Tag Archives: Advent

Countdown 1

An extract from a story that was never published but got a distinction in my MA… it uses in places film script for the narrator’s own life and later film treatment so it’s experimental. This is just a taster…

 

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Director’s Cut

Arnold Pepper makes his way slowly across the lot, a black trilby perched on an angle, tapping out time with a hickory walking cane. At the corner he stops, feels for the edges of the sealed manila envelope in his breast pocket. It beats like a second pulse. He checks the time on a watch that stopped fifty years ago, runs his fingers along the inscription and thinks about endings.

“Nothing lasts forever, Arnie,” he hears. He teases a tissue from his pocket and catches the memory.

Connie holding his hand.

Connie looking into his eyes.

Connie walking away.

He drags his thoughts back to the fate of Christian Black. His greatest creation: the revered hero of Millennium Pictures.

One question buzzes on peoples’ lips, weaves through speculating minds and folds itself into the LA smog: will they do it? Will they kill Christian Black? And the answer to that is in Arnold Pepper’s pocket.

Arnold looks at the line of perfect trees planted in a world of rubber bricks and hollow facades. Everything that happened, happened right here. Moments captured in frames, the counter starts at 00:00:00:00. He sees it at the corner of everything.

The Arnold Pepper story: a cast of writers, producers, editors, key grips, even stars before they twinkled. His unwitting family. Now most are nameless faces. But not Jimmy Olson, the man with big dreams. Two rookies, two stories, two endings.

The light changes. Aerial shot. Arnold looks at the sun with its cerulean backdrop. Shapes float past like ghosts painting scars on white walls. Hard to capture.

He’s aware of people around him; sound bytes snapping off. A girl laughing, someone yelling, maybe even a dog barking. He tightens his grip on his cane remembering his appointment with destiny: the fate of Christian Black.

Christian Black lived the life he never did. A life told in storyboards. One common purpose: tell the story the audience wants to hear. Love, hope, passion, drama. All the gloss with none of the in between.

He wonders if he could, would he go back and rework his own life the same way, but there are some scripts no one wants to read.

“Hey Mr P, how ya doin’ Sir?”

It’s Jazz, the guy that fetches the mail, lips glossed into a Marilyn Monroe pout, as if he’s kissing air.

“The end of an era,” Jazz says. “So how does it feel?”

Arnold leans both hands on his cane and looks right at him. “You know I started in the mail room,” he says, “did I tell you that, Kid?” He squints, studying the features of Jazz’s face, wondering how he gets his bleached hair to stand up like quills.

“Maybe once or twice. The mail boy in like 1857 or somethin’ right?”

Arnold looks at the AIDS pin Jazz wears on his T-shirt. He wants to ask him if his friend is out of the hospital. He says nothing, deletes the scene in his head.

Jazz speaks. “I suppose you’re gonna remind me how you knew them all? Like Bernard G, THE director of all time.” He smiles in wide angle. “Apart from you, of course, Mr P.”

But Arnold’s distracted by group of young actors. They’re talking about his movie. About Christian Black. Every girl’s lover. Every guy’s best friend.

“They filmed two endings,” the girl says.

“Hey, you bored with the mail guy now?”

When he looks back Jazz is standing with his hands rested on his hips. “A lot of memories- huh?”

Too many memories, folded into rolls of film. Curled like sleeping cats.

Arnold remembers the wager he made with himself – he’d give it one day. The job was a favour for his uncle, who was doing a favour for his mother. Now the counter reads sixty years and twenty-six semi-decent movies. So much for wagers.

But everything has an ending.

When he looks back he sees that Jazz is still watching him” No anecdotes about the GREAT Bernard Golden today?” he says, “How you didn’t even know who he was?”

 

FLASHBACK TO: MAY 1951

EXT. FILM STUDIOS – MORNING

SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD GEEK MAIL BOY gets lost on his first day at Millennium Pictures.

