On Travelling

31.12.14 (Day 373)

12.42

I’ve travelled quite a bit in my life. As far as America at least; to the moon and back during twenty-odd years of commuting; walked a number of miles I don’t care to count; thought I’d settled in several relationships only for itchy feet to either cause me to run or kick me out. And I’ve travelled light millennia aboard Ghost Bird.

I can travel as far as I wish in my mind and it’s travelling vast distances in space and time which forms part of the basis for The Paradoxicon, the working title of my novel. But for the moment at least, my ship is grounded.

I’ve not got writer’s block as such: I’m writing this after all but this is written as I think, stream of consciousness stuff. And neither do I need to get the book itself off of the ground, as the first three chapters are written, at least in first draft form. But I’d forgotten how complex an exercise writing a novel is. I can do it. I’ve been told I can do it by my writing peers and by readers. The Paradox series of short stories have much merit and are the mere bare bones of something which could be so big. But I’m stuck and therefore taking a break and getting the writing arms flexed with this quick blog entry.

I have around twenty chapters planned for The Paradoxicon and I know roughly how each will advance the story. The challenge now is one of balance: to hold on to crucial information for just the right amount of time. There’s only so much padding which can be used in telling a story, even of novel length and every word must count, so less really is more. I’m at a junction where I can continue to build characters, or move into the inner subject matter of the book. If I enter into the latter too soon though, it could be too much too soon. So I’m contemplating and re-writing the chapter synopses in the hope of striking the right balance with the progression of the story. This blog could become the story of how I wrote a story: a story about a story; a story within a story.

Whilst I ponder, a few other things worthy of recording so that I might be reminded when I read back over this at a point in the future.

Most news is of the fairer sex kind: I am sans any interaction with females other than my nearest and dearest; and there are no complications with any: my sister, The Courts; my best mate Meg and my other best mate, Nettie. And the mother ship of course. The Wife has gone at least until the new year but contact will be less frequent and less intimate. We have simply moved on; moved apart to an extent and away from something which would never have worked.

There has been contact with and from various exes, one of whom things have been patched up with, another who continues to add gasoline to the fire which burns our bridges and no doubt more who will emerge. I shall cross those bridges as I get to them, if indeed there are bridges remaining to be crossed. My belongings have remained with one ex for the last year and I’m keen to clear them and any remaining traces of myself from that place, if only I had somewhere to go and put what I own into. Although I appreciate my things being taken care of, this is the wrong time of year to apply pressure as everywhere is closed and life must remain on temporary hold for a while.

I don’t need those things. I’ve lived without them for a year but I would like to once again be surrounded by the things which I own.

Until then and as has been the case for the last year, so long as I have the tools which I need to write, I have all that I need to lead the life that I’ve chosen. Material things would be a bonus but so long as I have Little Blue II and somewhere with internet access, my life is there. Even without the tablet and a permanent internet connection though, a simple pen and paper are all the tools I need to do what I love: to write. And of all the many things I have to be grateful for from the last year, the opportunity to be so prolific as a writer is a big one.

The writing is flowing again and I’ve revised my chapter notes for The Paradoxicon, so I’m ready to get back to that. The notebook – a paper one – I received as a gift sits alongside me and is filled with notes. I have notes on chapters, how to progress the book and place challenges in front of the main protagonist; I have an ending planned: one which should surprise most readers. On one side of Little Blue II, I have a cup of coffee, to keep me awake. On the other side, I have a glass of cider, to fuel the imagination.  Scattered around me, I have various snacks and on top of the paper journal sits my tobacco, still in the tin I bought almost a year ago and still with the lighter in the gun cartridge sitting next to it. I’m a stereotypical writer, practically chain-smoking.

Chapter Four of The Paradoxicon is in my head, so I shall commit it to writing. It concerns travelling through time and space.

