Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Story

“Ho ho ho, little girl, ho ho fucking ho.”

“You’re drunk,” Louise said.
“No, my dear, I am not drunk. I am merely merry. It is Christmas after all.”
“You’re not merry, you’re drunk. You stink.”
The man let out a loud belch and leaned back in his chair, resting his hands on his large, red velvet covered belly. His once snow white beard was stained round the mouth, yellowed with old food and sherry. Louise stood in front of him, hands on hips, the fur trim on her short red skirt barely brushing the cheeks of her bum. It was much shorter than regulation and made her feel uncomfortable. The man leered at her and flung his arms open wide.
“Come and sit on Santa’s lap,” he said.
“Fuck off, pervert,” she shot back before storming out of the room.

The factory was buzzing and clattering as the elves worked overtime, loading dolls and bikes and footballs and scooters and new limited edition platinum DJ Hero, the ones in the authentic carry cases, into cargo boxes. Further down the line, worried looking little men with maps and lists scratched their heads as they sorted it all out into regions, as defined by local authorities. Every year they depended on the men from the council getting them the right lists in plenty of time, and every year they got it wrong. This meant that there was always a lot of sorting out to do at the factory. Louise wove her way through the conveyor belts until she reached the floor manager.
“How are you getting on?”
Dennis sighed and scratched his head some more.
“Well, I’ll be honest with you, it’ll be tight but I think we’ll make it. How’s the boss?”
Louise pulled a face.
“I’d best get on then,” he said as a whistle sounded and production groaned to a halt. Relieved, the elves stretched their aching fingers and started to chatter. Santa opened the shutter that blocked his office off from the rest of the factory.
“No fucking talking!” he yelled, throwing one of his boots. It hit one of the littler elves in the face, knocking her over and making her nose explode in a splatter of blood.
“Hey!” Louise hollered back. “They’re taking a break!”
“Yeah, well, two minutes, no more. In case you retards hadn’t noticed, we’re on a tight schedule here!”
“They’re allowed a break.”
“Yeah, well, if they want a break, you can send one of the little ones up here to see to their old Father Christmas, if not, get back to work!” He slammed the shutter down. The sweatshop slowly returned to silent work.

It was just their luck to have this Santa. No wonder Luxembourg had been so quick to get shot of him. The elves must have been tap-dancing in the street the day he left.
“Oh, we’re only a little country, we don’t need such an experienced Santa. No, no, you take him and we’ll have a trainee. We don’t mind at all.” American Santa, who had so much more to do and was always stressed, was firm but fair. Australian Santa was laid back in his board shorts and sunnies. German Santa was an Angel (well, ex-Angel). No, it was only British Santa who was an absolute bastard. The shutters flew open again.
“Louise!” he roared. “Bring me some fucking whisky! And a bucket of KFC! I’m wasting away here. Oh, and I’ve lost one of my boots and just stepped in a puddle of cold tea. Sort it out!”

By the time Louise battled through the wind and the snow, the fried chicken was cold and the grease had soaked its way through the bottom of the bucket. She stomped up to the office.
“About bloody time,” Santa grabbed the bucket from her, turned his back and started cramming the pieces into his mouth. The noise of his eating filled the room, nom nom nom. Then a split second of silence. A sharp intake of breath. Then all of a sudden he was coughing and spluttering.
“Help me, I’m choking!” Bits of deep fried poultry fell from his mouth as he opened and closed it like a fish, banging his fist on his chest to try and dislodge whatever was stuck there. “I can’t breathe!”
“Let me guess, you need the kiss of life? You’ve got no chance mate.”

Fifteen minutes later, Louise opened the shutter. A hundred pairs of frightened eyes looked up at her.
“Its ok, it’s just me,” she said, as they quickly returned to work. “Er, Dennis, can I borrow you for a minute please?”