BERNARD GOLDEN – handsome dark looks, grey suit, cigarette propped between his lips – watches the MAIL BOY CROSSING THE LOT

BERNARD G

Hey Kid. Come ‘ere

Don’t you know this is a restricted area?

ARNOLD PEPPER – THE MAIL BOY

(looking around nervously)

No Sir. I was just looking for Bernard Golden

BERNARD G

(smirking)

You mean that know it all, arrogant A-hole? You better watch him, Kiddo. He bites.

 

Arnold walks towards the office block, thinks about those that have gone before, but some endings can’t be scripted – like a car taking a bend too fast.

“There’s a hundred ways to tell a story, Kiddo,” Bernie G told him. “But what they’ll remember is how it ended.”

Inadvertently Arnold taps the envelope sat next to his heart.

“It’s what lives in their heads when the popcorn’s rotted.”

“Hey Arnie, you thinking about the good ol’ days?” Jazz’s voice. “You lived the American dream, man.”

The phrase jars, like film despooling.

“The thing about dreams,” Bernie G said, “is if you hold ‘em in your hands too long they burn.”

 

©Debz Hobbs-Wyatt

 

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Let’s get Festive

I always know that Christmas is finally on the way when I download my Jacqui Lawson Advent Calendar to my desktop and find myself in a Victorian festive scene. Day 2 decorating the snowman was FUN!

So as I gear up for another working day and the launch of the new Bridge House and CafeLit anthologies in London tomorrow I will give you my snowman!

Guaranteed to make you smile!

snowperson_1

Looking forward to seeing some of you tomorrow!

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Counting Down…

So advent begins. Not that I’m religious; for me it used to mean opening little cardboard doors for chocolate treats. Now it means opening little cardboard doors for an excited little spaniel to have doggy treats.

But it also makes me think.

I love Christmas even though it can be a time tinged with melancholy; a roll call at dawn, remembering those that are not with us. But welcoming new members to families.

I think it’s new year when I really feel as though I am putting my dreams in order and looking at what’s been achieved and what I hope to achieve and I’m sure there are many of you that read this that will have get an agent or get a publisher  top of that list again.  But why not? We all gotta have dreams. I remember thinking getting published was the biggest hurdle… now it’s getting published again and it’s getting a novel published. But as long as we’re writing, we’re doing it… we’re living the dream, right?

And it seems apt to talk about how I was first accepted to be published. I had been concentrating so hard on the novel, Colourblind, I wasn’t writing that many short stories. When out of the proverbial blue flew a little angel.  At the time I used to write sat on the bed in my back bedroom (until it made my back hurt too much) and there she was, a little white angel and she said: here it is: the story that will change everything. Well, she might’ve whispered that because I never knew it at the time; but I did get that feeling that says… this might just be magic. It came in the form of a first line:

I’m not like other kids. Mum says it all the time when she thinks I’m not listening.  She says it isn’t normal for people to disappear. But for me it is.

It was the first time a child’s voice came to me and it kept on drilling into me… a child who suffers from a condition, a chronological one, who thinks he can time travel… and it all starts with the smell of burning. Which is weird given what happened. 

I found myself in the world of a seven-year old boy who lives with his mum, his gran and his sister, oh and a pet rabbit called Rembrandt (they’re all named after artists –  he’s called Leo and his sister is called Monet) wanting to go back and finish the jigsaw he started with his dad; he said we’ll finish it tomorrow. But sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come. Did you know there are more than 60,000 fires every year in Britain and more than 700 people die…

It was his voice that got me, this smart kid who kept lists of new words in a special dictionary with his dad and who was trying to work out the rules of time travelling. Like Rule Number 1: Nothing totally disappears.  Everyone is somewhere. Dad is somewhere.

