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Dusty Files Episode 1

Deep in the recesses of my old hard drives and notebooks some strange files lurk and all carry my name as the author. I’ve dusted them down and present them here for your reading pleasure (or not). Yet reading these causes me to celebrate the wonder of human development when I look back and try to remember what my writing felt like then, compared to today.

As much as I live for today, the past serves as an informant, it is what I have become today. Aside from the philosophising, some of the dusty files I have rediscovered have potential as stand-alone works while others may well be swallowed into something greater.

As with every feature here at Beyond The Pyre, you are very welcome to add some of your own dusty files with a link back to you. Go on, dust them down, it’s a great experience.

The 4001st Hole

‘They said there were four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire in the 1960’s. Well, I can tell you that there were never four thousand holes in Blackburn; I know that because I was responsible for counting them and I don’t make mistakes. There was four thousand and one to be precise and would you believe it, they missed the most important hole that made its’ way from the street to the subterraway ever.

OK, you might argue that they didn’t actually miss the hole in question and that in fact they had included it in their total and had missed another one. Not true; I know that too because I followed them as they counted because I needed to employ an assistant and wondered if one of six applicants might be up to the job. They didn’t get the job because they proved to me that they could only see what everybody else sees and they had no capacity for spotting the special.’

‘What are you talking about, Bron? There are holes all over the place. The council or the utility people are always digging them. And, and, what’s a subterraway?’

‘It’s just a word to describe the underground routes around the globe and yes, they are always digging holes my friend but there’s a lot less now than there was in the 60’s. Anyway, I am not talking about any old hole. These are special. Imagine them as doors to other places that help you to travel almost at the speed of light to just about anywhere you want to go on the planet. Come on, I’ll show you what I mean.’

‘Have you been drinking, Bron? No, no, I know what it is. You been taking those two for one offers on ecstasy that they were on about on the news. You’ve frazzled your brain. I keep telling you to stay away from that stuff.’

‘I’ve not had any stuff and I’m offering you a rare chance to see something very unique. Now are you coming or not?’

With a resigned tut and thoughts of here we go again, Eric followed Bron through the shopping centre to the site of the old fire station where he suddenly grabbed Eric’s arm roughly and before he had a chance to say ouch, he found himself spitting sand from his mouth on a starlit beach in Goa.

Two hippies sitting nearby giggled and marvelled at the strength of the joint they had been enjoying while Bron encouraged the astounded Eric to keep his raincoat on and lead him away from the hippies after filling in the hole they had left. As they walked up the beach, Bron explained how they had come to be in Goa and how a network of subterraways connected the entire planet.

Eric felt sick. The skin on his face felt too tight and it hurt, as did every muscle in his body. He looked for familiar signs listened for familiar voices, looked for familiar shops, nothing was familiar and the sickly feeling turned to reality that Bron said would be washed away when the tide came in.

‘Here, eat this friend.’ Bron gave Eric an apple that he had picked up from Thompson’s on the way to the fire station. ‘It will get rid of that taste in your mouth and will put some of the sugar back that you lost on the journey. You see travelling at the speed we just did takes it out of you when you are not used to it.’

Eric still looked sick. ‘Why can’t I take my mac off?’

‘Trust me, you will need it in a minute,’ Bron said matter of factly and before Eric could utter another word he caught a glimpse of Bron’s arm and hand which held his before he felt himself being violently jerked through the sand. Several whooshing sounds and one very loud pop later, they appeared on a ledge beneath an ear-shattering waterfall near Ingleton, North Yorkshire.

‘I want to go home now. Please take me home,’ Eric simpered.

‘I have just given you the trip of a lifetime.’

‘If you carry on putting me through this I will have no life. I don’t know which part of me belongs where, I feel sick, I don’t know whether this is a dream, am I going insane or what!’

‘Most people would be thrilled.’

‘Yeah right.’ Eric was getting some of his usual confidence back. He walked forward, away from Bron who stood with his back to the wall in an attempt to keep dry. The force of the waterfall caught Eric squarely on the shoulders and forced him off the ledge into the pool some twenty feet below. Bron leaped off the ledge and joined him in the water, much to the amusement of several walkers who were enjoying a quiet picnic on a rare sunny day in the dales.

