One Week Left – A new job and my constant battle with the sands of time.

Hello Peeps,

I know i’ve been distant lately and there is a good reason. I got offered a new job, one that comes with extra time for creativity and a nicer paycheck.

The last five weeks have been the notice period, one more left and time has become the most precious resource imaginable.

Yet, five working days and I’m there.

I hope to be a bit more active next week onwards. I’ve been editing – no time for creativity, late night finishes as I get ready for the next challenge.

 

MY ATTEMPT TO BALANCE THE FORCE. WRITING AND WORKING.

Book cover, The Loyalty Effect (revised editio...

Book cover, The Loyalty Effect (revised edition) by Fred Reichheld (Harvard Business School Press, 2001) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I worked out a couple of months ago that to have any chance of achieving my dreams within writing. Something was going to have to give.Working 60 hours each week and trying to focus the rest of any time that I am not asleep with creativity and be present in my marriage and life was becoming impossible.

So I put my best foot forward and accepted some requests I’d had from other companies to go to interviews.

I didn’t apply for any of these new jobs, they came looking for me and now that I am two interviews away (two separate positions) from a new role with more time for writing I am really nervous.

I know that the move is the right thing and that in the long-term, I’ll have far more time to focus on my Book, the disadvantage is that with any new role comes those first six months where you are picking up a new culture and learning intensively every day. Long term I’m good but short-term it’s just as tough.

Back to the loyalty piece then. During this process I was also approached by a direct competitor of the company I work for with an offer for a role with a significant pay rise. Not just a couple of hundred extra a month. MUCH MORE.

I went along to the interviews because the company had a real refreshing out look on the work life balance and believes that productive people are those who are well rested and well-adjusted and not comatose with overwork. They had a leave early policy on a Friday and is very flexible in this regard.

I got through to the fourth stage, did all the psychometric tests, the logical truth tests, Yada, Yada. They asked for all my package details the night before the last interview. They wanted to make me an offer I would never be able to turn down. The only thing I needed to do was show up and barring swearing, arriving naked or killing someone I was good for this role.

I couldn’t do it, first thing in the morning I removed myself from the process. I know it sounds nuts but I don’t want to leave the current company on bad terms and it would’ve been bad terms. Frogmarched to the door, leaving, car, phone and laptop. I’ve seen it happen to others. The other two jobs I am still in the running for, whilst a similar role (better money) aren’t for direct competitors and whilst they’re never going to be happy about me leaving (for any reason) I wouldn’t have the bad terms hanging over me.

The Managing Director of the company wanted a chat about why I’d withdrawn and I explained my reasons to him. He didn’t get it. He was shocked that I would put some form of emotional attachment (loyalty) to my current employer above my own needs. He explained he’d done something similar and yes, it had been a distressing process to go to a competitor but he’d never looked back.

I just can’t do that…. I’ve never left a single company on bad terms and I am not about to start now.

Am I nuts? Is loyalty dead in the workplace?

Fiction, mine – From the book first draft.

The Queen fingers the fine brocade drapes hanging from the windows in her private reception room. Beautiful – if illegal, the embroidery created by slave children their fingers the only ones capable of creating such finery. The Chantry had a fit when they were first displayed. Of course, she said she’d found the fabric and felt that such suffering and sacrifice should be displayed, that not to comment on such awfulness would be a betrayal of the tiny hands that made it. A reminder that suffering was taking place.

The reception room is beautiful and decadent. The finest Cherrywoods, Ashes and Elms make every stick of furniture. Everything adorned with ivory inlays and great clawed carved feet touching the boards. Her fathers house shield is above the fireplace, a castle and a great horned stag stands at the top of a hill. In the old tongue, a motto “Strong in Faith and War” curls on a golden scroll at the bottom.

Her quarters are seperate to the Kings, a necessity it was said as she was such a light sleeper and the King often worked late. His quarters just down the hall should she wish to join him which is seldom these days. The reception room was added so she can work on all her many charitable chantry projects without interruption. He still loved her the idiot. How easy these fragile men are to manipulate.

The Queen sighs and seats herself at the central desk. Her willful son has gone into the City with the Royal Guard, the Prince will have his way. He is singular in his purpose and she is proud of his strength and lack of mercy. He will need to be strong for the journey ahead.

A small cough catches her attention and without raising her head,

“So, spectre what have you found out?” She shuffles through some of the parchments, she does not need to look up to see the grey hooded man standing in front of her. It is not an appointed time for a visit.