They stood over the fat man’s prone body.
“Oh dear,” Dennis said, scratching his head. His scratching place was a little bald patch about half an inch long and two fingers width wide just to the right of his crown. “This is a bit of a situation, isn’t it?”
“He choked –“ Louise started. Dennis held up his hand.
“I don’t care to hear the details, the important thing is, it’s finally happened.” He smiled a little smile. “It’s a Christmas miracle!”
“What are we going to do now?”
“Why, my dear, its Christmas Eve. What do you think we’re going to do? We’ve got presents to deliver. We’d best get the reindeer.”

Louise led Rudolph through the silent workshop, his hooves clip-clopping on the wooden floor. He manoeuvred the rickety stairs with ease and squeezed through the door and into the office.
“Oh sweet lord,” Rudolph said when he saw Santa’s body rapidly cooling on the floor.
“He cho –“
“Shush. Ours is not to reason why. Now, let us take a moment to be thankful.” He bowed his head, Louise and Dennis followed suit. “Amen.” Rudolph muttered. He knelt down and slid his antlers under Santa’s body, bracing himself he bowed his head and rolled the fat man over until he was lying face down over his back.
“Jesus Christ, is he made of concrete?” he asked, shakily rising to his feet. Louise took his reins and they slowly made their way down the stairs, through the factory and out to the barn. The elves looked up in surprise.
“Nothing to see here people,” Rudolph called. “Drunk fat man coming through.”

They propped Santa up in the front of the sleigh and packed presents all around him to keep him upright. His head lolled back, his gaping mouth still packed with bits of chicken. Louise had filled his pockets with stones.
“Do you know where you’re going?” she asked Rudolph.
“Do I know where I’m going?” he tapped his antlers on the side of the stall. “In-built sat nav these things, of course I know where I’m going. I’ll let you know when the time is right, don’t worry. Now, have you got his security pass?”
Louise felt the plastic rectangle on a lanyard around her neck and nodded.
“Well I guess we’re ready to go then, aren’t we? Come on then boys,” he called to his colleagues. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
It was much easier than Louise expected. The pass let her in to houses with ease and no-one bothered her as she popped the presents under the trees and quietly left. Time passed in a blur as they moved quickly and efficiently, Rudolph occasionally shouting instructions to make sure she didn’t forget anything. It was two o’clock in the morning when they crossed over the Irish Sea. The reindeers slowed their pace, Rudolph leading them in a lazy circle. It was time. With a heave-ho, Louise pushed Santa from the sleigh. He toppled through the cold night air before landing with a barely audible splash.
“Well I guess that’s that then,” Prancer said. “End of an era.”
The reindeer cheered. Louise couldn’t help but smile.
“Come on, back to work.”
“Yes boss,” Rudolph saluted her and winked.

Friday, 18 December 2009

a different way of thinking

So I've done some thinking and I've come to the following conclusion.
Re-writing = treading water.

Last night, I opened the document, copied in the words I’d done at work and then found the interview scene that went next. I went through it and, because I now know a lot more about my murderer and the method of death has changed, a lot of it had to be deleted as it just wasn’t relevant. So I re-wrote a lot, but it didn’t actually add much to my word count. In fact, I think I may have had less words than I started off with. But the “proper first draft” of the novel is now 30 pages long, as opposed to 26. I’ve spent all of November worrying about my word count, that now its hard not to measure things in word count terms. Just because I haven’t added words doesn’t mean I haven’t added value.

And my “proper first draft” is still lacking a lot, there are some scenes that are two dimensional and have no depth whatsoever, but these are things I can fix later. So anyway, I am going to stop measuring myself on overall word count, and start looking at length of coherent story. I still want to aim to add another 15k, but I hope that will work out alright. Tess, one of my main characters, gets a speaking role soon and if you remember, she is now a lot younger than she was when I started so I will lose a lot of words then. I am also going to be brave and, by the end of the month, have deleted the scenes that really aren’t relevant (especially the one where I experimented with first person narrative). The word count will progress when I add description and write new scenes.
Its hard, but I need to accept that I will be treading water for a while. I’ve already won the race, and now this is about endurance rather than speed.

