28 October 2014

Short Stories: All of Us with Our Pointless Worries and Inconsequential Dramas

Instead of rambling on incessantly about the new book of short stories I’ve decided to just place a few stories on this site over the next week or two. 

The ones that i'll put on here are some stories and plays that have been published elsewhere so they’re already out there on the net to read. The book itself contains 17 short stories and six plays. I’ve been kind of letting this blog reach desolation levels recently so this is a way to add more content and get some writing out there.

This first one is taken from the Paris Quartet section of the book. The subtitle to this section is Supporting Characters due to the fact that characters from each of the four stories appear in other stories making them interconnected. If you want to know more about the book then I’ve place a link at the bottom to an interview that took place recently and thanks to writer Julian Gallo for taking the time to do this and as always for his support over the years.

Here is the title story from the book. 

All of Us with Our Pointless Worries and Inconsequential Dramas

“I probably would if I could find a way to kill myself without pain and without causing pain to others.”
“So you want to avoid this perceived pain in your life but you won’t do it because it would add pain.”
“I wouldn’t actually do it, I just think about it sometimes. I wouldn’t do it because I want to stick around and see what happens, no matter how bad it gets. I mean, doesn’t everyone think about it but they don’t act on it.”
“Some people do act on it.”
“Some people probably should.”

Therapy sessions suck.
I go in there once a week and talk crap and completely avoid the subject I want to talk about. I could have went in there week one and said that I was having an affair and I felt bad about it but instead of just living with the guilt I had decided to ‘get some therapy’ along with the rest of my fellow Parisians who can afford it. I’ve talked about everything from my shit childhood to my shit job and now I’ve reeled out the clichéd suicide card because I think my therapist is actually becoming bored with me.
Last week, mid-session, I saw her eyes glaze over and to catch her attention I told her about the two dogs that I had seen on the way over here who were humping in the street but were interrupted mid-hump by a man who had come out of his house and poured water over them. Then I told her how I’d like to see that man humping his wife and then a dog appearing in his bedroom and pouring water over him and see how he likes it.
I’d really only brought that up during the session because even though she was being paid to listen, she seemed completely disinterested in what I was paying her to listen to. She asked if the image of the dogs disturbed me and I told her no but it seemed to disturb the man in some way and he was so disturbed by it that he had decided to disturb the fucking dogs.
Thirty-five minutes into today’s session and she had started to play with her executive desk-top sand garden and had only perked up slightly when I mentioned suicide. I shouldn’t have brought up suicide because it gave her a glimmer of hope that maybe I did have something for her to solve and when I was saying it aloud I was also imagining her later in the evening googling ‘reasons for suicide that I haven’t thought of’ because she was in fact a terrible therapist and her doctorate was probably from a paid for, two month online course.
Of course this isn’t the reality of why she perked up when I mentioned suicide. In reality, she perked up because if I did commit suicide she would lose a now regular paying client and executive desk top toys and a summer house in Provence both take heavy financial maintenance.

After my session I meet up with Miles in a bar on Rue Oberkampf. Miles is an expat who’s been living in Paris now for around seven years. I’ve grown bored of this city as everyone does who has lived in the same place their entire life but I don’t view it with the same contempt as he does, even if he is a relative new comer. Maybe if I’d spent years driving a cab every night I’d feel the same way. A rat stuck in a maze with all exits blocked off.
“Therapists are for people with no friends. People with no friends have to pay people to listen to them. They have to pay people to be their friend. You, my friend, are throwing money away.”
“Well, you know, she has answers. She can help.”
“Not if you don’t tell her what the problem is. That’s just crazy.”
“I can’t tell her.”
“Then why go in the first place if you had no intention of telling her?”
“I see your point but she might, at a future date, become best friends with my wife, it’s entirely possible. They become best friends, they go out for drinks, they get drunk and my wife spews out some family life problems and then at some point during the conversation my therapist says to my wife, “look, this is confidential and I could probably lose my licence for this but if I don’t tell you I’m going to feel so guilty”. So my guilt, which I have unburdened onto her during therapy sessions, leads to her feeling guilty because she now knows my wife and her needing someplace to unburden this guilt ultimately does not fucking help me in either the short or long term.”
“A therapist could have a field day with what goes on in your head. Given your scenario you should have told your wife in the first place and saved yourself time and money.”
“Yeah but my scenario has a good chance of never happening.”
“My advice, advice which you aren’t paying for, tell your wife and come clean or shut the fuck up and live it. You think you’re the first husband who has ever fucked around on his wife? There’s been a billion before you and there’ll be a billion after. And that is how marriages survive.”
     “She’s pushing me to tell her.”
     “To tell your wife? Well that’s a different matter then and actually that makes things simpler.”
     “How come?”
     “Who can you not live without?”

