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A blog by Nikki Dudley about the gaps in everyday life...

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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The countdown begins!

My novel is now on my publisher's site, Sparkling Books with all the relevant info.

People can pre-order from Waterstones and Amazon, so it's all getting very exciting!

Proof copy has been received. It looks amazing and can't wait to see it with the full cover and all last amends completed.

Only 15 weeks to go!!!

Thursday, 17 December 2009



The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe for Book Group in Jan 2010

First off, four stars out of five. Secondly, I have found a new writer of which I wish to grab all of the work of and see if it is as good or dare I say, improves even...

In three words, I would sum up this novel as succinct, creative and suffocating. Hmm, I know what you're thinking, 'suffocating' is not a particularly positive word. But I mean it in that you can't stop reading because as you do, the description keeps hitting you over and over, hardly giving you time to breathe. And equally the presence of sand in the novel, all around the characters, in their food and drink, on their bodies, creates a sense of suffocation at all points.

Yet, although the premise of an insect collector being imprisoned in a sand pit, seems in some senses depressing and perhaps boring, Abe really makes sure that it is neither.

So to the beginning but without ruining too much of the novel: we meet Niki Jumpei, an insect collector who has impulsively decided to visit some sand dunes somewhere in Japan to find insects, specifically sand beetles. By nightfall, desperately needing a place to stay, he ends up deep in a sand pit, seemingly offered hospitality by a woman who lives in a deteriorating house at the bottom. By morning, the ladder to freedom has been taken away and so begins Niki's fascination and hate for his imprisonment.

What was interesting was that the protagonist, Niki, came to the dunes because he had a fascination with sand initially. He talks about how it 'flows' around the world and it's 1/8 of a millimeter size. And in the novel, the sand does flow through it and it does seem to get into the smallest places. As you read, you can almost feel the sand on your skin, grating at you as it does Niki. His initial fascination soon becomes questioned by the woman he lives with in the dunes, who has lived with sand in a completely different way to him- it doesn't flow for her, it weights heavy on her body, her home, everything she owns. Sand for the woman destroys her possessions, soils food, killed her husband and child.

Niki is educated about sand and a new way of life. Yet he schemes constantly, trying to find his escape. Yet almost like a case of Stockholm syndrome, Niki eventually finds comfort in the woman. If anything, he seems to be more attached to her than she is as Niki constantly notes her lack of sincerity. It almost seems she is merely desperate to have a man in the pit with her to help her clear the sand.

Some may have found the minute detail in this novel a bit too liberally spread but I found them exciting to read. I became submerged in the claustrophobic sandy landscape and Niki's turmoil.

Most interesting was that the exact thing that Niki wanted throughout the novel becomes meaningless. Although some may call this obvious, I still enjoyed this. When the ladder is finally returned and left unattended, what does Niki do? It leaves the readers with a few questions: what happens when you finally obtain the unobtainable? And what happens when you see the world from another perspective and it changes your priorities?

A fantastic read for fans of succinct and alternative fiction. If you like unusual descriptions and facing a situation completely different to your own (I hope!), this may just be the read for you...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Do you have any ID?

So Christmas is fast approaching and some children's books will be seeing a whole new era of age banding. Yet, not all publishers are opting in, as this article from The Bookseller below points out.

Bookseller article: Age guidance divides trade as first Christmas approaches

The scheme will see age bands put onto the back of books, to show which children 'should' be reading them. This was put into place by some publishers after research by the Publishers Association (PA) showed that parents and gift buyers found it difficult to select age-appropriate books for children.

Hmm, what a reason...

I find myself on the side of some of the publishers who have failed to take on the scheme, for example Bloomsbury and Usborne. Also, many high profile authors are also against the scheme, such as Phillip Pullman, Anne Fine, Darren Shan, to name a few.

Although this scheme will of course make it easier for parents and gift buyers to choose age appropriate books (although it is beyond me why they can't look at the shelf headers in bookshops- they usually have age ranges), I feel this scheme is bad in two ways: 1) some children have a lower reading level than their age group and having age banded books will lower self-esteem and leave them open to ridcule, and 2) some children read above their reading age and although this may not seem something to be ashamed of, can lead to alienation and feeling self conscious.

