Finally getting on with things…

For a long time, I’ve had this mental block which brings me to a creative halt when I have outstanding projects to finish. These can be small (like critiques on stories posted on the ERWA Storytime email list), or huge, like editing projects. Until I’d cleared the decks, I felt like I was writing furtively, or doing things that weren’t work. I might as well have held up a sign saying “Writer’s Block, come and settle here!”

I’m learning to dedicate time in the day for my own writing now, whatever may be going on in the background. Even if it’s half an hour when I’ve finished working, it’s still half an hour more than I’d achieve otherwise. I keep telling myself to just write and worry about editing later. I’ve also learned to write as scenes occur to me, and stop obsessing over linear perfection and cohesion. I need to make notes about the things that need to be adjusted further down the line for consistency, and just flipping well get on with things.

So, this is me getting on with things; the following excerpt is from “Biding his Time”, the third tale in the ‘Brotherhood of Bouncers’ series, which opened with the short story “Single Syllable Steve”. Colin features in SSS only off-screen as the bouncer whose paternity cover the eponymous Steve was covering when he met nightclub accountant Celeste.


Colin pulled across The Strand into William IV Street, struggling to keep track of the pedestrians swanning across the road from all angles while Leon reeled out an endless to-do list from the comfort of the passenger seat. His soft, Aruban accent was usually soothing, but it was becoming a dangerous distraction to the business of surviving West End traffic.

“The Hippodrome’s doing a costume night on the sixteenth, but it’s a pub-hours event only. We’ll want to soak up some of their after-party crowd, so you’ll need Aaron on the door to sift out the—WOAH!”

Colin slammed the brakes before hitting a hipster with headphones larger than Leia’s side buns and no sense of self-preservation. The guy glared at Colin and flipped him the bird.

“Christ, Col. Too close, man.”

“Well if you’d let me focus on the road—”

“It’s a long day ahead,” Leon said. “We need a head start.”

Colin took a deep breath, his hands still shaking. “I appreciate that, but it’s turning into a bit of a memory test. We’re two minutes from the club. Can’t it wait?”

Leon put his mobile away with a heavy sigh. “Fine, I’ll go through the whole thing for you all over again, even though life is short.”

“You’re all heart.”

“But we do need to discuss the Jemima situation before we arrive.”

Colin whined inwardly as he merged into the traffic at the Trafalgar end of Charing Cross Road. He’d vouched for Jem partly because of her four years’ experience managing club bars in Amsterdam and London, but mostly to get his brother-in-law off his back. One of Richard’s business school protegées, Jemima seemed to have absorbed some of her mentor’s megalomaniac tendencies. ‘Bossy mare’ and ‘uptight cow’ were just a couple of the names the barmen had bandied around on the quiet. It wasn’t entirely fair, but she didn’t make things easy for herself, either.

Leon slipped his mobile into his jacket pocket and sighed. “I don’t think she’s settling in well.”

“Right. Has she complained to you, or—?”

“Don’t play innocent, Col. She’s said nothing. As you’re well aware, she’s widely disliked. It’s hard not to notice her inability to blend in.”

Colin brought the Mercedes to a sharp halt at the junction with Shaftesbury Avenue as orange turned to red after a millisecond flash. Even the bloody traffic lights had it in for him this morning.

“Col, you know she’s a problem.”

“I know there’s a problem,” Colin conceded, “but it’s not exclusively with her.”

“Interesting. And you say this because…?”

“The lads started slagging her off at the exact moment she made it clear that she wasn’t just at work to be flirted with.”

“Ah.” Leon winced. “Difficult.”

“Just a bit.” At the green light, Colin let the car coast forward at a sluggish fifteen miles an hour, keeping pace with the battered Peugeot right in front.

Please change the subject.