“I don’t think she’s that beautiful. I mean me personally, I don’t see it.”
She had wanted to see the Mona Lisa as it was on her check-list of things to do, a list she’d been working her way through since coming to study in Paris. At 27 years old and fresh off the plane from Algeria this city was still new and exciting to her. I had met Lillie on a night like any other in a bar in the 11th and there was a definite spark, an attraction, which felt, for some reason, as if it were something more.
Talking to her that night I felt something I hadn’t felt in years, something I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was simple lust and I was reading much more into it but against my better judgement I agreed to meet her again, to be her unofficial tour guide. Give it a title or an excuse and it becomes simple to ignore the real reason for meeting again.
She didn’t mention the ring on my finger until out third meeting, until we had had sex in a hotel room that was inexpensive but comfortable and offered an unhindered view of Montmatre, which isn’t quite shitting on my own doorstep but close enough. I was ramping up the Parisian cliché factor and she was giving encouraging signs that she was impressed. In Paris, making love to an almost stranger in room with a view over the illuminated street tops of the city. Some clichés are timeless for a reason. 
Lying in bed in the dimly lit room, my hand resting on her stomach, my wedding ring glinting in the darkness, it was as if I were forcing her to mention it.
She slowly tapped the gold band with her fingernail and said, “So when are you going to tell me about this?”

At some point, during our third month, we had met up in the Jardin du Luxembourg on a rainy Wednesday afternoon and strolled through the gardens with no real aim of going anywhere. By this point we just wanted to spend time together and we had moved from meeting in the hotel room to actually venturing into the city streets. She took my hand in hers as we walked through gardens and I didn’t stop her. Even though there was the possibility of being seen I didn’t want to upset her and I pushed the possibility of discovery from my head.
An hour later we stood in The Louvre with the other tourists, leaning over the railing, gawping at the famous painting. In doing so I felt like a tourist or as if I was rediscovering that feeling of showing Paris to my American wife, presenting my city to someone I loved and seeing it again through the eyes of a newcomer. Exploring everything this city has to offer with the one person I wanted to be with. I shared her excitement and shared that freedom of being far from home with all this time in front of you, in front of us.
     “I don’t think she’s that beautiful, I mean me personally, I don’t see it.” Lillie mused as we walked along the banks of the river.
“She’s different for everyone I guess. Some people look and see beauty, some see the muse and some only see the value of that painting in financial terms. And of course she’s timeless, she’ll never age. She has proven longevity while others have to contend with their short time on earth and then that’s it, it’s over. We’ll be gone. This, right now, us walking here, it won’t even be a memory but she will still be smiling down at us from that wall.”

“Smiling down at all of us with our pointless worries and inconsequential dramas.”
That’s what Lillie had said in reply to me that day, staring at me intently, a final sentence followed by silence. A silence I didn’t fill with a reply because I knew what this conversation meant. I knew just by looking at her eyes. We didn’t speak again on the walk to the Metro station or when we kissed each other and Lillie boarded her train and I walked on to catch mine.

“Haven’t you become everything you despise?”
I listened, hoping that her anger and hatred towards me would be enough of a justification to eradicate any guilt I was feeling. Every hateful comment could help to decrease my guilt down another notch.
 “You’re an estate agent, don’t you hate yourself enough already? Now you’re an estate agent who cheats on his wife while he’s supposed to be working. You’ve become such a fucking cliché compared to the person I married. How did this happen? How did I not notice what you were slowly turning in to?”
I expected anger. The anger I can handle. It’s not as I’m telling her that I’ve forgotten to buy wine for a dinner party we had been planning for a week. I’m putting an end to her life as she knows it at this time. I could of course come up with a number of creative excuses about how our marriage was drifting, had been for a long time and that we both knew we would arrive at this point sooner or later, whether due to a mutual parting of the ways or some other reason of which this is one.
“Why her?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh you know. You just don’t end five years of marriage without thinking about it. You know.”
“I don’t know.” I sigh. But I do know that nothing I can say is going to make this any less painful for her. “Maybe she has a wrinkle on her face in just the right place and I find it attractive. Maybe she says all of her statements as questions and I find that endearing. Maybe she swallows instead of spits or maybe I was just looking for a way to kill time with someone new over the next five years. The reasons why don’t matter.”
“Well she’s really lucky then. Because I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t see your relationship as a way to fill some time, as way to stop the boredom.” She pours a glass of wine and drinks half of it. “Does she know you’re married?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And she just doesn’t give a shit right? That’s she’s breaking up a marriage.”
“Something always comes between. It just depends on whether you act on it or not after you’ve weighed up which you value more.”
She stares at me, taking in what I have said, that I now value someone else more than her. She clenches the wine glass and looks at me as I look at her and then to the wine glass and then back to her face again.
     “You think I would?” She holds the glass up higher, reading my mind, as couples who have been together for many years can do. “You’d like that wouldn’t you but I won’t give you that. You may be a cliché but I’m certainly not. Leave now and I’ll hang a wreath on the door.”