As I a child, myself and a friend of mine had higher reading levels than some of our peers and it did create some tension. Some of the other children noted that we were reading above our reading age and with branding, I just feel it's an unneccesary addition, making this all the more obvious. Similarly, someone else I know had difficulty with reading and writing, always being far behind other children. I'm sure it's difficult enough when you are behind others and you have to get through the simpler books before you can progress. Therefore, should there be an age band making the child conscious of how far behind they are, just to please parents and gift buyers?

Not only for children's esteem, authors have also complained that age banding will mean certain age groups are excluded from reading their work. Children will feel less able to identify with certain characters if they have an age in mind when reading. Often, authors leave the age of their protagonist out for this very reason. Also, books often cross over between children, teen and adult genres. Readers are a mixed bag so why do we need more categories!?

I can see some of the benefits I suppose- it can be difficult shopping for a child in bookshops. Yet I feel that is what the staff and the visual pointers are there for. I'd much rather have a bit of hard work shopping to save the children of tomorrow feeling ashamed or conscious when reading.

Perhaps above all out of this, someone should've asked the kids?!

More information on age banding can be found here

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Women in the creative industries

I was quite encouraged to read about the Cultural Leadership Programme and their plans to compile a list of 'women to watch' in the cultural and creative sectors. The Bookseller have reported on this here:

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/104356-nominate-women-who-are-future-industry-stars.html


Although I know a majority of women who work in publishing, it does sometimes seem that the positions of power are often held by men (but obviously this isn't always the case). I have no idea why the gender balance is like this. Perhaps it is simply a case of slow progress and in ten-twenty years (or more), the issue won't even seem an 'issue' because it will be more even.

As a woman, I do worry that things such as pregnancy and maternity leave make us more vulnerable in the workplace. With a majority of women, they will have to take leave at some point and in this case, despite the legislation that has been put in place to protect women, is it always the case that they are protected? I've heard several stories from women who have become pregnant who have been made to feel guilty, sometimes forced out of their roles in an underhand way. However, I'm also sure many women have no such problems and they are treated completely fairly. I am merely speculating as I have no idea but there is part of me that worries that women may never have the same success of men due to mere biology.

Whilst this is my fear for womankind, it is obviously important that the women we currently have in the creative and cultural sectors are recognised. Obviously, as this list is suggesting, it is not key to simply promote women for being women - they need to promote the women who are working hard and achieving within these sectors. More than anything, they deserve some recognition. In another sense, it lets the younger generations know that women have a place too and they can achieve high if they work hard and believe in their abilities.

Very positive indeed and I'm glad to see it.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Good books for 2010

A great list of books for 2010:

http://bookstimeandsilence.blogspot.com/2009/11/53-books-youll-want-to-read-in-2010.html

I am particularly excited about Ian McEwan's new offerin and Jon McGregor's new novel whose debut 'If nobody speaks of remarkable things' was an amazingly detailed portrayal of an incident that changes the lives of everyone on one street. Much recommended anyway!

It's good to have a list of books which are coming out anyway as it's sometimes hard to know where to start.

More soon...

Friday, 13 November 2009

Ellipsis- chapter 3

Hi all,

this will be the last chapter I will post so enjoy!


Chapter 3 THE NOTE

Highbury and Islington station. 15:30 Sunday.

It is Daniel’s handwriting. Thom recognises the way Daniel crosses his T’s with slanted lines, the way the top of his zeros never quite meet. Not meet, met. Daniel won’t be in the present tense anymore.


At this, the note in Thom’s hand starts to shake and he buckles onto the bed.
Thom supposes he should know better than to snoop in Daniel’s things. Looking in Daniel’s things is similar to how it had been trying to relate to him in life. Thom feels like he is swimming against the current and he has found a small piece of flotsam but it instantly falls apart. This note could be written in Chinese, all the sense it made.

There are so many drawers in Daniel’s room, small ones for tiny secrets, large ones with small compartments inside; large ones ordered in such a way that no one would dare touch a thing. Thom can smell Daniel’s authority. Invisible foot soldiers are standing guard around the room, willing to die in order to protect his classified information.