“The hermit wants to bring the plans forward Mistress, the King still lives. The hermit has given his word. It is time for you to keep yours. If you still wish the crown”

“I asked you a question” Her face is tight,

“Very well, your Son killed the beggar and then beat the boy half to death. Houses Passery, Clando, Jiant, and Fontain are all involved as witnesses and they all beat the boy.”

She rubs at her temple, she suspected as much Varkand had been difficult and sullen. “Thank you Spectre, this information is most useful.” Her face composed, she pauses stroking a gold letter opener. She cuts her finger and the coppery taste as she licks the wound thrills her. “Have you passed on this information to the Hermit?”

“No Queen, This information came to me but an hour ago. I have yet to report back.”

“So my problem remains. How am I to kill a well guarded King with a Physicka such as Lord Ranaya.”

The man shrugs, “That is not the Orders problem, mistress. You must find a way to ease him off the throne and into the beyond. The Hermit is not known for his patience and could become fractious if left too long.”

The Queen rises from the table and walks slowly towards the hooded figure. Grasping the hood in both hands she throws it back, the handsome man grins broadly. He places his hands at her waist and pulls her close before nuzzling into her neck.

“Is the door locked?” she asks.

“No” he replies, roughly lifting her from her feet and backing her towards the desk. He kisses her tenderly and begins to kneel as his kisses lead past the top of the bodice and down towards her belly. These dalliances have been fun, she’s enjoyed the Spectre these past months.

“Ohh yes, that’s so nice.” She croons, the letter opener concealed in her sleeve and as he lowers his head and begins to lift her skirts, it slithers into her hand. There have been so many assassination attempts, her fighting off an attacker will make calling for martial law when the King is dead far easier. Witnesses are for fools.

She grips the letter opener and raises her arm, the Spectre busy with her skirts, there is an opening at the shoulder on his leather breastplate under the soft grey fabric of the robe. She tenses the muscles in her arms and brings the letter opener down. He is ready for her, a dagger is in his hand and she topples backwards over the desk.

Jumping to her feet, her stance accomplished from years of sword training as a child in her fathers yard. The Spectre looks at his dagger, it glints dangerously and is twice the size of the gold letter opener held tightly in her fist.

“Did you think me so stupid? That dress is coming off and I’ll be getting what I’m due. I always thought your pleasure sounded false. I prefer my women quiet and subservient. Silent and dead should be jus’ fine.”

Are you a writing Screw-Up? Five things I learned the Hard Way.

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films (Photo credit: Wikipedia) A story that should have flopped.

We all secretly wish to write award-winning, book/article/blog selling perfect prose, the minute we lay our fingers on the keyboard and we all are slightly disappointed with our first drafts, when it turns out they are less than perfect. We may all understand that “crappiness” is part of the process but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

There are five distinct screw-ups I’ve made that have taught me how to get better at this writering and I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve sucked at and how it’s helped you improve. So, here’s my Top Five.

1. OBSESSION WITH W.I.P. TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL ELSE

I have been guilty of putting my writing ahead of absolutely everything and become obsessive about it to the point of a detriment to my day job (the one that pays the bills) and my personal relationships. This sucks and has not made me a better writer. Nothing, not even this writing means you should stop interacting with life at least some of the time. Don’t look at me like that, writing appeals to the loner in all of us, but without life experiences our writing is in 2D, it’s thin and lacks authenticity.

2. NOT PUTTING THE EFFORT IN

Okay, this is where I go the other way and hang out on social media and try to loosely prove to myself that “building a platform” is more important than the W.I.P. What is a Platform anyway? I’m not an oil-rig worker, I’m a writer! I’m a complete idiot when it comes to building authentic relationships via social media and that’s the new BUZZ message? Communicate, make friends and be real. But in  150 characters or less.

Or then there’s Procrastination which sounds like a disease and has the same ravaging effects. Whilst cutting yourself some slack is a good idea, there are times when you just have to sit down, suck it up and string sentences together.

3. PANTSER OR PLOTTER?

I am a Plotter who Pantses. I am now only about 10,000 words away from the end of the first novel and I am going to have to go back and plot and cut and re-draft. The second book will be fully plotted out before I start. It’s easier in the long-term and I’ve noticed a butt-kicking awesome lift in my productivity when I have a clear idea of where the work is going. A structure allows me to take the work in a different direction. A plan doesn’t restrict, it frees my creativity. Currently I have a lot more work to do because I didn’t do this the first time.