     “……but I don’t really see or hear any actual emotion when you talk about this, about your events, life-changing events that have happened in the past week.” She’s not looking at me as she says this but continues to look down, moving the tiny rake around the sand, creating a tiny circle and then repeating the motion. “No guilt, no anger, no grief, no remorse, nothing.”
     “Well, don’t worry.” I sigh. “When I finally get an emotion, I’ll make sure you’re the first to know.” 

All of Us With Our Pointless Worries and Inconsequential Dramas is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon.

Interview with Julian Gallo on Expats Post.

17 September 2014

A Personal View on Scottish Independence: The Journey from ‘Don’t Care’ to Yes

I’m hoping that it isn’t the case that we’ve become so expectant of being screwed over by the political elite that we’ve become used to it, that we’ve become complacent, that we have succumbed to a form of political Stockholm Syndrome.

At first I thought it was a joke.

Not the issue of an independent Scotland but the appointment of Alistair Darling as the man to lead the Better Together campaign. This was the man you were supposed to trust and believe that he was making the best case against an independent Scotland. Trust Alistair Darling? With this man’s record I wouldn’t trust him to walk my dog.

This man?

Then again, Darling’s track record is excellent if you’re looking for someone who doesn’t mind lying and who excels at trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. So maybe his appointment does make sense. With voting day fast approaching, Darling is already crowing that independence has been lost. But of course, he’s someone you should believe in.

On the other side there was Alexander Salmond leading the cause. Salmond was someone I didn’t really have much knowledge of except for the fact that he allowed Donald Trump to build a golf course in Scotland. Trump is a man I have very strong feelings for and none of them good. Plus Salmond is SNP and I’m in no way a nationalist. In fact since Labour become the alternative Tory party there isn’t really any political party I would align myself with. I mean I’m not going to vote for the Lib Dems now am I? Fool me once and all that.

Personally I thought this whole thing was a no go from the start. Why would I want to see the UK split up? I’ve lived and worked in London for years in the past and on the whole it was a positive experience. But I didn’t particularly like living the UK and it’s always been on my mind to escape to some other country, a country where the grass is always greener.

Why didn’t I like living in the UK? The answer is not because I dislike the people or the places I’ve lived in and I really don’t mind the weather at all. I like to live in a place where the seasons change. The answer to that question is pretty simple. It’s because of the governments and the political leaders we’ve always been ruled by.

Thatcher, Blair and Cameron are the three of the most hated and corrupt politicians I’ve had to live under. Thatcher I can’t see as having any redeemable features whatsoever, she was a friend only to the rich, the corporations and to dictators such as Pinochet. Blair maybe started off well, I mean I think I voted for him, but he threw it all away by lying to the public and leading the UK into an illegal war and became the psychopath we know today. Of course Blair was and is simply a Tory under the New Labour disguise although it’s also pretty shocking to see the Labour party today in bed with the Tories. And Cameron. I could go on about Cameron, Osborne and Clegg but I’ve written most of it before in a previous article. You cannot pick up a newspaper or go online without seeing how this government is screwing over the people of the UK, not the rich but the ‘ordinary’ working person. Crime syndicates wish they were as organised as Cameron’s government.

I don’t trust politicians and I never have since Thatcher was welcomed as Prime Minister with a groan of despair from the working class. And politicians have given me no reason to change my mind in the years since she implemented her iron fist. When the independence issue first came up I wasn’t undecided back then, I was pretty much a ‘couldn’t give a toss’. Politicians look after themselves, the corporations and the rich, in that order.

And then I was asked to write an article for a company I worked for.

The entire article can be found here at Expats Post.

05 May 2014

Why do you write?

 “Being a writer is like being stuck in a leaky rowboat tossed about in a tumultuous sea of poverty, rejection and isolation. But I still love writing.” – Arthur Nersesian
The question 'why do you write' may seem simple but coming up with an answer isn’t always that easy.