Yet here Thom is, having been compelled by the only drawer half open, like a partly opened wound. He shouldn’t be in here anyway, as Aunty Val and Richard haven’t even managed to open the door a crack. He is trespassing because he knows Daniel won’t be able to stop him. He wants to see the magician’s secrets that have bemused him for so long. He has poked around in this drawer and his hand has seemingly come out dripping with blood and sticky with pus, and all he wants to do is stuff everything back inside and close it up.

He refocuses on the note.

This is the time and place he died.

Thom shivers and tosses the note away at the thought. Yet moments later, he slowly leans closer to it and re-reads it at least ten times. He is a mouse tiptoeing around a mousetrap. What do these words mean? Was Daniel meeting someone? And were they involved with his death? Was it suicide even? Or is this merely a coincidence that he wrote down this time and place, when they just so happened to denote almost to the minute, his death?


Thom feels his stomach groaning in part shock and part confusion. He rushes to the toilet and vomits. This has happened before, only a few times in his life – well, the worst times if he is honest. However, although he has clearly vomited up most of his breakfast, the questions remain inside Thom like ulcers, nagging and ugly. He washes out his mouth with cold water and makes his way back to Daniel’s room.

The note is still there. Thom doesn’t know why the note shouldn’t be there still but perhaps he would prefer if it would disappear; leave him alone to be sad about Daniel. The last thing he needs is more questions. Whenever somebody dies, there are enough questions anyway. All he can think about is the last time he’d been in the hold of this endless interrogation, when he’d just turned twelve, and both his parents hadn’t come home. He’s vomited then too. A few times in fact.

Oddly enough, this room is where Thom was transported that night. He vaguely recalls Aunty Val kissing him goodnight whilst Daniel watched from the doorway, having been evicted for the night to the sofa. Thom felt unsettled then by the clatter of the railway that ran behind the house, but over the course of his adolescence it became as natural as birdsong.

In this moment however, the sound of the railway makes him feel sick. Although thankfully, he has nothing left to eject. He looks down at his suit and seeing a sick stain on his left cuff, rubs at it anxiously. If he turns up at Daniel’s funeral covered in sick, surely he may as well smear it over the coffin. After all, they were more than just cousins, yet not quite brothers.

Now that Thom thinks properly, he wishes he had known Daniel as well as he did Richard. Although, he and Daniel were the same age and even shared the same birthday, it seems these things merely gave them more reason not to bond. Instead, as soon as Thom arrived after his parent’s deaths, he and Richard, who was two years older, fell into a closer friendship.

Thom tried with Daniel, yet Daniel didn’t seem interested. Whenever Thom pictures their shared birthday parties, Daniel is set back in some way, a step further from the table where everyone was singing happy birthday or at Christmas, Daniel waited until everyone else had torn at their presents frantically and only then, he carefully chose one to begin with.

And what is the last thing he had said to Daniel? He searches through his memory and can only come up with a brief conversation at Richard’s last birthday party. Daniel was standing by the front door. They exchanged pleasantries about general health and jobs. And what is it that Thom said to him? His last proper words to his cousin; face to face?

“Daniel, do you know where Aunty Val is?”

“In the kitchen”. He nods towards the house. His smile acknowledges what they both feel; a need to find an exit as fast as possible, a sad knowledge that they will never linger with each other. Aunty Val is their only real bond.

“Thanks. Speak later”.

Yet Thom didn’t speak to him later. And he never would again.

Thom wishes now he had tried harder. If not to be closer to him in life but for this moment, in order to understand this note, to understand why Daniel wrote it so precisely and left in the only half open drawer in the room, as though he knew...

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Don't give up the day job

Of late, I've constantly found myself exhausted. After work, in the mornings, at the weekends. So when, oh when, am I supposed to write my next novel? After I found out my first novel, Ellipsis was under offer, I started two new novels. I wrote about 7,000-10,000 words of each and then came to a stop. Whenever I do get onto my laptop, I manage only a paragraph or two and I'm beginning to wonder, what is my problem?!