He had humour, charm but great sadness. Life wasn’t the same after his dad died, but he thought if he could change one thing, go back and change one thing then there wouldn’t be a fire and he’d get to finish the jigsaw he started with his dad.  There was something really compelling about this idea when it came to me and what I discovered writing it and it was a departure from the literary psychological thrillers I was writing, was how honest a child’s voice allows you to be.  As he remembers how his dad showed him how you start jigsaws with the edges he tried to piece together what happened that night. But this young voice gave me a freedom:

My dad’s the one that’s dead, but my mum’s the one that stopped living.

Mum says insurance is to replace things. I wonder if she means Dad?

Sometimes I lose Dad’s face. It breaks into pixels. That’s how I know time is running out.

It seemed like as simple story, a child trying to work out what happened and put things right.

And the rules ran throughout it until he finally sees.

I’m not sure what it was about that story that touched me so profoundly as I wrote it, knowing loss maybe. The inability to accept loss is a form of insanity… that’s what they say isn’t it. Whoever they are?

I think keeping it simple is key, making rules within it and a quest, so it did seem to have all the right ingredients and a simple name: Jigsaw.

And the climax, in the right place. filming the scene of the little boy and what happened on the night of the fire, the realisation of why he didn’t remember.

And the ending, there could only be one satisfactory ending… but what really happened? I played with ambiguity so it was still satisfactory but the reader could decide what really happened. You need to read it to see what I mean. I hope you do.

I felt something when I wrote it. I knew it was magic. I’m not being egotistical. I never wrote it. An angel gave it to me. It just happened.

And I sent it to Gill who had been mentoring me with Colourblind  and she said I am now a publisher so submit it to me. I had no idea she was. I guess I just wanted validation it was magical…  I guess I got that because (the first email 2 weeks before was lost which is odd in itself) on a special anniversary of the saddest story of my life (I said I know about that insanity of loss) came an email. We want to publish it and we want it to be the lead story and the one that we base the cover on.

What? No? Really?

I told you it came from an angel. And on a sad day…

I remember being shy about Jigsaw.  I was at an Arvon writing holiday and it had just been accepted. And I read it, we all had to read something on one of the reading nights,  so I opted to go first on the first of the two nights to get it over and done with. I used to hate reading… my hands still shake. So deep  breath… I’m not like other kids…  Mum says it all the time… I didn’t look up. Didn’t pause for air. They were all such good writers, so literary, and then there was me and Gill knew me so maybe she was being kind and… and nothing. The doubts left when I looked up, like a seal emerging from a dive and everyone clapped and said they loved it… and how does it end? We have to know if he did it? Did he work it out?

So then my plan back-fired because they said I had to read the second half of it the next night… LAST. After all the others. Damn it.

I was just as nervous of course because now they had expectations and that was awful and… oh God. They were crying. It was that bad?

No. They loved it. Phew.

Now I’m not saying it’s the best story in the world and I might well have written better ones since… but it is the story I am most proud of. I might have taken the credit that night, but I still know it was that little angel who wrote it.

And when it was published, and we had a launch with another two of the writers and Gill, also one of the writers… I dedicated the first reading to my angel, my reason for insanity who had died three years before, but always believed in me, my Lee. And I’d like to think he was somewhere in that room, that night.

If I hadn’t had my insanity, my loss, maybe I would never have understood that little boy in the story. They say write what you know… and I know the feeling. I guess insanity is okay sometimes.

And that little story, that for me isn’t forgotten, even if for everyone else it is, is the first story in the Making Changes,  first Bridge House collection that Gill published in time for advent, 24 stories in the countdown and Jigsaw is officially the story for December 1st.

Buy it here… go on… http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Changes-Anthology-Sally-Angell/dp/0955791057/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322731920&sr=8-1

Maybe we might even Kindle this one… give it another lease of life. And of course there are all those other stories in here… I expect they all have their own magical stories as well.

I won’t say how mine ends or what I want the ending to mean. You choose and if you do buy it and read it, email me. I’d love to think this little story is still out there and when you read it… listen… hear those angel wingbeats?

Dreams really do come true. Happy Advent

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