Tuesday, 26 June 2012


The whiskey burned ferociously as it snaked its way down towards her empty stomach. Alone in the crowded bar, there was nothing to distract the pale faced woman from the pounding of her head save for the glass in her hand. With a wry smile, she swirled it listlessly and watched the amber liquid crackle and dance in the harsh light of the bare bulb overhead.

The no-good son of a bitch had stood her up again. She should have expected it. He’d done nothing but let her down time and time again over the past year, but still she kept on putting herself out there for him to hurt her once more. She could tell herself that this was the last time she’d let him do it, but what use would it be?

She’d know she was lying.

He wasn’t coming. Time to skulk home and cry herself to sleep whilst awaiting the inevitable phone call full of feeble excuses that showed how little he really cared.

But when she slammed the glass down on the grime-streaked bar and made to slip down from the teetering stool she was so precariously balanced upon, the door behind her swung open. She tensed, nervous anticipation flooding her aching body, but it wasn’t him.

No. Not him. Just someone else; someone she couldn’t tear her eyes away from for even a heartbeat. As the chill air of the winter night outside whipped around him, he shook a curtain of dark hair out of his face and strode forward, effortlessly carving out a path through the crowd.

He was perfect. All heads turned towards him, though he seemed not to notice. His green eyes were fixed upon the bar. Unsmiling, he shrugged off his jacket and took the stool that had somehow become free when he approached it. Too far away. She dared not approach him, but when the crowd briefly thinned she had the briefest of glimpses of him once more.

By the time she could no longer see him again, it was too late. She was lost to him. Nothing she did could free her mind of the grip he had upon it. He consumed her, set a fire raging deep inside her that was impossible to defy. Overcome, she snatched up her drink with a shaking hand and poured it down her constricted throat, ice and whiskey alike.

She slammed the glass back down and choked back a loud sob. Before she could do anything to recompose herself, though, a hand gently touched her arm.

Her head shot up.

The bartender set another whiskey down in front of her and swept her empty glass away. She lifted an eyebrow in question and he jerked his head towards the far end of the bar. “From the guy with the long hair. Says you look like you could do with it.”

Even from the distance between them, it seemed her misery was palpable. Her heart pounding, she slowly leaned forwards and ran her hands through her hair as she glanced in his direction under the cover of checking the dusty clock behind him.

He was staring directly at her, and their eyes met along the length of the bar. Her breath hitched as he slowly raised his glass to her before, still not smiling, he lifted it to his sinfully full lips and downed the whiskey in one.

Her head spun for reasons that were nothing to do with the alcohol rushing through her bloodstream. Dazed, she hastily dropped her eyes and breathed in deeply before following his example and slamming back her drink. She revelled in the warmth that spread through her body, for it brought with it a clarity of mind that had been lacking for far, far too long.

When she looked up again he was gone, but it was okay.

Tonight when the phone call came, she knew she wouldn’t meekly accept whatever excuse her boyfriend fabricated for her. He wouldn’t be staggering in blind drunk to share her bed, and he wouldn’t be the reason for her to hunch over the bathroom sink, tears streaming down her flushed face as she etched out the marks of her misery on an arm already criss-crossed with a year’s worth of scars.

He wasn’t worth it. She finally saw the truth of it. There was far better out there and she had already wasted a year of her life not seeing it. She wouldn’t waste even a moment more.

With a decisive nod, she wrenched the diamond ring off her finger and dropped it into the empty glass before walking away.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Time to take my own advice

After the recent illness that’s taken up much of this year, I found myself in hospital for some tests and I got chatting with one of the nurses on the ward. After exhausting discussions of the glorious British weather, talk turned inevitably to that other conversation stalwart – work. When I mentioned that I was a writer, her eyes instantly lit up.

I’m sure those of you who write have experienced it before. The moment you mention that you’re a published author, you brace yourself for the inevitable announcement that they, too, have a fantastic story. Unfortunately, for now it’s just inside their head. In the next breath, you find your wide-eyed and star struck companion begging for advice on how to get published, ignoring your many protestations that it’s sheer bloody hard work, not glamorous in the least, and that you need to prepare yourself for a hundred rejections for every sniff of interest in your writing. Even if you do succeed, it’s the exception rather than the rule that becomes the JK Rowling, George RR Martin or even those who, whilst not universally famous, are able to make an exclusive living from their words.

I liked this nurse, though, so we sat down with a cup of tea and I gladly answered all the questions she fired at me. The one that stuck in my mind above all others, though, was when she asked me how to sit down and write a novel from start to finish. "It's simple, really," I told her with a smile. "Just sit down every day and write something - anything. You have to make writing a habit."

But when she left, I realised that since for the last few months, I had let that habit slide. On a good day, I'd normally write upwards of 2k, but of late I often hadn't even bothered to open up the files and look at them, let alone write anything. Half a dozen stories laid on the hard drive untouched, to the extent that I lost track of my plots - and then lost the motivation to sit back down with them and hammer them out again.

It wasn't until I thought over the advice that I'd given to that nurse that I realised just how essential it was. I write because I love it. Not for money, not because someone tells me to do it - but because it makes me happy. However, it's still hard work. Some stories come more easily than others. I can start a sentence and then look up again an hour later to find two or three thousand words have come with almost no conscious effort, but more often than not it's all about finding the self-discipline to push through those tricky plot twists and persuade an errant character to do as I had intended them to. So one day of not doing so turned into two, two into three and then a week went past, and then a month.

Working on the final edits for the Falcon's Chase, though, proved to be the much-needed reminder of just how much I love writing and how strong the sense of achievement is when I type that final word of the fourth of fifth draft. And that feeling is worth fighting for. 

So no matter what distractions you have around you or how many other demands you have on your time, you have to remember just why it is that you started writing in the first place. Once you learn how to hold onto that, nothing can take it away from you.