Until another time… 

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 28,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Boxing Day Turkey Baguette

Boxing Day Turkey Baguette

From the Restaurant at Home sandwich menu.

image

Still stuffed with Christmas Day turkey? Loads left over and wondering what to do with it? For something slightly different, try our hot turkey baguette:

Cut the turkey into goujon-sized pieces and coat in plain flour. For a little more decadence, make our southern fried chicken coating of plain flour, salt, pepper and other herbs of your choice, such as dried parsley, basil, garlic, hot paprika and so on. Coat the turkey pieces first in the flour, then in beaten eggs and again in the flour.

Fry the turkey in a little oil for five to ten minutes, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, heat as many baguettes as you have mouths to feed in an oven. Alternatively, use part-baked baguettes.

Place the turkey pieces in an oven-proof dish, switch the oven off and place the dish containing the turkey in the oven to keep warm in the residual heat.

Slice the baguettes, drizzle a little oil over the cut sides and using the oil left over from frying the turkey, place the baguettes soft side down in the pan. Toast / fry them for two to three minutes until slightly charred.

Using other leftovers from Christmas dinner, make up an accompaniment to go into the baguettes with the turkey. This can be stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, mixed together or on their own. Alternatively, make a simple mustard mayonnaise, garlic mayo or honey and mustard mixture.

Spread whatever you’re having with the turkey onto the baguettes then add the fried goujons. If you prefer, ciabatta works just as well as baguettes but if you have neither, just thick-sliced bread is fine so long as it’s toasted.

Add salad if you wish, or cheese, then melt it under the grill.

Finally, add some immediacy and serve hot, with fries if you like.

A Literary Mountain to Climb

A Literary Mountain to Climb

Twenty six, twelve, fourteen / Day three six eight

Thirteen forty two

The more observant regular reader will note that the keyboard of Little Blue II is still only semi-functioning, or rather mostly functional apart from the number keys and certain shift key functions.

I’m suffering an episode of writer’s block, specifically with the novel I’ve taken on which my Paradox series of short stories form the basis of. I have the bones of a plot, the first draft of the cover notes and at least three – possibly four – chapters written. It’s pulling it all together and hanging the initial hook that’s causing me problems. It’s said that the hardest part of a book to write is the beginning and that’s proving to be the case right now. The whole story hangs on that initial hook. I’ve got a beginning and an end written. Now there’s just the small matter of the bit in between.

It’s not just the writing of the actual story either; it’s the character biographies, settings, chapter structure and so much else. Writing a book – as I’ve decided to do – is like climbing a literary mountain, if not a literal or actual one. It’s like being faced with a cliff of books, spines facing inwards, so that all which can be seen is the white edges of the pages. It’s a white cliff. All of those pages are blank and need to be written on. It’s a big challenge but the biggest are often the most rewarding once overcome. In writing a novel – as I am – you have the opportunity to create people, characters, events, places and whole worlds. You then get to share all of that which would otherwise exist only in your mind. I love to write and short stories come fairly easily to me but a novel is a whole new and bigger challenge.

Why have I decided to write a book? Because it’s said that everyone has a novel inside them, struggling to get out. Most don’t make it and I may not yet but I do have the seeds in my short stories, The Paradox of Shadows, The Paradox of Reflection – both accepted for publication – and The Paradox of Time, which is yet to be submitted. With those two or three stories published, I may have a head start with the novel. Provisionally entitled The Paradoxicon, it could be launched under the banner, “Based on the Paradox series of short stories.”

Other reasons for deciding to just go for it and write the novel include advice and encouragement from my writing peers, readers and fans. Yes, I have fans. I’m not financially motivated as there is little money in writing and it’s a fiercely competitive business. A few successful, prolific authors aside, not many people have or are likely to grow rich from writing. But I lost most of my material belongings long ago, so money isn’t my motivating factor. I’m merely doing what I enjoy and hoping that I may be noticed and make some sort of living from my passion. I guess that why I spread myself to indulge in my other passion: that of cooking. Very few chefs are particularly wealthy but I love to cook and work with people, so if I can make a little money from each of my two passions, that will be nice. One day.

