Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Week 24

I wimped out on the dialogue in chapter 2, my expectation was that there would be a conversation between Frankie and Mac but I found the whole experience quite schizophrenic.  I was almost wanting to change seats where I was writing to see what would be.  Do I want Mac to be someone who can talk to anybody or is this conversation with a complete stranger and the request to spend the day together an easy thing for him or as difficult as it is for Frankie.  I don't want her to be overwhelmed by his confidence, which I don't want him to have too much of, and yet I need them to strike up a conversation and find themselves caught up in it.   All of which I have to write and indeed create.  I have an understanding of my characters but will some of the traits I want them to have mean that they will have behaviours that I wasn't expecting.  Can I create a Mac that is comfortably confident without coming across as arrogant?  Or will he not be as confident as I think he should be!  I love shoulds and oughts, hopefully I can understand them and deal with them in fiction.  They occur far too frequently in my own life, setting expectations of myself that aren't always fair or appropriate.  They've become a useful test point in my sobriety and ring warning bells when I find them proliferating my sentences.  Of course, the objective at this point is just to write what I can and not to overthink it, easier said than done.  Which should get me to starting chapter 3, although I don't know at this point if chapter 3 follows chapter 1 or 2 so will carry on the story-lines separately and decide when it's finished.  I know the next stage in both stories but until I've written out both fully, I have no idea where they will intertwine.  The story of the present is so dependent on how the past is told, much like in my own life, the present can take on different meaning as the truths in the past unfold.  I haven't progressed much this week, I came down with a bad cold, must have been the shock of seeing so much sun, and found it quite hard to write after a difficult day at work.  I have also found that my lack of being able to set clear boundaries applies to  weeks and that I am constantly floating between the start and end of them.  I will need to look at when my ten weeks began and define the end date appropriately.
I spent another couple of hours with the RAC yesterday, really beginning to wish that my choice of my car as a symbol of my recovery and its subsequent challenges could be accepted as pure coincidence.  This time it was a fuel lock, different problem but leaving me wondering whether I can rely on it at all.  All was well this morning though and it feels very happy in the sunshine.  
I did manage to write some more from chapter 2 following this post, so rather than wait till next week, here it is.

Chapter 2 ctd:

"Two bottles of Pils, please", said Frankie, leaning over the bar to squeeze in-between the two guys either side of her.    Collecting the bottles and the change, she squeezed back out and headed through the crowd to her friend Sean.  He was standing with his back against the wall, his eyes scanning around the room, taking in the faces he didn't know as well as those he did.  They were in a small underground club in Bristol renowned locally for its live music.  With its low ceilings, roughly plastered walls, small dance floor as well as hidden nooks and crannies, it worked well for Frankie.  Everyone came for the music and she could get lost in it without worrying about whether anyone was watching.  Sean had come down for the weekend from London, her best friend and soulmate.  He was now doing a second degree in Horticulture since getting a job working alongside a landscape gardener and had finally found an outlet for his creativity.  He and Frankie had hit it off on their first day and had been a much needed rock for each other as they both struggled to settle into university life.  Both shared the same sheltered upbringing, parents high in expectations who'd been unable to provide them with any understanding or knowledge about dealing with life.  They'd both had their hearts broken by the perfect man, fortunately not the same one, and had supported each other with endless bottles of wine and boxes of tissues.  Sean had promised Frankie that he would come back for their favourite band and she was thrilled to be out with him.  They'd repeated their Friday night ritual of a Pizza Express takeaway with a bottle of red from Oddbins, catching up on each other's news and were well prepared to dance the night away before collapsing into bed.  What Frankie was not expecting, was to find herself looking into the dark green eyes of the Scotsman she'd met a couple of months ago who now stood in her path.  "Hey, its Frankie, isn't it?  How are you?" said Mac.
"Er, yes, really well, thanks" she stuttered, "what are you doing here?"  She kicked herself even before the words left her lips.
He laughed, "We've come to see the band, they seem to prefer it over here".  Frankie looked around, expecting to find some gorgeous girl hanging off his arm.  "Meet my friend Mark, Mark this is Frankie."  Frankie tried not to smile too enthusiastically as she shook Mark's hand and was not surprised to find that Sean had moved swiftly to her side, Mark was definitely Sean's type.  "Sean, this is Mac, who I met at Rosa's and his friend Mark."  This time she could have kicked Sean as he replied, "Oh Mac, yes, I heard all about you."  Mac smiled but said nothing, the glint in his eye giving Frankie the exact kind of paranoia she had dreaded.  "Don't worry," said Mark, leaning in, "I heard all about you too."
"Here, have my beer," Sean said, passing his bottle to Mac, "and I'll get two more in."
"I'll come with you", added Mark, following Sean to the bar.
"Come here often?" said Mac and they both smiled.  "I can't believe I got to say that again, it was ridiculous enough the first time."
"Yes it was", said Frankie, although this time she didn't feel embarrassed by it.  She couldn't quite believe that he was here, was fate giving her a second chance.
"Cheers", he said, tapping the neck of his bottle against hers, "here's to a good night".
Frankie took a swig at the lager, feeling it run cold down her throat.  She turned to the bar, it didn't look like Sean and Mark would be making their way back anytime soon.
"Did you get the job?" she asked, trying not to hope for a positive response.
"Yes, I did."  She gulped.  "I start next month, Mark and I are looking for a flat, he got a job too."
Frankie felt her skin bubble and the hairs on her arm stand on end.  "That's great news, well done."
"Yeh, Mark's dad's a vet with a big practice up in the Dales but he wants to prove himself out of his shadow so he thought he'd see how we get on.  Means we can try and keep the band going too.  Mark's the drummer."
"Of course," said Frankie, "will we get to see you play?"
"I'm not sure," smiled Mac, "I think we've decided we're not going to make the big time and that, actually, we're not that bothered.  It's good just being able to play with some mates and hang out together.  It seems that Sean and Mark are getting on".
Frankie turned back to look for them.  They were pushed together in a small corner of the bar, giggling like school boys and making no effort to find themselves more room.  Frankie turned back with a frown on her face, "he better be nice to him", she said to Mac, "he's got a heart of gold."
"Don't worry, they're both big enough to look after themselves," said Mac.  "He seems perfectly happy from here."
Frankie didn't get to reply as the crowd started to cheer.  The door behind the stage had opened and the band were making their way out.  "You don't think I'd miss this, do you" whispered Sean in her ear.  "Besides, he's not going far", he said smiling across at Mark as they exchanged glances that Frankie wished she hadn't been party to.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Week 23