Whether you are a Plotter or a Pantser, just accept it and move on. Plotters don’t understand Pantsers and Pantsers don’t understand Plotters. We are two seperate sides of the Force. Of course I now realise that Pantsing is the DARK SIDE…..

4. REPETITIVE WORDS

There are lots of turns of phrase and words that as a new writer you are going to find a lot of in your work. I’ve listed mine in an earlier post. We all struggle to move our writing on. I thoroughly recommend creating a list of those words you overuse and then searching them out in your prose. Don’t remove every instance where you use them, as there will be occasions where they are completely correct and fit. Again we are back to the word balance…

5. THINKING ABOUT MY AUDIENCE

There will always be room for great stories and I need to accept the fact that all the storylines have already been taken. I don’t think there will ever not be a place for writing about all the great archetypes in our world. Yes, things do go through a cycle and you may find for a decade darker style fiction where everyone dies and there are no happy endings are in vogue, the next decade happy endings, hope and redemption win out in the light. My best example of this is Star Wars, a tale of heroes that became a major success in the same decade that gave us Scarface and Taxi Driver. Some stories will always “just” work.

Write what you want to write and stay true to yourself. Although some more fiction for grown ups and not teenage girls would be nice. Just saying.

COMMENTS, AS ALWAYS WELCOME. May the force be with you…..

THAT PHOTO. PRIVACY. CROSSING THE LINE IN BOSTON

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

Sharing the unthinkable – credit: Wikipedia)

Some things horrify me.

I believe in freedom and I certainly believe in the right to a free press. We Brits, have had some issues in this regard over recent years, with law suits on how far the Press is allowed to go. Scandals such as “phone tapping” only really became scandals once we discovered they weren’t just doing it to the rich and famous. It turns out they were hacking into the parents of boys who were dying for their country in Iraq or Afganistan.

There’s a photo that came from Facebook,  I’m not sure if it’s real or a fake, but it’s spread like wildfire. It is not a nice photo and every person that forwards it on in emails and in attachments to text messages or even social media should take a moment to think about what they are doing.

THINK ABOUT HOW YOU WOULD FEEL IF YOU WERE THE PERSON ON THE CHAIR?

Oh, did you forget about them? The human being at the center of the story whilst you all gloat and pass it around saying have you seen this?

In an open office of around twenty, there were two of us that said “NO.”

“No, I don’t want to see that damn picture. Why would I want to see that?”

“No, I don’t want to see a human being broken and bleeding”

“No, I don’t get a kick out of another’s misery”

I feel saddened that human curiosity on the macabre is enough for us to lose our compassion and our dignity. So that people huddle around a phone or a screen saying things like “Have you seen this, it’s gross”.

These people weren’t children, or teenagers. So, you can’t blame the complete lack of discretion on naiveté or inexperience.

As much as I believe in the right to Freedom, I also believe in the right to privacy. So if you see or get forwarded a copy of that photo, just delete it. There are things that should stay private and this photo crosses that line.

As for Boston, I wish everyone peace and my thoughts are with the families and friends of those that lost their lives.

Comments, as always welcome.

First Draft – Scene.

Bear summarily dismisses the nurse and takes a seat at the head of the bed. The chair he pulls up is small for his frame and he shuffles to get comfortable. Keela, has marked out the head of the bed as Hawk territory and opens her beak and beats her wings as the hulk of his form disturbs her. There are deep grooves in the headboard from her formidable claws, laid down over the past five days.

“Don’t suppose asking you nicely to leave would have much effect?”

Keela squawks and the sound of the tightening claws in the already ruined headboard, grates in his ear.

Bear sighs, “Didn’t think so..”

He reaches out for Mordins hand, the boy lays motionless except for the gentle rising and falling of his chest, the only sign that life still lingers. The silent days since the event have seen most of the bruises and swelling go down, leaving a rainbow of yellow-green marks in their wake. He’ll have a small scar near his eye and Bear feels proud of his wifes handiwork. It could’ve been much worse, stitched badly and he might have lost the eye.

He squeezes the fingers and takes comfort in their warmth, waiting for movement, his eyes moisten and he chides himself for expecting. He blinks at the wetness, afraid to let a single drop fall in case he can’t stop. At his feet a book lies open on the page he stopped at last night. The spine proclaims in gold leaf “Hevensgate – a scholars musing”

“Mordin, can you hear me?” the silence echoes.

“I’ll read for you when I’m finished. You’ll have to wait for the great Master Zaphis Brigsaimum to impart his wisdom. As I need to tell you something and time is running out.” He shakes his head, “I’m not making much sense am I?”

