are no cars here

And for that you are glad.

 

Wilder winds, coming down from the hillsides

Bring the boom of an aeroplane passing overhead.

But the skies are clear here,

Except for racing clouds and gliding birds.

 

Birdsong at midday, is as loud as a suburban dawn chorus:

So many voices, so much to hear.

Then rain comes in – quiet by comparison to the rest –

And fills the fields with pale, blanket mists.

 

After the rain, comes the trickle of new rivers

Springing up in the fields and running towards

The streams, which heave and roar against their banks –

Rapids on your doorstep, foaming white and wild.

 

Do not come for silence, as you will not find it here

All around you, nature shouts out its unique melodies:

The wind, the rain, the streams, the trees…

All have a song to sing, if you are there to listen.

Cirque de la Nuit – A WiP in Stats

I’m nearly (really very nearly) done with Cirque de la Nuit and I’ve been pushing myself these last couple of weeks to meet the target of publishing in August (yes I know there are only a few days left, but they still count!)

Someone just said about me finishing it up and “there’s just two more chapters to go” as if that takes a couple of hours to run off and be done with – and it made me respond by dragging up the stats to the current draft to quote just how long it takes to write a book, as I don’t think I’ll be finished today somehow!

So – not that I’m using this as a distraction from continuing Chapter 19 or anything – I thought it would be interesting to pull up all the drafts to date (I’m on version 5 currently) and see what has happened along the way.

Version 1 – started 3rd November 2015

35,006 words   Chapters 1-4   94 pages   3340 minutes

Version 2

63,636 words   Chapters 5-9   137 pages   2025 minutes

Version 3

85,373 words   Chapters ?   244 pages   4277 minutes

Version 4

103,100 words   Chapters ?   304 pages   6068 minutes

via GIPHY

So… I’m currently working through Version 5, which will likely become ‘CdlN – FINAL’ in my drafts folder before formatting for the various platforms to release. At present, it has taken just shy of four years to go from the first one-shot pieces that formed key scenes in this story to a finished book. And a total of 15,710 minutes of writing (up until today) or 261 hours of writing. It doesn’t feel like that much in some ways when you see it tabled up like that, but it sure feels like it as you go along, and especially when a lot of the time you only get a couple of hours here and there to write.

What about everyone else – do you know how long it really takes you to write a book? 🙂 Would love to hear how it is for others!

Mel x

 

 

 

 

 

Just Finished… When the English Fall

When the English Fall

The Blurb…

When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. Once-bright skies are now dark. Planes have plummeted to the ground. The systems of modern life have crumbled. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the peaceable community.

Seen through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob as he tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive?

David Williams’s debut novel is a thoroughly engrossing look into the closed world of the Amish, as well as a thought-provoking examination of “civilization” and what remains if the center cannot hold.

What I thought….

I read this quickly and easily, Jacob’s simple, clear narration through his diary entries lull you into the world he and his family inhabit within the Amish community.

If you are looking for a post-apocalypse story with action and adventure, this is not it. This is a consideration of human behaviour – the Amish and ‘English’ viewed in both their similarities and differences – when you strip away the superfluous, superficial distractions of ‘English’ modern lives.

Pg 27, when Jacob talks about his Rumspringa (going walkabout in the world of the English as a teenager): “I remember how people would walk around not even seeing each other, eyes down into their rectangles of light. No one was where they were.”

The irony that I typed this quote in to a rectangle of light, to remember this image from the book that I liked was not lost on me… But, it stuck with me as a perfect example of what you see repeatedly in the book: the drags on the time and focus of the English on inconsequential things compared to Jacob and his family, where time together, contentment in quiet activity and working hard to sustain their way of life are fulfilling in a wholly different, but very real way. Had they not lived so close to the English, their experience of the solar storm that changes everything around them, would actually have changed very little for them in reality. They are thankful for the natural bounty they get when weather is better than expected and work hard to manage and moderate when the natural world delivers more difficult situations.

These are the stories I like the best I think, the ‘iceberg’ ones where most of the activity takes place beneath the surface of the skin. Examining how quickly modern life can disintegrate, how ill prepared many are for anything other than the comfortable, on-demand lives they have is intriguing and very real in this book. You don’t need heroes and villains on a grand scale for an apocalyptic tale: the quick slide of ‘normal’ people into crime and looting when they become desperate, set against those who selflessly step forward to help strangers in need shows how this happens realistically.