I can't tell if it is the adrenaline from getting Ellipsis ready for the publishers that stopped me. I got so wrapped up in the characters again when editing, I found parts I needed to refine, I found mistakes I hadn't noticed... All of it got me totally consumed once again. And at the same time, it almost felt like my characters were more real than ever. In 6 months, other people will hopefully pick up my novel and read about them, even form a connection with these characters? Therefore I wanted it all to be as good as possible. I hate when I'm reading a novel and it lets me down with a stray comment which doesn't fit, a description which is overwritten, bad dialogue. It may sound picky but really I'm quite a nice reader, I look for potential in most things. I also give writers at least two chances, even if I think the first book I read by them was average.

So will readers be kind to me? Who knows. I'm hoping my publishers will spot anything else but there's bound to be something, after all, no one is perfect. The daily newspapers are printed with mistakes in them every day. I find mistakes in novels, granted never particularly big ones, so I will be allowed a minor one or two right?

Yes typos are not great but worse than that will be if readers don't enjoy the characters or think they are unrealistic. I guess the expectation of realism comes with the genre, which I suppose for Ellipsis is best categorised as a 'psychological thriller' therefore expectations will probably vary in accordance with this, and some of the crazy things one of my characters is prone to doing will probably be enjoyed with the context surrounding it. And liking the characters, that's all about the story and if it gets them turning the pages. And I won't fully know that until readers get it in their hands.

It's all a matter of waiting I suppose. Responses so far have generally been positive but I guess all writers know that once it's out in the world, the writing really doesn't belong to you anymore. You can only hope that others will build a connection with it too, as you have with it, but only time will tell. Fingers crossed...

So I think my exhaustion has been both physical and psychological. As well as getting Ellipsis ready, I've found it hard to connect with the characters in my new novels. I guess that sounds strange but it's true. I think I've been holding onto Ellipsis a little, basking in all the work and editing it's been through to get to this point.

But it's time to move on! If only I could decide which novel to concentrate on, as trying to construct both at once will only make me exhausted all over again. Don't get me wrong, I love getting lost in the plots of novels (either as a reader or a writer) - it's absorbing, exciting and fascinating. My only problem is that I want everything to be as good as possible and now, I expect my work to get to a publishable standard. I guess perfectionists are their own worst enemy, as everyone knows.

Now to move on to the next novel. Provisional titles 'Mime' and 'Jump'- which one? Perhaps I should toss a coin...

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Talking of rhyme...

After my recent post about why poems don't rhyme anymore the other day, I found an old poem of mine from secondary school that rhymes. I thought it was okay, if a bit depressing... Then I thought I'd post up this one and a newer one. The contrast is quite funny!!!


POEM FROM SECONDARY SCHOOL

Past, Present And Future.


The Past was yesterday’s nightmare,
Don’t look back, you might start to stare.
Don’t want to return to that place,
Most of it was an unfair race.


The Presents here, it’s a painful fight,
Keep on punching with all your might.
Today is ending, the lights are out,
The future is only full of doubt.


The futures coming, like an asteroid,
Already people are filling the voids.
No idea when time will end,
No idea what the future will send.


A RECENT POEM I'VE WRITTEN (from Exits/Origins)


discharged to duty
a pole it/ truths

that are easy to bury but you can’t
bury me, or the print, ed. pages

you can’t buried me shaking in the morning shaping up the month with a pen and a
number / squashed with the wait for escarpment:

working on this age.

Fuck so satisfying when writhing in words/dialogue that scars underneath
the sound of ringing, I think about what they dreamt about and the empty notebook,

aside: secret verses
about love?


The hedge shook in sympathy when the balloon hit the twigs, stabbing the sky and
we all fall down, we all feel drowned, ringing words in my ears to say hello


-Is that all you want? Is that the means to errand?

The ghostly vision haunts him like the blank pages, a yawn that stretches for 49 sheets
until he scratches the words ‘these blank pages represent

the rest of my life’

and I’m sore, no sure, the pole it never dries/ ink drips from the fingertips
when curtains gather, my love. Imagine the blessed balloon is fit to burp, a stammer
into your consciousness, that falling
man.

A name represents a fate? Don’t take it literary or fate becomes your ‘name’ / lean
back / hold your nose / submerge memory in the blush of the names on the arches –
scratch my own I’ll scratch my own in the notebook where

sigh lent louder than protest = HE UNFURNISHED


* So, as I said, there's space for both types in the world but I do prefer the lack of rhyme these days. But as you can see, I love sounds and playing on words, which I think also provide some rhythm. Anyway, after I've laid bare my 13 year old self, I'll head off now!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

What's in a rhyme?

