Monday, 2 April 2012


Blogging about mortality, and the need to leave instructions on contacting business associates if I’m hit by a large white van, I stare at the blankness ahead of me. The blog entry needs a little more. Recently, I tried one…
   The rest of the sentence fails to materialise. I am interrupted by the telephone at my hip. Who is calling me? I think it’s an inspirational artist, who wants a word about my publishing ventures. In the same thought, I am right and wrong. The label fits, but it applies to another inspirational artist.
   For this is the Red Queen, fabled monarch of a lost kingdom. Or the woman who provided inspiration for the creation of that character. In that interrupted blog, I stated that the highlight of my week was catching sight of a magpie. An unusually large specimen.
   Well, that was true when I wrote it. Not long after writing it, I was interrupted at my desk by the Red Queen’s message of support for my writing. From someone who was there close to the start of my quest to become a half-decent author, someone who always believed in me as a writer no matter the ups and downs, that meant more than I could put into words. And that was the real highlight of my week. Though we both agreed that the magpie was pretty cool.
   She had not put pen to paper to say anything concerning my publishing endeavours. I jokingly placed her in the category of women who mean to write letters but don’t send them. They visualise what they want to say, and believe telepathy does the rest. We laugh, as telepathy occurs between us. I am about to eat a cream-filled scone. She was just thinking about a cream-filled scone before she phoned, but couldn’t lay her hands on one.
   I offer to go mmm-mmm as I eat some of the scone. This I do. Laughter.
   We talk of many things, as Walruses and Carpenters are apt to. I speak of the days of writerly isolation, of rarely scribbling to other authors in the era of pen and paper, and of my new venture in e-publishing. Part of my job now involves chatting to authors across the time-zones. Taking advice, giving advice, and constantly learning about the business.
   This is all good stuff, she declares. It isn’t. With her Scottish accent, it’s guid stuff. Aye, guid. She hasn’t changed. Well, she’s changed her socks in all that time. I speak of giving major advice to the young American author Kacey Vanderkarr, who followed me on Twitter. (This makes me feel as though I’m Ben Kenobi. You must learn the ways of the Force if you’re to come with me to Amazon.)
   The Red Queen instantly comprehends that sharing hints, tips, rumours, speculation, ideas, and waffle will make the writing community a better place if we so choose. I confess that the two young Americans I’ve chatted to (Missy Biozarre being the other) make me face something grim from my own writing.
   How grim? The Red Queen declares that it’s important to acknowledge anything that’s held back. If you give advice to a writer, on facing fear in writing, and this makes you recognise fear in your own work, then it’s a positive step to cut loose of a problem. Otherwise, giving advice itself would be hollow.
   If I’m Kenobi, the Red Queen is having a Yoda moment.
   She is caught in some Celtic, or possibly Cymric, Twilight. The Lady of the Fountain is learning Welsh, prompting the agonising memory that I once decided to learn that language just to write a twelve-page Welsh folk tale. My own personal Mabinogion. What was I thinking?!
   If I had written it, she’d be able to read it now. We laugh at that. She thanks me for thinking of her and letting her know, with each book’s publication, that my work is out there. That means a great deal to her. She wasn’t there right at the start, but close to the start.
   I kept my writerly ambition secret at the true beginning of things. When I first started to discuss the desire, she was there to hear the discussion. I then stopped discussing writing for many years. Well, I blog now.
   Anyway, I’m thankful that one of the inspirational women behind my fiction thinks to call me up and tell me she always believed in me. We are old, and laugh at how young we once were. Did we really do some of those strange things? They’d be just as strange now. Why does she not feel old, as I do? I make a comment about age and she laughs, without malice, understanding why this is the state of affairs we’ve come to.
   Of course, why should she feel old? She’s the Red Queen, and in my fiction she is a timeless character. It all ties in. She wonders if the Red Queen looked after pigs in my tales. I suspect, adding details to stories-yet-unwritten, that the Red Queen had people deal with that side of things for her.
   This woman on the other end of the phone must go and hunt down a pig, in some far-off field. Or else she’ll have friendly neighbours turn into a raging mob. The torch-lit procession to her humble abode will mutter and mumble in Welsh – and she will understand the muttering and mumbling.
   At some point in the conversation I talk about the unspeakable thing from my writing. I’ll tell you, because you’re YOU. And I do. I used to tell her about my writing. Maybe I haven’t changed. (Well, the socks and other items of apparel.) So I mention this problem, that I’m wavering over. She gets it. There’s no caution in her, warning me that it would be bad to go ahead with this. No. It’s all guid.
   Well that’s settled. I decided that if I did talk about this thing, I’d do it in two stages. If I didn’t publish the first blog post, I wouldn’t go near the second. Trepidation. The microscope comes out. I glare at the results. Everything should be okay.
   Yes, I’ve been inspired, once again, by a woman who inspired my writing in that land of long-ago and far-away. I’ve written short stories older than some audience members. How did I get here, from there? I marched across the minutes of the hours in the days, the same way as everyone else.
   Flickering. I see the whole thing as a movie. It’s about us, now. With a flashback to the young writer and the young artist, colluding in our secret HQ. The actors playing our younger selves have been chosen for their lack of believability. For who would believe a word of the writer scribbling in the here and now?
   We sit in a cupboard, and she tells me about her tarantula. The story turns spookier by the second, and ends on a flourish. She has children-yet-unborn. I harbour novels-yet-unwritten. Any talent she has as an artist is right there for all to see. All the talent I can muster as a writer is rawer than an unformed oyster.
   Yet she sees that I’ve got the bug, at that ridiculous age. I had the bug at an even more ridiculous age before that. For a short period, I actually talk about my fiction. Before I build my own private Berlin Wall around the fiction factory, and get on with the toil of not writing crap.
   It’s a mixed day, for weather. A mini-storm rolls in. The girl in the cupboard in Scotland becomes the woman planning to chase Scratchy the Pig around a field in Wales. No one knows what happened to the guy in the cupboard. He disappeared, and was replaced by someone like me.
   Did we really sit in that cupboard?
   Hard to believe, isn’t it.
   The guy who became the guy in the cupboard was approached in those far-off schooldays, on that one strange day, by THEM. Contemplating writing. Just me, and the blank page. Knocking. Visitors. Unexpected. Teachers were at the door. This was unheard-of.
   Fuck, they’ve sent a hit-squad.
   That young idiot couldn’t find the key. Had to use the window. Could the young gent perhaps open the window a bit wider? The blinds would not permit this. Paranoia was stoked. They just wanted to know if this lad had decided on that subject of theirs. And tracked him all the way to his home.
   Were too many people after the subject? No. With one pupil, there was no official class. Upshot? With two pupils, the class could convene in a cupboard. Er…right. That’s how things went. The would-be author was officially signed up. That taboo remained – no teacher ever entered his place of residence. (But wait a bit, that’s untrue.)
   The Red Queen had a mild mischievous streak to her. Very mild. We were handed the key to the cupboard. A temperamental key it was, too. The failure of the key later resulted in my being locked in the cupboard with a brunette and a blonde.
   Oh hush, audience. It wasn’t deliberate.
   What was? The Red Queen’s mischievous comment. As this was our new home, I had to carry her across the threshold. I’d like to say that I had the presence of mind to agree to this nonsense on the off-chance that I’d later rehash the tale in my writing.
   Ridiculous. Carry this young artist across the threshold of our own personal stationery cupboard, and settle down? Discussing her art, my fiction, in our own little world. Ridiculous. I can laugh about it now. These things seemed very serious at the time. When we were young.


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