So, I feel like I've made progress because I've changed my way of thinking. Bang. Just like that, its like a little light has switched on and I'm like "oh yeah, why didn't I think like that before?"
Another thing I've changed my thinking on recently is sense of place. For the longest time, I've felt inadequate when describing place. I really like Ian Rankin, who lets Rebus wander so realistically round Edinburgh, historical, beautiful, dirty Edinburgh. The boyfriend and I took a trip there about a year ago and I felt like I knew it as I recognised places from the books I'd read. I could never do that, never ever ever. I guess that I've never felt so attached to a place, no one city has captured me in a way that makes me want to bring it to life with my words (my own fault, I suppose, for being slightly nomadic). Anyhoo, I thought that place was actual landmarks and buildings and real stuff, and it is, for some writers. But place can also be smells and history and feelings and thoughts and speech and ritual. Place is a lot of things that aren't actual places.

I wrote this next little story as a piece of flash fiction, then edited it for my writing class when I was assigned the task of writing about "a native settlement in an under-developed country". I received the rejection letter for the flash fiction today, so I'm posting it here (and even though its been rejected, it still proves I'm sending things off, which is good!) I no longer think place is buildings and Newcastle central station and my flat and St James's Park and Buckingham Palace. I think that place can be like this...

The sky is black, the stars look like tiny silver fish. The light of the campfires barely reaches up to the tallest man’s shoulders before it surrenders to the night. Groups of women and children huddle in the shadows, squatting on hard feet, soles stained reddy brown. The youngest draw pictures with sticks in the dust, silent storyboards of warriors, elephants and cooking pots. Somewhere in the far away darkness, a lion roars. The women talk in whispers and hug babies closer into naked bosoms, looking wistfully towards their homes, invisible in the dark. The trees stand an unwilling guard, their little huts underneath, just out of sight in a solemn circle, sturdily built by their father’s fathers of wood and clay. There is no-one there now. They have all been summoned to watch the ceremony.

The drums beat out a slow rhythm, softly stepping up pace until it matches the boy’s heartbeat. Strong arms press him down into the dusty ground. Buh-boom, buh-boom. His ears are sharp tonight. Above the wailing and clapping, the cicadas vibrate in the warm night air, surrounding the circle. He smells sweat. The soft salt smell of his thirteen year old skin and the stale stench of the Men. Buh-boom, buh-boom.
“Stay still,” a gruff voice says. “This will hurt.” He feels the sharp sting of bamboo break the skin on his face, score a line from his eye socket down to his chin. The blood trickles down his cheek as the dusty charcoal powder is rubbed in. Rough hands pull him to his feet, thrust the spear into his grasp and point to the white man, cowering between two of their youngest and strongest.

“You are marked as a man. Now act like one.”

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Celebrity Death Beeper

I've signed up to this site, right, where every time a celebrity dies they send me an email (right to my blackberry so I get it, like, immediately). Admittedly, it is morbid. But it is also exciting. And slightly disappointing. Either their idea of what constitutes a celebrity is wildly different from mine, or nobody decent has carked it recently.


I live for the day I get the message telling me somebody really famous has died. I wish I'd known about it in June...

The boyfriend has gone to Edinburgh with his dad to see Them Crooked Vultures so I'm home alone. I've written all my Christmas cards and have now retired to bed to watch the Dexter boxset my friend lent me aaaages ago. I was going to post a sestina called Sofia but it doesn't appear to be on my hard drive, and although I know it will be in the big pink plastic writing graveyard in my study, I do not have the energy or inclination to go and root through it. So, as a lazy assed trade-off, you can have two poems that are in my head


ps don't ask about the word count. I'm not speaking to it at the moment

New Shoes

I walk a mile
in someone else's shoes
but they don't fit,
they pinch and itch
and make me sad.