Feels like a bit of a liberty, 10 weeks to write as much as you can and here's another exercise too.  Week 3 not good, 500 words but with some additional support at work this week hopefully I can get my hours back to normal and get on with it.  It feels so exciting to have begun and, even though I'm not that happy with what's done thus far, it's great to be able to leave it in draft and move onto another part of the book.  However, today has an exercise so let's on with it.....

Exercise 12 - write another incident, this time where your main character wakes up in the middle of the night.

I sit up.  My head's pounding.  It feels like a stick is beating my forehead from the inside, trying to break out.  I move to stand up; can't and sit back down again, lying back against the sofa.  My stomach lurches; I can feel it rise up towards my throat.  I close my mouth and swallow, my eyes slowly shutting.  I open them again and lean forward, the floor starts to spin beneath me and I rest my head against my knees, shutting my eyes tightly.  "Slowly, slowly", I whisper as my throat begins to burn.  My tongue grates against the top of my mouth as I swallow again, more deeply this time.  I lick my teeth and frown.  The pounding is louder now, several sticks beating together; one two, one two.  I hold my head in my hands, trying to hold it together and stand up.  My whole body aches, I attempt a stretch but stop when I feel the contents of my stomach rising again.  My calves are so tight, I struggle to move my feet.  I reach to the sofa for support and crash back into it.  My stomach can wait no more.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Week 22

As expected fitting in a considerable amount of writing into normal family life didn't go brilliantly.  However I did manage just over 1,000 words and made decent headway into chapter 2.  For those of you who were really enthusiastic and looking forward to it, it comes with a warning.  Don't forget there are two story lines and chapter 2 may not necessarily follow chapter 1.  However, if all goes well I could be posting it next week just to see how the styles sit.  The rest of the bits I know don't follow logically and I can't interweave them until I've finished.
This week's blog comes from the 18:00 train from Paddington, what a side benefit to a London workshop.  Having worked in London previously, it's not a comfortable place and has some memories for me that I'd rather not have.  Fortunately/unfortunately (delete as appropriate) I drank to blackout a lot, this didn't mean that I passed out but that I was unconsciously present at the end of a drinking bout.  It wasn't always a short end either, some of my blackouts lasted for several hours.  Huge gaps in my life that I have never been able to recover, hours of my existence during which I cannot tell you anything about what I did.  Sadly, these were not terrifying enough to force me to look at my drinking but were such a norm for me from the early days at university that I just accepted them.  There's a tale in AA about alcoholism being like someone jay walking who continues to jay walk despite being continually knocked down and hospitalised.  For any sane human being, one is forced to ask how they can keep doing it, it makes no sense at all.  That's what it was like for me, no matter what situation I found myself in, no matter who I hurt, I just kept doing it.  And, although I had no idea that's what I was doing at the time, some of that doing was to detach myself emotionally from what I had just done.  London has a lot of those holes as well as uncomfortable memories of 21st birthday parties, rugby matches etc., those days/nights that I do remember and which I have to accept as part of my journey.  That isn't to accept them unconditionally but to understand and be aware of them as part of what made me who I am today.   The acceptance that I can only be me today because of absolutely every single thing that happened to me from day dot.  There's so much of my programme that I love because of its logic, because of the way I can follow an assumption, use a theory, create a mathematical equation from, it makes me very excited.  I did try to write down an example of that but I will have to find one that wasn't quite as hardcore as the only one I can think of, not ready to share that one yet.  

Seems that there was enough time on the train to get on with chapter 2......