As most of you know, I am a poet as well as a fiction writer. Therefore, I really enjoyed the following article...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-lundberg/why-dont-poems-rhyme-anym_b_97489.html

What a question: Why Don't Poems Rhyme Anymore? I spent years at school learning about rhyme and went to university and learnt how to un-rhyme. Yes, I know it's not a word! And this is precisely the point. As much as I appreciate the old forms and their traditions- Keat's sonnets, the Victoria poets, iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets, refrains etc etc, I can't help loving the possibilities provided by a lack of rhyme.

As this article also notes, non rhyming poetry is not without it's rhythm or song. And not only that, the diversion from constantly trying to rhyme words certainly opens up words to a whole multitude of possibilities. As John Lundberg discusses in this article, simply playing with the three words that Stein uses 'roast potatoes for' can spark off an hour long discussion (as it did on my Masters course). Is the 'roast' a verb? If so, are they being roasted 'for' someone? Or is the 'for' referring to some purpose not detailed here? Is the 'roast' merely descriptive? And most importantly, is this even a poem!?

So many questions and although this is a little sparse, there are plenty of examples of more contemporary poets using meter without rhyme i.e.: some bpNichol, Maggie O'Sullivan, and some newer poets such as Harry Godwin, Marcus Slease... (Also William Carlos Williams, who I notice has made it onto the tube posters of late!) Although not traditionally rhying, they have elements of word play, repetitive sounds, playing with different sounds in the throat.

I think it's terrible to dismiss rhyme and equally terrible to dismiss those who don't use it. Both have a place and poetry is one of the forms of expression which I think has a varied and fascinating progression that can be mapped through many different times. What is also fascinating is when forms return to the forefront, recede and mix with others. It's us non-rhymers who feel able to appreciate the older forms as well as branching out into new things. Simply rejecting one whole style of writing poetry seems a bit of a shame as it's all fascinating stuff! And although the President of the 'The Queen's English Society' meant to put down non rhyming poetry by using the term 'word-things' to describe them, I think myself and other poets who write this way would find that a compliment. 'Word-things' is so much more playful after all...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Chapter 2- THE PHONE CALL

At 15:32 a day later, Thomas Mansen stops. He drops his pen as though it has stung him. He pushes away from the desk and stretches his legs. He doesn’t pick up the phone even though it cries out. He stops and cannot find a place to start again.

He wonders what his boss would say if he went to his office and said, “I’ve stopped and I can’t begin again”. Would he himself be able to explain this? He doubts it. He doesn’t feel hungry yet, he doesn’t need to piss and life is unusually ‘fine’. In fact, his boss even suggested a promotion might be in the works and he hasn’t argued with his girlfriend in months.

So he is lost.

Perhaps he has some rotting disease that works its way to the surface inside out and that’s why he feels strange. Perhaps his heart has stopped and he has unknowingly passed into death at his desk whilst helping Mrs Rayder understand that her policy does not cover the death of her beloved tomcat, Bubbles.

He laughs into the air. “Shit”, he mumbles, knowing it’s entirely possible for this to be the case. Yet, hearing his own voice reassures him that he is still in a physical realm of existence, not in a twisted form of limbo where everything is similar to the life he has been leading up to this point.

The pen lies on the pile of paperwork. He stares, narrows his eyes, screams at his hand to move forward a few inches and clutch it. But his hand ignores him. His eyes begin to ache and tire in their sockets. He closes them for a few moments and reopens them.

Yet, he still doesn’t move. He begins to panic and thinks he’s having a stroke or an unworldly force is possessing him. But he knows he has to meet Emma later at the restaurant. Will he make it? Will his body simply imprison him here throughout the night? He would much rather be with Emma, having sex, talking about nothing.

He sees the light of the phone glaring at him. There are incoming calls on four lines. He is sure one of them is the old man who phones every day, pretending to ask questions about his housing policy, but in reality just wanting to connect with another human being. Apart from that, it could be any one of the thousands of customers, waiting to chew an ear off.