He needed her to stay on the job a little longer, or at least crash and burn in a failure entirely of her own making. The thought of picking Barney up from Richard’s place for the weekend and having to tell his brother-in-law that his prize student hadn’t even lasted a month just didn’t bear thinking about. There would be endless digs about him sabotaging the poor girl, preventing her from thriving, and generally making a mockery of Richard’s legacy. At some point—and Colin feared this intensely—Richard would make one snide remark too many and earn himself a bloodied nose and a short, fast fall to the floor. How he’d managed to go so long without belting that pious fucker around the head was nothing short of a miracle.

But Colin needed the miracle to sustain itself.

Colin crushed the steering wheel in his palm, begging his blood pressure to come back from the stratosphere and rejoin normal orbit. Four more months of sobriety, stability and good income, and he’d have earned the right to regain full custody of his son.

Nothing could get in the way of getting Barney back.

“I need you to talk to the barmen,” Leon announced suddenly. “If I address them, they will never respect Jemima. They’ll think she came running to me because she couldn’t cope with the ‘banter’.”

“How is it different if I rap them over the knuckles instead of you? They’ll still give her the side-eye.”

“You have a way with them.”

Colin grimaced. “I’m bigger and I’m good at looking proper fucked off. I’m not sure that’s the same as ‘having a way’ with them.”

“It’s up to you, Col. But if you don’t intervene and Jemima can’t form them into a team, then she’ll have to go.”

“Fine. I’ll deal with it.”

Swearing under his breath, Colin invested all his energy in navigating the narrow back streets that led to the little car park that Elysium shared with the Greek kebab joint next door. It was tempting to take his frustration out on the handbrake and the car door, but Leon would make him pay for any damage.

He stomped to the back door that led to the club’s top floor offices, trying not to let his temper get the better of him. It seemed so unfair—he’d just left the personality politics of managing the bar crew behind him with his move to head up the security team, and now he was plunged balls-deep into the business of watching Jem’s back.

“One last thing,” Leon called, just as Colin had his key in the lock.

Five, four, three, two… one. Colin forced a smile. Turned. “Yeah?”

“Tell that dopey fool Gareth that he can’t keep leaving his hot dog cart in Mr Christou’s reserved parking space. Andreas won’t be on holiday forever.”

“Gaz reports to Jemima now.”

“Perhaps, but he seems to respond to your particular guidance.”

“Fuck’s sake, Leon! What am I, the wazzock-whisperer?”

Leon chuckled darkly as Colin pulled open the door to let them in. “Don’t be angry, Colin. It’s a gift.”

 

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Goodbye Irritating and Bastard… welcome to the new aids!!

A major reason I drank as much as I did was the ongoing distress and insanity caused by having a single hearing aid with appalling levels of feedback. It screamed, whistled and squeaked right in my lug-hole for eighteen months, and I had no option but to try to ignore it.

Between the feedback situation, the constant ear infections, and the abominable behaviour of many deaf-hating audiologists and ENT consultants, I reached often for bottles of anything over 37% proof.

But this is a post of joy. Joy, I tell you!

On Tuesday, I was fitted with new aids in BOTH ears 🙂 It was the first time I had my own equivalent of ‘full hearing’ in over two years. They’re made by Siemens and they’re really flashy. They were an absolute shock to the system when first turned on.

When the settings were complete and the audiologist (lovely fella call Matt) diverted sound from laptop to aids, I shot vertically off my seat as if launched by NASA. It’s a damn good job I’m sober now because I dread to think how much of a heart attack I’d have had if hungover during the fitting.

He scraped his chair back and it was like someone dragging a drain cover across Tarmac. I stared at the chair, wondering how the ungovernable frig it could possibly make that much noise. But once I’d got used to the concept of actual VOLUME in my ears, I was cock-a-hoop. Matt warned me that a lot of stuff would come as a surprise over the next few days, and sent me off home with an app for my phone to change the aid settings.

Oh my word—the last two days have been an eye-opener.  The zip on my jeans sounds like a Lambourgini braking on gravel.