After taking a slight detour into the land of excess cynicism the other week (probably from spending too much time in the snark polluted waters of the internet, although my excuses and reasons are indeed my own) I decided to obtain some advice and perhaps inspiration from a variety of writers by asking them one question – why do you write?

The writers who took the time to give me an answer were Arthur Nersesian, Julian Gallo, Bill Friday, Loren Kleinman, Hunter S. Jones and Dean Walker, all of them excellent writers, novelists and poets who are the embodiment of the word 'inspirational'.

The article 'Six Writers, six reasons' can be found by clicking here – Expats Post

11 April 2014

Writing Through the Hangover

I’ve a feeling I’m supposed to be doing promotion for my new book. 

The promotion side isn’t something I hate doing but I’m definitely no professional at promoting my own work.

As a freelance writer I’ve done it for other people but when it comes to touting myself - touting, is that the right word, well, when it comes to touting myself or my work I feel a bit nervous, anxious, I don’t know how to describe it actually. You have doubts when you’re writing your book, you have doubts when you put it out there and then you have doubts when you have to kind of gently force this thing onto people. 

I feel like I’m standing in an alley whispering to people as they walk past, “Hey, hey, you, c’mere. Take a look at this”, which in itself is a dubious image I don’t want in my head.

Anyway, I’m in the midst of a hangover due to the visit of friend who is in town on holiday and who doesn’t seem to realise that there are maybe other things to do in this town apart from getting hammered in the pub, not sure what else there is to do but there must be something. So I’m writing through the headache, which seems as good a hangover cure as any other. I can’t actually blame my friend for the hangover as I’m my own worst enemy when people say, “do you fancy a drink” but, as way of an excuse, I haven’t really had a drunken night since my holiday to New York in January.

So, as we were talking about New York and promoting my book, well I was anyway, I’d like to mention Julian Gallo who interviewed me and wrote a book review for Leaving London. I’ve known Julian online for many years now, I’m not sure if it’s quite 10 years but it must be getting on to that. Mr Gallo is a fantastic writer with five novels under his belt as well as being a tremendous supporter of other writers. He placed the interview on Expats Post as well as his own blog Desvario for which I thank him. Julian has also conducted a series of interviews this week with Dean Walker and Loren Kleinman, two great poets, check out the interviews if you get a chance.

Wait, the reason I mentioned New York is because Julian is from New York and I had a great time meeting up with Julian, his sister Andrea, Andrea’s son Stephen and his cousin Steve Palermo, who is also a fine artist. It was great to wander around the East Village, Little Italy and Queens with these guys and see New York through the eyes of people who actually live there. I sometimes dis Facebook as being annoying mainly due to its distraction qualities but it does offer you the chance to connect and meet up with people from all over the world. I met a few other people that I had known via facebook on my second trip to what I consider one of the world’s most amazing cities and I will get back there soon, I hope. The picture below is Julian, Andrea and Steve, taken in Vincent’s restaurant in Little Italy. Great couple of days with those guys during the holiday.

A short excerpt from Leaving London was also accepted and published on Roadside Fiction literary site, issue seven. Very happy they decided that the piece fit in with the theme of their magazine. Rejection in the literary world is par for the course so it’s always nice to see an acceptance email. So thanks to Roadside Fiction Editor John Campbell for that and you should head over there if you get the chance and check out all of the excellent writers and stories in this quarterly magazine. Another short excerpt from the book can be found here at Createspace previews.

Thanks also to Baxter Labatos for this piece on his The Wind Sings website. After completing Leaving London I was looking to change a few of the character names and I needed a strong name for one character and couldn't really think of anything to fit this character's personality. The name Baxter just seemed like a really strong name and i've never actually met anyone with this name before so I settled on Baxter after taking a look through the names of my friends on Facebook. I know Baxter, the real life Baxter, has gone through some tribulations and tough times recently, and i'm glad this cheered him up a little.

Anything else? Thanks to all who have bought the book and shared comments and reviews. If I’ve forgotten anyone let me know, the hangover is impairing my memory, which is sometimes a good thing but not in this case. Slange!

22 March 2014

Leaving London – An Anti-Romance Story for the Analyzation Generation

Leaving London
360 pages

A ramble on writing that first book.

And so my first book has been set adrift among the millions of others out there hoping to find a home. 
Finishing a first, full length book is a strange feeling. I expected elation but found myself sitting at the laptop looking at the last sentence with a sense of, “okay, that’s done, time to move on.” I let the book sit for about five months I think before putting it out there on Amazon. It had been in my head for a decade, five more months wouldn’t matter.