‘Take my hand and hold your breath,’ Bron yelled above the roar of the water.

‘No. I won’t, you are not going to get me again. I just want to go home.’

Before Eric could protest any further, Bron grabbed him and with unusual strength for a man with the appearance of Mr Punyverse, he pulled Eric to a dark shape at the bottom of the pool. Needless to say, the shape was a actually a hole and following another instant of body punishment, they appeared at the site of the old fire station in Blackburn where Eric stormed off, squelching his way through bemused shoppers. Bron was nowhere to be seen and when he got home, Eric felt sick again when he heard the newsreader say that the emergency services in Ingleton were baffled when two men disappeared.

 

Where to begin?

Well, I’m not overstating by saying that the last week was a roller coaster of chaos. In one way or another, all of it has been (or has at least ended up) the sort of positive chaos that I like because there has been plenty of learning outcomes.

Last week started with one of my daughter’s putting my old PC to sleep instead of shutting it down. It literally did go to sleep and refused to wake up no matter what commands (verbal or otherwise) were sent. To shorten a long story, I disconnected several crucial internal cables while the machine was running, thoroughly confused it and reconnected. Please don’t upset any techies by retelling this story but, normal service resumed.

Now I can re-open the dusty files that I talked about a couple of weeks ago and I will post one in a new feature starting tomorrow, 6th September 2017. If you missed it, I talked about those files that we all have such as story starters that didn’t see the light of a readers eyes.

Image result for image of a dusty computer file

Fragments from your imagination that you saved for a rainy day or had even forgotten about. You know the sort of things I am talking about. Like the ball point pens in Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy. . .

“Somewhere in the cosmos, he said, along with all the planets inhabited by humanoids, reptiloids, fishoids, walking treeoids and superintelligent shades of the color blue, there was also a planet entirely given over to ballpoint life forms. And it was to this planet that unattended ballpoints would make their way, slipping away quietly through wormholes in space to a world where they knew they could enjoy a uniquely ballpointoid lifestyle, responding to highly ballpoint-oriented stimuli, and generally leading the ballpoint equivalent of the good life.”

I discovered some of my own lost files in a folder containing copies of files from a very ancient version of Windows and written in Rich Text Format. Like ballpoint pens, they too had slipped away through a  wormhole where they enjoyed a vitual world of peace and tranquility until I spotted the unmistakable trail of half-recognised filenames and forced them out into the light.

Who knows, one of these files may have what it takes to be the next best seller, blockbuster movie or stage show (one of mine is a theatrical script) and a great way to put them to the test is to let you decide. So taking a deep breath, I will do that tomorrow.

Your own dusty files are very welcome. Send them over (if you can find the wormhole) and I will be pleased to add them to the next edition of Dusty Files.

Twitter users out there will probably be aware of the #MotovationMonday, Tuesday . . hash tag and have seen some of the great posts. There are so many wonderful thoughts out there in cyberspace (another wormhole) that I thought I would capture some, add a few of my own and create a Facebook photo album. So, there it is. I will be updating it every day and as usual, you are very welcome to add some of your own.

That was one of the positives that came out of the confusing week of chaos, reminding me of a quote a group of us developed in university social psychology lectures many years ago and probably over-used; “Confusion can be creative.” The main body of the quote is out of context here but it is thought provoking . . .

Dogmatism denies development; Confusion can be creative.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the chaos. Suffice to say, it all ended well and particularly well for our eldest son who started a Sports Management degree course today at Montpelier University. Very positive for him to be following his dreams, sad for us because there is a gap in our daily lives. But that reminds me of Kalil Gibran in The Prophet . . .

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”

Wishing you all Namasté and Peace, Love and Happiness

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Crazy Mind Interview

Interview with author and blogger Steve Costello

Steve Costello is an author and fledgling blogger although he had over five thousand engaged followers when he sent up a motivational blog back in 2000. His passions are many but in particular he loves to use fictional writing to introduce matters relating to human beings and their spiritual nature. We interviewed Steve recently.