Frankie manoeuvred her way, through the bustling cafe, to the only empty table and sat down.  This was the best way to spend a day off, a mug of milky coffee and a bacon sandwich, in her favourite cafe in all of Bristol.  She loved nothing more than to settle into a seat, watch the world go by and write about what she saw.  Her notebook was packed full with passages based around the characters she picked.  Rosa, the cafe owner, often tried to run off with the it, desperate to see what Frankie had written about her, feigning paranoia whilst also wanting to be at the centre of every story.  Whilst Frankie had been a regular customer for several years, beginning when she was a student, she considered Rosa to be a friend.  She had begun to babysit for Rosa's daughter, Alice, after entertaining her one busy lunchtime when Alice was a baby, and Rosa had been overwhelmed by an unexpected party.   They'd become firm friends since, especially after sharing many a bottle of wine when Rosa, and her husband Eric, returned from a night out and made Frankie wait for a taxi to take her home.  She didn't need much encouragement to wait when the wine had been opened, and besides, Rosa and Eric were good company, teasing each other with tales from their past and providing Frankie with a warm family glow to take back to her student digs.

It wasn't much different now that Frankie had graduated and worked at the bookshop.  She still babysat, a bookseller's wage wasn't much, and at some point she had a student loan to repay.  Rosa was a great support in her dream to become a writer unlike her parents, who had patiently supported her degree in English Literature, were expecting her to get a 'real' job.  Unlike her parents, Rosa had read the articles she had written for the student magazine and loved them.  Her parents, meanwhile, had expected Frankie to attend the graduate job fairs and hadn't hidden their disappointment.  They'd also been disappointed that Frankie hadn't formed a relationship with a student in the medical faculty, although sensibly, albeit unsuccessfully, attempted to hide that one.  For the time being, Frankie was ignoring them, and enjoyed her time in her bookshop.  She had bonded instantly with the owner over a shared love of John Irving and was rewarded with sole responsibility for the fiction section.  Fortunately for Frankie, neither of the two existing employees had had their noses put out of joint, they were quite happily ensconced in their own areas of expertise and, to be honest, had been quite worried that they would have been forced to admit their lack of interest, and knowledge, of modern fiction.  Frankie had made friends instantly with them by preparing lists of recommendations for customers, linking old authors with new, and devouring proof books sent by publishers.  They all had a thorough grasp of the latest bestsellers and those about to break through, much to the delight of their customers and impressing the owner as fiction sales increased by just over 10% in her first year.

Frankie's train of thought was broken, by the dulcet tones of Scotland, as a gentle voice broke in with "I believe this is yours."  She looked up to see a pair of sparkling, dusky green eyes looking down at her, a mop of dark hair falling over them, "Although I was tempted to run off with it and eat it myself to be honest."  Her sandwich was put down on the table in front of her before she had chance to answer, "Mac" he said, as the stranger sat in the chair opposite her.  "Sorry, but there's nowhere else to sit and the lady behind the counter said that you wouldn't mind."  "That's ok", stuttered Frankie, casting a glare over at Rosa, who just grinned and shrugged her shoulders.  Frankie started to eat her sandwich, trying not to look at Mac who, mug in hand, had begun to read a newspaper.  She had become aware of a slightly increasing heartbeat and a flushing to her face that had started the moment their eyes met and was doing her utmost to avoid it getting any worse.  She also had a fluttering in her stomach and was struggling to eat the sandwich.  After what seemed like an eternity, she looked up and said "Frankie", holding out her hand to shake his.  He smiled back at her and they shook hands.  "Nice to meet you Frankie, do you come here often?".  She laughed before asking "Really?  Did you really say that?"  With the ice broken and Frankie no longer the only one blushing, they began to talk to each other.  Mac, it turned out, was a newly graduated Vet from Cardiff, looking for his first placement and, today, had been to his first interview.  While he had aspirations towards farm work and living out in the country, he wasn't ready to leave city life and had decided that spending a year with small animals, that is pets, would be useful in the long run.  Yes, he realised that it was very James Herriott but there was nothing wrong with not being original.   Frankie, in turn, shared her dream of becoming a published author and went as far as telling him about a couple of the stories she was working through in her head.  They talked about their times as students in Bristol and Cardiff, finding similarities in many of the things they liked such as going to small clubs to listen to bands.  Frankie found herself feeling disappointed that she had turned down an invitation from a former school friend to go to a party where Mac's band might have been playing.  However, when it turned out he also played rugby as well as the guitar, she suddenly found herself not so disappointed.  Frankie hadn't been a fan of the rugby group in Bristol, they had been far too full of themselves and demanded attention at many of the union bars or pubs they landed in.  While Mac tried to convince her that not all rugby players were the same and moved away from the match playing and drinking tales to tell her about the band, the damage had been done. Frankie did what she did so well, shut down and closed the doors.  When Mac asked her if she was interested in spending the day with him she declined politely and chose her writing.  I can't go skipping about with a man I've just met, she thought, even though deep inside, she wished she could.