I started writing it about 10 years ago when I was still living in London. I think when I first started to write it I had just been sacked from another soul-crushingly boring temp job and this was a way to fill the afternoons or the evenings. Actually, now that I think back, I had just left a job because the management wanted me become a permanent member of staff and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want permanency, I wanted everything on a temporary basis, which is one of the themes of the book. At that time I’d rather choose nothing over permanency because when you’re in jobs that you hate, the term ‘temp employee’ seems like you have a 'get out of jail free card’ tucked in your pocket - nonsense of course, you can leave permanent jobs almost as easily as temp jobs.

When I eventually moved out of London I fell into a relationship that lasted six years and not a word was written in the book during that period. But during those six years I started writing as a way to earn a living, writing articles for both print and online. Writing for others for money has its ups and downs, and although I didn’t undertake any writing on the book during that six year period, (I think I stalled after about 80 pages), it was never out of my mind. So eventually, a couple of years ago, probably during a period when my freelance writing had dried up for a bit, I started to tinker around with it, consider ideas on how the story would progress, where the characters would go.

The characters and the story I wanted to tell were still there, like a film that I had only watched half of years ago and then tuned into again recently. Rereading those first 80 pages and then continuing to write brought back to me the excitement of living in that grubby flat in London, (although it probably didn’t seem all that exciting at the time, the selective nature of memory) with my money rapidly dwindling or more likely non-existent and the only thought in my head being, “just write, at least you're doing something, fuck London and all its problems.”

And yet, although at the time I thought, “fuck London and all its problems”, the problems I had back then or the situations I found myself in were not caused by London, the city is just a backdrop. There’s a line from the great film ‘Round Midnight said to Dexter Gordon’s character Dale Turner as he is about leave New York for Paris for a better life, “You know who's going to be waiting for you at the airfield in Paris, don't you? You.”  Unfortunately with no escape to Paris or anywhere else open to me there was nothing much else to do but write.

Creative writing is a completely different thing from writing articles for websites and copywriting for businesses. With creative writing you can escape, create your own world and do as you please and the only person you have to please with your writing is you. When you write you escape, even if the thing you are writing about at the time is the situation from which you’d like to escape. You can change your circumstances in a story, take small elements from your life if you wish and enhance them, exaggerate them, make them better or worse, bring in completely imaginary characters and situations, it’s the writer’s choice.

Maybe the thing that makes writing a pleasurable experience much of the time for the writer or for anyone who is engaged in a creative endeavor is that for once you have control over a situation, it’s yours, you own it or maybe it owns you. You're doing something you want to do. Whether anyone else likes it or not is not your concern during writing. You have no one to answer to but yourself and once it's over, hopefully, you will feel a bit better about having accomplishing something for yourself.

I’ve rambled on aimlessly now for 700 words and barely mentioned what the book is about.

Well, it's about life in London. An anti-romance story for the analyzation generation, about the city and a selection of its inhabitants, most of whom have all landed in London for their own reasons and soon find that the streets in London aren't paved with gold. I'll leave you with the book cover description. Thanks for reading.

"It’s not like I didn’t have a life before she arrived. She didn’t magically appear out of nowhere and give my life meaning." - Cal

"Your problem is that you’re more like an empty book and you’re waiting on someone else to write your pages for you. For someone who doesn’t believe in fate and destiny and all that shit, you seem to spend an awful lot of time waiting for something to happen to you.” - Sofia

Temporary jobs, temporary friends and temporary relationships. Temporary can easily become a comfortable lifestyle if you linger in London too long.

Moving to London means you’ve now become one of the eight million players on a large, vibrant and sometimes dangerous stage. This is a city that offers something for everyone whether you’re looking for love, money, work, fun or simply a way of avoiding life. Drink, drugs, sex, relationships, office politics and the daily grind – just another day in London. Leaving London takes place within one year in the city, a year where two people, who weren't looking, find each other among eight million other inhabitants.

Narrator Cal finds himself living in the city once again, trying his best to traverse the metropolis by having only the maximum fun with the minimum of effort. The city has other plans. Mugged on Christmas Eve, daily office politics and a suicidal flat mate all conspire to add to his constant hangover but it’s Sofia who makes the biggest impact on Cal’s year. It’s easy to find someone in London but trusting someone, that’s a different matter.

Leaving London is an anti-romance story for the analyzation generation. A humorous and often dark look at everyday life in a city where a year can be a life changing experience.

*Review copies are available.