Some of my writing has been compared to some of the contemporary literature giants, namely Roald Dahl and Stephen King: high praise indeed. The author I aspire to write in the style of though is Paul Auster and it’s he who I continue to read and study at great length and depth in the hope of honing my writing skills to something resembling his style for The Paradoxicon. Auster though is a writer different to most others I have read. Along with the likes of Will Self and Martin Amis, he writes at a higher level. It’s subjective of course but I place Paul Auster way above most of his contemporaries and recognise a unique style in his writing. He’s the literary equivalent in my mind to Peter Cook in the world of comedy: a whole different level.

So this has been me loosening my elbow with a few notes by way of writing practice or limbering up for the job ahead and which I shall return to shortly.

In other news, the one I refer to as The Wife is at the forefront of my mind as we seem to have a complete breakdown in communication. She’s with another and I have no control over that, any more that I would want to. Truth be known, I’d like to shepherd her in a different direction but she’s a free spirit and needs to spread her wings. This she has done but seemingly to the exclusion of some others, including me. It’s that quote from The Shawshank Redemption again:

I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’ve gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

So yes, it would seem that my little girl has flown the pretend paternal nest. She leaves a big hole, the same as others. The one who’s referred to as The Ninja seems to be having a hard time keeping her head above water at the moment but I’m powerless as I’m unable to contact her.

Among many things on the mountainous to-do list for the novel is dedications and acknowledgements. Those two girls and others will live inside my book. I have room for them as characters and like the website I produced for my bestie Meg, inclusion in the book will be from the heart, using a skill which money can’t buy.

I’d better get on with writing the book and getting to know my characters more intimately.

From writer’s block to writer’s cramp.

Merry Crassmas

Merry Crassmas

26.12.14 (Day three six eight)

09.42

Christmas Eve Eve – the twenty third – marked the anniversary of me being put out on the road. I’ve written this post as I’ve dipped in and out of writing over a few days.

One year. One whole fucking year of being out here. Out on the road. I didn’t celebrate.

365 days, 365 ways of surviving and 365 degrees of separation.

I’m not celebrating. Why would I? I’m not going to do a review of the year just passed. For that, I simply have to look at myself.

I’ve aged well. I’ve grown up but I’ve got younger in spirit and outlook. I’m definitely tougher; hardened. Less and more emotional at the same time. Less and more reflective and inflective. I’ve learned and I’ve taught. I’ve beaten and been beaten. It’s all recorded in this blog.

Those who’ve stuck by me are still with me; still stuck: my hosts, my best friends, my sister (The Courts) and the one I call The Wife. I saw her yesterday and was cheered by the mere sight of her looking as well as she did, for I feared for her. We’re still together: friends with benefits. Living our own lives by degrees of separation imposed upon us but still sharing a life whenever we can steal a moment.

That was three days ago. Now she’s lost again. How things change so quickly. I seem to have lost her to another. Such is the way with kids. I’ll be here for her as always when things fall apart and I pick up the pieces.

And another lost one who I wish I could be there for more: a fellow blogger who recently said this of me:

“I was told, not so long ago, to keep my head up because i can swim as long as i carry on moving my legs. It’s the only piece of advise i know. Spoken by a friend of mine, that man from McDonald’s. Only a small few will know who the man from McDonald’s is or understand what i mean because that’s how most met him.”

Little Blue II is broken. The keyboard gave up first, then I managed to drop what was left: the tablet part. The droid still works but it’s cracked somewhat. It was simply a matter of wrong place, wrong time but somewhere I was forced to be. Sometimes, wherever I am seems to be wrong. Out of the way but not out of mind. Visible but in the way. I can’t win. I’m in an impossible place sometimes. Displaced and misplaced.

That was two days ago. Now calm is restored. Temporarily at least but sometimes permanence is borne of repetition and this is somewhere I’ve been before. I’ll find myself there again.

The keyboard of Little Blue is working again, to a fashion. The letters work but the numbers don’t and neither do some of the shift functions. Hence this being day three six eight and not written numerically and the whole post not being as well decorated with punctuation as is the norm, apart from the part which I wrote at the top when the keyboard still worked. So I still need a new keyboard unless this one continues to improve and I certainly need to get the cracked screen replaced. I just need to find the money.