He looks to the open window where the light in the sky is dying outside. The smell of lavender and herbs drifts up from his garden carried on soft warm breezes. Golds, reds and oranges illuminate the castle; a perfect sunset lighting the world.

He restarts hesitantly, “There’s so much more this” He stops and exhales, his voice raspy and broken.

“I’ve written you a letter and it explains everything. Easier written down and I was going to be a coward and just leave it at that.. I’ve sent it on to Gadrial at the Gypsy capital, the old bastard will know when it’s right to pass on.”

“I always wanted to tell you in my own words but the time never seemed right… This doesn’t change anything between us and I am proud both of the man you’ll become and the boy you are now.”

“You’re my son and you’ll always have my name. The name of Ranaya. Keep it safe and honour it. We are not the richest house, and we’re sure as fates – not the grandest, but there’s good men doing what’s right all the way back to the cataclysm and that has to count for something.”

Bear looks over, his eyes have been fixed on a small crack in the boards during his speech. The boy is pale and he keeps hoping for a flicker of an eyelid, some sign that he can hear what he’s saying and will remember.

He pulls the chair closer to the bed, leans in and unsettles the hawk, Keela squawks angrily.

“This is between me and the boy. Go sit on the nurses chair over there..”

Keela hops down from the headboard and waddled across to the vacated chair. Hopping, first on the seat and then perching on the back, trying to find the balance lest it tip.

He leans in close and begins to whisper. These are secrets he hasn’t spoken aloud in twelve years. He hopes Marianne will forgive him, he needs to tell the boy before death silences him and the Arbiter makes his judgement.

The Flower Market Tree is coming into bloom, the blue flowers exactly as they are in his vision, it won’t be long now. This is the fate he could not alter and he has loved and been loved, it has been a good life. He counts himself lucky that the only talent the Gods ever gave was knowing the time and place of his own death. He’ll go to greet them, safe in the knowledge that Mordin will live and thrive,  a perfect moment captured of the boy laughing as a grown man, a small babe in his arms. Bear hopes it is his grandchild, the second part of his gift.

Ten minutes pass, the only sound the soft whispering of a father to his son and when finished, Bear leans back on the chair.

“I pray to the Gods what I am about to do will save you from pain and shield your heart”

Bear gently turns the boy over and removes a small wooden pot and horsehair brush from his jerkin. He opens the nondescript wooden box and a brilliant blue flash drenched the room in light for just a moment. Keela chirrups in recognition of the light and as Bear paints on Mordins naked back in the silvery substance contained within his expression is unreadable.

“This could have bought your mother and I our very own Kingdom. Perhaps that’s what I should have done. Fates be damned I saved it.”

It takes a long time for him to finish, with long sweeping brush strokes and intricate detailed close work. As he lays each stroke down, the silver disappears into the skin. With the pot empty and no visible marks remaining on Mordin; he turns his son back over slowly and places a kiss on his forehead before picking the book up from the floor.

He begins to read aloud, “The debate about whether Hevensgate during the first age……” and continues until the oil lamps begin to fail.

IT.

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The words have stopped being heard, it’s just a wall of sound with past indiscretions and minor infractions building into slow steady bricks. She plays her part, each of them batting in turn. Insults bouncing off or being traded. There are no tears, they died along with the simple things, a long time ago. No more gentle words or kind smiles.

A thousand things irritate her, things that used to make her light up when she saw them. They never tell you that love can die. He knits his brows and three distinct creases appear in his forehead. It makes her angry and she digs her nails into her palms – arms straight, sweaty fists forming. The anger and the frustration has nowhere to go, her shoulders hunching and she hears the distant drumbeat of the blood rushing through her ears.

How can she look at someone who used to mean everything and see a slightly older stranger, at once consumed with avarice and self-pity. How did they get to this? Broken promises and once golden dreams, falling like confetti around her feet.

Then she says it. She’s not sure where it came from pouring into the air, treacherous yet true. He stops, his mouth hanging open, the wall has solidified into silence. He open and closes his mouth and it reminds her of the fish you see in tanks at aquariums.

“I’m sorry – what did you say?” He is trying to pretend he didn’t hear, the hope in his face is too much and the air feels heavy.

“You heard me.” she says softly.

It’s out now, the words, the secret thought that she was never going to say. She’s said it and she can’t and won’t – take it back.

You know how I love to mix it up. This came to me laying in bed last night. Hope you like it or even hate it. Opinions of any sort – welcome.