I’ve also discovered that we possibly possess the world’s noisiest fridge. I cringe to think of all the times I flatly denied sneaking a middle-of-night snack, now knowing that the opening of the door can probably be heard in Bristol, let alone upstairs in the bedroom. I don’t know whether to clip hubby round the ear for humouring me for four years, or whether to kiss him for his patience. Christ. The hinge went off like a bunch of competitive crypt doors, and the motor was like a million mosquitoes farting in a wind tunnel.

I’m getting used to things now. Although my world is temporarily RATHER STARTLING, it’s also more peaceful.

In terms of writing, I also stand a much better chance of writing convincing hearing characters, which I’ve always really struggled with. That’s going to be like a breath of fresh air! Though my favourite bouncer Steve is severely deaf, his life-long mate Colin isn’t. I’m feeling much more confident about writing his story now 🙂

A good use of energy?

Right, so apart from desperately trying to get some work done over the last couple of weeks, I’ve also been busy exercising and note-taking for my various writing projects. I’ve also been trying to help a friend find a picture of a sexy bloke for the cover of her novel. This hasn’t been a joyful activity. Her parameters for ‘sexy’ are quite tight, and it seems that where ‘Getty Images’ is concerned, you need to be careful of what you wish for. Searching for ‘hot man’ produced this, for example…

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Yes, quite.

Happily she found the name of a model she liked and found a bunch of pictures all by herself, thus relieving me of my supportive duties. That gave me back some time for my next non-working task… exercise.

The exercise has been an ongoing endurance test since I woke up on 13th October and decided I was never going to drink again. Because I’m as skint as a flint with an over-extended overdraft, running has become my thing. It’s a bit too dark to run at the times I’m most inclined to want a drink (5pm onwards), but I’m definitely benefitting from opening the day with some decent exercise. I’ve dusted off my FitBit and started tracking everything again.

The key benefit of the FitBit is that it gives me something else to obsess over. And oh boy… it’s so easy to obsess over reaching daily goals. Here are mine:

Floors climbed (8)
Steps achieved (6k min)
Calories expended (2100)
Exercise completed (10 mins a day min)

Each little icon lights up a pleasingly cheery shade of green when you’ve hit your goal for the day. If you’ve done really well and hit all your goals, you get a sort of green waterfall of celebration sweeping across your screen. It’s very satisfying. Who wouldn’t want to put their energy into that?

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Only issue is… FitBit can be a little glitchy. Sometimes it refuses to acknowledge the exercise you’ve just done. You could be standing in a puddle of your own sweat, syncing your phone app like a loonie to make it catch up with your watch, but sometimes the app just doesn’t want to know.

As a case in point (pic below) FitBitch was quite happy to admit that I’d done 24 consecutive minutes of painful jogging, but why oh WHY does that not show up in the ‘tracking exercise’ window? (For FitBit newbies, that’s the one with the little bloke running in the pentagram).

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You can arrange the settings so that you get a rewarding little ‘ping’ for each hour that you move more than 250 steps, but FitBitch has been known to stiff me of the occasional hour. Usually the last hour of five, when I’ve had an otherwise impeccable run of success.

Conversely, I’m sometimes rewarded for trudging around the supermarket at a not particularly impressive pace. Where’s the justice? Where’s the consistency?

But overall, the FitBitch and I get on absolutely fine. Even while I sit here, calling it rude names and ranting about its occasional shortcomings, it’s a lot better for me than what I would otherwise be doing right now on a Sunday night…

… drinking, and trying to write.

They don’t happen together, I find. I might occasionally (accidentally) hit upon a witticism, but drinking to get my imagination going wasn’t working. Since I’ve stopped, I’ve poured my entire capacity for linear working (ie writing scenes as they appear on my outline) into my paid work. This has left me with very little capacity for doing the same with my own writing under my own name.

However, the good news is that scenes are starting to write themselves in my head again. I can jot down notes quickly about arguments my characters have, and they make sense later (which is a blessed relief.) I’ve started making notes on motivations, bits of conversation, bits of backstory, and ideas for how subplots evolve and feed back into the main story. As I start to balance work, fitness and time to write in a more effective way, I hope to get moving on actual writing again.

I look forward to that – I’ve missed it.