Blue Eyes

I was walking down the street
when I saw him for the first time
I felt his big, blue eyes staring into mine.
We said hello.
The conversation flowed.
We both collected two hundred pounds
and we both passed Go.

It was magic, exciting and surreal
he took me out for a Japanese meal
he looked at me,
with those big blue eyes and said
I think I know you well enough
I want to take you to bed.

Friday, 11 December 2009

who are you?

who are you, 104 people who have viewed my blog? I'm worried I've imagined you, I must be the only girl in the world with invisible readers.

the re-write is not going well. I am just about 60,000 words, about 10,000 of these words are in order. I have chapters, and I've named them. I can't re-write at the same pace. and I'm  busy. it is Christmas after all.

today, we did the big shop and I have most things I need in for Christmas day. we just need to get the veg. then I put up the decorations, and wrapped all the presents in the house. I am officially organised. you can call me Miss Christmas

ho ho ho hum. I'm going to bed. its after midnight, the boyfriend has fallen asleep on the couch and I'll be grumpy tomorrow if I don't get enough sleep. good night, oh transparent ones! xx

Saturday, 5 December 2009

sleepy, grumpy, Saturday (or, Bijou = two of the seven dwarves and one day of the week)

Re-writing is hard. Its tricky keeping up the momentum when my writing isn't so "fly by the seat of my pants, I don't really care so long as I get it down on paper". When I actually have to think about what happens next, and I care about teeny little things like consistency. Even though it doesn't have to be perfect, I'm only too aware that that day will come, so the more I can do now, the easier it will be. I'm also starting to doubt myself. And I've been doing overtime, so I'm very tired (how I ever used to have two jobs I do not know, I've only done an extra eight and a half hours this week and feel like I'm on the brink of some sort of emotional collapse). But, I have been getting into work for seven, and using my first hour to write (oh, and Christmas shop, but hey ho) so I guess thats something. My friend Lucy suggested that I may be setting myself silly goals, and that perhaps I could re-write the thing a little slower...I don't know, I guess I just want to get it done. Boo! A tired and not as productive as she would have liked to have been Bijou is a sad Bijou.

The boyfriend and your man Bloom have gone to the match so I have the flat to myself, and after falling asleep on the couch during the Psychic Detectives (I love the Crime channels!!!) and then feeling grumpy so going to bed for an unsuccessful nap, I'm now drinking frothy coffee with a spoonful of actual coffee in it, and its not really working in th short term so I have a terrible feeling that I'm going to go super-hyper later. I've got 100 weekend rock albums on in the background, and I'm going to try and get two thousand words before I go out. I think I will feel better then. Tomorrow, we're going to Tynemouth flea market, which is good because I'll probably buy some books, and one of my characters lives in Tynemouth so I'm going to find her a house and take some photos of it, stalker-stylee.

Right, the words are not going to type themselves, I'd best get to it. In the meantime, have a poem. I've actually quite enjoyed putting some old stuff on here, I've decided I quite like it! Still no excuse for not writing new stuff, but that day will come. I'm currently working on two short stories and one piece of flash fiction, oh, and the big story. Busy, busy, busy.


ps is it just me, or has the spell check facility disappeared from the blog? I can't find it!?!

Save the Tigers

He stands there, unsmiling,

the sign on the back of his t-shirt
peppered with exclamation marks,
far more excited than he is
as he watches,

suits and briefcases swarm round him
racing to wherever they had to be
ten minutes ago!
Ignoring the empty tin
that he isn’t rattling
as he stares, unblinking
and he watches,

polished suits and pressed shirts
dancing round novelty ties
heading off to the city!
To secretaries, twelve hour days, ulcers,
paper work, sales reports and corner offices,
carpeted, with a view of the river.

And he just stands there. Redundant.
His premature grey hair messy
an unfortunate side-effect when in the long run
it wasn’t worth it. As he stands
saving tigers at the tube station.