I have money due as the church I cooked the last community lunch for have insisted on paying me, despite my protestations. I was at a church yesterday as well, giving Christmas lunch to the homeless, elderly and other lost and lonely souls who are especially vulnerable at this time of year. The mood I’ve been in lately, it was fortunate there was no public transport yesterday as I was in the mood to play with the trains.

I received generous, practical and thoughtful gifts and gave what I could with limited means. I may not have much money but I spent what I could spare on gifts for the host family and am fashioning gifts for my other family, which are works in progress. I do have time though and I invested a fair deal of time on a personal gift for my best friend Meg in the form of a personal website at http://www.iammeg.net. I’ve also made her a blog.

Of course the best Christmas gift of all would have been seeing my kids but this is a pleasure which continues to be denied me. The next best thing came in the form of a framed set of photos, one each of my two kids and a third of the two of them together. That was from one of my other best friends, Nettie, the host mum.

Two days until P-day. That’s publication of the first in the Paradox series of short stories, The Paradox of Shadows in Schlock e-zine. The second installment – The Paradox of Reflection – is due to appear in the next issue a fortnight hence. Both should then appear in the printed magazine. The third installment – The Paradox of Time – is yet to be submitted to the editor. And as mentioned before, on the advice of several writing peers, the whole lot are to form the basis of a novel, which is a very large work in progress. I’m probably looking at two to three years of work.

So I’m writing and I’m cooking; engaging in two passions but not getting paid yet for either. I shan’t give up.

The title of this post is also that of a song by a punk band I used to follow back in the day: Crass. The closing line of that particular song goes “And if you’re eating your Christmas turkey, I hope it fucking chokes you”. There are few people I’d wish that on, although they do exist but I do find the whole Christmas charade crass. It’s all about the kids but I’m unable to see mine.

It could be worse. This time last year I was in hospital and Christmas lunch was a turkey sandwich.

Merry Crassmas.

And I Think it’s Gonna be a Long Long Time…

…till I can hold her again.

21.12.14 (Day 363)

17.42

I miss my wife. Rather, the one who’s referred to as The Wife: my special girl; my little clingy thingy. She’s gone, at least temporarily. Incarcerated.

My little thing has done wrong in the eyes of the plastic police and as a result, she’s caged and had her Christmas cancelled. She’s just a kid and doesn’t deserve such bullying from those who seek to control her. But she’ll rebel. She’s a feisty little thing and she will harbour her anger. One day she’ll kick back and those who try to control her will find themselves without her.

I write this here as my daughter-type thing has had most means of contact confiscated. If she can access the internet, she reads this blog and she’ll see this message from me. She knows who she is. She maybe doesn’t know what she wants or what she wants to be but she knows that she is unique, an apple of my eye and that I love her dearly.

We’ve been through so much together and I wish I could rescue her from her entrapment but I’m powerless. This one’s for you little thing:

My ray of light
My drop of sun
When I’m sad
You’re the one

You make me laugh
You make me smile
The one I’d walk for
A millionth mile

Always there
But now we’re apart
Your candle still burns
In my heart

I long to hold you
My little waif
Like I always did
Keeping you safe

Don’t give up
Don’t let them win
Come back to me
Then we’ll begin

To rebuild you
To re-start your life
Always my friend
Always The Wife

I love you my little girl and I hope you see this and know that I’m thinking of you.

See you soon. I hope xxxxxxxxxx

That Place

I have recently returned from an epic journey, having discovered the location of the place where Editors often direct us Writers. Yet another rejection slip and a rather curt comment from an Editor instructing me on where I should put my latest story prompted my journey. He was very vague in describing my destination and I therefore found it hard to locate.

I thought I’d found the place most nights, but each morning I knew I hadn’t. Last night I was sure I was in the right place, deep in a forest. This morning, as the wind parted the canopy and the Sun streamed in, I knew I was wrong again.

Setting off down a well-used path, I found a cave stretching deep underground. It grew so dark that I had to strike a match to see. Deep inside were thousands of manuscripts, just like the one I’d written and been carrying all this time. I put it down, in this place he’d told me of, where the Sun never shines.

© Steve Laker, 2001 – 2003.