“Come on Thom, get yourself together!” He shakes out his shoulders. He smiles at his progress and prepares to get back to his day. However, he now finds he has no desire to pick up the pen, to continue signing the rejections on policies, to hear another customer saying “of course I read the fine print” when they haven’t, to continue in any way at all.

He goes through every part of his job specification in his mind and cannot put a tick by any of the duties. He watches the other people walking by his office through the glass, like a helpless goldfish not functioning at the same level or speed. They are all busy – moving papers, picking up phones, and chatting about who’s shagging who this week. What is stopping him from doing the same?

He imagines if any of them cared enough to notice him, what they would see. A man, who is clean-shaven, has straight and recently cut brown hair (which curls at the sides if he doesn’t monitor it), a straight tie, a dribble of ink trailing from his lip that he doesn’t know about. Thom complies with every rule about uniform in the employee’s handbook; he is the physical representation of company policy. Would they know he hasn’t moved for five minutes? Would they assume he has been working up until the moment they happened to glance in?

Although his body is functioning again, Thom’s mind is suddenly heavy. His head drops into his chest like his neck has dissolved. A depression pulses through him, makes his chest rise and fall in a pitiful sigh, makes his body sprawl out on the desk like a person who has just suffered a heart attack. He watches his breath make a mist on the wooden face of the desk.

Abruptly, the phone stops wailing. Then ten seconds later, it rings again.
He grabs hold of the receiver. He balances it on his face which is still flat against the desk and awkwardly muffles, “Hello. Thomas Mansen”.

“Thom. It’s Richard”.

Thom shoots up as though someone has electrocuted him. “Rich, what’s going on?” It’s the voice... He can tell from the first syllable, the downward direction of the tone.

Richard delays, his breathing heavy for a moment. “Thom…it’s about Daniel”. Thom is sure Richard is crying, or perhaps he has a cold. “He’s dead”. Crying, then.

“What?” Thom stutters, then again, “what?”

“He fell under a train. Yesterday”. Richard’s words are so direct, poison darts that keep hitting him, closing in on his ability to respond normally and quickly. Thom’s chest starts to tighten; his bones are shrinking like clothes washed at the wrong temperature. “I’m sorry I didn’t call earlier. Aunty didn’t take it well, obviously… I had to call the doctor”, Richard adds, making Thom feel like he has been squeezed out of his body and now lingers somewhere above the desk, not knowing the way back in. He needs to get to Aunty Val.

“Oh”, is all Thom says.

And then he listens to Richard, talking about the funeral, an inquest, the reading of the will and asking can he come and can he bring Emma, and Aunty Val would’ve called herself but she is still crying, and she needs him there. Tonight.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The beginning

CHAPTER 1 Red Snake

I chose him because of the red scarf.

My palms sweat. Dirt from the walls is smudged across them and slithers in the folds. There is a faint smell of kebab in the air and an excited murmur moving down the platform like Chinese whispers. I wonder how distorted the message will be by the time it reaches my end.

Can you hear it too, Mum? Do you think they’re whispering about me?

There are other scarves too, red and white combined and I guess that a football game must have taken place. Yet, his scarf is different. It is pure red, the red people affix to the badge of fiery passion, the badge of cold-blooded murder, without the interludes of white to dull its beauty.

He is unique. I’ve watched him for weeks now and the time has finally arrived. The clock says 15:32 as casually as ever but it secretly signals to me: this is the correct time. It is not destiny; it is careful planning and the instinctual knowledge inside.

Mum, this is the moment.

Now, my breath barely disturbs the stillness of the cavern the swarm of strangers are gathered in, all awaiting the rush of wind that will open up the arteries, revive us. Everybody appears lost, shuffling on their feet, staring at the same grotesquely large posters until they become less overpowering, fiddling with buttons, holding their phones and longing for reception. Anything to avoid eye contact.

My favourite moment is the shared objective, the upraised eyes facing the same direction, the temporary and forced community as the wind invites the dusty air to dance, flings the litter in celebration. All I can do to keep calm is count the seconds down in my head. Even when I think of you, you are bouncing in my mind.

The only details I know about him have been gathered through observation from afar. This is actually the closest I have been to him in three weeks. From here, I can smell his sweat weaving with his aftershave. I can also see how he has missed a belt loop and a tiny bald patch in the back of his hair, perhaps where he has a birthmark.