How relevant are your personal experiences (such as of sleeping in bomb shelters and the travels/stays in Germany, Greece, Turkey, UK, the Netherlands, Devon, France) on the unearthing of a long-hidden secret in your book ‘Beyond the Pyre’?

My personal experiences are all a part of my life path and they have led me to believe strongly in humanity and the absolute love that resides in all of us.
Sleeping in a bomb shelter was a frightening experience that felt very personal at the time until I realised that I was a lucky one; I had the luxury of a shelter and others like me did not. Those thoughts began to hurt.
I met several groups of people ‘The News’ would describe as coming from both sides of the conflict. We all shared love and hope, we all had families who we loved, we all hoped for peace. None of us were concerned with politics; we saw that as a warning flag that could bring harm, fear and division.
Wherever I have travelled I have seen the same; poverty and corruption exploited by fear. Lies told by politicians and secrets held to achieve their own agendas also creating division and fear of other albeit innocent groups, a minority of whom chose to defend themselves in ways that only exacerbate negativity.
Perhaps The Secret in Beyond The Pyre was placed there to highlight how the threat of something terrible might come about by exposing a “closely guarded secret.” Alternatively, it may be there to say, “go ahead, expose that secret and show the world that the stories are hearsay.” Whatever it does, it creates an “us and them” and denies the universal love that exists between us.

How long did you take to conceptualize the story for ‘Beyond the Pyre’?

Many aspects of the story have always been with me and fermenting until I put fingers to the keyboard in December 2014. Writing and editing was complete by March 2016. Although I found a publisher quickly, the process took fourteen months to publication.

Who inspires you on the character of ‘Catharine’ and the woman who looks exactly like Catharine?

I have a sign close to my desk, “Warning, writer at work. Innocent bystanders may be written into the story.” All of my characters are developed from people I know, have met or have seen in passing. Often I just know that a person or part of them has to form a character. Although they are unaware, Catharine is a mixture of two women I know. The woman who looks exactly like Catharine is another aspect of the same personality.

Which part of the writing process challenges you the most?

I love the writing process. It’s the most natural thing to do. Of course it has its challenges but I believe in Positive, Dynamic Solutions. There is always a way to overcome a challenge.

How did you imagine the setting in your book ‘Horando – Going Home’? If this book has been chosen to be made into a film/movie, where and which two locations (scenes) would you choose to shoot for the trailers?

If Beyond The Pyre or Horando – Going Home were selected by a film-maker I would be thrilled. There are three settings in Horando. One of these is the place where the children who feature in the story live. Their home consists of locations on the Greek island of Rhodes, and The Yorkshire Dales in The UK. The other two locations are purely fantasy although if pressed, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that some areas would be places I have visited on my travels. In the early part of the story, four children and a small herd of horses are pursued through a cave from their world on earth to Horando. Maybe tricky to film but this would be a very atmospheric and thrilling trailer. For the final scene of Horando, I would choose The Pic de Bugarach, the highest summit in the Corbières mountains in the French Midi. Bugarach has an uninhibited 360° view which would give complete security for the finale that needs to take place. Despite the magic, I am only aware of one character that can fly. With a cloudy sunset this would be a perfect trailer and it would be a considerable way into the movie before any viewer realised where the trailer came from.

More info:

Twitter: @SteveCostello8

Writing Rules

A news report about the storms in The USA on BBC World yesterday evening made me squirm and hide behind my ten year old daughter. The reporter used four adjectives in her opening sentence and it really did sound rather silly when I should have been concerned about the content of the report rather than the way she opened. Sadly too much clutter put me off.

The same is of course true in our writing and there is supporting evidence according to a study by The Times Higher Education. Elmore Leonard also had a few things to say. . .

Elmore Leonard: Using adverbs is a mortal sin

1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”

3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “Ameri­can and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

If you have any writing tips, send them in and I will include them in future posts. Don’t forget to add your personal details, book links, etc.

Namaste and have a beautiful day

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