Are you excited too, Mum? I know you’ve been thinking about him when we’ve been trying to sleep. Now, we’re so close…

He is reading one of those trashy papers that have stormed the city. The wire of his iPod headphones is coming out of his ears and snaking down his chest to his jacket pocket. If he knew what is about to happen, would he change the song he is listening to, faintly nodding his head, and not struggling to remember the throwaway words. Would he fling down that paper and rush off to buy his favourite book?

It is the scarf that ensnared me. I had been wandering the streets three weeks before, in another dimension of thought or nowhere at all. Then, it flashed at me, like a camera suspending a moment in time. It is a snake that has coiled around my attention and shot its venom into my blood. I latched onto the scarf and followed it all the way home. The rain tried to bully my eyes closed but I stood firm, keeping them set on the scarf weaving through the grey world. When he reached his house, I stood outside for another half an hour, smiling, pouring with gratitude.

Since then, he has been my daily plot. Today, he has thrown his scarf on haphazardly, perhaps being late or not wearing it for warmth but simply out of habit. I can only guess who bought it for him. His girlfriend? His mother? An old friend or relative who put no thought into a present for him? Or perhaps he chose it himself and red is also his favourite colour.

Despite following him, I recall very little about his appearance and when I try to remember three days later, I won’t have a clue. I can guess that he has black hair but then I can also guess it is blond. I can say he’s short or maybe tall. I can say he is black, white or asian. Yet the fact is; I haven’t paid attention. When the photo appears in the paper, I will look on it as fresh-eyed as everybody else.

What I remember most is a sense of him, a presence. He is like a positive image in a photograph where the rest has been inverted. Even more peculiar is the sense that he is aware. Sometimes I have caught him pausing in the street, as though to let me catch up. Another time, when he was trying on clothes, he seemed to single me out in the mirror and mentally ask my opinion.

The countdown begins to flash: **STAND BACK TRAIN APPROACHING**. My chest implodes and the rest of my body springs alive. All I hear is a harmony of sounds: beating inside and the roar of the train.

Step forward.

Peer into dark.

Wind hisses at hot skin.

Folding newspapers.

Roar gallops in heart.

Eyes of light emerge.

Monster creeps closer.

A unison of feet.

Red scarf flutters.

Spring forward.

Head slightly turns.

Outstretched arms connect.

Eyes of train wide.

Mouths silent words.

Falling.

Newspaper flailing.

Reach out.

Touch the scarf.

Train screeches.

Screaming.

Monster engulfs.

Faces press up to windows.

Scarf a ball in fist.

I breathe. Stop. Think: Right on time. As he fell, his lips moved in the shape of these words: Right on time. Right on time. Right. On. Time.

Mum, did you see?

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Ellipsis- what's it all about?


“Right on time.”

Daniel Mansen mouths to the woman who pushes him to his death.

Only drawn out of madness by Daniel, the murderer, Alice becomes obsessed with discovering how a man she doesn't know could predict her actions. Similarly, Daniel’s cousin, Thom, is driven to explore the circumstances of the death when he finds a note at the family home detailing the time and place it occurred.

At first a simple search for answers, Thom and Alice soon become knotted together in a story of obsession, hidden truths and the gaps in everyday life that can destroy or save a person.

REVIEWS of Ellipsis:

'Unique, compelling and stylish prose- an excellent crime/thriller and a classic tale of obsession.'
Melanie Murphy, author of 'Lore', Dublin (authonomy member)

'Tight,evocative gut-punches tempered by the desperate details of everyday life.'
Shawn Kupfer, author of 'White Male, 34', Raleigh, NC (authonomy member)

'This is the type of story that keeps a reader up half the night.'
Maureen Vincent-Northam, author of 'The Writer's ABC Checklist' and 'The Greatest Genealogy Tips in the World', Hereford (authonomy member)

'It gave me the chills...I could picture everything as it happened.'
Sheneise Stone, author of ‘Eden Falls’, Essex (authonomy member)

'I wouldn't have stopped reading if my house was on fire!'
Cas Peace, author of ‘For the Love of Daisy’, North Hampshire (authonomy member)

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